More than mountains are busy planning winter courses for 2012. Look out for courses in winter skills, winter mountaineering and winter snow and ice climbing in Scotland and the Lake District coming soon. To help you get the most out of your winter mountaineering the following advice should help you look after your feet in the snow.
Choosing the right boots and crampons for winter mountaineering.
It is all too easy to be tempted into buying the latest shiny climbing gear on a rainy day but it is important to make sure you are getting the right tools for the job. To help winter mountaineers make the correct choice about their boot and crampon combinations mountain guide Brian Hall designed a system of different categories that makes it clear to see which boots will work with which crampons.
A B1 boot is a four season walking boot that is very durable and has a semi-stiffened sole to cope with walking over rough ground. It is suitable for year round use in the mountains. Attached to the boot in the photo is a ten-point C1 crampon. It is a flexible crampon that can be fitted to most boots.
A B2 boot is almost fully stiffened and has been designed to easily cope with walking, scrambling and climbing. They can be used year round but may feel a little warm in summer. A twelve point C2 crampon offers more security on steeper snow and ice slopes and often comes with a heel clip to make fitting them to the boot a little quicker.
A B3 boot has a fully stiffened sole and has been designed for steep, technical climbing. They used to exclusively be double boots with a plastic outer but modern technology has allowed lighter models using different materials to come onto the market. A fourteen point C3 crampon with vertical front points is designed for climbing vertical or even overhanging ice!
It is possible to go for a walk in a B3/C3 combination but you may find it uncomfortable. In the same way, starting up a grade V ice fall in bendy B1 boots may feel slightly unnerving.
Make sure your crampons are fitted with anti-balling plates to prevent a build up of snow underneath your boots. A quick tap with your ice axe will knock off any snow that does start to stick.
It is worth carrying a small repair kit with your crampons on the hill. This may consist of a small multi tool with pliers and a screwdriver and a spare strap and nuts and bolts. I find a few cable ties can be incredibly useful for holding everything in place in an emergency.
Have your crampons ready to put on before you need them. It is much easy to fit them somewhere relatively flat rather than trying to balance on one leg in the middle of a steep slope. Adopt the ‘John Wayne’ position when walking with crampons on, remember you have just strapped 24 more ways to hurt yourself to the bottom of your feet!