These are the days of shorter daylight – This time of year you get into the short daylight hours on the hills. Around now we have less than 8 hours before it’s pitch dark. Many of us learn this the hard way. Stumbling of a hill in the dark especially a mountain you do not know is never easy. In winter the clock is always ticking .
Navigation in the dark or poor weather – Navigating in the dark can be tricky add fresh snow and poor weather the odds begin stacking against you. River crossings in the dark are not easy and you will read of a few folk every year who cannot cross swollen rivers and some get benighted. Yet coming of the mountains on a starlight night is special.
Guidebooks time’s – Guidebooks for the times for hill routes on the popular mountains are just as it says a guide. I used to like to be down on a good path before darkness fell. Walking on the dark can be a lot slower and trickier in winter. Add in a bigger hill bag big boots and maybe a winter climb this is why many set of in the dark to get the best of the limited daylight.
Be flexible – It’s always worth changing your plans if you are running late “flexibility is the key to safe day” . As the weather changes we will read of folk needing assistance as walking in the hill in the dark is a key skill. Sadly there are still many who rely on their phone as a torch and to navigate. The battery does not last long in a cold winter day. Always carry a good torch check it every time you go out and carry spare batteries. The same goes for navigation carry a map and compass.
Route planning – Plan your day look at your route have cut off times. Always check the weather and the avalanche reports (that start in Mid December.) Remember that new overnight snow or drifting snow can change your safe route and you may have to come off a different way. These all add time to an already short daylight.
Getting to your hill – Driving to your hill setting off in the dark on icy roads can make even a short journey a slow process. Be careful as many roads will not be treated/ cleared for ice and snow especially the remoter areas. Carry a shovel and some emergency gear.
Always tell someone you trust your route. This makes things so much easier if you have problem. At least the Rescue Agencies will have an idea were you were going and where to look?
Have fun, be safe and remember that late starts in winter, bad weather and pushing on despite the weather changing are cutting your odds of a safe day. Try navigating in the dark in a safe area and look after each other. Stay together and keep an eye on each other. It’s easy when the weather is wild to be in your own world and miss how your companion is doing.
The mountains will always be there the secret is to be with them !
Comments as always welcome .