Even as our winters become more unpredictable, mountain-seekers do not have to travel beyond the boundaries of the British Isles to have an almost-Alpine experience. Crampons on and the crunch of ice beneath your feet, sound-absorbing snow settled on the landscape. The cold season can sometimes make us feel the most alive. But with the extra rewards come extra hazards. As the leaves begin to fall, now is the time to ensure you get ready for the winter mountains to enjoy a safe and thrilling season.
Main image: Views down towards Loch Torridon | Credit: James Roddie
For this snowy special edition, The Great Outdoors has teamed up with Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s national outdoor centre, to offer a refresher on vital winter skills – from avoiding avalanches to navigating in a white-out. A spectacular alpine-esque day out in Torridon also serves as a reminder of challenges and rewards which can be found on the winter mountains of our own high places, while we also take a look at how to liberate your winter evenings from the lure of the sofa with features on how to hike at night.
Highlights of this issue:
- James Roddie is reminded the joys and perils of winter conditions on Beinn Alligin in Torridon
- Andrew Galloway goes night walking and shares his tips for walking after dark
- James Forrest faces his fears in far-flung British Columbia
- We team up with Glenmore Lodge to get you snow-ready and sharpen your winter skills
- Jim Perrin paints a portrait of The Twmpa in the Black Mountains
- 10 mapped winter walks in the UK’s national parks
PLUS: Amy-Jane Beer says we need a revolution in our relationship with nature after the felling of the Sycamore Gap tree; expert gear reviews including the best winter boots, ice axes and crampons; we share some outdoor life hacks to make things easier in the hills; and we embrace the ice with cold water swimming and hill guide, Vicki McCreadie.
Read on and get ready for winter
Near wild heaven: Winter conditions in the Scottish Highlands can be challenging – but when everything comes together, it’s James Roddie idea of perfection. As he was reminded on a climb of Torridon giant Beinn Eighe, early starts, deep snow and avalanche risk are all worth it for the rewards…
“Every winter I spend more time than is healthy obsessing over weather forecasts, mountaineering blogs and avalanche reports. At times it can be hard to stay optimistic as a Scottish winter aficionado. Being on ‘conditions-watch’ can be like doom-scrolling on social media. It often feels impossible to stop, and you rarely find the answers you want. But this time, the most promising start to a winter for over a decade looked to be just days away. Every long-term weather forecast was in agreement. This was not a drill. Hard graft I wish I could say I leapt out of bed with enthusiasm when my alarm woke me. Truth be told, I barely managed to pry my eyes open. When one of the best mountain forecasts in recent years coincides with your only free day during a solid month of work, the pressure is on to make it count. Too much pressure, it had turned out…”
Darkness on the edge of town: When darkness descends early during the winter months, do evenings have to belong to Netflix? Andrew Galloway rejects cabin fever and steps into the unknown to discover the joys of nocturnal wandering…
“Summer was a blast! With an early finish from work, I could be on the hills to the east of Manchester before half the city below had finished eating their tea, with a good three to four hours of daylight remaining. But as the season drifted inexorably towards autumn, the once warm evenings became shorter and cooler, and I felt the darkness closing in around me like a pack of hounds circling a fox. Indoor gyms and swimming pools held little attraction, and weight gain and cabin fever loomed large as the sedentary months of winter stretched before me…”
Close encounters: Eager to experience the wild open spaces of western Canada but utterly petrified of bears, wildlife-worrier James Forrest faces his fears in British Columbia…
“It changes how you encounter a place, knowing that you’re not at the top of the food chain. I’m not super keen on meeting any type of bear face to face, let alone a ‘massive’ one, but I do appreciate the heightened state of awareness. Every sense is on alert as we continue. Our anxious eyes scan the undergrowth, we hear every twig crack. I might even be sniffing the air for any trace of bear scent (whatever that smells like). My finger grips the trigger of an out-stretched bear spray, ready to unleash a torrent of fiery capsaicin onto any attacker, furry or otherwise. Deep in the wilds of Garibaldi Provincial Park, to the north-east of adventure town Squamish, we turn a corner of the trail and both freeze, rooted to the spot. I make a sort of whimper, which is quickly followed by a flurry of expletives…”
Winter walking boots: Mountaineering Instructor Kirsty Pallas and Woodland Ranger Pete Macfarlane put their best foot forward in a wide range of winter footwear.
“Choosing winter mountaineering boots can be confusing. There’s a bewildering choice of materials, associated hardware and rating systems – and sometimes no rating system at all! Some of the boots in this review are dedicated winter walking boots. They are designed to perform on steep ground, snow and ice, abrasive rock, during hours of crampon use and in low temperatures. They will typically be very protective, stiff both in the sole and the upper, reliably waterproof and have good crampon compatibility. These are usually referred to as a B2 or a B3 boot and would be overkill for summer hillwalking.”
Get ready for winter: A season of unparalleled beauty in the mountains – but not without unique challenges. We’ve teamed up with Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, Glenmore Lodge, to bring you 12 pages of winter skills, from beginner to advanced, that will help you navigate your way through névé to whiteout.
“It is said that every mile feels like two – if not more – in winter. That means double the effort – and double the delight. But these rewards don’t come without a bit of a fight. Beyond the bitter cold which can nip at noses and toes, nature can be at its most beautiful – and brutal – in the mountains from November to March. The mountains will also demand more of you: better navigation skills, a deep understanding of winter hazards. Heightened confidence and a greater degree of exertion will be required. All this can be found in the Highlands right here in the UK, the stomping ground of Glenmore Lodge’s team of winter enthusiasts. Scotland’s mountains are wildly worthy in their own right – but the Munros are also stepping stones to greater alpine goals…”
Order a single copy of this issue – and get it delivered with free postage – so you can get winter mountain ready.