UKC

/ winter climbing advice ?

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AndyE9 - on 27 Nov 2018

Hi all. ..

for a long time we have fretted over going winter climbing , a few years bk when on a tight budget we manage to get very close to going , but my wife had fallen pregnant and was unable to make the journey tho it was only myself and my daughter climbing ..  

 

Now a few years on , and a bit better equipped with my new old defender we have been considering getting out to do a bit ..  My daughter has bought most of what she needs , I still have a few things to get ..  

As we live in the south , we thought that this year we might be able to make some winter climbs in the lakes , or even wales and pretty much halve the driving time to scotland ,  but was talking to a few guys and they said that the lakes is so hit and miss  , that if your gonna go then go straight to scotland ..   

 

any thoughts and tips would be great  . . .Cheers  . . 

Post edited at 10:09
Harrison_Connie - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

Keep a close eye on conditions and go where suits. Stay flexible and don't limit yourself, Scotland is worth the travel. 

Presley Whippet on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

Don't limit your options to Scotland. A drive there from down south in an old defender will be long and pricy.

Commit the time/money to a flight to Norway, Cogne or similar. You will get more climbing done.

TobyA on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

UKC should be publishing soonish an article I've written that is sort of a "how to" guide to winter climbing in England and Wales. It should give you some inspiration even if its not much practical use.

If you are going with your kids and you are not an experienced winter climber or even winter walker, I would seriously consider at least having a day with some kind of instructor. I think a parent taking their kids out in winter has a huge responsibility to shoulder, and if you don't have experience no matter how good your intentions are you are probably not in a position to take that responsibility.

Post edited at 10:50
CurlyStevo - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

Really you should ear mark a few weeks / weekends and take the first one with good conditions. The lakes comes in most but not every year at some point and wales less so.

If you need to book dates up front then mid feb is the most reliable time and scotland the most reliable area.

Do you have any winter skills? Navigation, avalanche awareness, route / approach selection, able to interpret weather reports, ability to use winter tools etc

 

Post edited at 10:44
GridNorth - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

The Lakes and North Wales are very hit and miss.  If you live in the South consider going to the alps, you are far less likely to have a wasted visit and it takes about the same amount of travelling time as Scotland.  I used to go to Scotland a lot when I lived in Sheffield, even back then I would guess that 40% or 50% of the visits were a wash out.  When I moved south I soon realised that the Alps were a much better option for me. Don't get me wrong, when the weather is OK in Scotland it's fantastic but it's difficult to plan.

Al

Post edited at 10:55
CurlyStevo - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to GridNorth:

Yeah UK venues are best if you can take last minute holiday. If you live in Scotland doing that it can be very productive most seasons (and often most weeks for most the season).

If you need to prebook a trip then Euro ice climbing is way more reliable if something of a different experience for the most part.

AndyE9 - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

Yeah cheers guys ,  My daughter and I have good mountaineering skills and navigation is top notch , Tho I will be taking the whole family, wife my sons and the daughter , only myself and my daughter will be climbing , she is 20 and has good climbing experience and skills ..   

The rest of the family are just coming for the adventure , im sure the wife will find things to do with the boys , 11 and 6 years  ...   

I dont mind the drive too much , its just everything that goes with, accommodation .... etc , we bought the landy for this exact reason , trips away , we do intend to break in to Europe next year , but this was more for some fair weather climbing / adventures .. the fuel cost isn't as bad as people might expect I get around 500 miles on a full tank around £80 , and she is happy at 70mph ...   lol . .   

A guide for the day might not be a bad idea , if not to just brush up on some winter essentials , avalanche avoidance being the main thing ..  lol I really don't need someone to tell me how to walk in the snow , or how to use a map  . . . 

Im able to go at reasonable short notice , maybe within a few days  Im able to make a series of shorter trips to the lakes , than one longer trip to scotland  .. I hadn't thought about the alps this year we need to renew passports which we were going to do in the spring ..

 I wouldn't fly I dont think, I would prefer to drive .. I have never been in a plain I haven't jumped out of and I have never landed in one lol ..  

Harrison_Connie - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

>we do intend to break in to Europe next year , but this was more for some fair weather climbing / adventures 

Oh dear. 

If you're looking for fair weather climbing, book a flight to Spain. Winter on our UK hills can be brutal at the best of times. 

 

Post edited at 11:42
GridNorth - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

To be clear, what do you mean by winter climbing? I'm not sensing that you mean full on 2 x tools and crampons.

Al

Ben Sharp - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

If you haven't fitted an auxilliary heater, pre-heater and/or extra insulation then that would be worth doing.  If your heaters in good nick it'll be fine to around 0-5c but if it drops seriously into the minus numbers they can't cope. Jet boil and hot water bottles for the poor sods in the back!

