The temperature in Keswick has noticeably dropped this past few days, rain has been drumming on the windows, and settling as snow on the tops. All of this can make the fells feel thoroughly uninviting, but still many of us would rather a bad day on the hills than a good day in the office! If you plan to venture out, it is vital to keep yourself warm, so here are a few tips.
The right clothing is of course vital to ensuring you stay warm. But what you wear, and how you wear it is important. The theory of simply piling on as many layers as possible is not always the best one. Making sure that you are using the layering principle of a warm/wicking base layer (for men, or women), with an insulating layer (fleece or synthetic insulation) on top, plus a breathable shell to keep out wind and rain, should ensure you stay comfortable. However, remember that overdressing, particularly on climbs, can cause you to overheat, resulting in sweating which cools you down.
Also consider the principle of over layering. We know that we need more insulation whilst static than when moving. However in the process of removing your waterproof shell to throw on another fleece, you often lose a lot of heat and your layers can become wet. The prospect of this often means we don’t even attempt it, and instead just continue to get colder. Winter climbers recognised this problem and so started using ‘Belay Jackets’ that are synthetic or down jackets that could be thrown over their existing layers for instant warmth. Then remove as soon as they began moving. Try this for instant toastyness during food stops!
The body generates heat by burning fuel, and that fuel is food! Make sure you keep eating all day. Small amounts, mixing simple and complex carbohydrates are best. Simple carbohydrates are sugary foods like sweets, dried fruit etc. These give you small, but short lasting bursts of energy. Complex carbohydrates like sandwiches, oat based bars give you slower releasing, longer lasting energy. This will ensure that you have the energy to keep going, and your body can generate enough heat to keep you warm. Also a warm drink will heat you from the inside out, and is a great morale boast on a cold day. A vacuum flask with luxurious hot chocolate or chunky soup is ideal.
Cold hands and feet are uncomfortable and the first signs of mild hypothermia. If your hands are cold, but already well insulated, whirl your arms like windmills to force warm blood into your fingertips. Also for a quick warm up, place your un-gloved hands on the back of your neck to take advantage of the warmth here.
Cold feet can be the result of poor sock and boot choice. Old socks can suffer from their thick, loop stitching having been worn flat through use. If they are looking threadbare then it’s time for a new pair! Also, if your boots are a poor fit, any constriction or pressure can reduce circulation to the toes. Our specialist boot fitters can recommend boots that will fit you and ensure you have the room for some thicker winter socks.
When planning your route on a cold day, it’s a good idea to think about staying out of the wind. Wind chill can make a cold day into a bitter one, so keeping to paths that are sheltered from the wind, but in the sunshine, can make things much more pleasant. Also if you do plan to stop for any length of time, the exposed summit isn’t always the best place. A stonewall to hide behind, or better yet a Survival Shelter side, inside and conserve heat, can make the lunch break much more comfortable.
Whatever you do this winter, stay safe and have fun!