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  1. Top Tips For Walking The Hills In Winter Safely

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    Winter skills are an integral part of venturing onto the hills from November to March and mean much more than carrying an ice axe and crampons – you need to be able to use them competently. Analysis of mountain rescue statistics reveals that the majority of accidents are the result of a simple slip. Skills and preparation are key to enjoying the British hills safely. An essential part of the preparation is being able to navigate accurately in all conditions not just bright sunshine. It’s well worth considering an instructional course to gain the foundation on which to build experience.

    For walkers, an ice axe with a straight shaft of between 50-70cms is not just about aiding balance in snow so walking poles are not a substitute. Technique can be learned that conserves energy and extends safety parameters through the knowledge of how to cut steps and use as an emergency brake. The latter self-arrest skill needs to be practiced until you can do it without thinking; short slopes with no chance of sliding into rocks are ideal and it can be a lot of fun. Tucking the adze end under your shoulder and  the shaft under your body diagonally, the pick can be used to slow and stop a slide on snow and ice. That’s when experience gained safely allows you to judge the pressure required when it’s needed in earnest.

    Boots for winter use need to have a fairly stiff sole that allow the edges to kick steps and can take a crampon. With your axe held on your uphill side, pick pointing backwards, you can make a tripod of three points of contact with the snow. When moving, keep two points of contact and try to move steadily to avoid becoming unduly tired. Crampons should be worn when you anticipate conditions that need them rather than trying to fit them on dodgy ground. Practice moving on easy snow slopes to get a feel for potential; problems of tripping, tightening straps and making sure the crampon points bite into the surface.

    Competence in using map and compass in the hills means being confident in your skills in poor weather and visibility. Again, learning the skills properly and practicing them is a pre-requisite for heading off trouble. As is picking a route appropriate to experience and fitness as well as planning how to adapt the route if needs be through bad weather or tiredness. Before picking a route, check for any physical hazards, the weather forecast (wind, temperature, rain and snow), avalanche risk and estimate the time needed being realistic to ensure you can be back before dark.

    Finally, don’t head off alone but go with others of similar fitness, make the plan together, don’t split up and leave info on your plans with a responsible person. It’s everybody’s responsibility in a party to keep track of progress and to be able to navigate safely. If you need to summon assistance, call 999 and ask for the police.

    Kit and clothing – a simple checklist:

    • Boots and warm socks
    • Ice axe and crampons
    • Map and case
    • Compass
    • Waterproof jacket (with hood)
    • Waterproof overtrousers
    • Gaiters
    • Warm hat
    • Gloves or mitts plus spares
    • Thermal base layer – body and legs
    • Fleece jacket
    • Extra body insulation
    • Warm trousers
    • Head torch (plus spare bulb if needed and spare batteries)
    • Food and drink for the day plus a little extra
    • Survival bag, whistle, watch and first aid kit
    • Rucksack to hold it all easily with a liner to keep it all dry.

  2. Top 5 Lake District Pubs For Hungry Walkers

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    Part of the fun of a winter walk over the Cumbrian fells and summits is looking forward to a warm fire and cheery pint in a Lake District pub. Even better when you can tear into a tasty meal as well. Dress warmly in thermal underwear and be prepared for fast-changing weather. You’ll probably have changed out of your boots when you got back to the car, but if not, be considerate and knock the mud off. Here are a few of our favourite watering holes. For more info on the Lake District check out www.golakes.co.uk.

    The Bitter End, Cockermouth
    A pub with its own micro brewery where the whole process can be seen through a glazed partition. With open fires, home-made meals and great real ales, this is a top spot to head for. On Tuesdays, there’s a free-to-enter quiz night with a case of beer as the winners’ prize.
    01900 828993; www.bitterend.co.uk

    Tower Bank Arms, near Sawrey, Ambleside
    Hilltop, Beatrix Potter’s former home, is just behind this pub which can be seen in one of the sketches for ‘The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck’. Dating back to the 17th century, this inn offers quality fresh food and a wide selection of traditional local ales. Children and dogs welcome.
    015394 36334; www.towerbankarms.co.uk

    The Drunken Duck Inn, Barngates, Ambleside
    A multi award-winning family-owned inn which serves fine local produce imaginatively prepared and served. The food is complemented by great local beers and a traditional interior with an open fire and Brathay Black slate bar top. Cracking bar meals!
    015394 36347; www.drunkenduckinn.co.uk

    Watermill Inn, Ings, near Windermere
    CAMRA’s Cumbrian Pub of the Year in 2009, there’s a relaxed friendly atmosphere in the Watermill and a micro brewery to boot. There is an extensive menu and a large daily Chef’s Specials board, emphasising traditional dishes.
    01539 821309; www.watermillinn.co.uk

    The Punch Bowl Inn, Crosthwaite
    In the heart of the unspoilt Lyth Valley, close to central Lake District. The inn is a blend of old and new, with excellent food, good beers and wines and a lovely location; the bar is warm and friendly with antique furniture, open fires, polished oak floorboards and  leather chairs.

    015395 68237; www.the-punchbowl.co.uk

     

  3. Worlds First Avalanche Transceiver Training Facility

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    Developing Rescue Skills For Skiers and Winter Mountaineers

    The world’s first permanent, artificial avalanche transceiver training facility, specifically designed to help develop the skills of winter mountaineers and ski mountaineers of all abilities, is now open. The facility can be found in the Scottish Highlands at SportScotlands National Outdoor Training Centre, Glenmore Lodge in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. The 500sqm facility provides potential rescuers with an artificial, highly realistic and easily accessible facility that enables would-be rescuers to simulate various avalanche transceiver search scenarios at any time of year and whatever the weather conditions.

    Winter mountaineering, and ski mountaineering in particular, are increasingly popular activities in Scotland. Last year alone, the SportScotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) recorded over 329,000 people accessing its online avalanche reports, over a four month operational period, across five key Scottish mountain areas.

    An individual’s chances of survival diminish rapidly the longer they are buried in an avalanche; companion rescue therefore forms the focus of a successful recovery. Increasingly, individuals are carrying transceivers which can both transmit and receive a signal on a common frequency. In this way, any members of the party not avalanched become rescuers so groups have a need to be practiced in their use.

    Designed by Back Country Access, the avalanche transceiver training park involves four avalanche transceivers (simulating victims) being buried under the deep layer of woodchip that covers the park. Every beacon is connected underground to a central control box where one or more units can be turned on to emit a signal that is picked up by the avalanche transceivers worn by trainee rescuers. Snow shovels and probes are then used as if the rescuers are in a real snow field situation.

    Almost all avalanche training facilities operating around the world currently rely on snow to hide the transceivers, restricting the use of such training parks to areas or times of permanent snow cover.

    Bob Kinnaird, Principal of SportScotland Glenmore Lodge, said, “In addition to mountain rescue personnel, an increasing number of skiers, winter walkers and mountaineers carry avalanche transceivers to increase their chance of rescue in the event of an avalanche. However, such equipment is only helpful if those involved in a rescue operation know how to detect the signals and how to best plan a rescue. The development of the year-round transceiver training park is an example of an innovative approach to offer accessible and appropriate training opportunities that help outdoor enthusiasts develop their knowledge and skills to safely enjoy our mountains in winter.” For full details of winter skills course – www.glenmorelodge.org.uk. For winter survival kit please click here.

     

    Glenmore Lodge Avalanche Training Centre

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