Snow brings both added magic and additional challenges to the hills. Here are some wonderful mountains on which to hone your winter skills
This feature was first published in The Great Outdoors, March 2018
Nothing compares to a bluebird winter day, with a duvet of snow blanketing the mountains and rime ice glittering on every cairn. If you don’t have much experience of winter, it’s easy to be intimidated into staying sofa-bound throughout the colder 7 months. But getting out there is less daunting than you might think. Learn how to use your axe and crampons, make sure your navigation skills are up to scratch (those helpful paths often vanish under snow) and make your first few trips with a more experienced friend or a local guide.

1. Snowdon, Wales

Start/finish: Snowdon Ranger YHA (GR: SH565551)
Distance: 12km / 7.5 miles
Ascent: 1,000m
Suggested time: 5-6 hours

Image © Alex Roddie

Snowdon has an array of fantastic routes to its summit. In summer, thousands take the Llanberis path to the top – but under winter snow, conditions can be treacherous on the stretch known as the ‘Killer Convex’, where the railway line crosses steep slopes above Clogwyn Coch. Consider taking the Ranger Path or another alternative, and don’t underestimate this most popular of mountains.

2. High Street, Lake District

Start/finish: Mardale Head (GR: NY469107)
Distance: 13km / 8 miles

Ascent: 800m
Suggested time: 5 hours

Image © Duncan Andison / Shutterstock

When you tramp your way across this broad summit, you’ll be following a 2,000-year-old Roman road that linked forts at Brougham and Ambleside. Combined with Kidsty Pike and Mardale Ill Bell, it makes a classic walk. The rocky Riggindale ridge over Rough Crag and Long Stile offers a shorter but more demanding alternative.

3. Schiehallion, Central Highlands

Start/finish: Braes of Foss car park (GR: NN752558)
Distance: 10km / 6 miles
Ascent: 730m
Suggested time: 4.5 hours

Image © Magnus Willet / Shutterstock

This famous cone-shaped Munro dominates the skyline above Loch Rannoch and its summit offers some of the best views in the Highlands. At over 1,000 metres, Schiehallion retains its snow cover for much of the winter – and yet the ascent is relatively uncomplicated compared to many Munros.

4. Kinder Scout, Peak District

Start/finish: Edale (GR: SK123853)
Distance: 14km / 9 miles
Ascent: 650m
Suggested time: 5 hours

Image © Paul Maguire / Shutterstock

Kinder’s boggy summit plateau can be boot-suckingly treacherous in all but the coldest conditions, making it a walk best saved for winter. The bleak terrain mimics high-mountain conditions while never leading you too far from civilisation – but good navigation skills are crucial. You may prefer an out-and-back on the Pennine Way to crossing the plateau.

a5. Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons

Start/finish: Pont ar Daf (GR: SN988199)
Distance: 6.5km / 4 miles
Ascent: 600m
Suggested time: 4 hours

Image © jax10289 / Shutterstock

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself with plenty of company on a trek up the Brecon Beacons’ highest peak in the snow. Good conditions might tempt you to complete the full Horseshoe, but as a winter warm-up, an ascent of Corn Ddu and Pen y Fan from the south-west is plenty enough.

6. Whernside, Yorkshire Dales

Start/finish: Ribblehead (GR: SD763790)
Distance: 13km / 8 miles
Ascent: 530m
Suggested time: 6 hours

Image © Andrew Fletcher / Shutterstock

The views from Yorkshire’s highest point are rewarding at any time of year, but snowy conditions around the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct make for something special. Whernside is a long, high day out without bringing much challenging terrain to the table. Follow the railway line north and then turn off alongside Force Gill to begin your ascent, descending to your start point on the Pennine Journey route.

7. Cairn Gorm, Cairngorms

Start/finish: Ski Centre car park (GR: NH990060)
Distance: 6km / 3.7 miles
Ascent: 600m
Suggested time: 4 hours

Image © Alex Roddie

The Cairngorms mountains are famously wild and challenging in winter, but the peak that gives its name to the range is reasonably accessible – those wanting a quick taste of the plateau can even take the controversial railway two-thirds of the way up. For walkers, a popular route is via Sron an Aonaich to the Ptarmigan restaurant (yes… there’s a restaurant) descending via Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais, with a view over the ski runs.

8. Ben Lomond, Southern Highlands

Start/finish: Rowardennan car park (GR: NS360986)
Distance: 13km / 8 miles
Ascent: 900m
Suggested time: 6-7 hours

Image © Dale Kelly / Shutterstock

Scotland’s most southerly Munro is a straightforward ascent from Rowardennan on a well-tramped trail, the reward being a superb view from the top extending over Loch Lomond and its islands to the cluster of high hills to the north. The Wild Walks section in the March 2018 issue offers a route for more experienced walkers, on page 95.

9. St Sunday Crag, Lake District

Start/finish: Patterdale (GR: NY396159)
Distance: 15km / 9 miles
Ascent: 800m
Suggested time: 6-7 hours

Image © Stewart Smith / Shutterstock

Helvellyn is a winter classic, but you wouldn’t want to tackle its ridges in winter as a beginner. Instead, check out the scramblers on Striding Edge from its near neighbour, ascending St Sunday Crag via Birks. For a longer route, also including Fairfield, turn to page 99 in the March 2018 issue.

10. Roseberry Topping, North York Moors

Start/finish: car park at GR: NZ562106
Distance: 10.5km / 6.5 miles
Ascent: 310m
Suggested time: 4 hours

Image © Paul Rookes / Shutterstock

This Matterhorn-shaped North Yorkshire peak is the favourite hill of mountaineer Alan Hinkes. It might only be 320m high – but for a winter beginner, that may come as a relief. And Roseberry Topping could hardly be more picturesque under snow.
Header image © jax10289 / Shutterstock