EXPLORE WELCOME TO
Winter always brings exciting adventures that put our skills to the test, but we now face a collective challenge of a very diﬀerent kind. This year, more than ever, the global climate continues to warm. As the snowline recedes and we watch as famous glaciers disappear, it saddens me that my three children might not have the opportunity to experience them. In this issue, we shine the spotlight on those in the outdoor industry that are striving to protect the environments we love – such as Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard (p.6) or Protect Our Winters UK (p.16) – a charity Ellis Brigham is incredibly proud to support, which teaches us all how to better channel our passion into action. The fragility of the natural world also makes me keener than ever to get out there and savour it. If you’re ready for a new challenge, Andy Townsend of Glenmore Lodge shares his top tips on venturing into the backcountry (p.36), while outdoor enthusiast James Forrest brings us the inspiring story of his ﬁrst winter hike through Lake District (p52). As always, we’ve given you all the gear advice you need to follow in their footsteps, from layering systems to the latest in ski tech – so what are you waiting for?
For more inspirational content and ideas follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and for a chance to win a £50 voucher share your adventures with us #livebreatheoutdoors #elevateyouroutdoors
04. DIARY: WHAT’S ON Outdoor events & competitions to light up the darkest months.
06. SPOTLIGHT: PATAGONIA
Yvon Chouinard sells the company to save the planet.
08. TECH TALK
Arc’teryx take us inside their meticulous approach to R&D.
10. WEEKEND WARRIORS
Blair Aitken skis the 10 biggest peaks in the UK in just three days.
FOCUS ON: POW UK
The campaign group leading the ﬁght to save winter.
BUCKET LIST LINES
From the US to Japan, these are the runs to ski before you die.
28. SKI & BOOT GEAR GUIDE
The best of this year’s kit for every skier and any terrain.
36. TOURING SKILLS
Learn how to hike for your turns and leave the lifts behind.
39. STAY SAFE
Essential avalanche gear for your oﬀ-piste adventures.
40. BACKCOUNTRY CLOTHING
Smash the ups and downs in the latest ski touring gear.
ON THIN ICE
A guide to ice climbing on the mighty Ben Nevis.
KITTED FOR THE CLIMB
Mountaineering tech you can rely on this season.
50. BUYERS GUIDE: LAYER UP Master the art of staying warm and dry, whatever the weather.
52. TAKING SHELTER
Zip out the elements in these top drawer technical jackets.
54. COLD CUMBRIA
Hiking the Lakes in the depths of December.
62. TAKE TO THE TRAIL
Our pick of winter walking boots for 2022/23.
64. WINTER WARMERS
Hats, gloves and essential cold weather accessories.
66. LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
Northern delights with EB Outdoor Trainer Sam Markovic.
WIN A SKI TOURING EXPERIENCE IN LYNGEN, NORWAY
We’ve teamed up with Pure Ski Touring to oﬀer you and a friend the chance to experience the ultimate Ski Touring adventure in Lyngen, Norway.
The Lyngen Alps are a unique and stunning destination that sits on many skiers’ bucket lists. Located within the Arctic Circle at 70-degrees north, these pristine snowcapped mountains are surrounded by crystal clear waters and oﬀer some of the most scenic ski touring opportunities anywhere in the world.
The lucky winners of this competition will enjoy four days of touring with certiﬁed IFMGA mountain guides. You’ll also learn new backcountry skills and test the latest products from our brand partners Norrøna, Dynaﬁt, and Black Diamond.
Meals and accommodation at the wonderful Magic Mountain Lodge are included, along with ﬂights from Gatwick to Tromsø and return transfers to Lyngen. Touring equipment is also provided, except ski boots.
Enter at ellis-brigham.com/competitions before 18th December.
ABOUT PURE SKI TOURING
Based in Sweden, Pure Ski Touring are experts in backcountry travel, oﬀering meticulously planned trips to Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Iceland and lots more. All of their guides are IFMGA certiﬁed and passionate about sharing the world’s best powder skiing as safely as possible.
Find out more at pureskitouring.se
Ortovox O -Piste Awareness Tour
Keen to venture into the wilds? Learn the essentials of backcountry safety with the experts at Ortovox. The tour takes place at Ellis Brigham stores throughout November – see our website for the latest dates.
