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All things hiking Suggested things to do Winter

Why go walking in winter

1. Why go walking in winter – Keep fit

It’s all in vogue these days. As our normal lives become more and more sedentary, there’s an increasing emphasis on keeping fit. As we get older too, it becomes increasing difficult to maintain our fitness levels. We can’t afford to hibernate over the winter. Instead of heading abroad, we can take on a new experience and continue getting out in the countryside throughout the winter months. If you find the winter weather a challenge or too scary, take a course to give you the confidence to get out walking the hills in winter.

Extra ways of burning calories while walking in winter include:

All of which you can tick when you go hillwalking in winter.

why walk in winter

As far as anyone can tell, the “one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back” notion originated with Sir Edmund Hillary’s successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953. Since then, numerous studies by academic researchers and even the U.S. Army have concluded one thing on the matter: Weight on the feet is disproportionately more exhausting than weight carried on the torso.* To find out more read the links in our further reading section. Therefore walking in winter boots requires more effort and will burn more calories!

2. Why go walking in winter – Spectacular views

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Glorious wintry views in the Cairngorms

The air in winter is so much more crisp and clear than in the spring/summer months. In spring the large estates who own huge swathes of the Scottish hillside, often start to burn the heather to maintain the grouse moors. Obviously this produces a haze from the smoke which can affect visibility. In the summer the air is generally more hazy due to the humidity which then affects how far you are able to see clearly.

In the middle of winter it is possible to see 100km or more from the high hills. For example, Ben Nevis can clearly be seen from the summit of Cairngorm.

3. Why go walking in winter – It’s a challenge

Challenge is the big buzz word these days. Have you run your first marathon? Have you participated in your first triathlon/ironman? Tough Mudder anyone? Compared with challenges like these, winter hill walking is much more accessible and something you could do every day (in season). The biggest challenge for winter hillwalking is building up your stamina when you’re also trying to hold down a full time job. Many of us have deskbound jobs these days and the closer we get to “middle-age” (our 40s and 50s) the more difficult it is to maintain fitness and stamina levels. However, in the course of a week, many people find that their fitness and stamina levels noticeably improve on a guided winter hill walking trip.

why go hiking in winter

Statistics gathered on an autumn walking weekend in the Cairngorms guided by Andy Bateman

On a typical winter walking day out with Andy, the guests record steps in excess of 30,000 per day! You’d be well on your way to your #Walk1000miles at that rate.

4. Why go walking in winter – Camaraderie

Sharing is a major part of walking. People tend to chat as they walk in a group and often end up discussing all manner of topics; setting the world to rights. When you share an interest (i.e. walking) already with the people you’re with, chances are you have topics in common you can discuss without coming to blows. Of course, camaraderie is not something which is confined to winter, but there is something about pitting your skills against the environment which pulls your group together and gives you something to share.

5. Why do walking in winter – Gear

It doesn’t matter what sport you’re enthusiastic about, people love to talk about their gear and share their experiences of using it. When it comes to winter walking, if you’re a novice, you will need to make some investments to upgrade from your summer/autumn walking equipment in order to be safe in the winter hills. If you’re not sure it’s going to be your thing (though if you already enjoy walking, you might get hooked quite easily), you can always hire the technical stuff – winter grade boots, ice axe and crampons, before making the leap yourself into buying the kit.

Using an ice axe on a winter skills course

Ice axe arrest on a winter skills course

6. Why go walking in winter – Legitimate adult play in the snow

Sliding around in the snow with a sharp tool – sliding down a hill on your bum – digging in the snow – kicking into ice with crampons – all become legitimate “skills” when you’re on a winter course learning the “personal safety skills” of safe movement on the winter hills.

 7. Why go walking in winter – Cheap alternative to skiing

To go out walking you don’t need to pay for a lift pass for every day you want to go up the hills.

You don’t need to buy the skis and generally you’re further away from the ski lodges, so you don’t have access to the cafes and restaurants, which means you have far fewer opportunities to spend your hard earned pennies.

8. Why go walking in winter – Builds confidence

Gaining new skills and becoming proficient in using them builds confidence not only in the activity you are doing, but also in other areas of your life. It is always a good idea to keep your brain active and to learn new things, particularly if you are also learning new physical skills which will help your body remain fit as well as your brain.

If you’re a novice or if you’re lacking time to gain the skills yourself, remember that winter is harsh environment and not everyone has the experience to head up into the mountains but there are plenty of local, highly-qualified guides who are very happy to take you out.

