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Packing Your Rucksack for Winter Climbing

If you have a winter climb or walk planned for the colder months, it’s vital that you’re fully prepared.

Regardless of whether you’re enjoying guided mountain climbing , or if you’re setting off on your own after having professional mountain training, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Without,  you could be facing a trip with mountain rescue rather than a successful climb through some beautiful, snowy landscapes.

So, if you’re heading onto the snowy peaks this winter, where should you begin?

The rucksack

There’s plenty of important kit you need to remember, so one of the best places to start your ice climbing and winter walking prep is with your rucksack.

A pack size of 35-45 litres works well for most winter activities. You should also bear in mind that it’s likely that you will have thick gloves on, so its important that your rucksack is easy to use. You don’t want to be mucking around in potentially freezing conditions. Keeping the features to a minimum means less straps and buckles will get caught on things when you’re climbing, usually at the worst possible moment.

Emergency kit

So once you’ve found the perfect rucksack for the job you need to think about your emergency kit. This is a must, regardless of the time of year.

Firstly, in the winter months you need to consider that the days are shorter and night can draw in quickly. Packing a head torch and spare batteries is a must, ideally more than one to avoid any technical faults. You want to ensure you can still navigate off a mountain top in the dark.

We recommend also doubling or tripling up on standard items such as, gloves, spare thermal layers and hats. If you were to get caught out in bad weather, it’s important to have dry items to put on and it’s easy to loose a glove or hat in the snow. As standard your emergency kit should include basic first aid items such as plasters, and some pain killers.. Don’t forget to include more practical items such as a multi-tool  and emergency whistle. We also strongly recommend carrying a small emergency shelter to protect you from the elements if you need to sit and wait for help if injured. You might also want to consider including energy bars to ensure you can keep going through long distances.

Specialist equipment

Winter climbing will naturally bring along hazards such as snow and ice. Without specialist equipment such as crampons and an ice axe (or 2) you won’t be able to safely move around the mountains.

There are many different types of crampons but the most important thing to ensure is that yours are matched to your boots. So either buy them together or take your boots with you when you head out to get some and go to a recommended professional store.

You may also want to consider taking a small metal shovel with you as these can be really handy for creating a shelter if the worst happens and you need to get out of the elements. A winter skills course is ideal to learn how to prepare and stay safe in snowy conditions.

Navigation tools

As with any mountain walk, ensuring you know your route before setting off is vital. As is ensuring you take the necessary tools to navigate around the mountains. Just taking these tools isn’t enough on its own however: get trained in how to use them too.

Never forget to pack a compass and a map. A spare of each is a good idea in winter. Even if you’re taking part in a guided walk or walking in a larger group, having your own could help you out if something unfortunate or unpredictable happens.

Packing your rucksack

There’s a lot to include when you’re going mountaineering in the winter so to ensure you don’t get weighed down, it’s important to pack your bag well.

Think about what you’re going to need when and then pack accordingly. Spare layers and emergency kit can go at the bottom, with items you’ll need more often, such as drinks, food and technical kit can go nearer to the top.

At the top of your bag in the lid pocket, place smaller items such as a spare map and a headtorch. . Placing items in small waterproof ‘dry bags’ will help keep your kit dry, but will also make things easier to find when you need them.

Lakeland Ascents

Our range of professional mountain skills courses and guiding gives us an enviable reputation. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a qualified instructor to help you develop your mountaineering or climbing skills, a mountain guide to lead you up Scafell Pike or host a team challenge event, or learn how to navigate in a far corner of the Lake District, our team can help.

Contact our team to learn more about our courses and guided winter climbing.

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Association of Mountaineering Instructors