Warren Miller’s Daymaker
From 21st November 2022 warrenmiller.co.uk
The 73rd annual Warren Miller ﬁlm takes in a plethora of locations from Alaska to Greece (yes, Greece!) with the best skiers on the planet. It even promises the ultimate grass skiing run and ‘adaptive backcountry riding like you’ve never seen before’. Intrigued? It’s screening nationwide.
The Mighty Coe – Glencoe 10th & 11th March 2023 themightycoe.com
The UK’s most iconic mountain area plays host to a weekend festival of all things ski and snowboard. Expect gear demos, oﬀ-piste guiding, skills courses, freestyle contests, ﬁlm screenings, DJs and live music.
Wild Ski Weekend – Glenmore Lodge 18th & 19th March 2023 glenmorelodge.org.uk
Returning for its 5th year, the Wild Ski Weekend is a celebration of backcountry skiing in the unique Cairngorms. Hosted by some of Britain’s top guides, it welcomes touring enthusiasts of all abilities to explore classic descents in the Northern Corries and beyond.
February – October 2023 trailevents.co
Push yourself and meet fellow oﬀ-road runners at one of the UK’s many organised trail events this winter. Races include the Lulworth Cove Trail Running Challenge on the spectacular Jurassic Coast (25th February) and the awesome Snowdonia Spring Crossing (25th March).
For more information, up-to-date listings, and to book your place go to ellis-brigham.com/events
“EARTH IS NOW OUR ONLY SHAREHOLDER…”
For almost 50 years, Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, has set the bar for ethical and sustainable business practice. Now he’s giving the company away so its proﬁts can be used to ﬁght the climate crisis, writes Sam Haddad.
Last September, when Patagonia employees, athletes and brand ambassadors were asked to assemble at the company’s California headquarters – or tune in remotely from wherever they were in the world – they had no idea what to expect.
They were greeted by a ﬁlm of their 83-year-old founder and lodestar, Yvon Chouinard, sitting on a wooden chair in a forest full of silver birch, announcing that he was giving away the company. Not selling, not going public, but transferring Patagonia’s ownership into a trust and non-proﬁt organisation to aggressively ﬁght the climate crisis.
The decision, which Chouinard then explained to employees in person, was bold – even shocking – but it was also wholly in keeping with his strong ethical approach to running a responsible and accountable business. This is, after all, a man who has never hidden his disdain for the corporate world and the havoc that a growth-at-all-costs mentality has wreaked on his beloved natural world. As he explained in a company statement immediately after the event: “I never wanted to be a businessman.”
Chouinard had fallen in love with climbing and the outdoors during the 1960s. He was one of the original dirtbags, living out of a van decades before the lifestyle became a hashtag and setting up camp in California’s Yosemite Valley, where he survived oﬀ old cans of cat food. A self-taught blacksmith, he began crafting climbing gear for himself and his friends out of necessity, because
they needed reliable kit, before moving onto apparel and setting up Patagonia in 1973.
Environmental activism was baked into the brand from the start, when employees protested against a development which would threaten a local surf break and river ecosystem. While innovative new product developments including ﬂeeces, base layers and board shorts drove up the popularity of the label, its growth always seemed to sit uncomfortably with Chouinard, and as he and his colleagues began to realise the gravity of the environmental crisis – and his company’s role within the economic system that caused it – he committed to using Patagonia to change the way business was done.
“If we could do the right thing while making enough to pay the bills, [then] we could inﬂuence customers and other businesses, and maybe change the system along the way,” he said. And change it they did.
Setting the bar
Since 1986, Patagonia has donated 10% of company proﬁts or 1% of sales – whichever is highest – to environmental groups, and in 2002 they set up the global movement 1% For The Planet to encourage other businesses to do the same. At the workplace level, they were early adopters of fair working practices throughout their supply chain and one of the ﬁrst companies in the US to introduce sick pay, as well as on-site childcare for employees.
In 2005, Chouinard published the book Let My People Go Surﬁng as a clarion call to fellow business leaders and entrepreneurs. It championed the beneﬁts of running a responsible company that also gives employees a great work/life balance – including time to go surﬁng, snowboarding, climbing or whatever else they like doing in the outdoors when they need to.
