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ThinkWINTER! Decision making and planning before you go

Monday 10th December 2018, 9:00am

The Scottish winter mountains are magical but planning and decision-making are complex and start sooner than you think.

Some of this planning youíll do almost unconsciously, without realising it is planning, but itís worth taking a moment to think about what youíre doing and why, because no matter how great winter can be, it IS more serious than the hills in summer and you do need to be sure youíve considered all the relevant factors.

So itís worth highlighting: in winter youíre going to have to be able to deal with snow and ice underfoot and extreme weather conditions. It might be worth asking yourself if you are able to cope with this? Is it even what you want to do? Assuming it is what you want to do, read onÖ

Where to go?

Think of where you are hoping to go. Depending on your level of experience and fitness, and the available clothing and equipment you have, you may be planning on activities from a walk in the glen, to easier, rolling hills, to sharper peaks and ridges, ski touring or even ice climbing.

Your experience

How much experience do you and your pals have of winter mountaineering? 

Everybody has to learn but, whether itís yourself or a companion, skills and experience are best gained gradually: work up to difficulty in stages, donít just go straight for the hardest routes until youíve tested yourself and learned lessons on easier challenges. It may be you decide that you or your party would benefit from some training in advance of any trips. Or you might think about joining a club to benefit from othersí experience and support.

Snow conditions

The avalanche forecast is a complex thing and itís worth taking a bit of time to read up on how it is drawn up and what everything means in some detail. Itís all very well to look up the Scottish Avalanche Information Service website to see what the avalanche forecast is for the day Ė anything from Very High, through Considerable to Low Ė but what does that mean? You need to take some time out to read up on this on the SAIS website so that you can get the maximum benefit from a forecast.

Find out more about avalanche risk here.

Watch the weather

Similarly, the exact weather forecast will be something to deal with in detailed planning for a specific trip, but it helps if you are familiar not just with the formats of your preferred mountain weather forecasts but with the consequences of those forecast conditions. If going out in a high wind is something new to you then check out these links to see how it will affect you. Similarly, a thaw will have an effect on stream and river crossings, and heavy or blowing snow will affect visibility.

Itís a lot to think about but the rewards are great and itís well worth getting the planning right to make the most of your days in the hills. 

Get your winter head on and ThinkWINTER!

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