Stay Frosty

Out on the hill yesterday, it's getting cold out there.

This was a gear test for a few bits and bobs, and a dose of conditioning before a pre christmas bid for freedom in the Cairngorms next weekend.  Day trips are always worth doing of course, but especially at this time of year.  I'm always surprised at how much harder winter is, physically and mentally - its easy to forget just how tough it is on the body, how little light/time there is to do the trip.  It pays to be reminded.

We were in the borders, walking White Coombe and a few others around Loch Skeen.  The snow was soft enough to make it hard going, and thigh deep in places.  The wind was fierce.  We postholed nearly all the way round, weren't pacey enough and walked out in the dark. T was tired, slipped and got very wet crossing the fast running outflow from the Loch.  Not the best time of year to go for a dip.

Today, our bodies hurt, alot.  Winter hill walking is incredibly physical.  Coming up to White Coombe was all cylinders at full pelt, body knocked around in the gale, kicking through the hard crust, falling over a few times...

A few memory aids for me (and maybe for you):

  • Get out of the wind for lunch, or get worn out fast.  I now always carry waterproof over mitts and put these on to dig a basic snow burrow in soft snow.  Out of the wind it's quite comfy.
  • Keep eating and drinking - all day.  Don't be lazy about that, just because it's a hassle to get at the water or snacks.  You don't want to energy slump and start being dumb at 4pm, just when it counts.
  • Take an axe at least, even in marginal conditions.  You probably can't see the real tops from the base, so judging it on sight from the bottom is potentially risky.
  • Make sure everyone has a (fully charged) head torch.
  • Carry some spares - more gloves, another hat at least.  After T got soaked to the waist in the river crossing I persuaded her to put on her waterproof over trousers, which saved her leaching energy through exposure to windchill.  Suddenly they weren't dead weight any more.
  • I'm more convinced than ever that this recreational nonsense we get up to is at least 80% mental, and coming off steep ground in the gloaming is fine provided you stay calm.  Part of the reason I go out is I enjoy the learning curve, it's time to reflect and a good mirror for how I deal with the rest of life, but the winter hills are no place for unnecessary baggage. 

Be safe out there, look after yourselves.  It's a purple and orange wonderland at this time of year, but can be pretty uncomfortable or worse, if you're not prepared.