Traversing across hills covered in snow enjoying the tranquillity of a pristine winter landscape is an incredibly rewarding experience. However, with unpredictable weather, the bitter cold, short days and lack of other people, it is important for winter hikers to be well prepared for their mountaineering expedition.
To help prepare take a look at the following tips for safe and rewarding winter mountaineering.
Don’t attempt the winter outing alone
It can be tempting to tackle a hiking challenge alone but walking with fellow hikers will help ensure you stay safe. It is preferable to share the trip with companions who have experience of the particular trek and are familiar with the route.
Check the weather forecast
It goes without saying, before embarking into a desolate winter wonderland, you should check the forecast to see if the weather is favourable.
The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) is a good source to use. The MWIS is an aid to mountain safety, forecasting the weather for eight different mountainous areas in the UK.
Familiarise yourself with the route
When the ground is covered in snow it is easy to become disorientated. It is therefore important to study the map and acquaint yourself with the route prior to setting off. Whilst planning the route, break the journey into sections and estimate how long each section should take.
The French-speaking natives of the Canadian province of Quebec have a saying: “S’habiller comme un oignon”, which translates as “To dress like an onion.”
Temperatures can easily plummet at elevated altitudes during the winter and it is important you wear a variety of insulating layers to help you regulate your body’s temperature. Also, with layers, if you feel hot whilst walking you can peel items of clothing off with ease.
Opt for thermal vests and long underwear on the bottom layer, followed by your normal hiking gear and a light fleece. Pack a waterproof jacket and trousers in your backpack in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Hands and feet are often the first parts of the body to feel the cold. Wear thick socks designed for hiking in the winter. It is also a good idea to take two pairs of gloves, one for keeping you warm and a pair that are waterproof in case it starts to rain or snow.
Set off early and don’t attempt exceptionally lengthy routes
Walking for 20 miles in one day might be easy during the summer but in the winter when it gets dark at 4pm a 20-mile doddle can be nigh impossible.
Not only should you be reasonable about the distance during the winter but you should also set off early to ensure you are safely at your destination by the time the sun sets.
Exploring the hills and mountains during the winter can be an exhilarating experience but safety should never be jeopardised. The key to a successful winter expedition is preparation.