As the winter draws in on the hills, a reminder.

Are your boots up to a winter?

Let’s all look after each other? Todays weather from MWIS 3 Oct 2017


Gale force westerly winds across most mountains. A frontal wave will affect S Scotland & N England, producing a zone of persistent rain, which will become increasingly extensive during the afternoon. Showery for the Highlands; snow on higher summits, but eastern areas often dry.


Mountain gales. Scattered showers, snow high tops. It is coming!!!!

Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team at night! Photo Cairngorm mrt

As the days draw in from a great summer it is a good time to look at what we carry and wear when we venture out in the hills. The long summer days of shorts and tee – shirt (did we have any) may be gone but the autumn is a funny time of year anything can happen and the weather can change so easily. We all love the wild and the mountains and it is maybe worth having a look at what we carry and how useful it could be.

Practice map and compass work in good weather no matter how experienced you think you are..

I try to ensure that I go as light as possible but the kit I have should allow me to cope with an emergency on the hill if that ever happens. Unfortunately it can happen so please have a read and maybe even the expert can pick up a few gems? The mountains over the years have taught me that you never stop learning and every year I learn new skills and ideas.


Before you go out try to ensure that you have done some preparation, eat well before you go and ensure that all your kit is serviceable. It is good to have a plan of what you want to do and no matter what your experience it is great to get the map out, guide books or look on the web for ideas and routes. Try not to sucked into doing your days objective no matter what the weather. The hills will always be there, the secret is to be there with them. It is also very important to look at the weather forecast and remember it is a forecast a guide but gives you a good idea to what is going on. If the winds are forecast for 80 mph maybe An Teallach is not a good idea!  In winter the Avalanche report is critical as is the previous day’s weather. You may become a bit of a weather anorak but the knowledge gained is power? Pick a route/climb suitable to your abilities and your companions. In a club this can be difficult and it is always worth asking about experience, fitness, and medical conditions in a group.  The daylight hours are less so be prepared to be away early

What do you need? Late – Autumn

Waterproof / windproof outer layer (including protection for the legs)

□       Warm inner (base) & mid-layer(s)

□       Suitable footwear 

□       Map, (in plastic waterproof bag) compass and watch, phone spare batteries.

□        head torch  spare batteries and whistle ( many now carry another torch as it is easier)

□       First aid kit – lightweight and simple

□       Adequate food and drink – drinks bottle – flask of hot drink in cold weather

Hat / balaclava and gloves

□       Spare warm clothes (extra layers for cold conditions or emergencies)


□       Survival bag or lightweight bivvy shelter for group use (highly recommended if there is a chance of being caught out overnight.

□       High energy emergency food – only intended for use in an emergency

□       Wet bags or Resealable plastic bags to keep equipment dry

□       Rucksack to carry it in?

On the hill

When I worked in the Rescue Co – Ordination Cell I was speaking direct to people at times on the phone who were lost. There mate had fallen or they had split up and yes the mate had the only map and compass in the party. It could be harrowing at times lost in the mist or unable to help your friend who has fallen, a nightmare scenario but very real.  If you go out in the hills I feel then you have a duty of care to each other.

Who navigates in the party? Never leave it all to one person we should all be able to assist. Do you carry a map and compass, is the map protected from the weather? We all should and be able to use them? Could you get yourself of the hill safely to go for help? Many accidents are caused by navigation mistakes, which can lead to more serious incidents. This is the time of year to learn and sharpen up on your navigation skills and fitness.  I am sure more experienced friends will help teach you the basics of navigation. You do not need  mountains to practice this.  It can and is fun to do some navigation.

If you use your phone remember that it will have a battery limitation, ensure it is covered for bad weather lots of cases protection about.   Do you use a GPS and do you carry spare batteries for it? Is your torch serviceable, do you check it every time you go out, do you have spare batteries,  many carry a spare torch it is easier?

Mobile in a protective case and a spare battery essential.

Try a walk at night it is completely different and navigation is not so easy. Could you cope with a minor accident in the group, do you carry a first aid kit and could you use it? Help may be a long way away. All worth looking at as it takes time for a helicopter or team to come and assist maybe 2-3 hours or more and if the weather is poor longer.  Hang about for an hour on a summit and see how cold you can you get. What would you do in this situation? How would you summon help, all worth looking at before as it could happen?     Do you carry any survival gear a bothy bag, bivy bag well worth thinking about, just google them and see? Is your phone registered with the emergency 999 service?

Be aware of the rivers at this time of year.

I lecture regularly on Mountain Safety and about 10% of mountaineer’s phones are registered, it’s free and works. It is a necessity.  Make sure your phone is fully charged before you go!  Why not spend some money and go on a course and learn brush up on some simple skills there are lots available and they will cost less than that fancy jacket you may have.

Get out and have some fun it is a great time of year.


Any views?

More tips next month ?

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Equipment, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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