With summer a memory and the trees devoid of leaves, walking in the Lake District fells becomes a more serious challenge. Days are shorter and the weather colder and sooner than we think the first winter snows cover the tops.
Amongst the most important aspects of your gear is footwear. As the ground conditions change to icy paths and snow and ice, then so should your footwear.
A number of years ago a boot grading system was devised to help choose the correct boot for the conditions.
Most winter walkers in the Lakes would choose a B1 or a B2 boot. A few years back you would have been compelled to wear heavy, stiff and uncomfortable boots. But with recent advances in designs (better ankle flex) and materials (lighter midsoles and PU/EVA cushioned soles) these boots are lighter, more agile and comfortable.
The boot you choose will ultimately depend on how it fits your foot. For the UK walker who wants to get out on the hills all year round, on or off the footpaths then a B1 boot is a great choice. The performance will give enough support to use with microspikes or crampons when you need them; for the final push to the summit of Helvellyn, or for emergency use. But if you plan to walk all day in microspikes or crampons we would recommend the greater support you get from a B2 boot.
Always think what you might need these boots for in the future, as they will last a long time. Perhaps you will go on to do a winter skills course or plan glacier walking on the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt? If this is the case, although the B1 boot may have been fine for your winter Lakeland forays, the B2 boot maybe your better choice. Pop instore for a full boot fit.
For winter walking on frozen and icy, but generally straightforward paths, technical crampons can be overkill. They’re easy to trip up in, and feel like you’re walking on stilts. So if you know you’re only walking on non-technical ground, consider trail crampons, like Microspikes, which are ideal for snowed up paths - they fit onto almost any shoe or boot in seconds to give extra traction on ice and hard-packed snow. Kahtoola products are primarily designed for winter walking and are not recommended for use on technical terrain.
Crampons are perhaps the most difficult to use as they require the most skill and training. Remember the old adage, ‘Crampons take a novice into danger rather than safety!’ Learn how to use them by enrolling on a course, or from your more experienced friends. Crampons are graded: CI for walking, C2 for mountaineering and C3 for climbing. It is best to be advised by experienced shop staff as to which is suitable for you, and if buying crampons it’s best to take your boots with you to the shop. We stock crampons from Petzl and Grivel.
30 January 2017 by George Fisher
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