Winter Gear: time to dust off the winter gear (maybe)
Andy Bateman a qualified Winter Mountain Leader of 20yrs experience gives his winter gear thoughts relative to the forecast for the Cairngorms Fri 27 Oct – Thu 2 Nov, 2017.
We are now approaching the end of October and the first bout of proper wintry weather has swept across our hills. There should be another one later this week.
Up to this point, there has been a notable lack of frosts so the ground is going to be relatively warm. Forecast precipitation doesn’t look as if it is going to amount to much. It looks unlikely you will be facing full on conditions. Having said this they are predicting high winds, blizzards and a wind-chill down to -10 deg C for the highest tops so it’s most definitely time to review the kit in your rucksack.
It’s worth noting also: a forecast is only a forecast. Things can change and so in turn can my thoughts below. It is of course imperative that an updated forecast is sort on the evening or morning prior to setting out.
At this point in time the crampons are unlikely to be much benefit. They might make it into the boot of the car just in case but there could well be a chance of fresh dusting of lying snow so proper winter boots are most definitely a consideration (B2 or B3). Where you have the ground covered in a thin layer of fresh snow stiff winter boots rather flexible boot with a flexible crampon would be the most likely the preferred choice.
Although no substitute for proper crampon in full winter conditions in these conditions Kahtoola microspikes might be an idea.
As is the case at any time of the year but especially now, the body is likely to chill pretty quickly once you come to a stop. That extra thick fleece or an overlay jacket for when you’re not active most definitely can justify its place in the rucksack now.
Hand could also benefit from gloves being thicker. It’s time to be swapping the summer gloves for the winter ones. Another thing to bear in mind is to make sure the rest of your body is adequately insulated. If your torso is warm you will be far more resistant to getting cold hands. Think how the body conserves the core temperature – it restricts the circulation to the extremities e.g. hands. Often folks say it’s just their hands that feel cold and only deal with the affected area. You torso won’t feel cold because the body has compensated but that’s not to say hands won’t benefit from an added layer to the torso.
Warmer leg ware is also a consideration. It might be a case of wearing leggings/long johns
To state the obvious, eyesight is vitally import in the mountains. Trying to navigate directly into a blizzard can be at best purgatory, at worst nigh impossible. Even relatively light winds can cause snow to hit you directly on the eye ball. It’s not nice. In our damp cold mountain climate condensation is an issue so make sure you equip yourself with some proper anti fog (double lenses) ski goggles. A pair of safety goggles out of a workshop just doesn’t ‘cut the mustard’.
You of course you should be carrying these at any time of the year but now you maybe wearing them for their windproof as much as their waterproof qualities. A jacket with an integral hood is also a must.
It’s now getting dark at around 5:30pm and the clocks are about to go back. The days are now a lot shorter than they were a few months ago. Possibly an earlier start and less ambitious plans are the order of the hill day but most certainly a head torch with fresh batteries should be part of your kit. It should also be one that’s strong enough to navigate in the dark. A powerful beam makes a massive difference.
If I’m not taking proper crampons I may well at least be thinking about having at least one axe in the party just in case. The forecast is for 2 periods of sub-zero temperatures both lasting around 24hrs so there could be some ice build up where there is seepage emerging from the ground.
We hope to see you out in the hills soon getting ready for the full on winter conditions. If you’re signed up for our newsletter you’ll shortly be invited to join us to bring in the New Year. See you then – hopefully with plenty of the white stuff on the hill!
We run winter skills courses and winter walking holidays in the Cairngorms and across Scotland. We are also specialists in winter expeditions, especially the snowhole. Please see our video below to entice you to join us … some dates only limited availability.