Getting ready for winter in the mountains – are you ready? 

Facebook live Wed 8 th Nov. Do you have some questions that need answered

Many will know that I am always willing to share a thought about getting ready for the winter in the mountain. Yesterday several pals sent me photos of their day on the hill with a smattering of snow down. I was jealous but it is great to see the winter coming.

I was out on the Friday in the Cairngorms on Bynack Mor it was bitter cold on the tops. Winter is not far away at all. I advised to have a look at what are carrying and add some essential items  that I feel are needed.

It is that time of year again, winter is on its way the nights are “fair drawing in”. The fire is on we have lights on the bike and notice the headlights in the car need a new bulb!

Simple skills cramponing.

If you’re out on the hill and have a long day you may now be coming of in the dark and despite a good “carrot intake” in the dark without a torch this is what you may see!


The view at night with no torch

It is well worth checking it every time you go out or carrying a spare?  It is also the time to look at the winter’s  hill bag, warmer gloves ( always spare gloves as well) a hat and have a look at what I am carrying in case of an emergency?

Map and compass essential and the knowledge to use it. Always protect the map.

Route planning :How many hours of day light do you have for your mountain day in November it is not a lot worth looking at your plans and route planning for a short winters day . Weather forecasts and soon the Avalanche Forecast are worth checking not just before you go out but in the days before especially when the snow is down.

Gear: Check your boots out are they good enough for a winter are the soles good enough to get a grip in snow. Get the crampons out and check they fit, when was the last time you used your ice axe. Every year it is worth a shakedown on your winter skills. Get out with some one experienced or do a course and get that “skill fade sorted” we all need it no matter how experienced. It is always worth thinking when and not to use your ski poles, if you slip on steep ground they will not stop a slide.

Bothy bag a lifesaver

Navigation: Sadly this is the cause of lots of accidents this is the time to get some practice, make sure you have a map and compass and the knowledge of its use. If using a GPS or Smartphone  carry spare batteries and protect your phone form the elements.

Phone and back up battery

I always carry goggles in a bad winter day you have always the chance of whiteouts and blizzards movement in these conditions without goggles is extremely difficult. When I put on my crampons I always wear a helmet, my choice after dealing with so many head injuries in my Mountain Rescue  experience.

Winter is a great time a few hours in the wind and snow and the face being battered by the spindrift yet when you get to the top it is all worth while. All you have to do is get down.

I go out a lot on my own and love it in winter, always tell someone where you are going it makes sense and register for the emergency text service.

Heather Morning  Mountain Safety Advisor says:

“But when autumn/early winter arrives it’s important to ‘upgrade’ and check the state of my head torch and batteries before making sure it’s in the rucksack for the autumn and winter season. Likewise, I replace my thin emergency duvet with something more substantial and upgrade the hat and gloves to warmer options.”

Kevin Mitchell, Vice Chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, added: “This is a good time to check your head torch is in the rucksack, renew the batteries, put a fresh spare set in the top pocket and set off earlier to allow for earlier sunsets.

All good advice, have you checked your gear?

The Emergency Text Service

So many come to Scotland during the winter period when the mountains are at their best. There is still snow about and the hills look so inviting with what looks a smattering of snow on the summits. There will be many the come up from the towns and cities and are so unaware that the Mountains are still hold their full winter mantle. Like me you may have been off the mountains for months you are unaware of what is happening high up and out of tune with the conditions. This may be your only chance of a few days on the mountains, you have a tick list and no matter what this is what you aim to do despite the conditions, weather or avalanche forecasts!

It is easy to fall into this trap there may look like little snow to the untrained eye and many agree that “light is right” and carry as little as possible is the modern ethos.  At sea level it is warm and the birds are out flowers are springing up but please, please be aware these mountains can still surprise you. The North Faces are hidden from the sun are full of rock hard snow as are the descents that hardly catch the sun. The old hymn “snow as hard as iron, water like a stone ” is so true just now and a slip without out an ice axe will be unstoppable and in no doubt carry you over  boulders and scree ! From that scenario I will let your imagination wander and have a deep think!  Also a really tricky condition is frozen grass a slide on this can cause problems!

It is also worth considering that if you go out alone and I  when fit please tell a relative or friend where you are going and have simple plan of action if you have a problem. I ask every lecture I do on mountain safety how many who go out alone do this simple practice? There is always one or two who say they go out in the hills to get away from the world and human contact to react with nature without communications. My reply is simple “ stand there with a relative on the second   day of a search where we had little clue where the walker climber was going” To listen to them cry into a dark mountain the name of the missing person  is haunting and one I have heard  often.


So please use the emergency Text Service as a backup!

The Mountaineering Scotland (MS) is urging everyone who walks climbs and skis in the Scottish mountains to register with the 999 emergency text service. This service has been set up to allow people to text 999 when mobile phone reception is intermittent.
However, you will only be able to use this service if you have registered with emergency SMS first. The MS is promoting the service to mountaineers and suggesting that we register now rather than wait for an emergency. To register, text ‘Register’ to 999. You will get a reply and will then need to follow the instructions you are sent. The text system is meant to be used only when voice calls cannot be made and the system does not guarantee that texts will be delivered, so users should wait until they receive a reply from the emergency services before assuming help has been summoned. Further details, including guidelines on how to register, can be found at

So much more is expected of the Emergency Services in this modern era and we must never forget that each time they go out on a rescue they take their own lives in their hands. The Mountain Rescue Teams and Helicopters are not immune to an accident the weather or the avalanche conditions. Mountain Rescue has an incredible safety record and maybe someone up there may be watching them and they need it. If people have a problem in the Mountains and they need help they will do.

Maybe you can do your bit and take some of this advice or even better go to one of the many Mountain Safety Talks this year.


About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Avalanche info, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.