There is no doubt about it, winter mountain adventures are more demanding in more ways than one than most summer adventures. Here we have outlined our top 3 'Winter Hacks' that we feel will make your time on the hills more comfortable and safer.
As soon as that snow starts being shifted around by the wind, or that sleet-storm comes out of nowhere our first reaction is to pull our hoods up, look at the floor and shield our faces with our hands.
Not only is this painful on our faces, but whilst we're looking at the floor we can't really keep on our intended route or navigate properly.
As soon as autumn hits it's wise to get a pair of goggles in your pack - you only need to forget them once to realise how valuable they are. As above, you can continue to navigate and operate more normally with goggles on, not forgetting they also help to keep your face much warmer.
A basic set of ski goggles will do the trick too so don't feel like you need to spend a fortune.
2. Keep your gloves on
There is a running joke in the industry that you're only a true mountain professional when you can open a Kit-Kat without breaking the foil, whilst wearing your winter gloves...
Although an extreme example, trying to keep your gloves on as much as possible is a great habit to have. Firstly, if you keep them on, they can't blow away! If you do feel the need to take them off, stuff them in to your jacket straight away. Secondly, it really doesn't take long for you to lose your dexterity when your hands are exposed to that icy wind, and with it navigating, holding an axe or putting crampons on all become that much harder. All the time you're thinking about your numb hands you're also probably not thinking about other important things - avalanche awareness, navigation, your mates.
Try and practice getting your crampons on and off with your gloves on and make life easier by adding some cord to your zip pulls on your jackets / trousers so you have something bigger to grab. Consider a glove layering system so that if you do have to take off the thick glove you have a liner underneath. Some gloves have built in bungees to keep them on your wrist, but this is also an easy retro-fit.
Finally, take 2-3 pairs of gloves! The chance of your gloves getting wet is super high and so having some back ups is wise - again they don't all have to be top end brands so don't feel like you need to spend a fortune.
3. Have energy to hand
As above, there are greater physical and mental demands in winter. A heavier pack, snow to wade through, heavier boots with crampons on, increased decision making - all of which is crammed into the pressure of shorter daylight hours. The ability to stop and have a proper break is usually limited, particularly when you get to the summit and get battered by the wind and snow. With this in mind, it's super important to ensure you do feed your body throughout the day and the easiest way to make sure this happens is by keeping your food accessible. The chances are a sandwich isn't going to last too long on that harsh winter day (particularly not if put in a pocket!) so think about what easy to open and eat food will keep you going. Top picks for us are chocolate, muesli bars or even a grab bag of mixed nuts, sweets and chocolate.
The above are just 3 top tips and should be coupled with common sense and the following points before heading into the hills in winter:
*A carefully planned route with consideration given to the weather and avalanche considerations. Have escape routes and let someone know where you are going. - http://www.lakedistrictweatherline.co.uk/
*The ability to navigate using a map and compass.
*Appropriate equipment and technical winter equipment if heading above the snowline (Crampons / Ice Axe / Winter Boots). Not sure on how to use this kit? Why not join us on a course.
*An understanding of 'Type 2 Fun'
Happy adventuring all!