Anyone heading for the hills needs to gear up for winter. Photo: MCofS

Anyone heading for the hills needs to gear up for winter. Photo: MCofS

What’s in your rucksack? That’s the question mountain experts are asking hillgoers in Scotland with the onset of the main winter season.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said walkers, climbers and mountaineers need to ‘winterise’ their kit now true winter conditions have set in.

The council’s mountain safety adviser Heather Morning said: “Shorter daylight hours, dropping temperatures and the first dusting of snow on the hill are all good indicators that it is time to think about extra kit in your rucksack.

“It’s easy to get caught out after the clocks change, especially as routes will take longer than expected in winter conditions and many people will end up finishing their route in the dark, so a head torch and spare batteries are crucial.”

As the representative body for Scotland’s hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers, the MCofS said it campaigns to ensure its 12,500 members and all those who enjoy Scottish mountains are responsible, informed and self-reliant.

Ms Morning said: “If you are heading out on the higher tops, now is the time to add crampons, rigid boots to accommodate them, an ice-axe and spare essentials such as hats and winter gloves to your essential kit list.”

Temperatures at 1,000m at least 10C lower than at sea level at this time of year, and will feel even lower through the effect of any windchill. The MCofS said many underestimate how quickly they can feel the cold, which can turn to hypothermia within less than an hour. Extra layers are essential, such as a synthetic duvet jacket, and an emergency bivvy bag stored in the bottom of a rucksack is highly recommended, in case you have to be stationary on the hill for any length of time.

The council said those who head to the hills with friends or as part of a group are advised to invest in a lightweight, nylon group shelter. “This can provide a snug spot for lunch if the weather is poor and a vital refuge if someone in your party is injured and you are waiting for help to arrive,” the MCofS said.

Each winter the MCofS reaches out to the wider mountaineering community, teaming up with outdoor shops across the country to offer a series of free winter mountain skills talks. 11 talks are held at venues from Inverness to Edinburgh, designed to give a taster of essential skills for novices and a refresher for seasoned mountaineers.

Ms Morning said: “We find that an effective way to get the message out to less experienced mountain lovers or those who want to progress from summer hillwalking to winter mountaineering, is to reach them through our free-to-attend talks.

“Dealing with winter conditions and avalanche avoidance isn’t just a case of buying all the right gear,” she said. “The right knowledge and experience is crucial.”

The MCofS also run a number of subsidised winter mountain skills training courses, and provides further guidance and skills videos. More details are on the MCofS website.

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