Be careful, be careful, mountains in winter are dangerous…
Media rumble (maybe only mountain’s portals)
You just want to go on a trip.
Anyway, there is no winter yet.
What’s a big deal?
I don’t know about yours, but our adventure with mountains in winter (yes, in mountains winter arrives earlier and lasts longer) has just begun. We’ve been reading, listening and … finally we experienced what ice and snow in mountains is on our own skin. We are mere amateurs, who love mountains in summer (take a look here, here or here), and when it gets wintery … we find other activities. But not this year! This year the first snow is already behind us, but why we delayed trips in the winter we recalled ourselves not so long ago on the highest peak in Wales – Snowdon.
Although it was not an alpine expedition in real winter and although we chose the easiest route (Llanberis Path), and the snow didn’t accompany us from the beginning of the trail it was a bit dangerous. Let us remind you why you need to be careful in ALL mountains in winter – on our own example:
1) SNOW HAS DIFFERENT FACES… (IT’S SLIPPERY!)
Most of us associate snow with a pleasant white fluff, snowmen and fun. Children sliding off the toboggans, adults swearing on clearing driveways, general joy and carefree. In the mountains however, you need to be careful. Soft snow quickly turns to ice, it is not difficult to slip and each step requires increased attention. Do you see how the sun reflects off the snow in the picture? It is this ‘fluffy’ snow. Slip, loss of balance and you go down. Even in the not the steepest terrain without ice axe you stop far, far away on the bottom…
2) LESS SNOW DOESN’T MEAN NO SNOW (IT’S DANGEROUS!)
The transition period between autumn and winter in the mountains is tricky (in some mountains we can say there is only summer and winter). You go for a trip expecting colourful autumn and encounter snow. It doesn’t matter, you have to reach the summit – who if not me! Not always. If for some reason you wear sneakers, let go. If the equipment is a little better (and more importantly you know how to you use it) go and be careful. Preferably check the weather forecast before trip.
3) WEEKEND = PEOPLE (IT’S CROWDY!)
If you have the option to visit mountains any other time than weekend (especially on famous peaks) – do it. If not – keep in mind that the more people, the more risks. Passing others on the slippery ice is not fun, the children sliding off the slopes are a real danger, it’s also difficult to find a peace. Of course, everything depends on the route you choose and on the other hand somebody’s help in a crisis situation in the mountains is irreplaceable … But often it is the human who creates additional danger. Depending on the mountains and the snow cover there is also the risk of avalanche (more about avalanches here)
4) WIND BECOMES YOUR ENEMY (IT’S COLD … AND EVEN COLDER!)
It’s not difficult to imagine that wind equals cold. In the below zero temperature wind turns cold to the bitter cold, so without proper clothing it’s a real danger. Our last trip was sunny and without a cloud in the sky, even the wind was blowing only occasionally (we wore no jackets on the summit!). But just below the summit, where we did a 5-minute bar consuming break, wind began to blow… We ended the pleasant “picnic” in 3 seconds. Imagine a much stronger wind or bad weather.
5) TERRAIN LOOKS UNFAMILIAR (IT’S DIFFICULT!)
You should know the routes known from summer, in winter can completely change their faces. We did Llanberis Path before (in April) without any problem. Now the difficulty jumped, so we decided to go along the Snowdon train track closed in winter (many people decided to do so – it was less slippery, people above us were struggling, going on fours), which turned out to be a good choice. In addition, if you visit mountains in winter basic navigation principles and knowledge of the area is a must. It gets dark and cold really fast!
6) DOGS (IT’S HARDER!)
Dogs in the mountains are an additional responsibility. Be sure your dog’s behaviour and know what you allow him. Our dogs are newbies to mountains in winter, so in our case, keeping them on lead is essential. A good option is to use a runner’s lead, which allows you to operate poles and have both hands free, but on the other hand, when dog gets too excited or scared of a sudden gust of wind be prepared for a pull. Be careful and make sure your pet cause no danger for himself, you and others while taken on the trip (and the trail is relatively easy!)
And you? Do you visit mountains in winter and remember to be careful?