Top 5 Essentials for Winter Walking

Winter walking is a wonderful way to get outside and see a different side to nature. But the Winter conditions mean you have to adapt certain things- the kit you carry, where you go and what you wear.

We asked Paul from Paul Poole Mountaineering to give us his top 5 essentials for Winter Walking. The following are just some ideas born out of experience!

1. Plan your day well

There are a couple of things to consider here, firstly the days are shorter and walking on snow and ice can be more tiring than in summer conditions, so initially don’t plan long mountain routes, try smaller peaks or easier routes. Its absolutely essential to consider the weather forecast in the days building up to your day, this allows you to start building a picture of the conditions on the ground. If you’re walking in certain areas of Scotland its advisable to consult the Scottish Avalanche Information Service as well.

Maybe the first few occasions you go out, visit mountains that you already know so you have some familiarity with the area. Consider the use of every piece of kit you carry to reduce the weight, but get the balance correct so you don’t skimp on warm clothing, food, drink and safety kit.

2. Know how to use your ice axe and crampons

Vital bits of kit you don’t leave home without! Ensure they fit correctly when you initially purchase them, its worth taking your boot in to the shop for this. Don’t be shy of wearing them earlier rather than later when it could be very awkward to put them on. Have your axe to hand at all times. At the beginning of each new winter season its worth finding a safe place to practise your self arrest.

3. Get your layering right!

This is a constant battle, but one worth spending the time getting right, don’t worry if you get it wrong a few times. Too many layers and you’ll sweat, which will chill you when you stop and too few layers means you’ll be uncomfortable and won’t enjoy the day as much! Always have a warm synthetic jacket which you can put over all your other layers when you stop for a cuppa.

4. Have more gloves in your bag than you think!

I actually always have two thin pairs, two thicker pairs and in the bottom of my bag, a bombproof pair if mitts! Gloves will always get wet or damp and then your hands chill, which is the time to change them, cold and wet hands are a real worry in a winter environment and really will stop you doing anything.

5. Be Bothered!

Be bothered to change your gloves when they’re damp, be bothered to check the weather forecast, be bothered to change your layers if you’re sweating too much, be bothered to get out into a winter environment and if you do so you won’t be disappointed!

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Walking Holidays

If you’ve got a tricky someone to buy for for a birthday present or a Christmas gift –  like your granddad, stepdad, brother or an outdoorsy couple or active teenager- have you considered the gift of a walking holiday or a guided walk?

Buy them a trip up one of the UK’s most impressive mountains, hills and Munros, or even a day of skill learning that could save their life and feel safe that they are getting taught and guided along by experts. Fresh air, exercise, camping and fun all await the recipient of a guided walk or walking holiday.

A great way to get them out and about with fellow walkers or as a gift to get them out of city life or prepared for a Duke of Edinburgh award you can get the details of their weekend, week or day of walking with GO Activities printed off as soon as you book – and then you can hide the details and give them’ navigation tips’ to find their gift!

For The Expert: The Big Walking Weekend- 2 Day Fort William Guided Walking Weekend

Discover Fort William

Starting from the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre you climb above the valley of Glen Nevis on a good path to Lochan Meal an t-Suidhe to the CIC Hut below the North Face of Ben Nevis, built-in 1929 in memory of Charles Inglis Clark the keen climber who was killed in action during the 1914-1918 War.
From the CIC Hut you climb north climbing to the summit ridge of Carn Mor Dearg, for probably the best viewpoint of Ben Nevis before a descent onto the ridge below, the CMD Arete and then up the final slope to the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, and one of the greatest viewpoints in Scotland.

