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Getting Ready For Winter | Tiso Blog

Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor based in Scotland. When he's not in the mountains and running his own company, Sandy works as the Development Officer for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors.

With the first snows having already arrived in the mountains of Scotland it is certainly time to start preparing for the full winter season that will soon be upon us. Nevertheless, with some careful preparation you can not only make the most of the conditions when they arrive but do so safely.

In the instructional world we often refer to the TTPP model when we are coaching, Technical, Tactical, Physical and Psychological. I am going to use this model to chat about a few ideas to prepare you for the winter season.

Are You Technically Skilled?

We need more skills to move around the Winter Mountains than we do in Summer, so it is worth spending some time researching, practicing and if needed getting some further training. You should consider navigation and the feared ‘white room’ of winter – it’s a real thing!

When you cannot see a horizon for complete whiteout (the ground and sky are white) it can make life very challenging! When you add the fact the days are shorter and the weather is wilder, we have to think carefully about where we go, when we go and what skills we have. To manage this from a technical perspective you will need specialist equipment (boots, crampons and an axe); you’ll also need to know how to use these in a number of different conditions.

Finally, you’ll need to consider having knowledge of avalanche risk, how to interpret forecasts and be familiar with using the Be Avalanche Aware model.

Think Tactically

Life is busy, time is precious and good winter conditions can be fleeting! To make the most of you time off and using your skills set appropriately it is sensible to be a little tactical.

Do your research. When you know you have some time off for the mountains, start to look at the conditions 5 or 6 days before hand. Look at blogs, webcams, Facebook groups and build a picture about the snow conditions and forecast. It’s worthwhile following the weather in detail – temperature, wind direction and risk of ice. All of these factors and many more can affect what the underfoot conditions will be like for both ease of travel as well as safety in relation to snow stability.

Then, when it come to the day you are setting off, review the the forecast and pick objectives linked to this -  no one wants to be on an exposed plateau all day long in strong bitterly cold winds (these are the days for approaching up the ridge in the lee popping out touching the top and going home!). Nevertheless, on the calm, blue sky days being on the exposed ridge or high plateau is lovely.

 

Train The Physical

With this extra technical equipment, wilder weather and harder underfoot conditions there is no doubt that winter in the mountains is more physical. The more we can get out and improve our endurance and fitness before the winter the more we will have in reserve for when things perhaps don’t go quite to plan. There is no doubt that the best training is getting out for big days in the hills during the autumn, but if you don’t have time for that then any exercise you can take will help

Then, when it come to the day you are setting off, review the the forecast and pick objectives linked to this -  no one wants to be on an exposed plateau all day long in strong bitterly cold winds (these are the days for approaching up the ridge in the lee popping out touching the top and going home!). Nevertheless, on the calm, blue sky days being on the exposed ridge or high plateau is lovely.

Be Aware Of The Psychological

All of the above factors can keep the mind very busy during a winter day and this can feel quite intimidating as well as make it easy to miss information that can be crucial to the day’s safety. The best approach to this is ‘bite size chunks’. If you are new to winter, it is the start of winter, the weather is wild, conditions challenging or you are not feeling 100% then aim for an easy day; not too long, not too technical, perhaps even something you have done before. When you are feeling fighting fit and confident and the conditions are on your side then it is time to have your big challenging days out.

You can practice, prepared and polish most of these tips from home or in the run up to winter so don’t forget your preparation to make sure you enjoy winter and all of its challenges.

Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI)
The Association of Mountaineering Instructors is the representative body for professionally qualified Mountaineering Instructors in the UK and Ireland. AMI members are highly experienced mountaineers and climbers who have undergone rigorous training and assessment to qualify under the Mountain Training UK and Ireland (MTUKI) Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor scheme. AMI is committed to promoting good practice in all mountaineering instruction. By employing an AMI member, you will be in the very best of hands. Look for the AMI logo as assurance of high quality instruction you can trust. www.ami.org.uk

 

 

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