UKC

/ Wearing a helmet on a winter walk

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benp1 - on 15 Feb 2018

I don't have a climbing/mountain helmet. I've acquired an ice axe and some (C1) crampons and will be doing a 2 day winter skills course soon. I currently have no aims to ice/mixed climb

Once I've done the course, I'll probably attempt the odd bit of winter walking in the Lakes/Snowdonia. I'll also be doing a weekend of walking in the Alps with a friend, no mountaineering/rope work, just a walk. Number of winter trips per year estimated at one or two

I'm trying to work out if I'll need a helmet. I'm unlikely to be in a situation where things can fall on my head (no standing on rock/ice faces) but I suppose could trip over a crampon and take a tumble down an icy slope.

My main hobby is cycling so most of my trips are on the MTB. It also means I have quite a few helmets.

I'm not keen on buying a climbing helmet as I'm not sure how much I'll use it. I already have a collection of cycling (and motorcycle) helmets, they're not the smallest things to store

How silly would it be to use a (good) cycling helmet that I have already for some relatively basic winter walking?

A simond helmet is only £20 while a petzl/black diamond helmet is more like £45-50. Am I being a cheap ass?

1
mysterion on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

You don't need a helmet for winter walking in the UK or for walking in the Alps. If you really want to then a cycling helmet would be fine.

4
Brown - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

If you are concerned enough to wear a bike helmet you should definitely wear a helmet walking in the mountains.

 

33
Neil Williams - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Climbing helmets are primarily worn in this kind of context to prevent you being hit round the head by things.  If there's nothing to hit you round the head, there's no real need for one in this situation.  If you think you might take a serious fall on steep ground, you probably need to look at mitigating it in other ways like use of a rope or learning how to do an ice axe arrest.

1
Climbing Pieman on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Personally for just winter walking I’ve rarely used a helmet but have done where more technical terrain is to be encountered.  However, if it’s a course, is it not their requirement that you have, or they loan, a suitable helmet? It used to be.

Part of the course probably will involve throwing yourself down slopes to learn how to arrest a fall if it’s anything like i’ve done in the past. Wouldn’t want to hit stones/other folks’ ice axe, even your own ice axe (!) etc, or anything else on way down the slope. On that basis I would be looking for a climbing helmet and one made for that standard. I’ve been with folk wearing a cycle helmet on winter walks, but it would not be my choice.

There are (apparently) helmets that are designed for dual/multi purposes now a days I believe. Someone on here will know more.

paul_the_northerner - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Best to ask yourself whether you wearing a helmet to protect your head from debris from above or to protect your head if you trip over.

when walking its very rare you'd find yourself on ground steep enough to get your head cracked by a falling stone or whatever, more likely it'll bounce along at knee height or less. if you are worried about tripping and banging your head then that very much up to you.

if you are worried about tripping on crampons try them out on safe ground first, you soon get used to them.

benp1 - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Thanks for the responses, all very helpful - based on what you're all saying I think I'll give a helmet a miss

The course I'm doing will provide me a helmet so I'm covered there. No point buying kit I won't need

cousin nick on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Never normally wear one on a walk unless going somewhere dodgy where 'stuff' (ice, rocks, bodies!) could land on me, or I'm practising self-arrest etc.

Off topic, but back in the day I have ridden pillion using a climbing helmet (old skool Joe Brown) rather than a motorcycle helmet.

N

benp1 - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Out of interest, if you were practising self arrest, would you generally wear a helmet for that?

drunken monkey - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

I would, yes

Gordonbp - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to Climbing Pieman:

> There are (apparently) helmets that are designed for dual/multi purposes now a days I believe. Someone on here will know more.

Yes there are. Petzl do one. I've got one....

