/ Help With Winter Hill Walking

wilfbiffherb - on 13 Nov 2017
Hi,

I am after a bit of advice really. I do lots of hiking around the Lake Dsitrict and Scotland but have always preferred walking in winter conditions. I have bought myself a simple ice axe and some good crampons and am looking for guidebooks on winter hill walking in scotland and the lake district, but am getting a little confused.

I am not really into getting roped up and doing any winter mixed or ice climbing/scrambling. Is it a case of just using the usual guidebooks for summer routes but applying winter skills or would winter hillwalking come under the purview of mountaineering and have its own grading system of some sort?

Thanks in advance.

p.s. - i can navigate etc
olddirtydoggy - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb:

Most winter walks on paths won't need axe and spikes if you're just hiking. The exposed ridges and gullies will be where you need them. The grading system will come in more on the technical ground. Swirral/Striding edge would be the entry level technical winter stuff.
Doug on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to olddirtydoggy:

> Most winter walks on paths won't need axe and spikes if you're just hiking.

Really ? once its snowy/icy the paths disappear & if the snow is névé crampons might well be needed on anything other than flat ground
petestack - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb:

> Is it a case of just using the usual guidebooks for summer routes but applying winter skills or would winter hillwalking come under the purview of mountaineering

Axe/crampon/navigation skills, weather/conditions/avalanche awareness.

http://www.smc.org.uk/publications/other/chance-in-a-million

> and have its own grading system of some sort?

Not as walking, no (except some stiffer, more scrambly walks nudging into 'climbing' territory). But experience and judgement count for so much in winter.
Pursued by a bear - on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb:

Just do as you would in summer with the appropriate additions; clothing, food, headtorch, gloves, spare gloves and so forth.

It would serve you well if you practiced ice axe braking as soon as you find a suitable slope. It'll usually be self-evident when you need to put your crampons on (and you should be prepared to trip over a few times when you first use them. We all do). Having your axe to hand a little earlier than you absolutely need it doesn't hurt either.

Awareness of avalanche risk will help too; avalanche-prone slopes aren't the steepest. But get out and enjoy yourself, learning as you go.

T.
JLS on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb:

>"Is it a case of just using the usual guidebooks for summer routes but applying winter skills."

Yes. Conditions are so variable, it's about judgement rather than guidebooks. The main thing it to check Avalanche forecasts and avoid prone slopes in the wrong conditions. Recent wind direction is often critical in creating avalanche conditions. You need to be aware that some easy summer walking routes could be death traps if the wind has been moving snow onto slopes above the path. The normal route up Buckle Etive Mor is an example of where this often happens. In principal sticking to ridges is a good plan but your route onto and off the ridges has to be carefully planned.
mysterion on 13 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb:
> I am not really into getting roped up and doing any winter mixed or ice climbing/scrambling. Is it a case of just using the usual guidebooks for summer routes but applying winter skills or would winter hillwalking come under the purview of mountaineering and have its own grading system of some sort?

You have the right idea. Winter walking is entry-level mountaineering but is not winter climbing. There are no particular guidebooks or grading systems for it so just winterise - avalanche assessment, winter navigation, etc you will pick up with experience of different snow types, whiteouts and the like. Don't forget to bring an extra layer and expect any cold drinks to freeze, gloves will become a big topic of conversation. Enjoy
Post edited at 23:43
smithg on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb: I think the SMC Munro book assumes you'll be out in all seasons and mentions where winter conditions make a difference to summer ascents. Other guides prob. do the same.

The difficulty and joy of winter is that it encompasses an immense sliding scale of conditions. eg.
-really cold but little snow - like summer but maybe slippy on rocks or with ice
-relatively cool with lots of fresh deep snow - possibly a huge slow, slog where crampons and axes will not help (skis or snowshoes might), avalanche issues
-cold with a depth of hard settled snow - easier than summer as it smooths out the bumps but slippy where steep (crampon/axe territory)
-warming temps with rain on a hard old surface which will sometimes hold your weight, sometimes not, and which sits on a bottomless layer of loose sugary graupel

etc, etc and you can get different conditions on the same day on different parts of the same mountain due to effects of sun, wind, recent weather history, temp, altitude, aspect. Winter climbing grades can be argued up and down depending on conditions and the same goes for the difficulty of walking routes.

Understanding what you're facing should inform your response: crampons on or off? vary the route? avoid avalanche terrain traps? high, icy, windy, exposed, snow free, ridge or safe but slow and tiring trudge through deep drifts in the valley? sack it all and go to the climbing wall/pub?
pasbury on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb:

If you're after a book to help I can recommend Scotland's Winter Mountains by Martin Moran. I assume it's out of print and might be a tiny bit dated when it comes to gear but you can get it secondhand easily.
wilfbiffherb - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb:

Hey everyone - thanks very much h for the advice. I am brushing up on my winter skills and avalanches awareness and we will see what happens!
Flinticus - on 14 Nov 2017
In reply to wilfbiffherb:

Use the SAIS site for avalanche warnings but remember they only cover some of the Highlands. That does not mean the other areas are safe.

The problem with winter skills is that they atrophy over the intervals between winters, especially when you have a mild winter.