9. Why go walking in winter – Something to share

It’s much more fun to share unusual experiences with your friends. Most people like to see images and videos of adventurous activities, spectacular views, mountains, nature – you can tick all these boxes when you record your experiences out and about in the winter hills, then share then on your favourite social media channel. You’re virtually guaranteed some interaction with your friends/followers.

Resources/Extra reading

*A pound on the foot – the science

The Great Outdoor Forum (Stack Exchange) – discussion on the science behind extra weight on your feet.

http://www.infographicspedia.com/lose-body-fat-percentage-on-walking-infographic/

So you’re considering going on a hiking holiday? Firstly; great choice. Not only is hiking extremely beneficial to your health and wellbeing. But it’s also a cheaper way to travel and allows you to experience the essence of a place. Hiking holidays are becoming increasingly popular, but there is the question, how to choose a hike in Scotland when there’s such a wide range available?

mountains of scotland

Stac Pollaidh, Assynt, Scotland – north of Inverness

How to choose a hike for you

The first thing to consider is if you want to go on a hike or a walk.

Do you want or need a guide? Fortunately, Scot Mountain Holidays have a range of group hiking holidays, tailor made tours, and private guiding options available, so you’ll definitely find the right hike for you. But to ensure you’ve found the perfect hike you do need to consider certain aspects.

Are you intending to go on an inn-to-inn hike? Follow a long distance trail? Or do you want to get into the mountain wilderness areas and have a truly unique and off the beaten track experience?

Are you quite happy hiking on your own but you’d like some guidance on choosing routes, support with transport? Find out about Scot Mountain Holidays self-guided options for the more adventurous.

 

Availability

Tours with Scot Mountain Holidays range from weekend getaways to seven days long. With tours running throughout the year, all that is required is for you to decide on your availability.

Hiking group poses at the top of one of Scotland's mountain peaks.

Hiking group celebrate reaching the top of one of Scotland’s many mountains

Choose a season

Choosing a season is one of the most important decisions in finding the right hike for you. Spring and summer are the most popular hiking periods and also provide the most pleasant hiking conditions. Perfect for those with families or first time hikers. Autumn is a wonderful season for hiking due to the beautiful colours, the changing environment and lack of climbing traffic. Autumn is suitable for everyone, and ideal for those who prefer a cooler temperature. Winter is considerably more difficult to hike in, and we recommend winter hiking for those confident in their abilities. This is due to the additional gear required and the added challenges of often hiking through snow. Winter is however often a more rewarding experience, with the raw beautiful scenery, clear winter views and the satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Level of difficulty

Scot Mountain Holiday tours are graded on a level of difficulty from two to five, with five being the most difficult. When considering how to choose a hike in Scotland it’s important to take into account your own level of fitness and choose a tour suited to you. For an overview, refer to the Scot Mountain Holidays grading system.

All Scot Mountain Holidays tours are all inclusive. So, all you need to do now, is chose a hike. To ensure the experience pre, during and post hike is completed stress free for you, Scot Mountain Holidays will take care of the rest.

The thought of snow brings visions of skiing and snowboarding to the forefront of many minds. But for those of us who don’t enjoy the slopes or perhaps want another option, Scotland is the right place to come. There are thankfully still many exciting activities that can be enjoyed in the snow.

guided winter walking in the Highlands of Scotland

Spectacular glistening snow on the slopes of the Cairngorm peaks

Here are Scot Mountain Holidays top four snow options for non-skiers.

Snowshoeing

For those who aren’t familiar with the sport of snowshoeing, it’s a lot of fun and needs little skill to master. Essentially, snowshoeing is strapping tennis racket like objects to your feet and walking/sliding over snow and ice. It’s a fantastic way to explore an area and Scot Mountain Holidays offers an all inclusive guided snowshoe tour for your convenience.

Winter Hiking

Hiking is a fantastic activity most popular in the peak season, but winter hiking is no different. While coming with some additional challenges, the rewards are fantastic and you’ll quickly discover the hiking trails have a magical like quality to them. You’ll also find the hiking traffic is much less; giving you opportunities for fully appreciate where you are.

Snow Hole Expedition

Digging in for a night out on the mountain.

Snow skill course

Scot Mountain Holidays offer a range of snow skill courses for your choosing. With the opportunity to learn about and have first hand experience on ice axes, building ice holes, winter navigation and more, the choices are endless. Not only are these courses a fantastic alternative from the slopes, but they are brilliant life skills to have.

Light hearted fun in the snow

Whilst all of our snow options for non-skiers are fun, exciting activities. It’s always nice to relax and have a little fun in the snow, especially for those travelling with children. So, take an afternoon to build a snowman, or have a snow fight. Make snow angels or bobsled. You’ll appreciate an open fire and a good book so much more once you’re back in the warmth.