And at the heart of it all is an ethical product. Patagonia was one of the ﬁrst companies to use organic cotton and other less harmful materials throughout their lines, one of the ﬁrst to oﬀer a free repair service via their ‘Worn Wear’ programme, and perhaps most signiﬁcantly of all, they took a massive swing at rampant consumerism with their ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ campaign on Black
Friday in 2011, which encouraged customers to reject fast fashion and buy only the things they truly needed. In 2018, they changed the company’s mission statement to one crystal clear goal: ‘We’re in business to save our home planet.’ And this year, as part of a neoprene-free wetsuit campaign, they have taken the bold step of praising rivals’ products alongside their own.
Such initiatives have helped make Patagonia more popular than ever. Current sales ﬁgures sit at around $1 billion per year, prompting Forbes magazine to list Chouinard as a billionaire – a move that really rankled him and set the ball rolling for his eventual decision to give away the company. He could not simply sell it to the highest bidder and donate the proceeds to climate action, as he couldn’t be sure a new owner would maintain Patagonia’s strict values or keep his staﬀ employed. Meanwhile, his children didn’t want to inherit the business, and he worried that taking it public would have been a “disaster” as even public companies with noble intentions are under too much pressure to deliver short-term proﬁts.
“There were no good options available,” he explains. “So, we created our own.”
Under the new arrangement, 100% of the company’s voting stock will go to the Patagonia Purpose Trust to protect the company’s values, and Patagonia’s proﬁts will go to the Holdfast Collective, a new non-proﬁt they’ve created to ﬁght the environmental crisis and defend nature.
“Instead of “going public”, we’re “going purpose”, he concludes – daring others, once again, to follow their lead.
‘This is a man who has never hidden his disdain for the corporate world’Tom Frost, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt and Yvon Chouinard on the summit of El Capitan on 30 October 1964
Arc’teryx is famous for creating some of the most technical clothing in the outdoor game. We spoke to Senior Design Director Ashley Anson to ﬁnd out more about their meticulous approach.
What does Obsessive Design mean to Arc’teryx?
Obsessive Design is more than a campaign, it’s how we make our gear – those invisible details in a product that enhance its performance across running, hiking, snow sports and climbing. Our team has created features that have changed the way outdoor design looks and feels – like the StormHood, WaterTight zippers, articulated ﬁt and micro seam technology.
What’s the process behind bringing a new product to market?
Our most exciting designs are brought to life in partnership with our athletes. The process begins when one of them comes to us and presents a problem that they, and we, are dealing with in the mountains. From there, we get to work on a solution; it’s a constant back and forth from concept to completion.
do you decide what to focus on for upcoming seasons?
We look to our athlete team who are continually pushing the boundaries of their sport. Our designers are also athletes, and it’s their combined experiences that drive our product pipeline. Spending time in the mountains – living and breathing the outdoors – is a big piece of what we believe makes our approach so unique. We use the pieces and equipment ourselves, and we’re seeing these activities evolve – going further, faster, and deeper into the mountains than ever before. Our gear needs to keep pace and adapt to these new limits and demands.
What are the key factors in any quality garment?
Durability is our top priority, closely followed by pinnacle performance. We want our community to know they can count on our gear time and time again. Our designs go through extensive testing to measure a variety of attributes like tear strength and abrasion resistance, as well as many more ﬁeld tests. Garments can spend many hours, months and sometimes years in the mountains – on our athletes and employees – before we approve a concept. We create prototypes in our in-house sewing room and then test and make changes based on real-time feedback. This process can go on for multiple rounds of protos until we get it right. This might be what makes Arc’teryx, Arc’teryx: a constant commitment to iteration, and the belief that there’s always a better way.
What does your tagline 'no such thing as a minor detail' mean?
Arc’teryx is a brand founded by rock climbers obsessed with building a better product, and the spirit of our founders and their guiding principles have remained central to who we are today. What sets our gear apart is all of the invisible elements that enhance its feel and performance. “No such thing as a minor detail” speaks to this fact. Our products are meticulously designed and reﬁned until they’re pared down to the minimum, without sacriﬁcing the essentials. What appears to be a small detail – like reducing seams or perfecting the pockets and zippers – really does have a major impact on the user’s experience. Read the full interview at ellis-brigham.com/arcteryx.
