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simon3
2010-01-10 09:18:08
"The Reeks, 40km away from near Dingle." from simon3 Expand pics
The Reeks, 40km away from near Dingle. (Expand pics)
Lessons from Scotland on Winter Walking.
Walking in snow-bound Ireland. A point of view from a Scottish member.

Here is a bunch of opinions on safety in winter. Simon asked me to do them, so that's who your next of kin should contact. Winter walking is immensely fun and mostly safe. The three Scottish deaths so far this winter have been of experienced people in extreme places, so avoid extreme places. Winter skills are best picked up from people who know. Skilled friends are great and there's lots of good courses available in Scotland. However most of us learn by our mistakes so heres a few pointers.

Avalanches are the worst threat. They're more likely to occur on slopes between 25 and 45 degrees, less doesn't give them momentum, more and the snow doesn't collect. You'll get them after fresh snow on hard pack (in which case watch the lee side of the hill) or after rises in temperature. Travelling under or up to cornices is risky. Have a look at http://www.sais.gov.uk/avalanche-awareness.asp for sensible detail.

Ice-axe. This is your closest friend. Its good for stability, and it's a method of arresting a slide. Walk with the axe in your uphill hand with the prong facing back. If you fall, bring the axe across your chest and drive the prong into the snow. This has to be done immediately or you'll only leave a pretty wake behind you.

Walking poles are ok for stability in deep snow but don't have any use on packed or icy surfaces. Use that axe.

Visibility can be tricky. Not just white-outs though they are totally disorienting but a snow slope in flat light can leave you with no idea of angle of slope. Know where you are and take your time. If there are hazards like crags below you, consider how you can be sure of avoiding them, even changing route if feasible. I always carry goggles which can be brilliant walking into driven snow or spindrift.

Crampons are fantastic on packed snow or ice. They're a waste of time in deep snow, though I've struggled up a snow slope then put them on to deal with the wind-swept ice-rink on top. You should have 12 point crampons properly fixed to a reasonably stiff boot. They're not brakes. If you're sliding and you dig your crampons in below you, you could break an ankle. Don't try and put your waterproof trousers on after you've put on the crampons unless you want that fashionable shredded look.

Cornices. Ive said be careful going up to them but watch it walking along the edge of a corrie. The cornice can extend a fair distance and you may be walking on shaky foundations. Try and stay on the solid stuff. And with regard to visibility (whiteouts etc., above) be utterly sure of your navigation when youre following a corrie edge. If it curves, exaggerate the curve you sometimes can't depend on recognising the edge.

Routes should be chosen with a bit of sense. If there's an avalanche risk choose flatter slopes and stick to the windward side. If youre walking a ridge, try to make sure you're walking with the wind. If I'm walking on my own I'll use routes I know already. In any case I'll always leave route details and if I can I'll text any enforced changes (my predictive texting now has an extensive gaelic vocabulary.)

Speed disappears out the window in poor conditions and this is a time when we've short days. Keep the clock in mind and know when to alter or curtail your trip. Make sure you've a head torch and check the batteries. If theres any moon, night walking in snow can seem like daylight so don't make panicky decisions. Always have a survival bag.

In fact Don't Panic is good advice. There are very few casualties in Scotland compared with the huge number of winter miles we rack up. You hardly ever get a full house of problems. I've had blizzards, deep snow, white-outs and nightfall but not more than one or two at a time. You can think your way out of most problems.

Finally, and contradicting myself already, avalanches aren't the biggest risk the drive to and from your hill is.

Weedavie


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Summit Comment
Sawel: -Derry and Tyrone CHP
paddyobpc a few minutes ago.
Walk Date: 22 Jun 2016. Even though we were over on the West coast of Donegal on holidays we had our eye on two neighbouring counties to the east, Derry and Tyrone, and in particular "Sawel Mounta...

  
Summit Comment
Errigal: -Fantastic Views
paddyobpc a few minutes ago.
Walk Date: 20 Jun 2016. While on holidays in Donegal we watched for an opportunity to climb Errigal. The weather was generally good but Errigal often has a cloud at the top. Rachel, Dillon(dillonk...

  
Summit Comment
Slieve Na Calliagh: Dodging Thunder and Lightning
paddyobpc less than an hour ago.
Walk Date: 06 Jun 2016. As we arrived at Carnbane East (Slieve Na Calliagh) the CHP of county Meath, Mother Nature was roaring again, there were a few claps of thunder and flashes of lightening. W...

Summit Comment
Mullaghmeen: - Nice Forest Walk
paddyobpc less than an hour ago.
Walk Date: 06 Jun 2016. Our second last of 8 CHP’s in two days we arrived at Mullaghmeen forest Park at 7:30pm to climb to Westmeath’s highest point Mullaghmeen. The route we took was a lovely for...

  
Summit Comment
Corn Hill: -A break in the weather
paddyobpc less than an hour ago.
Walk Date: 06 Jun 2016. As we drove away from Cuilcagh it was still raining and Dillon(dillonkdy), my sister Helen and I were hoping it would stop by the time we travelled to the start of Longford...

  
Summit Comment
Cuilcagh: -Legnabrocky Trail
paddyobpc less than an hour ago.
Walk Date: 06 Jun 2016. The previous day Dillon(dillonkdy), my sister Helen and I had climbed Truskmore, Truskmore SE Cairn and Seltannasaggart SE Slope. After a rest overnight in Drumshanbo we no...

Summit Comment
Seltannasaggart SE Slope: -to close a day of CHP's
paddyobpc less than an hour ago.
Walk Date: 05 Jun 2016. After completing Truskmore and Truskmore SE Cairn we followed the Sat Nav to the start point of Roscommon’s CHP, Seltannasaggart SE Slope as indicated in Kieron Gribbon’s b...

  
Summit Comment
Truskmore SE Cairn: from Truskmore
paddyobpc less than an hour ago.
Walk Date: 05 Jun 2016. Continuing from our walk to Truskmore it was an easy and quick stroll over to Truskmore SE Cairn to say we were at the highest point of Leitrim. We returned by making our w...

  
Summit Comment
Truskmore: First of a blitz of CHP's for the weekend
paddyobpc less than an hour ago.
Walk Date: 05 Jun 2016. Dillon(dillonkdy), my sister Helen and I set out early on the morning of 05 Jun with the goal of completing 3 CHP’s and continuing on the 06th Jun with another 5. Our first...

Summit Comment
Arderin: First and Last CHP for 2016
paddyobpc 23 hours ago.
Walk Date: 17 Apr 2016. Dillon(dillonkdy) and I resumed our CHP challenge for 2016 on Arderin on a cool dry April Sunday. We were now armed with Kieron Gribbon’s book “Ireland's County High Points...

  
Summit Comment
Moylussa: Last CHP of 2015
paddyobpc 23 hours ago.
Walk Date: 06 Sep 2015. Our last CHP of the year was Moylussa in Clare and again it was Rachel, Dillon(dillonkdy) and myself on the walk. Blessed again with good weather the views of Lough Derg as...

  
Summit Comment
Carrauntoohil: with Dillon and Rachel
paddyobpc 23 hours ago.
Walk Date: 18 Aug 2015. We were waiting for a good time to tackle Carrauntoohil and finally a suitable day arrived. Rachel, Dillon(dillonkdy) and myself set off from the Hydro Track Carpark around...


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