Spring time walking in a diverse season while still in the shadow of winter!

Spring can be a very diverse season weather wise!

Now there's a statement if ever there was one....

Spring can be a very diverse season, while it's still under the shadow of winter. We can still have snow one day, while  a few days later, we can enjoy some very warm temperatures.

It can be wet, it can be dry, it often endures some strong winds!

Spring actually is a very diverse season, throwing at us all four seasons in one quarter of the year!

In my last blog Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! I made this very statement, “I love every season for walking, each has its own beauty and each has its own challenges and dangers.”

I mentioned before in Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! that we tend to think that summer is the safest, and spring and autumn being safer than winter, but they all harbour their dangers, however, I’ll cover here, just spring time.

Before I go any further, I’ll put a disclaimer in here, I cannot nor will I be held responsible for any incidents arising from this blogpost. All I am doing is sharing with you my personal views of the pleasures, challenges and dangers that springtime walking has.

Just as with winter walking, if you take the right precautions and the right training from fully qualified people, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy winter walking in relative safety.

I ask, would you really expect to see snow in spring, or even snow as deep as in the photo below?

Would you believe we've had snow in June?

Well, the truth is, YES.

We've had snow in June, and a cricket match in Buxton actually stopped play because of it!

You can read about the Buxton Advertisers article; "Dickie Bird recalls when SNOW stopped play in Buxton

We can still get snow in late March
This photo was taken Easter 2013, which was the end of March


Not one of us is free from danger while walking, at any time of year. So it is up you the individual to ensure you walk safely, and if you’re in a group, then it is a shared responsibility to walk safely and look out for each other.

Even professionals do have accidents at any time of year and need to be rescued, though it’s rare, and that’s where the training comes in.

That’s the nasty bit over, I hope I’ve not scared you off?

This blog will be no different to the others; I’ll leave a list of websites at the end where you can seek the latest information. However, probably one of the best central points of mountaineering information and also where courses are available, both at home and abroad is the British Mountaineering Council, often just called The BMC.

While winter walking, is probably one of my most favourite times to be outdoors walking, spring time also has its highlights and pleasures, as well as hidden dangers.

According to the meteorological calendar, used by the Met Office, spring starts the 1st March while though the spring equinox is around 20th/21st March, where you enjoy superb crystal clear views, and generally not so obscured views with low cloud, heavy weather and the time when you feel, perhaps being home by the fire was a better idea.

"....snowdrops in bloom during February...."


For this write-up, I’ll opt for the spring equinox, which is around 20th/21st March, taking us through to the summer, which is around the 20th/21st June.

Before I go any further, you may be wondering why the Met Office uses 1st March?

I contacted the Met Office and asked the question, and basically it comes down to admin and data collection, making it easier to use calendar months.

Here you can read the Met Office definition of Spring.

It’s a time to wear clothing suitable for the conditions prevailing, go out and experience nature at a wonderful time of year.

Spring is a fabulous time of year and nature is considered to be waking up as spring gets going. But that’s not quite the case, nature still very much alive during winter and if you think about it, how often have you seen snowdrops in bloom during February?

Are we safer walking in spring?

Well, not quite so. During the early part of spring, we’re still coming out of winter and at risk of sub-zero temperatures, which any keen gardener will know, especially with protecting plants from frost.

I’ll quote an old saying here:
Ne’er cast a clout till May is out
Where the word ‘clout’ actually defines winter clothing.

Now before I go any further, there are, as with many sayings and folklore, there many other variations of the meaning of ‘clout’, some purported to be about foliage of the hawthorn or other plants.

So I’ll leave your interpretation to you, but, there’s still a lot of good advice in what I believe to be what that saying actually means.

So, how to do this all as safe as possible?

I mentioned in my Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! write-up that I treat walking the hills and moors with the utmost respect, though winter walking probably more so. But that doesn’t mean I drop my guard during spring time.

I also mentioned earlier that during the early part of spring, we’re still coming out of winter, so that means we can, and have been, subjected to winter conditions, even in April, on high and exposed ground.

