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simon3
2010-01-10 09:18:08
"The Reeks, 40km away from near Dingle." from simon3 Contract pics
Picture: The Reeks, 40km away from near Dingle. (Contract 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
Those of you that .. by pdtempan   (Show all posts)


RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 28 Next page >>
Summit Summary
Cnoc an Bhráca: The last hurrah of the high Reeks
Collaborative entry Last edit by: Peter Walker 8 hours ago.
Cnoc an Bhráca, together with its near neighbour Cnoc na DTarbh, are the last (relatively) high summits along the great ridge of the Eastern Reeks; beyond here the ground gradually declines to the...

  
User profile
WalkinIreland
WalkinIreland 15 hours ago.
Walking Holiday Ireland provide self-guided hiking & guided walking tours in Ireland’s Ancient East and along the Wild Atlantic Way since 2012 for hiking & trekking enthusiasts from around t...

  
Summit Summary
Tievnabinnia: Bulky Sheeffrys summit
Collaborative entry Last edit by: Peter Walker a day ago.
Tievnabinnia is the easternmost of the higher Sheeffry Hills, a distinctly bulky eminence where gently grassy upper slopes contrast with a series of steep corries to both north and south of its ge...

Summit Summary
Maumtrasna: A steep-sided fortress in the West
Collaborative entry Last edit by: Peter Walker 2 days ago.
Maumtrasna is one of the most singular mountains in Ireland, a monumental sprawl of plateau plunging away in viciously steep slopes around almost all of its perimeter; these slopes are themselves ...

  
Track
Near Slieve Foye North-West Top, Cooley/Gullion (Ireland)
Gus a day ago.
Tough ascent from the carpark, but once on the ridge is reasonably easy with an identifiable track. On the return kee... walk, Len: 8.7km, Climb: 413m, Area: Slieve Foye North-West Top, Cooley/Gullio

  
Summit Comment
Corn Hill: New Pathway around the Summit
TommyMc 4 days ago.
A new pathway around the summit has been installed over the summer. Walkers are now met with a locked gate within circa 50 yards of the masts and trig point, but a new and quite attractive pathway...

Track
Wicklow: Cullentragh Mountain
Onzy 5 days ago.
Easiest route to an hill that is really just a point on the way to Mullacor and beyond ... run, Len: 5.0km, Climb: 185m, Area: Cullentragh Mountain, Dublin/Wicklow (Irela...

  
Summit Comment
Kells Mountain East Top: Great hike up Kells East
BillWatson 6 days ago.
Three of us climbed this. My nephew cooled off in Roads Lough on the way up. The weather was nearly perfect. It was steep but manageable. This is my first entry on MV.

  
Summit Comment
Whiddy Island: Short island visit.
TommyV a week ago.
Whiddy Island is a short ferry ride from Bantry Bay. As I was under time constraints to be back on the mainland to watch Clare loose another Munster final, we made a quick walk from the quay to th...

Track
A Postcard from the Edge
mcrtchly a week ago.
This summer we spent 2 weeks in the Faroe Islands, a remote arrowhead-shaped archipelago of 18 basalt islands rising up walk, Len: 4.3km, Climb: 216m, Area: Faroe Islands, Nor?oyar ()

  
Summit Comment
Vinegar Hill: Steeped in history.
TommyV a week ago.
The history of this place takes precedence over the actual scenery but there are lovely views over the town of Enniscorthy.

  
Track
Croagh Patrick & Lugnademon
Onzy a week ago.
walk, Len: 7.1km, Climb: 756m, Area: Lugnademon, Croagh Patrick (Ireland) Lugna...


RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 28 Next page >>