 

oldie - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Many years ago I slipped, probably due to inattentiveness (I have no memory of it) while returning along a ridge after a winter climb. I slowly came round  and realized what all the white stuff was called and what country I was in...faint traffic noises indicated a road which I eventually staggered down to. I must have slid several hundred feet and gone over one small bluff (ridge now in cloud). Ice axe and gloves gone and hole in JB helmet. Painful getting up in the morning for a long time without supporting the back of my neck (later discovered I'd fractured a cervical vertebra).

If I hadn't done a climb before the ridge I wouldn't have been wearing a helmet and would probably be dead. Now if I have a helmet with me I always wear it anywhere I just might fall (why not?).

anaeurope - on 16 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

It's not a bad idea to wear one since any outdoor activity can require a precaution, but I also wouldn't pay more than 20, 30. Plus, the simond is not a bad helmet. You are not being cheap

Rigid Raider - on 16 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

I once read a comment by a mountain rescuer that he wished all walkers would wear a helmet as it would reduce the numbers of callouts to folk who had tripped and banged their noggins. 

Toerag - on 16 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

I know someone who now wears their bike helmet for beachcombing after slipping and falling badly a couple of times. 

edhawk21 - on 16 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

I never used to. But I have made an effort to now normally on things like grade 1 winter ridges where falling off and bumping your head could lead to all sorts of issues which is also complicated if carrying an ice tool and wearing spikey things.

mrjamesdawson on 16 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

With the weight of modern helmets being pretty negligible there's little reason not to pack one. Strap it to your pack with a fancy mesh helmet thingy or just cinch down the chin strap when not in use, then if you ever feel iffy just pop it on.

 

I don't have much Scottish experience but there are place I've been walking/scrambling in the Alps, Dolomites and Lofoten Islands where I 100% would wear a helmet -think overhangs, steep inclines even if they're parallel to you and you're not scrambling up them, wet slabs etc. If you know the terrain of the route and the weather (which you should if you're out winter walking!) then you should be able to make a judgement call on whether to bring the helmet 'just in case' or not.

 

There was a chap killed on the Reinebringen in Lofoten when someone out of sight ahead dislodged a rock that biunced and cracked him the skull. It's easily the most popular summer hike in the region. Very very unlucky but it happens.

Post edited at 16:08
CurlyStevo - on 16 Feb 2018
In reply to Brown:

After a car turned in to me and i went flying over the bonnet and landed on my head, a helment when cycling has seemed quite sensible.

Post edited at 16:26
benp1 - on 16 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Hmmm, the last few replies have me thinking that maybe I should get one now...!

Garbhanach - on 16 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

 

Winter hillwalking might involve wind scoured icy slopes to avoid more avalanche risky slopes where the wind has blown the snow. If you fall on icy moderate slopes you pickup speed quickly and if there is a bad run out you are in trouble if you don't stop yourself with your axe.

angry pirate - on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

I was out last weekend soloing some easy gullies on Y Garn. I didn't take a helmet and spent most of the day internally debating the wisdom of this. Having been up a couple of weeks beforehand with a mate where we'd worn helmets after topping out of Seniors ridge and then kept them on pretty much back to the car, I did feel more vulnerable going lidless. As others have said, for what they weigh, it's probably worth lobbing one in. 

Epic Ebdon on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

One of the goods things to bear in mind when buying climbing kit is that, all the kit has to meet the same safety standards. This means that a £20 helmet from Simond will have met the same standards as a £50 one from black diamond or petzl. There's no reason to think one will perform better than the other if something bonks you on the head. What you're paying for in the price difference can be anything from brand, weight (or lack thereof), comfort, style, colour etc.

As for whether or not to wear one... it's personal choice really. As a rule, I would consider whether there's a chance something could fall on me, and try to base my decision on that.

the abmmc on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

The other thing to think about, other than something falling on your head, is the potential consequence of you falling over and going for a slide.  If you're on an icy slope, falling on that and sliding any distance can have a drastic impact on the amount of skin on your face and hair on your head.  Wearing a helmet keeps the side of your face off the slope and helps prevent an injury.  

