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All things hiking News Suggested things to do Winter

Longing to escape? Winter in a city getting to you? How about escaping into the wilds of theHighlands?

Every year there are reports of people getting lost in the snow and ice of winter. Mountain rescue callouts are predominantly about navigation errors. To make winter a safer place, it is a good idea to book a guide to lead or alternatively join a group heading out into the hills. Some groups are organised by companies on commercial trips, others are groups of friends or clubs. Nonetheless there is safety in numbers.

Every year there are winter wilderness expeditions running under the guidance of Andy Bateman of Scot Mountain Holidays in the Cairngorms and Glen Affric. There’s also usually a trip to Knoydart, home to Britain’s most remote pub; however there is a major reforestation project going on there this year which makes it less attractive to visit and all the accommodation will be taken by the forestry workers.

Life will be reduced to basics during the expedition and the only concerns will be: eat – sleep – hike (repeat). The perfect way to clear the mind and return feeling completely refreshed after only a few short days.

  • winter walking Cairngorms
    Walking in winter has it's own rewards in the endless mountain views in crystal clear visibility.

Winter Expeditions 

1. Southern Cairngorms Winter Odyssey

This is a rare opportunity to experience one of the remotest parts of the Cairngorms National Park at a time when the mountains are probably at their most glorious. The High Cairngorms are renowned for their wintry conditions yet at this time very few folk dare to do multi-day trips

winter in the Cairngorms

Celia enjoying her second (or third) winter expedition with Scot Mountain Holiadays

Highlights: winter skills, Monadh Mhor (Munro), Devil’s Point (Munro) Carn a’ Mhaim (Munro), Derry Cairngorm (Munro), Beinn a’ Chaorainn (Munro)

 

Price: £ on application

Email: SCO@scotmountainholidays.com for full information about this trip.

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

2. Winter Cairngorms 4000ers

This is Scotland’s ultimate winter mountain journey. The high “plateau” route takes in Britain’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th highest peaks on a journey that circumnavigates Scotland’s finest and best known mountain pass, the Lairig Ghru.

winter in Scotland

Check out the potential avalanche sites on the head wall. You can see how the corrie came to be made

Highlights: winter skills, Cairngorm (6th Highest Munro), Ben Macdui (2nd Highest Munro), Braeriach (3rd Highest Munro), Cairn Toul (4th Highest Munro), Sgor an Lochain Uaine (Munro)

Price: £ on application

Email: CWO@scotmountainholidays.com for full information about this trip

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

3. Glen Affric Winter Shangri-La

Imagine the soft orange light of a winters dawn gleaming down from the snowy celestial heights. Surrounded by snowy peaks and cradling a mug of tea in the crisp air, indeed a stunning winter’s day beckons.

Highlights: winter skills, Mullach Fraoch – choire (Munro), Mam Sodhail (Munro), Carn Eighe (Munro), An Socach (Munro), Carn a’Choire Ghairbh (Munro)

winter expedition Scotland

Spotting deer in Glen Affric while on winter expedition in Scotland

Price: £ on application

Email: Shangri-La@scotmountainholidays.com for full information about this trip

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

Or for something slightly different

 

4. Snow Hole Expedition

“Porridge with whisky at 9am whilst warm & dry in my sleeping bag has never tasted better!” Ric Taylor,Bristol.”

Have you ever dreamt of taking a short walk amongst a moonlit snowy wonderland. Amazingly no need for a torch! Imagine reflected flickering candle light giving way to the soft light of a winters dawn as you emerge from you snowy abode. Not a soul about! We’ll have a vast pristine winter wonderland all to ourselves. It’s a remarkable experience.

Highlights: winter skills on Cairngorm, overnight expedition to sleep in a snow cave, creation of said snow cave

snowholing expedition

how to build a snowhole in Scotland

All digging and cooking equipment supplied by your hosts, Scot Mountain Holidays.

Check full details on the website 

 

5. Winter Knoydart Expedition

Highlights:

Accommodation: Barrisdale Stable (if available) or heated Tentipi

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

6. Winter Loch Nevis Expedition

Highlights:

Accommodation: Barrisdale Stable (if available) or heated Tentipi

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

Why book with Scot Mountain Holidays?