For that reason, to save you going back to Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers!, though I would recommend you do read the full write-up at some point, I’ve retained much of the basic text here, in italics:

Before I did my winter skills training, I avoided the mountains, hills and moors in extreme conditions, dreaming one day I’ll learn the skills to go out there and play as safely as I can.

Then, in February 2009, we had some fantastic snow an opportunity arose to join a winter skills course from qualified instructors, learning how to use crampons and ice axe. The instruction didn’t end there, we learned about different types of snow.

Yes, there are different types of snow that can have a big impact on winter walking and also, avalanches!

The course involved detailed kit and clothing requirement, and one thing that surprised a lot of us, we were recommended to have FOUR pairs of suitable winter gloves!

Yes, FOUR!

Why four I hear you ask?

Well, you’d be surprised how easy it is for snow to fall down that gap where you put your hand in when you’re walking or climbing!

Did you know ice axes, like boots and crampons, come in different sizes and types?

Well they do, and just like humans, we too also come in different sizes.

There are different types of ice axe are basic and technical ice axes.

What’s the difference?

Basic is mainly for hill and mountain walkers while technical is for serious climbers.

Don’t just buy one because it looks good; seek proper training and advice first!

The next part I strictly recommend is only carried out with proper professional instruction under controlled conditions!

Now, have you ever tried to throw yourself down a slope?

Well, one of the things we had to do, was to effectively launch ourselves down a snow covered slope, keeping our feet in the air and then arrest the fall (stop the fall) by forcing our ice axe in to the snow.

Not easy, trying to keep your feet in the air, but if you don’t, and your crampons catch in the snow, or ground, then you risk being catapulted in to the air and the consequences could be more than catastrophic!

There were four basic types of fall we learned to arrest;
·         Head first with back to the ground
·         Head first with face to the ground
·         Feet first with back to the ground
·         Feet first with face to the ground

There was learning the different styles of walking with crampons. A handy tool to maintain grip on snow and ice, but nasty if you miss use them. Those steel spikes can do a lot of damage if you slip!

You also learn how to use the ice axe correctly according to the conditions you’re likely to face, not just for stabbing the ground to arrest a fall, or help climb a slope, but also how to cut steps in snow and ice to make the walking easier.

I’ve only really glossed over what you will take away with you from a winter skills course with a professional instructor, but it is one thing I would seriously recommend to anyone who wants to enjoy the hills and moors with greater safety.

REMEMBER, IT WILL NOT AVERT DISASTER, merely reduce the risk.

Until you undertake such a course, you can’t visualise all the aspects that can make a walk safer, (NOT SAFE) or damn right dangerous!

This course was based on the fact we all had good navigation skills, in all conditions.

If your navigation skills are not very good, then you MUST address that first.

These courses typically can take between three to five days, depending on the skill level required and the skills you start off with.

They are generally held in Scotland, though not all, mine was in Snowdonia and the weather and snow conditions were ideal.

It was the hardest outdoor work I’ve ever done; my legs ached for a couple of days afterwards. But it was a real pleasure.

Something else to share with you, if you’re a hardened hill and moorland walker in good conditions, you will have an idea what your average walking speed is. When walking in snow and ice, that speed will be greatly reduced. The deeper the snow, the slower your pace will be.

So when you’re planning your route, consider halving your walking speed and shortening that route considerably.

It’s far better to finish early and safe, than to become benighted and needing help!”

So, what spring time challenges have you got?

Here are some to get you started:

·         Still shortened daylight hours, though the nights are drawing out

·         Still a high risk of low cloud and adverse weather conditions
·         Still an increased risk of slips, trips and falls
·         Hypothermia
·         Disorientation

There will be many of the same risks that you can experience during winter, among many more risks, depending on your skills, abilities, including the ground and terrain conditions, and of course, the weather.”

One blog I’ve written which gives you some idea as to what I carry in my pack is: What's in my pack?

Another blog worth reading is Modern technology vs. traditional methods! This looks at modern technology, from a non-technical perspective along with its pitfalls to walkers.