Climbing Pieman on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

> Hmmm, the last few replies have me thinking that maybe I should get one now...!

My general rule of thumb is if I’m taking axe and crampons onto a hill, then I will be taking a helmet, and using it when needed and certainly when axe and crampons are to be used. Once the helmet is on, I usually leave it on for at least most of the rest of the walk.

I’ve also taken a helmet on easier walks where I didn’t take axe/crampons if there was uncertainty or some possible risk (say steeper slopes to traverse, known ice).

Obviously a personal choice, but I would rather have a helmet. As another said all helmets need to meet specifications so go for one that your comfortable with.

 

Post edited at 11:31
Stichtplate on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

As a winter novice myself, I find it's really easy to trip myself up while wearing crampons. Did precisely this yesterday while doing the Snowdon horseshoe. Crampon point caught in the opposite trouser leg resulting in me going face down, stopped myself with my head about an inch from a particularly sharp looking spike of rock. If I've got crampons on, then for the most part, I'll also be wearing my helmet. Even more important if your venturing out alone.

Jenny C on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

If you decide to weaw a helmet get one rated for the activity. Whilst you can get multi sport helmets, most are rated and designed specifically to protect in different ways.

Have never worn a helmet walking or scrambling in the UK. But abroad on steep loose terrain will often leave one on after finishing a climb. Partly as others have said you may fall or trip, but mostly to protect the from small stones accidentally dislodged and kicked down by people above which is almost impossible to avoid on loose scree.

PPP - on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

I am not sure how good idea is the helmet against sliding. If it caught on uneven surface, your head would be bolted up? 

FWIW I do wear it occasionally, depending on the terrain. Wouldn't take it if it was a walk up and down - not some graded climb. I typically go out solo, so I value it more. On the other hand, I still own Petzl Sirocco, which is super light and I don't mind wearing it. 

Asking for advice on wearing a helmet will always be a can of worms. When I started out, I had a guy at Cotswold Outdoors saying I don't need a helmet for outdoor sport climbing and then proceeded to tell how he had to guard his head using his rucksack against falling rocks while he was doing some via ferrata. I mean... not the best person to listen an advice to, especially when you don't ask for advice (just said I wanted a helmet for sport climbing). 

Bulls Crack - on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to Toerag:

I would have thought that more applicable to rock-pooling, unless they face planted in the sand regularly? 

Dave the Rave on 17 Feb 2018
In reply to Garbhanach:

> Winter hillwalking might involve wind scoured icy slopes to avoid more avalanche risky slopes where the wind has blown the snow. If you fall on icy moderate slopes you pickup speed quickly and if there is a bad run out you are in trouble if you don't stop yourself with your axe.

Never a truer word said. I’ve been up Skiddaw 3 times this week the latter with the kid to get her into winter hills. 

Thirsday was a clear day but with a biting, gusty wind. We cramponed up from the top of the zig zags from the Gale road car park. Given the cloud coming in I decided to give Skiddaw a miss and just go up the Lower man. Here the snow was solid and in patches very icy. It was a good spot to practice self arrest so we had a go in this controlled environment on the lower slopes. I taught her how to use the axe to self belay and then to slide and arrest. As soon as you lay on this surface you were aware of how hard it was and how quickly you built up speed over a few metres. Although we had no helmets an unplanned fall into such a surface could have rendered the faller unconscious. I plan to take helmets the next time we go winter hillwalking.

benp1 - on 18 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

I was all set to not take one and the last few replies have now got me thinking it would be silly not to carry one just in case

I've just picked up a Grivel Salamander for my winter walking. The clincher was when I was browsing photos of people winter walking up in the Lakes, most were wearing helmets (which might have been a quirk of those in the photos)

Deleted bagger - on 18 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Wonder if the poor guy who fell off Crib Goch this weekend was wearing a helmet?

TobyA on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to Deleted bagger:

> Wonder if the poor guy who fell off Crib Goch this weekend was wearing a helmet?

