Winter Climbing Conditions

Once you’re tried winter climbing in the UK, you’ll know that predicting the conditions and which routes are in good "nick" is a big part of the battle. There’s a mixture of science, local knowledge and intuition involved but fortunately there are plenty of good resources available on the internet to help you with this.

The first step is to keep an eye on the forecasts and in particular the synoptic charts to gauge the likelihood of cold weather and snow in the UK. As a rule of thumb its a good idea to watch out for the dashed 528 line on the charts as this indicates the southern extreme of the colder arctic air. If this line crosses the UK you can expect snow to low levels pretty much anywhere but especially north of the line. Even if it remains north of the UK, if it comes to within a couple of hundred miles, you can expect some snow fall in the Highlands of Scotland.

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The next step is to get up to date information on what the conditions are like on the ground. There are numerous individuals and organisations that provide regular updates through their web sites, we've included links to some of the best below.

Finally, before you go, you should always make sure you're aware of any avalanche risk there might be in the area. In Scotland there is a dedicated avalanche information service (SAIS) which provides daily (dec - apr) reports and forecasts for the 5 main climbing areas in Scotland.

If you've followed these three steps you'll have a good idea of what to expect when you finally get on the hill. However, you must remember that these are only forecasts and conditions can change very quickly and quite unexpectedly. You should always back this preparation up with on the hill analysis such as snow pack evaluation and constant monitoring of the weather. Above all be safe, remember that its always better to turn back or choose a different route rather than push on.

Quick Links

Synoptic Charts


Avalanche Forecasts


Scottish Conditions


Wales Conditions

 

Article written by Giles Thurston on May 30, 2008

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