5 Reasons Why You Should Start Winter Walking
Not sure if winter walking’s for you? This article is aimed at those hillwalkers who aren’t sure whether to take the next step, so below I’ve put my five reasons why you should start winter walking.
If I had to pick one reason why you should head for the hills in winter then it’s got to be for the sheer beauty of them. The hills and mountains of the UK look stunning in summer but in winter they enter a new league. It was a picture of Snowdon in its full winter garb that first got me into winter walking. I had been hill walking for a couple of years when I saw the picture and was so taken in by it that I decided right there and then that I’d start winter walking so I could go and see it for myself. Needless to say it was well worth the effort and every time I head out into the hills it’s still worth the effort.
I could go on and on about the aesthetics and how the snow simplifies the mountains shape, eliminates man’s scars upon it and turns it into a snowy white perfection but my words wouldn’t do it justice. As they say a picture paints a thousand words, so if the photo below doesn’t inspire you to head out and see it for yourself then I don’t know what will.
2. You don’t have to have a be a gnarly mountaineer
So you’ve seen all of the photos in the magazines, and online, of gnarly mountaineers out in winter with their faces rimmed up whilst battling through some apocalyptic blizzard and you might have thought to yourself- ‘that’s totally beyond me’. I’m not going lie to you there are moments where it can be like that, or at least feel like that, but you just need to remember that winter walking covers quite a spectrum. At one end is that image and at the other end are those brilliant bluebird sky days, where there’s not even a breath of wind, and every mountain as far as the eye can see is covered in snow (see the previous photo).
Think back to when you first started hillwalking and you may have thought that it was beyond your grasp but then you gave it a go and realised that you can do it- winters the same, you can do it. You just need to take it one step at a time and be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. If you’re not sure where to start then it can be worth joining up with some more experienced friends the first few times you head out or it may be worth considering doing a course.
3. Learn New Skills
Winter walking is a brilliant opportunity to learn some new skills and refine some of your existing ones. A lot of the skills you’ve picked up and had to master to go summer walking can be transferred over to the winter environment. Take navigation as an example, the skills are the same you just need to adapt them to the winter environment and develop them a bit further and your away. The bonus with this being the fact that getting to grips with winter navigation will feed in and further enhance your summer navigational skills- it’s a win win situation!
There are however some skills specific to the winter environment that’ll be new to you and that you’ll need to learn. Such as route planning in relation to the weather and avalanche forecast (http://www.sais.gov.uk/), interpreting snow and hill conditions, walking in crampons, ice axe arrest and your personal admin so you don’t end up with a bag full of snow when you get anything out of it. It’s best to view these new skills as an opportunity to learn and develop as a hill walker and you never know you might even enjoy sliding around in the snow learning to ice axe arrest!
One of the things that probably got you into hill walking in the first place was the challenge and satisfaction you gained once you reached that summit or got back down and warm after a brilliant day out. Winter walking is just the same. There’s no disputing it winter can be challenging but it’s precisely that challenge that makes it great.
There’s a lot to consider in winter and it can appear as if it’s beyond you, but if you take it one step at a time and remember to walk before you run then you’ll be OK, and before you know it you’ll be ticking off some classic winter walks. Speaking of ticking, then for those of you who love at tick list then winter offers you some great new ones- the Wainwrights in winter? The Munro’s in winter?
Lastly, but probably the most important reason of all to get into winter walking is cake. On your average winter hill walk you’ll burn anything from 4000 to 6000 calories due to the effort required coupled with the cold conditions encountered. So you’ve got to keep getting the calories in and cake is a great way to do it. Especially when it’s cold we often crave sweet fatty foods and in winter you don’t have to feel guilty. I’d even go as far as to say that I don’t even like winter walking I just do it so I can eat lots of cake!