Are you sure someone did fall off Grib Goch? The fatality was on the other side mountain and seems to tragically be another person slipping when making the mistake of thinking following the rail tracks was safe. 

benp1 - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Very sad that, more info here - https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/walker-died-after-falling-over-14305405

I doubt a helmet would have made much of a difference unfortunately

Tricky Dicky - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to Rigid Raider:

> I once read a comment by a mountain rescuer that he wished all walkers would wear a helmet as it would reduce the numbers of callouts to folk who had tripped and banged their noggins. 


A member of the cave rescue once commented that cavers should wear sturdy hoop earings so that they could be nailed to a scaffold board when injured rather than having to mess about with stretchers!!

Aly - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1

I’m surprised that there have been replies to this thread downplaying the need for a helmet when winter walking.

 

slips, trips and falls are common in winter, and have, sadly, been the cause of deaths even on relatively benign ground.

 

The wearing of a helmet is a completely personal choice, and I will admit to often walking and running in winter without one.  However, the fact remains that if you have decided to take an ice axe, and/or crampons with you, you are expecting the possibility of encountering snow or ice where the risk of a fall or slide is  (in my opinion) blindingly obvious.  

 

If if you are concerned then taking a helmet is a good idea.  Helmets now are light, relatively cheap and comfortable.  A purpose designed climbing or multi sport helmet would be better than a bike helmet, but I suspect the would be little real disadvantage to a simond helmet over a more expensive brand. 

Flinticus - on 19 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

Surprised at the number of folk advocating helmets for winter walking. I cannot recall ever seeing anyone wearing a helmet for Scottish winter walking over 10 years or seeing one in many of the winter trip reports I have read. My most calamitous slip was backpacking. Should I wear a helmet backpacking? Anyway, I do not offer advice one way or the other. Its on your head what you do and feel the need for. We probably excerise more caution in advising that we partake in practice.

Obviously scrambling and climbing are a different matter.

mysterion on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to Flinticus:

Advocating climbing helmets for winter walking is nuts. Climbing helmets are designed to mitigate impacts from above, get into that situation when winter walking and no helmet is going to save you, you're in free-fall. Why not wear them for summer walking too, rocks are hard and you might do a somersault on the path or something.  And add a big carabiner to your rucksack for no reason at all.

 

Post edited at 01:08
3
Flinticus - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to mysterion:

>  And add a big carabiner to your rucksack for no reason at all.

For attaching your helmet to your backpack? !

 

Post edited at 08:21
Stichtplate on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to mysterion:

> Advocating climbing helmets for winter walking is nuts. 

Depends on the conditions really. Last Friday I was enjoying a blustery day out in Snowdonia. I,d donned my helmet at the start of the scramble up Crib Goch's East ridge and left it on for much of the rest of the day. On nearing the summit of Carnedd Ugain, a strong gust caused me to stagger, left crampon went into right trouser leg and I went face down. Stopped myself with my helmet clad forehead an inch from a vicious spike of rock.

Another couple of inches and that helmet could have saved my life.

Garbhanach - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to mysterion:

> Advocating climbing helmets for winter walking is nuts. Climbing helmets are designed to mitigate impacts from above, get into that situation when winter walking and no helmet is going to save you, you're in free-fall. Why not wear them for summer walking too, rocks are hard and you might do a somersault on the path or something.  And add a big carabiner to your rucksack for no reason at all.

Concerning helmets and fall protection I have attached a link to a BMC crticle.

I did mention the risks above of winter hillwalking above and not being proficient in ice axe arrest to a beginner and usually winter skill courses wear helmets when practising ice axe arrest, so for a beginner I think a helmet is a good idea until they feel confident and practised enough to make their own descision.

Besides bad icy run outs if you fall, there is a risk of being swept into rocks in an avalanche, sometimes I don't wear a helmet and if the conditions do I will carry or wear it, for someone to describe that as nuts is indeed nuts to me :p and contributes to peer pressure intead of using yout nut.

