by James MacKeddie
Winter. Dependent on your activity choice, this may be your natural offseason where you reflect on what you’ve achieved throughout the year and set about making your goals for the next. For others though you may be just emerging, ready to take on nature in the more challenging months. Whatever your goal, aim or motivation, here are 5 tips which will see you through the months ahead.
1 - Don't fight nature
You may be heading out to tackle a mixed route that you've waited all year for, or that long run you "must" get done. The temperature is bitter, the windchill is piercing and it’s raining sideways. It may feel like the only opportunity, or your winter program will suffer if you don't head out that second, but pick your weather windows wisely – the potential for injury in poor conditions is far greater and you may end up setting yourself back if you’re unfortunate enough to have an accident. You can always do something at a lower level; head to the gym, pound the streets. The route, rapid or run will still be there tomorrow.
2 - The 5 Ps
Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. It's the time of year for pulling out down jackets, multiple layers, extra food and that multi-coloured pom beanie you bought last season and never dared to wear. Plan your routes, pay special attention to daylight hours, have a plan B, and inform someone where you're headed as well as your expected return time. Proper preparation means if the conditions aren't right, you can adapt. The less pressure you are under, the more you can focus on experiencing being outdoors.
3 - It's better to take too much
We all want to travel light. We're faster and freer without a pack full of kit, but this isn't the time of year to skimp on essentials. Survival bag, whistle, spare layer, hat, gloves, windproofs, waterproofs, extra food, head torch (with spare batteries) and a map/compass are things you should never enter the mountains without. Yes, the majority of this should be carried in the summer, however, if you're tempted to thin out your kit, now is not the time to do it.
4 - Navigation
I’m as bad as the next person when I say I seldom look at a map, and even more rarely pull out my compass. Winter conditions are a lot less consistent and when things hit the fan, the consequences have the potential to be more severe. Whether you practice on low terrain or book yourself onto a refresher course, navigation skills are ones which should be practised throughout the year. If a whiteout hits, you want to know how to take a bearing and get yourself out.
5 - No pressure
Don't forget to enjoy it. It’s easy to be hard on yourself, knowing what you have planned, thinking “I have to make every single time I head out count”. The reality is, you'll learn from your mistakes and quality beats quantity any day. As said earlier, the route will be there the next day, week or month. It’s a time to smile, see mountain ranges caked in a layer of snow that makes even the humble Lake District look like an alpine valley. Above all else enjoy yourself - coming in to a warm house or pub after a day out never felt so good.