Skiing at its best
SKIING WEEKEND WARRIORS
Is it possible to ski the ten biggest peaks in the UK in just three days? Blair Aitken ﬁnds out.George Treble/Blair Aitken
“We should ski the ten highest mountains in the UK,” said my business partner Gavin Carruthers one day. I was pretty sure we’d completed that task a number of times already over the years. After all, our habitual stomping grounds were Ben Lawers, The Nevis Range and the Cairngorms – which were home to all ten.
“... In a weekend!” Gavin added.
The stakes had been raised. Not impossible: runners Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell had managed it in 13 hours and 10 minutes. A similar route could be accomplished on skis easily enough, but without skiing oﬀ each summit I felt it wasn’t really a skier’s challenge.
And so it was decided: a classic descent would be made oﬀ
each peak and the entire trip would need to be done within a weekend. No time oﬀ work. Gavin crunched the numbers (his day job is teaching maths): in total it would be around 7000 metres of vertical ascent, and 75km of walking, skinning, climbing and skiing. My optimism got the better of me and I called his bluﬀ (my day job is teaching outdoor learning): “Let’s get it in the British Backcountry diary!”
The planned route would take us north to Ben Nevis, ﬁrst collecting ﬁlmmaker George Treble at the airport, and then stopping oﬀ at Ben Lawers halfway. Unfortunately the 2021/22 season had ended abruptly at the start of April (some would say the season never really started) and our weekend fell two weeks later. Ben Lawers duly oﬀered an epic hillwalk
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and a lot of self doubt on my part. Poor George had left the Alps on the promise of glorious Scottish spring touring conditions. Fortunately the East face towards Lochan nan Cat saved the day, providing us with some great spring corn and panoramic views over Loch Tay.
With Lawers in the bag, I relaxed. Ben Nevis, next up, rarely disappoints. We arrived late at the North Face car park, ready for another long walk and a nocturnal river crossing. The packs were fully loaded in anticipation of an overnight stay at the CIC hut and a day of steep skiing which might require ropes, ice axe and crampons – as well as touring kit. It could be worse, I thought to myself, at least I’m not also carrying a drone and two professional cameras like George! All hopes of a quiet evening were doomed when musician Jim Bob McCluskey turned up with his guitar and the whisky came out. I had optimistically left my sleeping bag in the van hoping for a warm night. It wasn’t.
NEVER SAY NEVIS AGAIN
Our discomforts were forgotten as soon as we began the Ledge Route the following morning. This terriﬁc grade one scramble is fun to climb, even with skis on your back. With airy views on either side and snow-ﬁlled gullies revealing themselves as we ascended, I began to think we might actually achieve our goal. Tower Gully had other ideas. This was the obvious line for us (it starts at the summit of Britain’s highest peak and ﬁnishes directly below our third objective), but it hadn’t had enough sun to soften. Number 5 Gully made up for it with steep corn loveliness that delivered us into the exhilarating narrow section before spitting us out on the scree for a painful descent to the valley ﬂoor. If only we’d done this two weeks earlier it would have been a ski out…
“I began to think we might actually achieve our goal”
Worse was yet to come with the climb up Càrn Mòr Dearg, but we were rewarded with dream conditions on the other side. Compared with Ben Nevis’s steep north face, this is freeride country. As we waited for the drone to get in position we were chomping at the bit to let the skis run. CMD in good condition stays with you longer than the three minutes it takes to descend, and I was still grinning as we ascended the tricky path up to Aonach Beag afterwards. Descent number three took us into An Chul-Choire, where a beautiful triangle of sun stretched out down this blank canvas of snow. Gavin and I chased each other at full speed, skiing to the edge of the shadow, and George captured the moment perfectly. The downhill part of the day ended with a spray-fest in Easy Gully after a rather sporty entrance. High ﬁves and wide smiles were on display at the bottom until the map came out and I explained just how far away from the North Face car park we were. The walk out was long enough to turn a person mad, and without my pack of Drumstick Squashies I may not have made it.
