The Most Critical Techniques To Know When Climbing This Winter
After 18 months of building up your skills, cardio and hiking knowledge, many people have decided that this winter they want to challenge themselves and go for one of Scotland’s most difficult climbs.
Whether this is the beautiful challenge of Ben Nevis or attempting to scale the Inaccessible Pinnacle of Sgùrr Dearg, climbing in winter poses a rather unique set of challenges caused by inclement weather and increased snow fall, and requires a more diverse skillset the higher the grade of climb.
Before you set off to climb the ridges and gullies, here are the most critical techniques you need to know when climbing this winter.
Research And Preparation Skills
The most important skills you will need to learn start before you even hit the mountain, as you need to make sure you are prepared as much as possible, and this involves not only getting your backpack in order but researching everything you need to know about the route.
This includes the current weather and avalanche conditions, breaking the route down into sections and noting potential hazards and landmarks, which could become critical in poor visibility conditions.
It also involves preparing for contingencies; are there alternative routes if your initial plan is too windy or avalanche prone? Is there a safe space to camp if the climb takes more than a day?
The more you prepare, the safer you’ll be and the more fun you will have on the mountain.
Winter mountaineering skills are as much about what you wear, what you pack and what knowledge you have to hand than they are about particular scrambling techniques.
Some of the extras you will need to pack are obvious, such as warm, layered clothing you can take on and off as you need, as well as a rugged waterproof jacket and trousers.
Make sure you also have a hat, head-torch, an emergency shelter, gloves (and a spare pair), a pair of gaiters, a warm thermos, plenty of treats, as well as a pair of crampons and axes.
Crampons And Axes
The biggest difference and most vital set of skills you will need to learn that make winter climbing different from other seasons is the use of crampons and axes.
Take your pair of walking boots and head to a climbing shop to get a suitable pair of crampons fitted and pack them ready for the tougher conditions.
Crampons are vital not only for ice climbing, but also for keeping yourself safe when walking on snowy and icy terrain.
As well as this, you will need at least one ice axe, depending on the route you are planning to take. Ice axes have a huge range of purposes, from the obvious use of creating a secure anchoring site or a way to arrest your fall in case of a slip.
They are also used to help make walking easier, acting like a walking stick with a sharp end.
There are so many different types so look around for the right tools for your climb. Get used to how they feel, keep them maintained and know how to use every element to ensure that your climb is as easy as it can be.