From the article below."Another argument used is that helmets will only protect against minor injuries and don’t do any good against really big impacts. Again, this isn’t the full story: a study of climbing fatalities concluded that 25% could have been avoided if a helmet had been worn"

 

This is only part of the article below, the full article is on the link.

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/tech-skills-why-to-wear-a-helmet   Do helmets provide fall protection?

One reason given by some climbers for not wearing a helmet is that they don’t offer any real protection in a fall. This isn’t strictly true: helmets offer some protection, which may, or may not be, enough to stave off injury. Many modern helmets do offer better all-round protection than their predecessors, making them more likely to protect against falls. They still won’t save you from a headfirst plummet from a great height, but they might make the difference if you clip a ledge, swing into a rib or get flipped upside down by the rope.

Another argument used is that helmets will only protect against minor injuries and don’t do any good against really big impacts. Again, this isn’t the full story: a study of climbing fatalities concluded that 25% could have been avoided if a helmet had been worn. Although most fall injuries are to the lower limbs, the next most likely place to be injured is the head.

Peer pressure

Are there any other factors which might convince a climber not to wear a helmet? Well, the obvious one is the effect of our peers. If our friends think wearing a helmet is dumb, chances are that we won’t wear one. Let’s take the example of bouldering. Have you ever seen a boulderer wearing a helmet? Some highball problems or problems with bad landings could put you at serious risk of head injury. And yet it ‘isn’t the done thing’ to wear a helmet when bouldering, so people generally don’t. Perhaps making a judgement based on risk – rather than being concerned about how cool we look – might pay greater dividends.

The last word

Part of climbing’s appeal is that our decisions have very real consequences. The best climbers have always been able to make decisions based on their own ability and the situation they find themselves in. So, when you’re deciding whether to wear a helmet or not, make a decision based on the risks to you, not based on what you see in the magazines or what your friends will think. It’s your head, after all, and you only get one

Dan Middleton is the BMC Technical Officer – contact him at dan@thebmc.co.uk

 

Post edited at 14:21
rogerwebb - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to benp1:

If crampons are necessary then a helmet is probably desirable.

 

Chris Harris - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to rogerwebb:

> If crampons are necessary then a helmet is probably desirable.

Mate of mine slipped on ice & caned his head on the deck getting out of the car in Scotland once, so he should probably have put crampons & lid on before even getting out of the car.

1
GrahamD - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to rogerwebb:

I've known more people bang their heads slipping over on wet grass than slipping on ice.  One of whom we had to take in for stiches.

rogerwebb - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to GrahamD:

If they just got stitches they did rather better than the people who are troubling me.

 

Offwidth - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to Garbhanach:

I'd say it depends what winter walking is to the OP:  if this means snow and ice slopes on big mountains that nearly constitute graded climbs then I'd say its essential. This is anywhere you would have an axe and crampons. You do this to cut risk of head injury in slips and falls, in avalanche (esp if being swept into rocky terrain)  and of ice and rocks falling in thawing conditions or people above you dropping things or knocking ice or rocks down on you. If you mean a winter stroll on on the Pennine way on Kinder probably not.

Stichtplate on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to GrahamD:

> I've known more people bang their heads slipping over on wet grass than slipping on ice.  One of whom we had to take in for stiches.

Given the abundance of wet grass in the UK against the scarcity of ice, this can hardly have come as a surprise.

GrahamD - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to Stichtplate:

It surprised my mate at the time the general point being its pretty unlikely anyone will be wearing a lid whilst out walking on wet grass

Garbhanach - on 20 Feb 2018
In reply to Garbhanach:

A link to a UKC article on helmets which also has a link to another BMC article explaining which types of helmet offer more all round protection in a fall situation compared to helmets designed more for impact from above.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/reviews/helmets/helmets-4905


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