Day two is from Glen Nevis, where you follow the valley by the Waters of Nevis and climb to the impressive Steall Falls, a 400ft cascade. You cross the cable bridge here and climb the steep northern slopes to the summit of An Gearanach, the first Munro of the day before climbing again to the summit of Stob Coire a’ Chairn with it’s great views across the Grey Corries.
A gentle descent from Stob Coire a’ Chairn brings you to the rocky ascent to Am Bodach (The Old Man).
The easy western descent from Am Bodach lleads to a short climb over Sgor an Iubhair (now no longer considered a Munro in it’s own right). The ridge now leads north, a narrow arete known as The Devils Ridge which leads to the final summit of the day, Sgurr a’Mhaim, and probably the best viewpoint.
The north-western slopes of Sgurr a’Mhaim provide an easy path down to the valley and a walk back either along the roadside or riverside path back to the start point.

For the Outdoor Couple: The 2 day trip around Wales – Welsh Guided Walking Weekend

Enjoy a Welsh Walking Weekend

“The summit of Snowdon: you are here, nearer to Heaven.”  Said the Welsh National Poet, Gwyn Thomas- so what’s more romantic than a 2 day trip in Wales?

Day 1 is a trip of The Snowdon Horseshoe. From the Pen-y-pass you climb the start of the PYG track, turning off the over used path at Bwlch y Moch and climbing onto the Crib Goch ridge.

Then traverse the Crib Goch ridge from east to west and climb to the summit of Garnedd Ugain from where an easy path will take you around the crest of the ridge above Glasslyn to the summit of Snowdon and the modern summit cafe.

From the summit of Snowdon you will descend to the south east, descending above Llyn Llydaw to the twin summits of Y Lliwedd, following this fine ridge as it curves to the north and descends to the shores of Llyn Llydaw and the Miners Track back to the Pen-y-pass.

Day 2 is a climb of Tryfan and the Glyderau from Idwal Cottage to the lower slopes of Tryfan.
After a short descent to the south of the summit of Tryfan a short but steep climb will bring you to the summit of Glyder Fach and the main Glyderau ridge. The ridge continues west to the summit of Glyder Fawr, the highest summit of the day.

From Glyder Fawr the ridge turns to the north-west, descending past Llyn y Cwn before the long gentle climb to the summit of Y Garn, the final summit of the day.
The route of descent is to the east, down to Lyn Idwal and following the good path back to Idwal Cottage. The Carneddau Range route climbs from the shores of Lyn Ogwen by Cwm Lloer to the summit of Pen Yr Ole Wen. The ridge north from Pen Yr Ole Wen climbs north over Carnedd Fach and then climbs to Carnedd Dafydd. The fine ridge to the north-east now leads to the summit of Carnedd Llywelyn, the highest point of the day. The south-east ridge of Carnedd Llywelyn descends over Pen Yr Helgi Du ridge descending back to the Ogwen Valley and your start point.

For the Summer Hillwalker keen to try Winter Walking: A 2 day Winter Skills Weekend

Learn more on a Winter Skills Weekend

Get the experience of using all of the skills required for Winter. From Ice Axe and Crampon use, Winter Navigation and Avalanche Awareness and Avoidance this course really suits the summer hill-walker who has spent little or no time in the mountains in winter practicing the above skills.

This course covers all of the essentials. You will look at your equipment and see the most efficient ways of using it. Learn how to walk again, using your boot as a tool and learn different ways of moving over snow. Look at the uses of an ice axe and how to safeguard yourself when crossing snow slopes.
Use the axe to arrest ourselves in a fall,
at crampons, how they fit and how to fit them in the Scottish weather and the many ways of using them to move across snow and ice with style!
The day will finish with an avalanche avoidance chat (drinks welcome) in the comfort of the hut in time for tomorrow’s avalanche awareness day.

Day 2 is a course on how not to get lost in the Scottish Mountains
Look at snow slopes, slope aspect, the temperature gradient, avalanche avoidance, route finding, navigation in winter, route planning, terrain traps.
By the end of the day expect to have more knowledge about snow, the snowpack and how we can get an understanding of its stability. You will be able to carry out several tests on the snow to judge this.

For the Group or family of mixed ability – The Scafell Pike Guided Walk

Try Scafell Pike for size!

