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Winter in the Lakes 'Gearing up for Cold Weather'

Written by George Fisher

Image for article Winter in the Lakes 'Gearing up for Cold Weather'

My articles for 'The Update' at this time of year consistently have the same themes: snow, layers, head torches, maps and compasses. Snow is fun and beautiful; layers mean you don’t have to be too hot or cold; the nights draw in quickly so a torch is essential (especially if you’ve made a route error), and it’s so easy to take longer than you thought especially in winter conditions.

Route planning and map reading are great fun, and part of being in the mountains. This year George Fisher have run several navigation courses and plan to continue (See our Facebook Page Events - Next one is the 12th of January 2018). It not only might save your life, but adds to your enjoyment of the fells by finding less obvious routes. If you’re not confident, or would just like to improve, find and book a course on our website; you won’t look back!

For me, last winter was spent (whatever the weather) visiting all the Wainwright summits. My “must have”, and most-used piece of kit, was my ski goggles. My eyes water in the lightest of wind, but given cold air, driving rain or hail, goggles actually make the day possible.

Last weekend, the weather really did turn to winter, and clothing choice and equipment are now vital if I want to be comfortable. Too hot and I’m unhappy, too cold and I start making stupid mistakes. The wrong shoes, or no trail crampons, mean I might have to turn back rather than take a foolish risk. Plan the route, pack your bag with spare food and clothes, tell someone where you’re going and when you’re due back, it could make all the difference.

My latest little challenge is touching all the named waters, meres, tarns and dubs in the Lake District. Trips over to the western and eastern Lakes have needed frequent map stops to check if the muddy pool we’ve found is the tarn or just an extra wet bog! This is where the pinpoint mapping on my phone has worked, however the cold really affects its battery life and the small Harvey 1:40 Lakes maps don’t weigh me down. Sixty tarns done now, and another hundred to go. To my surprise Dry Tarn, on Gable, actually had water and - despite being so close to the path - I’d never been to it. I’m also quite excited to visit Broad Crag Tarn though need to be sure of a dry rock day as I think I’ll combine it with Foxes Tarn.

This morning I could see a light dusting of snow glistening on the tops and I was too tempted by the Coledale horseshoe. There wasn’t enough snow to warrant carrying Kahtoola microspikes, but I’m hoping it won’t be long until they’re needed. Foolishly I failed to pack my goggles which would have saved my eyes from streaming! Trekking poles are great going up, keeping a rhythm but also allowing a more open posture helping my breathing. My two light layers weren’t quite enough so once I had added my trusty Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody windshirt coupled with Montane Prism Primaloft Gloves, my upper body was perfect. Last winter when the weather really set in cold, I wore the Patagonia Nano-Air Hybrid Jacket which kept me warm but never felt cooked! I always carry a survival bag, spare insulated jacket and gloves, lightweight waterproof jacket and overtrousers just in case.

Recently I’ve passed people who looked hot in huge, heavy jackets as well as people with hoods up and cuffs pulled over their hands. My only observation; think about wearing a light layer then mid layers, you can then adapt to the temperature (I’m a fan of a gilet) and remember your hat and gloves, plus a spare set for your forgetful but grateful friend.

Christmas gift ideas? A Wainwright summits chart, perfect for planning different days out. A new map, the Harvey Ultramap XT40, Smartwool socks; I always find deep bogs so my feet are soaked but warm. Trekking poles, great for stability while wading the river Liza (that’s why you need Smartwool socks). The most important gift will be time: time in the Lakes, the weather will be free.