Just three weeks into the new year and I had completed my first walk up an English mountain in what were quite atrocious conditions. They reckon that the best adventures are conceived over a bottle of wine and my walk up Helvellyn definitely fell into that category as it was to be the first of 15 mountains which according to Go Outdoors are 15 mountains you should climb in the UK.
I’m not sure whether I’ll get up all 15 this year but the first one has taught me a lot already and I am sure that at the end of 15 I’ll still be learning!
Buy cheap and you will probably pay twice
Taking up an activity is never that cheap and walking is no different especially if you want to stay safe and comfortable in all conditions. One thing I have had to replace following my walk up Helvellyn is my walking poles. Now I paid about £25 for a pair of poles and you can certainly get them for far less and would undoubtedly lasted in fair weather conditions but what let me down on Helvellyn in sub-zero temperatures was the locking mechanism as with a combination of damp gloves and pole I couldn’t get it tight enough and it was way too cold to be taking gloves off. So the very next day I was off to Cotswold Outdoors where I bought a pair of Lekki Poles which at full price were more than double the price of my original ones but with 20% discount through being a member of the Snowdonia Society made the purchase far less painful. There are so many to choose from but it does seem that the premium makes all have an external leaver lock which appear far easier to use and although I’ve yet to use them I’m feeling confident that they are more than up to the job!
Protect your face!
I generally don’t like anything around my face but after my trip up Helvellyn I’ve changed my view on that(just ever so slightly). Sometimes you don’t always realise what the weather is doing to the parts of your body that are exposed and it wasn’t until my fellow walkers started to comment about my beard and they asked to take photos that I realised something had happened. No harm done and by the time I was half way down it had thawed out but suppose I was walking in the heat of the day with my skin exposed to the sun….now that might have been a totally different matter and I am sure far more painful, even though I tan easily!
It can be cold on the top….even in Summer
Too many people under estimate what the weather will be like on the summit of a mountain at the height of summer, so imagine what it can be like in winter. Even in summer I have something to keep my head warm(but then I do have less hair than most) as well as a pair of gloves. The most recent addition to my equipment ‘stash’ though is a bothy bag, again from Cotswold Outdoors. Now I have no idea whether I will ever use it but I would rather be prepared and at 14oz not overly heavy
Do I need crampons if I am walking in snow or will Yaktrax do?
Somehow I have managed to get through life without knowing what yaktrax were or for that matter needing them but when I booked on a winter walk up Snowdon a requirement was to get a pair. So the question is are they are they any good or should you only use crampons in snow and ice?
Without a doubt a hard core walker will swear by crampons and look down on anybody that suggests that you can use yaktrax but they have their place. I can’t imagine you would consider using them on Ben Nevis but I have gone up Snowdon without using them and Helvellyn and the Glyderau using them where necessary. They aren’t overly robust and quite a few people on both walks, where they were used, struggled to keep them on but in many respects it is about trusting your leader. Although if I was to become a regular winter walker I would probably invest in crampons, as well as a few other items but for now I am just looking forward to slightly warmer weather!