Traditional and reliable map and compass

A dedicated GPS


I do like my gadgets, but it’s understanding the strengths and weaknesses of using gadgets before using them, and most certainly before relying on them!

Here are some of the winter walks that I’ve done in recent years and written about:

Long Mynd, Pole Bank and a nice cuppa in Carding Mill
This was a very pleasant early spring walk, cold, but very sunny and giving the appearance from inside the car, it was a warm day.

"On a clear day, you can see Cadair Idris,
but not this time
....."


It was also to try and replicate an earlier walk here where I took my son and we had a fabulous view of Cadir Idris from the summit of Pole Bank. Sadly, that was not the case this time, but still an enjoyable walk nonetheless.

Derwent Moor to Highshaw Clough from Cutthroat Bridge
Easter 2013, was at the end of March (though often Easter is in April, both months are in spring), many parts of Britain were gripped in snow!

The wind chill from a bitter easterly wind -8.4ºC

An easterly wind blowing in at just over 20mph


Yes, a deep snowfall during early spring…..

This particular day tested the winter clothing with bitter easterly winds topping 20 mph and a wind chill of -8.4ºC!

I'm just short of six foot tall. The snow drift behind me did reach shoulder height!


Bleaklow, The B29 Superfortress and I got Bleaklowed!
A cold and windy April day lots of snow, a blizzard, sun and everything else the weather could throw at us. We got four seasons in one day!

The bogs of Bleaklow got me, even though it was frozen ground….

I got "Bleaklowed" To get a boot full or going in leg deep!


It was my first walk on Bleaklow, an exposed plateau just north of Kinder, and also to visit probably one of Britain’s most famous aircraft crash sights, the B29 Superfortress “Overexposed”, which crashed killing all thirteen crew.

As with virtually all aircraft wreck sites: this is very off path and requires good navigational skills and to be well equipped for whatever such an exposed area can through at you.

"Bleaklow is bleak by nature and bleak by name,
don’t under estimate its hidden dangers"


Bleaklow is bleak by nature and bleak by name, don’t under estimate its hidden dangers.

Bleaklow, the B29 and the Lancaster KB993
Another snow covered walk, again in April, to visit another aircraft crash site.

As mentioned above, virtually all aircraft wreck sites, this is very off path and requires good navigational skills and to be well equipped for whatever such an exposed area can through at you.


"....Bleaklow is bleak by nature and bleak by name...."


Bleaklow is bleak by nature and bleak by name, don’t under estimate its hidden dangers.

A windy wander on Mam Tor and along Castleton’s Great Ridge
The mad March winds?  No, it was April time....

An April walk: in a sunny, cold and very windy day, crossing probably one of the Peak Districts most popular and spectacular ridges.




But it can harbour many dangers being high and exposed, just as much as Kinder, Bleaklow, Snowdon or any other mountain!

Bleaklow and the Bristol Blenheim Crash Site
A challenging walk: from both terrain and navigational perspectives. The Blenheim is very off path, as are virtually all aircraft wreck sites.

We also tested my calculations with Naismith’s Rule including Tranters Correction, a simple way to calculate how long and whether a walk is safe to complete within the time you have.

My calculations were spot on.




As with virtually all aircraft wreck sites: this is very off path and requires good navigational skills and to be well equipped for whatever such an exposed area can through at you.

Bleaklow is bleak by nature and bleak by name, don’t under estimate its hidden dangers.

Tissington Well Dressing, an ancient custom, today
Though a wet May day, it was still a pleasant wander through one of the Peak Districts many pretty villages celebrating a very ancient custom of dressing the water wells that served the village before water mains were introduced.

Well Dressings, an ancient custom still practiced today


Bleaklow and the Defiant, on a hot day in May!
A blazing hot day, the opposite extreme of the weather covered in the previous blogs. It was like a hot summers day, probably hotter!

There was the risk of dehydration, hyperthermia (the opposite of hypothermia), but fabulous commanding views and a very pleasant walk.

