Scotland has a great many ambassadors who spread the world all over the world but there’s no getting away from the fact that it is a green and beautiful land and that green comes at a price sometimes. However, it is possible to minimise the effect a poor weather day could have on your vacation.
A quick comparison between a relief map of Scotland and the annual rainfall map shows a very close correlation. The higher you go the higher the annual rainfall. The altitude of the land can change considerably in a single mile and so can the amount of rainfall both on an annual and daily basis depending on the prevailing wind direction.
The point is, the Scottish Highlands are packed with micro climates and by jumping in the car and placing big mountains between you and the prevailing wind direction, you can massively improve the weather you’ll experience for your day. It can be the difference between frequent heavy down pours and sunshine with the odd very light shower. If active frontal systems are sweeping across the country, well you’re probably going to experience some kind of precipitation at some point wherever you are but if they’ve all passed through and it’s just an air-stream scenario then some judicious planning can pay handsome dividends.
I always remember turning up at a house in Glenfeshie one April to guide a group of ladies up from theLondonarea. The forecast for the N. Cairngorms was not good: 70 mph NE winds, blizzards above 800m and torrential rain. I arrived to the gutters overflowing but having studied the weather closely I suggested we jump into the cars for an hour and drive around to Pitlochry on the leeward side of the range to do Ben Vrackie. The suggestion wasn’t greeted with any enthusiasm and possibly a certain amount of doubt but the thought of an hour in a dry bus was better than an extra hour walking in the heavy rain.
As soon as we passed over Drumochter Pass the weather started to improve (as is often the case) and by the time we got around to Pitlochry we were in sunshine to the comment of “Andy, haven’t you done well”. We had clear views from the summit, albeit in a strong bitter wind. On passing back over the pass we drove back into the bad weather. ‘Had it been wet and horrible all day’ I asked Rebecca, my partner. “Yes’ was the answer.
Closely follow the weather forecasts
The prevailing weather/wind direction makes a big difference. If there’s bad weather on the way make sure you’re on the sheltered lee side of big mountain ranges. One of the most common comments made by visitors is how changeable the weather is.Don’t judge the days’ weather by what’s happening at breakfast.
So when it comes to planning your tour, if you can remain flexible and not book things too far in advance it can often make a big difference. Avoiding the high season from the middle ofJuly until the end of August can be a big help in this regard. April & May can produce some of the best weather.
Base yourself in the North East
The vast majority of Scotland’s bad weather comes in from the south and west. You will notice the east side of the country is considerably drier than the west. In fact the west coast ofScotlandcan receive up to 3 times the annual rainfall of the east. So by basing yourself, for example, in Strathspey or in the North East side of the Cairngorms National Park you can often greatly increase your chances of experiencing better weather. Also, with easy access to the main road routes to Ullapool in the North West Highlands and Fort William in the West Highlands are only 1hr 40mins and 1hr 30mins away respectively from Aviemore it’s easy to make a foray into these areas.
Book an Adventure Guide
This is you buying into in-depth local knowledge of suitable locations with regards to the weather conditions. Adventure activities also provide you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in the beautiful landscapes and amazing wildlife of the Scottish Highlands.
Adventure Tour Operators in Scotland
Highlands and Islands Adventures (mountain biking specialists)
Walking holiday providers in Scotland
Crampon compatibility is by no means the only criteria on which to determine whether a mountain boot is suitable for a Britain’s winter mountains. With 15 winter seasons of Winter Skills instruction and guiding under his belt, Andy Bateman of Scot Mountain Holidays takes us through various features of a good winter mountain boot.
The snow conditions on Scotland’s winter mountains are as varied as the weather that creates them. They are invariably more varied than any lying summer snow and combined with the variety of situations you might come across snow and ice, you don’t want to be limiting the techniques at your disposal before you’ve even set foot on the mountain. So it’s important to choose the correct winter boot.
1. Sole Rigidity:
Winter days can be short so it’s important you move efficiently. If there is the opportunity to save time safely it’s wise to do so. Adding crampons considerably increases the weight of the boot and it has been calculated that a kilogram on the foot is equivalent to five in the sac in terms of energy expended. You certainly don’t want to be without your crampons but just simply bunging a pair of crampons on isn’t necessarily a fix all.
Sole Rigidity is in fact provided by the mid-sole and not the sole. It’s important that it’s across it’s width as well as down its length. With most modern boots if they have it one way they will have it the other. The key aspect of a stiff winter boot is it allows you to concentrate your body weight where the sole makes contact meaning either it cuts into the snow ice surface effectively (i.e. when using the edges) or the rubber keys into the snow/ice surface properly.
B2/B3 boots have better grip on the snow and ice than do B1 boots meaning you can possibly reduce the time you wear your crampons. Walking on thinly snow covered rocks in crampons can be awkward so often it’s a stiff boot that’s the most effective way to deal with this situation.
Depending on the situation it may be far quicker to just to kick a few steps than stopping to put crampons on. In firm snow conditions B1 boots can often be too flexible to do this properly. For instance the when kicking pidgeon hole steps the toe will often bend up and “bounce off” without the sole cutting into the snow. The same can be the case when kicking other types of steps. It can also be rather uncomfortable for the feet.
B1 boots are usually too flexible resulting in the toe bending up and the heal dropping down. This leads to the front 2 points shearing out of the snow/ice surface and the possibility of you falling backwards out of the step.
Crampons are tough bits of equipment but they aren’t indestructible and they should be supported by a rigid sole. Fitting a crampon to a flexible boot can greatly increase the stress on the crampon which over time can lead to it breaking. Again it can be uncomfortable on the feet.
3. Robust upper
With more flexible boots, the upper can tend to be too soft. This can result in the feet feeling restricted when the crampons straps are pulled tight, the danger being restricted blood circulation and associated cold feet, or worse a cold injury like frost bite.
4. Better insulation
A good winter boot is also better insulated and hence reducing the chances of cold feet or worse. Often the additional insulation so provides added padding and hence comfort.
Your boot is as much a tool as your axe or your crampons and for a winter walking trip a B3 boot isn’t overkill. A B1 boot may be adequate for a challenging summer trek involving a glacier crossing in theAlpsorHimalayasbut isn’t really enough for theScottishMountainsin winter.
If you are about to head out to your local gear shop to try on some boots I would check first which of the staff have been properly trained in boot fitting and that they are going to be there when you turn up.
How would you describe your Scot Mountain Holidays experience?
What tips would you give someone else thinking about booking this trip?
Scot Mountain Holidays is a member of the Green Tourism Business Scheme. We have a gold award. What is your understanding of the significance of this award?