Standing at 978m Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain. It sits in the heart of the Lake District surrounded by some of the finest mountains in the country. Scafell Pike has several ascent routes and no matter which one you choose you will be impressed with its rugged nature. On a clear day the views across the entire Lake District are simply breathtaking. This is an ideal route for all levels of mountain expertise.

You start at Wasdale Head where you will start the ascent of Scafell Pike. The ascent usually takes between 2 – 4 hours and can be done at your pace.
This route can also be completed very early morning, late in the day or during the night. It’s up to you!

So there you go. Options for presents for couples, presents for teenagers and presents for dad, step dad, half-brother and granddad!

We have modern family life all covered off with some very traditional, timeless gifts of activity.

What walking holidays have you enjoyed?

Comment below!

GO Activities

Interesting Walks – With Pub Stops

What’s a walk without a little liquid refreshment?  From a nice ale, a wine spritzer or even a Sunday roast before you pop your waterproofs back on and head back home, a nice long walk is a great way to spend any day. (A walk with pub grub or a beer en route  is also a great bit of bait for any reticent walkers in the family!)

We asked our team as well as our Facebook and Twitter fans for their favourites.

Some people will cross hell and high water for a pale ale...

1.      Padley Gorge near Grindleford– Under 4 Miles- Mostly Flat – The Peak District

Just outside of the South of Sheffield at Grindleford station lies the walk to Padley Gorge. Starting at the station keep left and opposite the Totley tunnel. There are plenty of woodland birds such as Redstarts and Coal Tits to be seen if you know what you are looking for at the right time of year and the walk is relatively flat.

On seeing the gorge you can walk along the river or you can go across the more to door and back through to Grindleford. The route is signposted so you can find your way!

Pubs are the Fox House, or the local café where you can meet some interesting people! At the Fox you ccan get some great ales, as well as the delicious slow cooked beef, mushroom and ale pie followed by a portion of gypsy tart- a caramel pudding with whipped cream.

2.     Dunham Massey via the Brewery – 4 miles- Flat – Cheshire

If you’re near Manchester or Cheshire, you can do a lot worse then heading out for the day  to Dunham Massey Hall in Altricham to experience a day out, a circular walk and the grounds of this stately home first created in the time of William the Conqueror.

The gardens themselves are of interest, and are a great warm up preamble to the 4 mile walk (you can even get a chocolate shortbread biscuit or two in the café and a coffee to get your fired up – but we say go at lunch time and do the pub first!)

If you go to Woodhouse Lane you will find The Axe and Cleaver for amazing Boozy Mocha Ice Cream Cake to replace all the energy you have expended, as well as an amazing Sunday roast with decent portions- you can even get a meat trio if you can’t pick!

Full and happy you can follow signs to Dunham Tow via  a stop at the Dunham Massey Brewery where you can pick up a chocolate cherry or treacle flavoured beer, amongst others.

Then it’s back from your detour and onto the bridge and the footpath to the left of it you can head to little Bollington, following the route all the way through until you reach your start point.

3.      Aonach Eagach Ridge (Glencoe) and the Curved Ridge – Extreme Munro Route – 9 hours – Scotland

A great place to scramble, this is a more advanced route that will take a whole day (allow 10 hour) to complete, so make sure you are in peak condition! Stretching over 9km with and ascent of over 100m this is very close to the Curved ridge at Buchaille. Stick to Aonach for a grade 2 scramble, or go for gold with the grade 3 rock climb on the curved ridhe.

Whatever you choose, we recommend a stop off at Crowberry tower, here you can enjoy soups, sandwiches and sweets before you head down the ascent or if you just want some liquid refreshment, we can vouch for a strong pint and some crisps in the Clachaig Inn. In fact,  it’s worth stopping the night and having the Clachaig Big Breakfast – locally dry cured bacon, pork sausages with natural skins, and Stornoway black pudding!

If you just want a drink then the Boots Bar is great, a row of barrels, a real fire and ales and malts are all lined up for the drinking!