Sad to say it but it's best to refrain from talking too much about your 110 or putting pictures up on here. An innocent post about conditions tells the world where you're going. If you're leaving her in a car park when you're out for the day then take as many security precautions as you can, the less off the shelf the better. Plenty info online (if you haven't already upped your security) but there are lots of things you can do to spoil a thiefs day without spending much money. All the off the shelf security products are sub 5 minute jobs to break through so a combination of multiple visible deterrants (discloc, wheel lock, pedal lock, gear stick lock) along with thoughtful parking and your own personal additions is the way to go.

One advantage of a guide will be that they know the local area so well that you will probably get more done with them even if the conditions aren't favourable. January is less busy and a day or two out at the start of a week off would probably help you get more out of the rest of the week. There are plenty winter skills courses and beginner things you can book onto but most independent guides will be delighted to go out climbing for a day with the two of you and just give you some hints and tips along the way. There are often MIC aspirants who post on here looking for experience as well which might be an option for you.

Post edited at 12:04
CurlyStevo - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

Do you know how to navigate in a white out ? Have you been in any / many white outs?

Post edited at 12:17
AndyE9 - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

when i mean winter climbing , I do mean using tools and crampons  ...  what other winter climbing is there ?  

Yeah I won't post when or where im going and in what car im taking , as I know how sort after the defenders are by thieves , we do have extra security on it ..  sad times we live in ah  , so far the heater seems in good order but will def look into an aux heater ..    

cheers ..  

 

The other thing I wanted to ask , what do people do for cheap accommodation when going to Scotland , lakes ... and so on ..  normally throughout the summer we prefer to camp ..   

Harrison_Connie - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

>what do people do for cheap accommodation when going to Scotland , lakes ... and so on ..  normally throughout the summer we prefer to camp ..   

Hostels and bunkhouses are normally fairly reasonable, you would probably want to try and book these in advance (might be tricky for a family of 5 last min). 

If I'm away for a weekend I sometimes wild camp, keeps costs down and I normally end up sleeping better as well (no one trying to re-organise their rack at 5am like I had this weekend in Aviemore YHA). 

 

AndyE9 - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I know how to navigate ...  , my navigation is in very good order , I find the skills are very transferable from my yacht masters ( master I am   )   can, and have navigated parts of uk , fog and all , .. although we use charts instead of maps , and different datums the fundamentals are much the same ...  tho the skills are less transferable the other way round ;)  

 

I haven't been in a full blown whiteout , but I'm confidant on my abilities  ;) 

 

 

GridNorth - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

What other winter climbing is there?

Well some people refer to walking in winter as winter climbing or mountaineering, others think catching a bit of winter sun bolt clipping is winter climbing.  Ascending mountains by a series of ridges and gullies in snow and ice, usually at lower grades is winter climbing.  Climbing wet gullies in winter is considered by some to be winter climbing. Others only consider steep ice climbing with two ice tools as winter climbing and others think that ANY climbing in the season of winter is winter climbing.  From your OP you could have been anyone of those so suggesting Rjukan could for example be a waste of time.

One mans winter climb is another mans plod in the snow

Al

CurlyStevo - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

I'll take that as a no on both counts then :P PS I'd scrub up on it if I was you! Navigating in a white out without a gps which should always be your fallback case, there are often cornices to fall through with only a small amount of error that can't be seen. Its not a case of taking a bearing and following it blindly.

Post edited at 13:23
AndyE9 - on 27 Nov 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Nope I haven't been in a full blown white out on a mountain  , but neither had you before your first ....

like I said my navigation is first class, albeit on land, sea or in the sky , I can use compass's, maps , charts, gps , plotters , day , night , in fog , cloud ....  with one eye closed I can even navigate using a sextant  lol...    

mysterion on 28 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

> Nope I haven't been in a full blown white out on a mountain  , but neither had you before your first ....

All the same, best to experience one first on a fairly gentle walk, it's a very strange experience. You can see from a distance where you are likely to find a whiteout for practice, look for a snow-topped hill in cloud that looks exactly like someone has gone over it with an eraser.

 

Post edited at 01:05
descender8 - on 28 Nov 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I've done a lot of the Scottish munroe's in winter , many winter climbs,  Nevis more times than I can remember - navigated mountains from  Australia to the Alps and been in plenty of whiteout - I do not own w compass and have never used one yet ! 

I have however witnessed groups with map's and compass head completely the wrong way off a peak in whiteout conditions !  I just follow my nose ;) 

 

L lucyjohn987 - on 28 Nov 2018

Keep your mind open.

AndyE9 - on 28 Nov 2018
In reply to AndyE9:

I know from experience , in life and at work , that peoples practical skills can vary by a lot , for what comes natural to one person can be complete alien to another ..  I would be saying the same, and advising people to act with cation also especially when giving advice to people you dont know .... 