However, it did test navigational skills on the return leg where we followed a ravine back to Bleaklow Head, with no real features to navigate by.





Purely good map and compass work, along with careful observations of the terrain.

As with virtually all aircraft wreck sites: this is very off path and requires good navigational skills and to be well equipped for whatever such an exposed area can through at you.

Bleaklow is bleak by nature and bleak by name, don’t under estimate its hidden dangers.

Stanage Edge on a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday



Part of this walk is a classic, once I’d left the road. Once I’d cleared the popular part of Stanage Edge, the walk became very quiet.

It also highlights the need for proper clothing and boots, especially when people get lost. Yes, I had the honour of escorting someone back to civilisation….

Beinn Bhreac and a Trig Point on Carn an Fhreiceadain
My first experience of the Monadhliath while staying with a family friend in Kingussie.

It also highlights the need not to rely on mobile phones, because for much of the walk I had no mobile signal. Also, would you know and recognise the standard help call using a whistle?

Even in summer, there can be large patches of snow on many mountains in Scotland


No, I never needed help, but it did raise an interesting chat on Twitter!

Though this was early June: it does harbour dangers, no mobile phone signal; the Monadhliath continuing north, east and west, along with the Cairngorms just to the south across the River Spey, are still covered with large patches of snow, even in late May and all through the summer months!

Walking Big Moor, White Edge Moor and Barbrook Reservoir with friends
I’ve been hankering to walk the Eastern Moors for a long time, this was my opportunity.

Clear springtime skies and fabulous views


A spring time camp and walk with fabulous views on a clear and hot spring day.

Like Bleaklow, the Eastern Moors don’t under estimate its hidden dangers.

Froggatt Edge, Big Moor and some Stone Circles
My initial walk on the Eastern Moors, it was a hot day, and with proper planning, we covered a few of the many megalithic features the Peak District is blessed with, along with a disused reservoir.

It was very hot that day.....
"My 3 litre hydration pack was as good as empty when I got home...."


It was eye opening to view all the planned stone circles visited and how easily some could be mistaken for random stones if you don’t do your research and look carefully.

Like Bleaklow, the Eastern Moors don’t under estimate its hidden dangers.

Creag Dhubh and a walk on the wild side
A real quiet walk, exposed high Scottish ground, the Monadhliath giving great views from some summits.

Another springtime visit to the Highlands of Scotland and large patches of snow


Though this was late May: it does harbour dangers, no mobile phone signal; the Monadhliath continuing north, east and west, along with the Cairngorms just to the south across the River Spey, are still covered with large patches of snow, even in late May and all through the summer months!


To summarise
A recap, spring walking can be fun, very enjoyable, but it is still fraught with many challenges and dangers, because you are still coming out of the winter months and it’s still highly possible to have snow, which will require winter skills.

As I mentioned in Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! just because I’ve had the training doesn’t mean I’m infallible, far from it, I’m still at risk and many more experienced winter climbers have fallen to serious injuries or in some cases, their death!

Hopefully what I have done is reduced the odds and made getting out there more pleasurable.

Some of the skills I’ve learned for winter mountaineering can be used any time of year, spring is no different, like how to walk up and down steep slopes in a zig zag fashion.

At the end of this blog, I’ve retained some detail from Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! regarding boots and crampons form the The BMC.

This information was up-to-date at the time of publishing, though I fully recommend visiting The BMC website to ensure you get the latest information.

Whatever you do, stay safe, enjoy your winter walks and be prepared to curtail your plans if you’ve any doubt on your safe and timely return.

I’ve also included the following link below for further reading:
·         Kahtoola Microspikes an explanation of what Microspikes are.
·         Toughprint Waterproof Paper from Memory map an alternative to using large unwieldy maps by printing my own on waterproof paper, which really does work.
·         However, I always keep a full map for backup
·         Tuff Maps, laminated Ordnance Survey maps with a detached cover another type of easier to use mapping, with the full quality and detail of Ordnance Survey Maps.
·         Bells Palsy, The Flu and Lymes Disease something to be aware of during the warmer months, ticks. They can carry nasty bacteria that could make you or others very unwell for a long time!
·         Trekking Poles, love ‘em or hate ‘em? I love them. Here I explain why I love trekking poles. Please, don’t limit this to trekking poles, you might find Pacer Poles just as good.
·         Naismith’s Rule including Tranters Correction an explanation of how to work out if a route you’re planning is achievable in the time you’ve allowed yourself.

