1. Make sure you are Avalanche Aware
It can be easy to forget that the first stage of your mountain journey takes place at home, when you sit down to plan your route. As well as looking at maps and weather forecasts from sites such as theMountain Weather Information Service, you should also look at the Scottish Avalanche Information Service forecast. If you study the various forecasts throughout the season you can begin to build a picture of how the snow pack is building and whether there are any weak layers are forming within it.
2. Have several plans
Be flexible with your plans and be prepared to change your route choice on the day if extreme weather conditions prevail. Strong winds can make exposed ridges difficult terrain to move along and consideration must be given to where wind blown snow is being deposited. A build up of snow on lee slopes can lead to an increased risk of avalanches. Decide on a time to turn around that allows you to get down safely before it gets dark even if you have not reached the summit.
3. Pack your rucksack the night before
With shortened daylight hours it is best to be prepared by packing your rucksack the night before; this way you can take time to ensure nothing is left behind and get straight out the door first thing in the morning. Make sure that all your batteries for your head torch, mobile phone, GPS and camera are fully charged so as not to spoil the day.
4. Take a flask
A hot drink in a flask is the one luxury item I always carry in winter. Herbal teas or hot chocolate are my usual choice or sometimes I take hot blackcurrant squash. Another option is to carry a slightly wider mouthed food flask and take some soup or last night’s leftovers out with you to enjoy for lunch. Some people carry a stove such as the Jetboil but I would hesitate to rely on this to provide your only source of food and hot drinks in case it cannot be lit or you run out of fuel.
5. Have lots of spare gloves
I carry a minimum of three pairs of gloves for winter mountain days. I usually start the day wearing a thin pair of fleece gloves and then I change into a thicker pair when the first ones are wet through. Finally I keep a spare pair in my rucksack for emergencies. Mittens can be really good as they keep your hands much warmer than gloves. Buffalo mittensare particularly good because they stay warm when wet and are not too bulky to carry. I take lots of spare pairs of gloves for extended trips away so I do not have to worry too much about getting them dry overnight for the next day. At the last count I owned 32 pairs of gloves!