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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


RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 19 Next page >>
Track
Suilven
Peter Walker 10 hours ago.
I first read about Suilven when I was about 11. It was in some British geographical gazetteer, a stern washed-out pict... walk, Len: 24.0km, Climb: 1029m, Area: Lochinver to Ullapool (Britain) Suilve

  
Summit Comment
Slieve Elva: Fantastic scenery
Damian120 14 hours ago.
A stunning walk going up over Slieve Elva that you can begin and end end at Fanore Beach. Some great locations along the Caher River to stop and relax and watch the water gently flowing downstream...

  
Track
Maumtrasna Plateau via Dirkbeg and Buckaun Spurs
Onzy a day ago.
Route to the Mauntrasna plateau using the Dirkbeg spur for ascent and the Buckaun for descent. walk, Len: 10.8km, Climb: 535m, Area: Maumtrasna North-East Top, Partry/Joyce C...

Forum: General
Lough Oular From Tonlagee
tomlug48 a day ago.
A beautiful July day on the summit of Tonlagee. Gazing down at the beautiful heart shaped Lough Oular.Tom Barragry & the Lugs .

  
Summit Comment
Knockannavea: Nice views to be had
csd a day ago.
While not very challenging, recent felling means the views along the way and from the summit are pleasant enough. A nice spot for a lunchtime walk.

  
Track
Picos de Europa
peter1 2 days ago.
I can say with certainty three things: the ascent was not 3266m, given the peak is only 2503m; secondly, I will be back walk, Len: 13.9km, Climb: 3266m, Area: Spain, Cantabria ()

Summit Summary
Knocknabro East Top: Drought made difficult ground trek possible
Collaborative entry Last edit by: CaminoPat 3 days ago.
Knocknabro East Top is best climbed as part of a good loop walk, taking in the West and North-East tops of Knocknabro. This summit is best reached firstly via Knocknabro West Top and then onto the...

  
Track
Sail Mhor
Peter Walker 4 days ago.
After a week of blazing sunshine in the Peak District overwhelmingly spent swimming in the pool, lazing by the pool a... walk, Len: 11.3km, Climb: 833m, Area: Sail Mhor, Loch Maree to Loch Broom (Bri

  
Summit Summary
Knocknabro North-East Top: NE Top Revealed
Collaborative entry Last edit by: CaminoPat 3 days ago.
This summit is best reached via Knocknabro West Top. Park at laneway to old farmhouse now in ruin at W15905 83498. Room for 1-2 cars to park. Climb gate at entrance and follow post and wire fence ...

Forum: General
.Lough Oular from Tonlagee
tomlug48 a day ago.
A beautiful July day on the summit of Tonlagee. Gazing down at the beautiful heart shaped Lough Oular.Tom Barragry & the Brothers of the Lug.

  
Track
Coastal Dublin - Donabate to Malahide
Onzy 4 days ago.
Circuit of Broadmeadows Estuary from Donabate to Malahide walk, Len: 12.9km, Climb: 115m, Area: Dublin Islands (Ireland)

  
Summit Comment
Knocknabro West Top: A Long Hard Slog
CaminoPat 3 days ago.
Park at laneway to old farmhouse now in ruin at W15905 83498. Room for 1-2 cars to park. Climb gate at entrance and follow post and wire fence heading north until W16029 84252. From there head acr...


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