Scarpa Athlete Richard Bentley is one of Scotland’s best known Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructors – so he knows a thing or two about Scottish Winter.
In this blog Richard takes us through how to navigate Scottish winter to get the most our of your trip!
Heading into the Scottish mountains in Winter requires planning and preparation. The weather,
the avalanche hazard, the mountain conditions should all feed into thinking where to go and what
But it’s often a good thing to have some flexibility with your plan. Here are two things that help
enable that flexibility if required.
Use the walk in
During the walk in try and confirm, or otherwise, what’s happening on the Mountain. Is the weather
as you expected? Are there any signs of avalanche activity, or more snow transportation than
expected? Is the freezing level where you thought it would be?
Lots of signs here of snow transportation and recent avalanche activity. Is this what you
Its good to get into the habit of doing this as you head in, and also try and keep this awareness
up during the day.
If conditions are not as expected, ask how this may affect the safety, and hazard level of the day
you have planned. If the risks seem greater, then be flexible and consider other options. Maybe a
climb on a different aspect, or a ridge rather than a gully.
Wind strength can be a serious hazard.
Think a “Type of Route”, rather than a “Specific route”
Another way to be flexible, particularly when the mountain is busy, is to have a “type” of objective
in mind. If I am guiding I may get asked to go in and do a certain route. Point 5 for example on
Ben Nevis. My response will be “yeah, we can head in and do a big classic grade V ice route, and
it may be Point 5, but it may be another similar route.”
Lots of teams heading to point 5, do you really want to follow them ? There are plenty of other
close by Grade V classics.
Having a flexible mindset can help stop us falling into the heuristic trap of Consistency and
commitment. It’s often harder to make changes in our decisions as our brain has already
accepted our original decision. We sometimes have to force ourselves into having an openminded
flexibility on the mountain, so we are making the best risk decisions at that moment.
With good decisions, can come amazing days on the hill.