I just wonder how many of you reading this, were surprised to see how close to winter that spring can be?

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler
Twitter            @PeakRambler
Photo Album  Peak Rambler Flickr Photo Album
YouTube        Peak Rambler on YouTube
 
Links to some of the items I’ve mentioned and written about here:
Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers!
What's in my pack?
Modern technology vs. traditional methods!
Kahtoola Microspikes
Toughprint Waterproof Paper from Memory map
Tuff Maps, laminated Ordnance Survey maps with a detached cover
Bells Palsy, The Flu and Lymes Disease
Trekking Poles, love ‘em or hate ‘em?
Naismith’s Rule including Tranters Correction
Met Office
Meteorological calendar
Met Office definition of Spring
Equinox
Seasons: Meteorological and Astronomical
Long Mynd, Pole Bank and a nice cuppa in Carding Mill
Bleaklow, The B29 Superfortress and I got Bleaklowed!
Derwent Moor to Highshaw Clough from Cutthroat Bridge
Bleaklow, the B29 and the Lancaster KB993
A windy wander on Mam Tor and along Castleton’s Great Ridge
Bleaklow and the Bristol Blenheim Crash Site
Tissington Well Dressing, an ancient custom, today
Bleaklow and the Defiant, on a hot day in May!
Stanage Edge on a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday
Beinn Bhreac and a Trig Point on Carn an Fhreiceadain
Walking Big Moor, White Edge Moor and Barbrook Reservoir with friends
Froggatt Edge, Big Moor and some Stone Circles
Creag Dhubh and a walk on the wild side
Peak Rambler’s Ramblings; another year ends and time to reflect
The BMC
The BMC Hill skills: your first axe and crampons
Essential winter know-how
Dickie Bird recalls when SNOW stopped play in Buxton

BOOTS and CRAMPONS
NOTE; THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS CORRECT AT THE TIME OF PUBLICATION.

The author will NOT be held responsible for any accidents or injuries from the following information, so please, check for any changes, please visit The BMC website for up to date information.
·                     B0 Unsuitable for crampons. Most walking boots are designed to flex for comfort and do not have sufficient lateral and longitudinal rigidity in their midsole. Additionally the upper is often made of soft calf leather or a combination of suede/fabric which compresses easily under crampon straps causing discomfort and cold feet.
·                     B1 Suitable for the easiest snow and ice conditions found when hill walking, using crampons more for emergency or for crossing a short patch of snow or ice, rather than setting initially fitted for a full day's walk. They have a reasonably stiff flexing sole and the uppers provide enough ankle and foot support for traversing relatively steep slopes.
·                     B2 A stiff flex boot with the equivalent of a three quarter or full shank midsole and a supportive upper made from high quality leather (probably over 3mm thick). These boots designed for four season mountaineering, can be used all day with crampons, whilst easy alpine terrain and easy Scottish snow and ice climbs can also be covered.
·                     B3 A technical boot regarded as “rigid” both in midsole and upper. Used for mountaineering and ice climbing.

CRAMPONS
·                     C1 A flexible walking crampon attached with straps, with or without front points.
·                     C2 Articulated multi-purpose crampons with front points. Attached with straps all round or straps at the front (ideally with a French ring system) and clip-on heel.
·                     C3 Articulated climbing or fully rigid technical crampon attached by full clip-on system of toe bar and heel clip.

Boots in the B3 category are ideal for C3 crampons and will also take C2 and C1.

At the other end of the spectrum a B1 boot could only be recommended with a C1 crampon.

It should be stressed that this is only a guide and should be used as a supplement for good advice from experienced shop staff, experienced mountaineers or mountain guides.