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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 .. 19 Next page >>
Track
Near Mizen/Sheeps Head (Ireland)
Eirepur less than an hour ago.
walk, Len: 6.7km, Climb: 187m, Area: Mizen/Sheeps Head (Ireland)

  
Track
Near Derrylahard East, Mizen/Sheeps Head (Ireland)
Eirepur less than an hour ago.
walk, Len: 6.5km, Climb: 177m, Area: Derrylahard East, Mizen/Sheeps Head (Irela...

  
Track
Near Eagles Hill, Dunkerron Mountains (Ireland)
Eirepur less than an hour ago.
walk, Len: 16.7km, Climb: 685m, Area: Eagles Hill, Dunkerron Mountains (Ireland...

Summit Comment
Crockmain: A Great Viewpoint
Aidy a day ago.
The final summit of a day spent walking from Mamore Gap over Croaghcarragh and Urris Hills, back to the gap, then up to Mamore Hill and this peak. I had planned to continue to Raghtin More, but th...

  
Summit Comment
Mamore Hill: Part Of A Brilliant Ridge Of Hills
Aidy a day ago.
Tackled after walking Croaghcarragh and Urris Hills on the other side of Mamore Gap, and before continuing on as far as Crockmain, this was one the best days I've spent in the hills. Even a bit of...

  
Summit Comment
Croaghcarragh: Seems Grander Than It Is
Aidy a day ago.
Climbed on the way to the Urris HIlls from Mamore Gap, and like all the hills on both sides of the gap, I was captivated by the rugged terrain and the amazing views. All these hills have the feel ...

Summit Comment
Urris Hills: Magnificence Beyond Its Height
Aidy a day ago.
I've had the group of hills around here on my list for a while, as it looks spectacular from other mountains, or from nearby along the coast, and it doesn't disappoint when you actually get up the...

  
Forum: General
Are there new cairns in Wicklow
wwwalker 2 days ago.
Is it my imagination or are there some new cairns appearing in Wicklow recently. There are small ones at point 702 ( T043 980) marking the turn for the lugduff ridge and at T086 975) marking the d...

  
Track
Brockagh Tops
Bunsen7 3 days ago.
Similar track to a number of others which I used for guidance. Parked at the forest entrance having turned up at the ... walk, Len: 14.5km, Climb: 517m, Area: Brockagh Mountain SE Top, Dublin/Wicklow

Summit Comment
Brandon Hill: The Barrow way
Kennyj a day ago.
Brandon hill viewed from St Mullins before starting the barrow way walk to graignemanagh,highly recommended,super views and peaceful surroundings.

  
Track
Lake District: Skiddaw via Ullock Pike
Onzy 3 days ago.
Classic route in the lakes... walk, Len: 15.3km, Climb: 1062m, Area: Ullock Pike, Lake District - Northern Fe...

  
Summit Comment
Lugnaquilla: A mountain with lots to offer!
Bunsen7 a day ago.
Since starting my hillwalking in 2015 I have been up Lug a number of times. Mostly it has been totally misted over by the time I reach or just after reaching the summit. Once it mists over the mou...


RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 19 Next page >>