4.      Castleton Ridge Circular -14km – 5 hours- Mostly flat – The Peak District

Castelton is near to Hope Vally and Edale and is so named after the Peveril Castle that was built in 1086.

Home to the peak cavern, there is a good, circular route that can be taken on a ridge that leads you from the white peaks (low, rolling hills) to the dark, gritstone peaks.

Starting up at one end of the ridge between Hope and Edale, along Mam Tor with a height of 1700, Lose Hill, along the ridge to Mam Tor, back to Castleton.

You could also extend your walk if this to too short by taking  the Carl Walk on Hathersage Moo which is next to Higgar Tor between Stanage and Burbage Edges.  A few hundred metres away from the route on your way back to Mam Tor before you reach Castleton you will see an old fort. This  has great views and is local to some great pubs too, from the Fox House Inn,  or the the Rising Sun in Bamford for  Mrs. Walker’s Home-made Apple Pie with custard. We also got plenty of fans for  The Millstone in Hathersage for an incredible carvery!

If you’re near Castleton then you have to stop in at the Castleton Caverns after your meal – The Blue John Cavern, Treak Cliff Cavern, Speedwell Cavern near the Winnats pass allow you to get a boat into the caves and explore the underground world. A great day out, but at 12dgrees underground- take a warm coat and don’t forget to duck in the low tunnels- It’s not one for the claustrophobic!

 5.      Great Gable – 5 hours- 7 miles- A tough scrambling route- The Lake District

In the North West of The Lakes near Seathwaite, Allerdale  and 13 kilometres south of Keswick is access (via the romantically named Windy Gap’)  to the Great Gable Mountains.

Looking into the views of the Scafells, this is a walk that you need to scramble, haul and pull yourself up working through Windy Gap, Great Gable, Beck Head, Gavel Neese, Moses Trod and Wasdale Head.After the walk we like the Drunken Duck where you can get a hearty pick of sandwiches, chunky chips and a pudding like the yummy ginger beer sorbet for your troubles.

6.      Lydford Gorge Walk- 3 miles- 2.5 hours – Devon

A mix of mud, woodland and hills, the Lydfordf Gorge walk in Devon is one that White Lady Waterfall and Devil’s Cauldron feature on, making this an interesting day out.

Starting at the Lydford George, you head via Lambhole Wood, walking for a few kms downhill before you see the White Lady Waterfall. You won’t miss it! 100ft in height this cascades out water and offers a place to watch it until it’s time to move on. Next it’s upwards through Tunnel Falls to the river. You will need your proper walking shoes on for this bit as then comes the Devil’s Cauldron. So called because of the bubbling, frothy waters and the look of a pot, this is well worth the walk.

The Castle Inn is based in School Rd in Lydford and is a great stop off and respite for walkers.

7.      Oundle Nene Walk –  6.8 miles -3hrs 30mim – Medium – Northampton

My favourite as it’s in my home town. If you’re near Northampton or Peterborough or even Kettering then a walk around the town of Oundle and a day exploring what this quaint area has to offer is ideal. With Rowan Atkinson a regular visitor to the area as well as coffee shops and other small boutique stores, this is an unspoilt town.

Starting at the Market place of the town you can walk around St Osyths lane to Bassett Ford Road. To a gate. Following this, go downstream, and take this riverside route instead of the footbridge route, which allows you to walk the Nene as a loop through the meadows to cross to Ashton.

If you do, make sure you stop at the Chequered Skipper, a gorgeous restaurant pun with an outdoor area and great food as well as some impressive conker trees (the conker festival takes place yearly on this very green in October!)

Keep walking to Cotterstock bank downstream (not over the footbridge ahead) before being led back in a circle to North Street in Oundle and to the town.

Before you head off, have a look at some of the local delis and the local butcher who can rustle up some great local meat for your tea (if you can wait that long…)

Enjoy walking- and drinking responsibly!

Elaine