 

Im confidant with my abilities but that being said , I wasn't going to rush into anything too adventurous , but have to start somewhere ...  

nufkin - on 30 Nov 2018
In reply to descender8:

>  I've done a lot of the Scottish munroe's in winter , many winter climbs,  Nevis more times than I can remember - navigated mountains from  Australia to the Alps and been in plenty of whiteout - I do not own w compass and have never used one yet !

Bloody hell

Michael Gordon - on 30 Nov 2018
In reply to nufkin:

Yes it's a hard one to understand. A person's sense of direction is simply not reliable in a white-out, and it's hard to see why he would be any different. Experience doesn't come into it.

descender8 - on 01 Dec 2018
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Wind ya neck in mate ,  what good is a compass if you've got no map ! Let's say before maps were made ????

Rog Wilko on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to descender8:

> I've done a lot of the Scottish munroe's in winter , many winter climbs,  Nevis more times than I can remember - navigated mountains from  Australia to the Alps and been in plenty of whiteout - I do not own w compass and have never used one yet ! 

> I have however witnessed groups with map's and compass head completely the wrong way off a peak in whiteout conditions !  I just follow my nose ;) 

I'm speechless (almost). Anyone who thinks they have an inbuilt sense of direction is utterly mistaken. The fact that you haven't come to grief so far is merely good luck. I hope you inform the local MRT every time you go out in doubtful weather.

Michael Gordon - on 03 Dec 2018
In reply to descender8:

> what good is a compass if you've got no map ! 

It is usual to take both when going into the hills in winter. It's not generally thought of as an either/or.

 

Rog Wilko on 05 Dec 2018
In reply to lucyjohn987:

> Keep your mind open.

I don't understand this, nor see to whom it's addressed.

Mark Bannan - on 18:18 Mon
In reply to descender8:

> ...I just follow my nose ;) 

I wonder what you can smell, then? (not sure if it's the same thing I'm smelling!).

 

PaulJepson - on 22:49 Tue
In reply to AndyE9:

To caveat - I'm assuming a general level of hill know-how and experience, as well as some summer rock skills like placing protection, building anchors, abseiling, confidence on grade II/III ground etc. Please disregard my route suggestions if these are not in place. 

  • Go to Scotland 
  • As others have said, it's always a good idea to take part in a course and get guidance from trained professionals. If you're dead-against that option, start small and easy (big but technically easy days can be far more rewarding than spending a day in a difficult gully. Look at classic grade I/II ridges. These are stunning days out, will get you accustomed to tools, and technical difficulties are generally short-lived 'steps'). North West Highlands has lots of amazing ridges (Beinn Alligin, Forcan Ridge, Beinn Eighe on the easy side. Liathach, An Teallach are higher on the difficulty/commitment but not out of reason for experienced hill folk once comfortable with tools). Would also be sensible to spend some time pottering around in a corrie with no real objective, just to get used to moving on ice/neve. Cairngorms are good for accessible corries and reliable conditions; that's why so many instructors base their courses there.
  • Bothies are great to spend the night in if you're looking for a more comfortable alternative to wild camping. Please clean up after yourself and stick to the bothy code. I usually stay in a hut or bunkhouse (or group accommodation with my club) but often spend a couple of days either side of this in a bothy. Join the BMC if you haven't already. Often you can make a big saving on huts and bunkhouses as a member. ~£10 a night in a bunkhouse is priceless when you consider the drying rooms and warm showers they afford.
  • Depending on where you are based, you may be able to fly cheaper than drive. Inverness generally has pretty good connections to the southern airports with Easyjet and can be really cheap if you book in advance. Saves a day of driving and transport links in the highlands aren't too bad, if you're going to the right place (trains frequently from Inverness to Aviemore for example. 
  • Look at late February/early March. Weather conditions are generally a lot more stable and the snow on the hills will be nice and compact (having gone through a good amount of freeze/thaw).

 

Hope this helps. Scottish winter can be brutal but it's one of the most rewarding and beautiful places I've ever experienced. 

PaulTclimbing - on 01:55 Wed
In reply to AndyE9:

Come to South Wales at least once in a winter - as its not such a big drive; as there's some good 'cut your teeth on it' ice for a play around with the harder stuff being prized high quality WI ascents if a little ephemeral or short. It does miss some of the drama of the Scottish mountains but In january or February  2019 there will be -5 sub arctic conditions for a weekend and two mid week 3 dayers for pure ice or a bit of mountaineering. Keep your eye on the oxford university (oxford area) climate data and soil temps and ignore the nay sayers. Act quickly on any info and use meteo sources to think it through. Blast over as it could work but be intense and aim for 2 venues in a single day aand be happy with what you've done!

Post edited at 01:57

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