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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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RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 26 Next page >>
Summit Comment
Mullaghnacross Hill: Coastal Hill
sandman less than an hour ago.
You have an option for access to the summit area of this hill either by the farm gate located at G1939433614 or thru the front gate of the house adjacent now thru the front door down the hall and ...

  
Track
Pic du Canigou
David-Guenot 3 days ago.
Ascending Catalogna's sacred mountain from the hamlet of Los Masos de Vallmanya, on well-marked trails, with two breaks walk, Len: 24.8km, Climb: 1853m, Area: France, Occitanie ()

  
Track
Exploration of Wicklow Head from the north.
simon3 a day ago.
As you will immediately see from the track this was an exploration of what is possible thoroughly exploring various d... walk, Len: 6.6km, Climb: 126m, Area: Brides Hill, Wicklow Coastal Hill (Irelan

Summit Comment
The Eagles Rock: A short but sweet scramble
IainT 3 days ago.
One of the few Irish summits that needs the use of hands by the easiest route. Those happy with exposure can get a good airy scramble (grade 2, pushing 3 maybe), by slanting left up an obvious ram...

  
Track
Ramble on Ireland's Eye
wicklore 4 days ago.
A short walk on Ireland's Eye in September 2015. Original plan to visit earlier in the summer was thwarted by a huge f... walk, Len: 2.6km, Climb: 80m, Area: Ireland's Eye, Dublin Islands (Ireland) I

  
Summit Comment
Slieve Foye: Irish Gabbro!
IainT 3 days ago.
Gabbro is one of the roughest and most frictiony rocks around and is superb for scrambling on, as all visitors to the Skye Cuiilin across the water know. I never realised until yesterday that Slie...

Summit Comment
Ballyguile Hill: Viewed from the south. Hope you like masts.
simon3 2 days ago.
Ballyguile Hill can also be seen well from the south. Here's a view taken from near Brides Hill (a coastal hill near Wicklow Head)

  
Track
Pic de Cagire Loop
David-Guenot 5 days ago.
A great loop walk in one of my favourite areas in the Pyrenees, which should have hardly taken more than 4h30 hadn't I m walk, Len: 11.8km, Climb: 892m, Area: France, Occitanie ()

  
Summit Comment
Clermont Carn: Easy but a great view.
IainT 3 days ago.
If you drive up the road this has to be a contender for the easiest summit in Ireland, but it's well worth doing for the superb view. Wicklow to Donegal, with the Meath lowlands spread out like a ...

Summit Comment
Seanadh Bhéara: Access
sandman 5 days ago.
To answer the query raised by TommyV for at the time to facilitate parking on a narrow road and not wishing to park on the N59 i parked beside the farm yard with a view to access the hill via the ...

  
Track
Benbeg to Cuilcagh
dmcdevitt 5 days ago.
GPS was not accurate during the walk. learn't a lesson not to use your phone app to track your walk but overall it is ac walk, Len: 8.7km, Climb: 447m, Area: Benbeg, Breifne (Ireland) Benbeg

  
Summit Comment
Ireland's Eye: Screams were heard, getting fainter and fainter…
wicklore 5 days ago.
Ireland's Eye is situated about 1.5kms north of Howth Harbour. In Celtic times it was called Eria’s Island and then Erin’s Island. The Norse called it Erin’s Ey and this became Ireland’s Eye. (Ey ...


RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 26 Next page >>