Planning to go walking in the Scottish Highlands this winter? Then a guided walk with a qualified leader or a winter skills course could help you get the most out of your day!
In winter the snow conditions and weather can make a straight forward summer route more difficult or even unsuitable for a walker. This means we need to carry winter equipment and know how to use it. We also need warmer clothing and extra food to keep us going in the colder environment.
I would always recommend a 2 day winter skills course especially if you haven’t done much winter walking or used an ice axe and crampons before. That said if you would like a one day introduction to winter or to refresh your existing skills with a mountain summit then just ask!
Winter Skills Course
A 2 day winter skills course in the Scottish Highlands is recommended if you’re looking to become more confident and independent in the hills. We will start with a short classroom session looking at equipment and introduce the Scottish Avalanche Forecast. Then we will head for the hills and snow to cover the following topics and skills if conditions allow:
- Equipment & clothing
- Personal movement & kicking steps
- Ice axe self-belay & self-arrest
- Crampon use & techniques
- Avalanche awareness and weather conditions
- Route Planning & decision making
- Emergency shelters
The second day gives us a chance to cover any skills that we didn’t on day one. It usually takes the form of a mountain journey putting all the skills to good use. We will also discuss what to do next in terms of your development and winter adventures.
Navigation in Winter
In winter conditions navigation becomes much more challenging due to limited visibility and snow covered terrain. With snow obscuring paths or cairns and buried streams then timing and dead reckoning become very important. This makes a winter hill walk physically more demanding and requires us to use some extra strategies to deal with it. If you’re planning to be out a lot in winter conditions then I’d recommend a full hill day dedicated to winter navigations skills. This will include looking at the following:
- route planning and choice
- winter hazards like cornices and snow bridges
- blizzards and whiteout conditions
- avalanche awareness
- equipment choice and spares
A great way to travel in winter when the snow is deep is on a pair of snowshoes. It’s very dependent on the right conditions in the Scottish Highlands, but when they’re good you can enjoy long wild days in the hills. The snowshoes stop you sinking thigh-deep in the snow and conserve energy when trail breaking. An introduction to the different techniques of using them as well as their limitiations will set you up for some brilliant snowy adventures!