  1. The routes have all been checked carefully. In addition, routes are very familiar to the guide who will know how to adapt according to the weather conditions. He or she will also know where and how to avoid the cornices (overhanging snow features)
  2. Accommodation is organised therefore no tents flapping in the wind keeping everyone awake.
  3. Toilet and wash facilities will be available without having to “go native” and dig a hole.
  4. Cooking will be done by the guide.
  5. Food will all be prepared from fresh, local produce to a wide range of recipes including carrot and cardamom soup. Obviously no commercial packets for us.
  6. All group equipment will be provided.

The first 10 gift ideas for hikers and walkers

Stuck for gift ideas for hikers? What to get the hiker in your life? Read on. We’ve come up with a list we’ve organised into a couple of blogs to make it easier for you to find something which will fit your budget and your giftee.

Gift ideas for hikers: Clothing

1. Cioch Direct – made to measure water proofs

If your short in the leg, or long in the body, sometimes it can be a nightmare to get gear which fits you pefectly which can be frustrating and irritating when your out and about, particularly for legwear. Cioch Direct use Nikwax Analog material (also used by Paramo) to create waterproof clothing tailored to fit your measurements and the cost is very little more than off-the-peg jackets and trousers.

Jackets start at £200

Waterproof trousers start at £195

http://www.cioch-direct.co.uk/perfect_fit/perfect_fit.html

 

 

2. Down jacket

Down jackets have come a long way from the times when they were alternatively known as “puffer” jackets. There are so many different options you can choose from now and also different weights of jacket; differing sizes of ribbing, hydrophobic or regular down; down/wool combination?

Rab have always lead the way in down but there are a huge number of other outdoor clothing/gear manufacturers now making inroads into their market.

I found a couple of reviews of alternatives on Fiona Russell’s blog which you might want to take a look at.

– http://www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk/2015/11/jottnar-fenrir-850-fill-hydrophobic-down-jacket.htmlor http://www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk/2015/11/smartwool-phd-propulsion-60-hoody-sport-jacket.html

NB Down jackets are often not the best for Scottish weather conditions as they loose a lot of their thermal potential if they get wet. Hydradown does halp a wee bit with this but the mid to light weight jackets can still leave the wearer feeling chilly in Scotland. Generally speaking many thin layers and fleeces under a windproof, waterproof shell jacket provide the best thermal protection. Down jackets are better in alpine conditions.

3. Base layer

You can’t really go wrong with gifting a base layer, so long as you get the sizing right. It’s always useful to have an extra layer for the winter weather. All outdoor stores will offer a range of “base” layers. The main choice is between synthetic or natural fibres. The complaint in the past has always been that synthetic fibres can start to whiff after quite a short length of time, hence the nickname “smelly helly” for a Helly Hansen top. Things have of course moved on quite a lot but natural fibres like merino wool or bamboo would definitely be preferable. You can sometime pick these up for nominal sums in Aldis or Lidls if you are there when they have the right offer on.

For further inspiration try reading through this review: – http://www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk/2015/11/the-sniff-test-montane-primino-crew-neck-t-shirt.html

4. Silk liner gloves or Dachstein Mitts

It is vitally important particularly in winter conditions to protect your extremities.

You can pick up a pair of silk liner gloves for next to nothing and they’ll always come in useful either for hiking or climbing or even cycling. They’ll protect your hands and give an added layer of warmth under your thick winter outer gloves which mean that you can manipulate delicate pieces of equipment, push buttons, change batteries etc without having to expose your skin to the colder winter temperatures. They could even be a useful stocking filler.

Delicate and dexterous are not adjectives which apply to Dachstein Mitts. Made of pre-shrunk wool, they are not items of high fashion. But when it comes to beating the cold they just can’t be beaten. No fancy designed mountaineering gloves beat them for building heat back up in the fingers. If your friend/partner suffers from cold fingers, they’ll be so grateful for a pair of these, even if they live in the bottom of the pack most of the time.

