Discover how to stay safe while walking this winter
With frequent dustings of snow, the dramatic hills around Lakeside can look like a perfect winter picture postcard, and are often a tempting proposition for walkers and ramblers.
While the landscape may look benign from a distance however, this rugged beauty can also be a treacherous environment for the ill-prepared.
To help you stay safe while out walking this winter, we’ve asked our Chief Instructor, Mike Margeson, for his advice and essential checklist of things to do before you even step foot out of the door.
Winter is a great time to explore the Lake District: there are fewer people around, and the winter weather can lead to spectacular landscapes. If you follow my golden rules, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a winter walk in safety.
Rule 1 – plan your route in advance:
- Start your walk early in the day. Remember it gets dark early in winter.
- The mountain weather can be very different to local forecasts. Check out www.mwis.org or www.ventusky.com when considering your route.
- Avalanches don’t just happen in ski resorts! When choosing your route the Be Avalanche Aware program helps you avoid avalanche hazards. You can find advice online www.sais.gov.uk www.avalanches.org.
- Let someone know the route you plan to take and when you expect to return.
Rule 2 – be prepared:
- Wear a sturdy pair of boots with a good tread that’s compatible with your crampons.
- Pack and carry equipment that will allow you to be self-reliant while on the mountains. This should include: ice axe, crampons, spare warm layers, waterproof top and bottoms, hat, gloves, map and compass, torch, extra high energy food (as well as your lunch), plenty to drink – staying hydrated will help keep you warm – and a survival kit (see below).
- Survival equipment in case of an emergency or accident should include, as a minimum, a small first aid kit and a big orange plastic survival bag. A lightweight, three or four person, group shelter can also make a huge difference.
- Adequate lighting is critical when trying to read a map or make your way off the hill in darkness. A head torch is useful as it keeps your hands free, and a lightweight second torch as backup avoids having to change batteries in awkward or cold conditions.
- Take a mobile phone – if you are really in trouble it could save your life. Ensure your phone is charged and turn off any unnecessary applications to prolong battery life.
- Important – register your phone with the 999-text service. If it’s really wild weather you might struggle to hear the operator and even if signal strength is poor, a text might still get through.
Rule 3 – use common sense:
- It will be windier and colder the higher you climb, so remember to take wind chill into account.
- Most importantly – while walking or climbing always keep your eye on the weather and be prepared to turn back or adjust your route.
Take these sensible precautions and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience while exploring the Lake District.
Mike Margeson, MIC IML Chief Instructor, Lakeside