A snow hole expedition in the Cairngorms National Park – a most varied group

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In February we ran a snow hole expedition, the second of the year, in the Cairngorms.

The group

The group was small but unusual.

Ian – our most frequent flier on the snow hole. This was his third snow hole trip. Ian first joined us in 2006 to attempt an overnight snow hole in the Cairngorms National park. The weather was against them on that trip and they had to turn back without reaching the snow hole site. The ski area wasn’t open and though the group attempted to ascend the hill they eventually had to turn back after being blown around a wee bit too much. There is video footage from their endeavours which makes for interesting viewing just to see the effect of nature, if nothing else. Ian returned again in 2007 with 90% of his group to try again – successfully

Andy – our oldest client to date on this trip – a celebration of his imminent 70th birthday.

Hui – our first guest from Singapore. A lone female traveller spending a few months in the UK on a sabbatical from her studies.

Andy’s Review

Read all about their experience in Andy’s words:

andy_P1.jpg
Late last year whilst at David Lloyd’s (gym), I said to my friend, Ian Thorpe, an experienced walker and climber, that I fancied carrying out some serious winter walking, but not climbing. Ian replied “Let me take you to the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.” This was duly arranged by ian and off we set on 21st February at 10am, arriving at Fraoch Lodge in Boat of Garten, in the Cairngorms, at 16.15.

Rebecca, Andy and wee Gregor made us extremely welcome; dinner was baked salmon with a rich and wonderful sauce, followed by home made trifle containing shortbread and blackcurrants, wonderful.

Day 1

Next morning, along with fellow trekker, Hui, a lady lone traveller from Singapore, we were fitted out with ice axe, crampons & helmets prior to spending our first day on the mountains practising ice axe arrest. This was a daunting experience for some one who has never even worn crampons let alone walked on ice.

Later that day we walked till late on Lurcher’s Crag and the Chalamain Gap, looking towards Corrie an Lochain, before returning to Fraoch Lodge for another wonderful dinner, having first stocked up on copious bottles of red and white wine from the local Tesco.

Day 2

On Saturday 23rd February after a hearty breakfast at 7.30, we set off for the snow hole day. We arrived at Aviemore ski resort and walked in. At about 2pm we were ready to dig our snow hole. Andrew marked out 2 doorways on the ice covered mountain side. (We were about 3000ft up by now.) These door holes, roughly about 12ft apart, were then dug into using ice saws and snow shoverls. It took 2 hours to create a vertical face, then we had to further excavate in for about 5ft prior to turning inwards to join the 2 ends of the snow hole. This was particularly backbreaking work for Hui, thank God we had clear blue skies and sunshine. After about 4 more hours, the hole was completed. My feet were so cold I could hardly feel them.

Having put all our gear, including cooking utensils inside, Andrew started the evening meal. We had hot tea, followed by carrot and coriander soup, then a buckwheat and chorizo casserole. Dinner commenced about 10.30pm! Ouside the temperature was approx -9oC; inside however was relatively comfortable.

snow hole expedition

Stunning views from the “window” of your overnight accommodation deep in the heart of the Cairngorms

Day 3

Next morning we woke up to a complete whiteout. My fear was how do we navigate to the summit of Cairngorm Mountain? Andrew explained that we take a direct compass bearing but because I was finding the walk hard he explained that provided we walked clearly up and around the pudding shaped mountain, we would by definition reach the summit and incidentally GB’s highest automatic weather station. After approx. 600m of ascent we duly found the summit at 1245m.

Roughly 4 hours later, we had descended back to the ski lodge. It was particularly hard going with Hui hanging on the to back of Ian’s rucksack most of the way. We had the pleasure of seeing a Ptarmigan and 2 white hares.

Overall a fabulour experience which I will not be repeating, but one to tick off. Andrew’s knowledge of the terrain, geology, weather conditions, and navigation skills were par excellence.

Having successfully returned to Fraoch Lodge, we were treated once again to an excellent farewell dinner. Many thanks Ian, Andrew and Rebecca for a memorable trip which i will not forget for a long time.

Andrew Palliser

PS My 70th Birthday on March 12th 2013 – what a perferct birthday treat to myself!

How to choose boots for winter walking.

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.

crampons.jpg

Reasons to wear B2 or B3 boots

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.

  1. a.      Better grip

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.

  1. b.      Kick steps effectively

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.

  1. c.      Ability to front point safely

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.

  1. d.      Less stress on the crampons

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.

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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