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