Winter Walking Tips
Before you go check the mountain weather and plan an appropriate and safe route for the weather, your abilities and your group.
We all look forward to getting out on the white stuff and you are right we need to factor it into our winter route planning, timings and of course the extra kit we will need to take with us. Trudging through snow, slipping on ice, carrying extra layers, ice axes, phone charging packs, extra food etc, all add to our timings taking longer for a leg than we would on a nice summer’s day.
Navigating can take longer too, not only because winter tends to bring adverse weather such as driving sleet and headwinds, but snow fills in features that can mean it takes more time to identify contour features. If you do not adjust your timings for winter you will find you are probably not as far on as you are in summer, and your estimated timings will be off on each leg. Slower speeds in winter combined with shortened day light hours often result in more people coming off the hill in the dark or being benighted. ( So packing a head torch and spare are vital even if you plan to be off during daylight. ).
At UNS we use the Shaven Raspberry timing card which shows 3kph for walking on snow, and 2 kph for deep (say past ankle) snow. And add one minute for every 10m contour line climbed too (up to 3 contour lines in 100m), and subtract 20 seconds every 10m contour descended (up to 3 contour lines in 100m).
This is a guide of course, trudging up hill with a heavy pack, waist deep in soft, wet snow and you could be down to 500m per hour! Consider other factors as well such as ice and how familiar you and your group are to moving with ice axes, crampons or ice grips on. If moving roped up, say in crevasse fields can take longer still. Assess the conditions, the route and your groups condition and adjust your leg timings accordingly.
So in winter, it’s best to leave yourself additional margin and a buffer of time if you want to be off before dark, and plan to slower than normal.
Carry at least the minimum safe gear and know how to navigate. A list of gear is here – http://s-on.co.uk/uns/safety-on-the-hills/
Leave behind with a responsible adult written details of your route, escape/bad weather routes, the number of people and the time you will return. Instruct them to contact Mountain Rescue at a given time. Let them know if you are late and when you are safely off the hill. There is a free handy route card to print off on the website above.
Keep an eye on the Peak District’s weather, and how your group is doing, as things can change rapidly; consider cutting the route short if it does.
In an emergencystop in a safe place and assess whether you can self- help or you need the emergency services. Ensure you and the group is safe, then make the casualty safe, giving first aid if needed. Insulate everyone from any bad weather using your survival shelter.
Determine your location writing down the grid reference and description.
e.g. SK 0832088940TOP OF KINDER DOWNFALL on the Edge Path, Kinder Scout, Peak District, England.
Ordnance Survey’s free ‘OS Locate’ App shows the OS grid reference of your smartphone. Download it from your App store before you head out.
Dial 999 or 112 and ask for Police, then ask for Mountain Rescue in the area you are in e.g Mountain Rescue Peak District please.
Give your name, mobile number, location (as example above), what you can see near you, number of people (ages, sex), number of casualties, condition of group and casualty, any injuries/medical conditions, and the weather near you. Say if you have lights showing or not.
If you do not know exactly where you are say so; describe what you have seen nearby, where you last had a fix, what you can see now – be specific, don’t just say near some rocks how big are they, as big as a house, or car, what direction do they face? Follow instructions given; usually stay put if it is safe to do so.
Stay inside your survival shelter leaving lights externally flashing. Look out and listen for lights/noise and whistle/flash 6 times in one minute to signal help. Be patient it may take a few hours to get to your location.
If you cannot get a phone signal it is usually best to stay put than wander about. Activate your Personal Locator beacon if you have one.
If you have no mobile signal or PLB and you think appropriate, select your two best navigators/hill walkers. Write down your location and the route they will take off the hill, and the time they left. Taking their gear with them they should use the safest route to the nearest place they can contact the emergency services, taking with them a written description of the casualty party’s location and their route.
Did you know you can also text the emergency services, BUT you must have registered beforehand?
Always follow Mountain Rescue’s instructions. If a helicopter arrives, stay still, secure loose items, do not shine lights directly at it when it is close by.
A moonlight descent on a clear night, with the snow like daylight over your favourite hill will be a memory that will stay with you for a long time – enjoy the winter!
Kit wise in winter here is our recommended kit list look at the cold weather section http://s-on.co.uk/uns/what-to-bring-with-you-on-a-course/
Why not book a navigation course now and if you enter Xmas18 you will receive a 10% discount on all courses in 2019 booked by the end of January 2019.
The Ultimate Navigation School is a charity providing navigation training to hill walkers, with all our net profits supporting the following charities –
Mend Our Mountains, Fix the Fells, John Muir Trust and Mountain Bothy Assoc.