Top Winter Walking Safety Tips From The BMC
Walking in winter brings with it many unique joys, as your favourite landscapes take on new character and you find yourself the only person for miles around. But with the chillier weather comes new challenges, in the form of shorter days, snow and ice - so being prepared is everything. Our partners, the BMC, have shared with us their top tips for staying safe on winter walks, so you can enjoy everything the changing seasons have to offer.
Having the right layering system for any weather is essential to walking at any time of yar, but especially in winter. Layering works by trapping warm air between each layer of clothing, so an effective system will keep you warm far better than one thick coat, for example.
Find out more about building your layering system here.
Before you set off, make sure you've got everything you need in your rucksack. Even simple things could help to prevent injury or even save your life in an emergency.
On shorter winter days, be sure to take more than one headtorch and include spare batteries for all. If you end up benighted, they’ll be essential for making your way back to shelter, or to signal for help in an emergency.
If you’re out for the day and not bringing a tent, consider taking at least a single-person bivvy bag, but preferably a group shelter so you can share body heat.
Don’t forget to double up on spare thermal tops and bottoms, thick socks and gloves, and think about including something to protect your face such as a balaclava or even goggles.
For very cold winter adventures where snow and ice are a possibility, the BMC recommend investing in crampons and at least one ice axe. Crampons are designed to keep you on a firm footing and to prevent slips and trips when walking on hard snow and ice. An ice axe or two can help to secure you on steep slopes or when walking in deep snow, and can be used to help stop you sliding before it's too late. Putting on your crampons too late is a really common mistake which can end badly, so be sure to put them on as soon as the ground becomes a little slippery.
Don't Be Caught Out By The Dark
This is the number one mistake that people make when walking in winter. Taking additional head torches will help if you do get caught out, but you really need to put plans in place to ensure it doesn't happen. Even if you’ve planned your route with time to spare, you never know what obstacles you might encounter. From navigational error to unforeseen mishaps, anything could happen, and you may find yourself stuck on a hill when darkness falls.
Start your walk as early as possible to give yourself more time before nightfall. Check the time regularly and if you can, have a shorter route planned that you can take if it gets too late. Before making a final push for a peak, check how the group is feeling, how much time you have left and whether the conditions are changing.
Avalanches can be deadly, and they do happen in the UK. Always consider the conditions before embarking on your adventure, and keep a close eye while you're out there in case things suddenly change.
The BMC recommend the acronym B.A.D. to stay vigilant at all times:
Before your ascent, check the terrain you'll be walking on, the weather and avalanche forecasts, and the ability/experience of those in your party.
On your approach, keep an eye on the angle of the terrain, the conditions at altitude and how everyone in the group is feeling.
During your ascent, continuously evaluate whether you should continue the trek or turn back. Identify escape routes and safety locations, keep checking the terrain, and make sure everyone in your group is happy to continue.
The BMC is the voice of climbers and hill walkers, representing their interests while maintaining our beautiful landscapes. Support our work for a discounted rate of £10 for the first year of membership and receive up to 15% off at Cotswold.
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