Using an ice axe on a winter skills course

Ice axe arrest on a winter skills course

5. Socks

Last but not least on the clothing front – that old fail safe on the present front – a pair of socks! For a hiker though, the right pair of socks could be something to get excited about. After all it can ruin a good day out if you feet are not comfortable.

Other people have already written at great length reviewing several brands of hiking socks so I won’t add more except to say, that good socks may well be expensive – but they are worth their weight in gold and wool is definitely the way to go as natural fibres reduce the smell of sweaty feet.

Check out the lists/reviews below.

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/gear-review-serious-socks/006431/

http://www.headtothehills.co.uk/articles/215-hiking-socks.html 

http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Hiking-Socks-Reviews

http://www.gearreview.com/socks99.asp

http://www.bestconsumerreviews.com/hiking-sock-reviews/

 

Gift ideas for hikers: Gear

6. An ice axe

We’ve written about ice axes several times on our blog and also in our FAQ section so we won’t go into reems of detail about ice axe models and choices. Only really a gift for someone you know is about to venture out into some winter challenge/adventure. Possibly not something you’re likely to give as a surprise gift and if you are at all uncertain it’s possibly better to go with a voucher for an outdoor store. Remember if you book a course or holiday with Scot Mountain Holidays, as a bonus you and anyone else on the course will receive a discount code for 15% off any future purchases with Cotswold Outdoor.

7. Crampons

Probably an item that will be specifically requested if you or someone you know if looking to do some winter skills traning or move into ice climbing. Whichever activity you are thinking of, you’ll probably be taking slightly different kinds of crampons into consideration. The important thing is not to get too tempted by cheap versions for sale on ebay, as they really don’t pass the quality mark on the safety front when you present them to your instructor.

Check out our top winter skills tips and our FAQ section for more knowledge.

8. Winter boots

Definitely something which shouldn’t be a surprise. If you’re looking for some advice for something which would be suitable for winter walking in Scotland, check this out and don’t necesarily listen to the advice of a shop assistant down in the south of the country.

gift ideas for hikers: winter boots

Which boots to choose for winter?

9. Headtorch

There are a confusing array of headtorches on the market but in order to choose the best one to add to your list or to buy for a friend, you need to know the primary purpose for which you’re buying it. Fortunately UKClimbing have done a comprehensive review of several options on the market. Take a read here:

http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=5951

If you’d also like to take the opinions of users into account then check out the recommendations on the following forums.

http://forum.fellrunner.org.uk/showthread.php?15581-Head-torch-recommendations

http://www.outdoorsmagic.com/forum/gear/headtorch-recommendations/62016.html

 

10. Trekking Poles

I’m in the market for new trekking poles myself. I have to admit that I’m in the never-walk-without-them group. Ever since I started using them, I have found them invaluable. I tend to use them right from departing the car park to returning at the end of a hike, but I have to admit that many of the men I know who hike, have always denigrated poles as they consider themselves srong and experienced enough to go without. However, once taught to use them correctly, they have been known to convert.

I have no idea which pair of poles I’ll end up with, even though I’ve read the reviews listed below. My personal preference is for a click-lock system of extending the pole as I’ve seen the twist action ones fail repeatedly.

Weight is a consideration too, but not to the extent that I’m prepared to pay a huge amount more for my poles.

As I do travel as well, it is useful to have a pole which will collapse to a relatively short length to attach to the rucksack. It is not usually possible to fit the poles inside the pack when it is packed for a week’s holiday and if poles can’t fit inside your pack on a flight, you run the risk of damaging them.

Top tip for pole care: always take your poles apart at the end of the day and make sure that all sections are thoroughly dry before reassembling.

Trekking Poles

http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=3454

http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Trekking-Poles-Reviews

 

THE FINAL OPTION

Of course, if they already have all the gear, or are extremely particular, there is another option. It is possible to buy a course or holiday voucher.  You don’t even need to specify which trip you wish to purchase; you can just purchase a fixed value voucher to be used at a future date against any trip/holiday. Scot Mountain Holidays offer this option as do most other holiday companies. You  have the “gift” ready to give in your email inbox within minutes of clicking “Buy now”. Your gift will be individual with a personally designed voucher specific to you/your friend.

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