Day three started all too early, after just three hours of sleep at my friend Finlay Mickel’s house in Aviemore. Finlay fed us and then made his excuses for not joining us (something about a monoboard world championships at Cairngorm). This was the big one: the Cairngorm 4000ers loop, skiing oﬀ ﬁve of the six highest Munros while carrying way too much kit and with very little snow. It almost went to plan.
Braeriach is an outstanding mountain. We were on skis earlier than expected up the ridge from the Lairig Ghru, then made an exciting descent down the twisting narrows of Central Buttress Gully. On the subsequent ascent up East Gully we ﬁnally got to use the axe and crampons, then skied around the dizzying cornice edge of Garbh Coire, arriving on top of Angel’s Peak feeling like we could do anything. We couldn’t. As I abseiled onto the Angel’s Face above Lochain Uaine, a sense of unease overcame me. It was rather steep, and the cover really didn’t look that deep. I’d skied it last year and it blew me away: sustained gradient, big views and an alpine feel. This would be the line of the trip if we made it, and to capture it on ﬁlm would be momentous. I prefer to sleep comfortably at night, however, so I beat a hasty retreat back up our Rad Line with my tail between my legs.
“As I abseiled in, a sense of unease overcame me”
A more lighthearted descent of Cairn Toul’s Coire an t-Sabhail returned us safely into the Lairig Ghru pass. From here, we made a slow and methodical ascent up Ben Macdui as the legs began to fade. Macdui should have been an easy summit, but the clag came in – making navigation down to our penultimate objective, Castlegate Gully, a map and compass aﬀair. With loose rock everywhere, Castlegate Gully isn’t a place you want to hang around in. An echoey descent brought us to the shores of Loch A’an, where we took a moment to enjoy the last gasp of daylight before leaving the beach to ascend the mighty Cairngorm in the gloom. Darkness engulfed us as we stumbled up Coire Raibeirt, trying not to fall in the waterfall. I don’t remember the exhausted push up onto the summit; we’d run out of Squashies and I went into a sort of trance. Plan A had been to ﬁnish with Jacob’s Ladder or Aladdin’s Couloir but, given the Squashy situation and lack of daylight, the Coronation Wall and Coire Cas seemed wiser. Our ﬁnal, confusing headtorch slalom around rocks and over refrozen piste basher chod didn’t really do the rest of the trip justice. I only hoped George was also in a trance and wasn’t noticing the darker side of Scottish skiing.
One last challenge remained – at 8:30am I needed to be at my desk for a planning meeting. Still, it could have been worse – at least I wasn’t teaching a double period of maths like Gavin! A month later, George sent his ﬁrst draft of the ﬁlm, ‘10 in a Weekend’. It’s rare in life that I prefer to watch a screen over doing an activity, but in this case I enjoyed the experience far more the second time around!
‘10 in a Weekend’ by Treble Edit will be shown at ﬁlm festivals this winter. British Backcountry runs much more mellow ski touring days in Scotland every second weekend –visit british-backcountry.com for details.
THE PUSH TO PROTECT OUR WINTERS
From melting glaciers to a rising snowline, the eﬀects of the climate crisis in mountain environments grow starker by the season.
As passionate outdoor people, we should channel our concern into action, says Protect Our Winters UK.
“I remember going to Chamonix in 2011. It was a lifechanging experience. I went mountain biking and climbing, and saw the Mer de Glace for the ﬁrst time,” says Lauren MacCallum, general manager at Protect Our Winters UK. “I didn’t go back until 2017 but when I did, I was shocked by how much the glacier had receded during that time. I felt like I’d been winded when I saw it.”
From the Alps to the Cairngorms, the impact of the climate crisis on mountain environments has become impossible to ignore – whether it’s the dramatic retreat of glaciers, the wild temperature ﬂuctuations within a day, or the rebranding of resorts to emphasise their access to high altitude slopes, such as Oz en Oisans becoming Oz 3,300.
For the small team at Protect Our Winters UK, who collaborate with the POW global charity network founded by the professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones in 2007, now is the time to step up the campaign for climate action.
“I was shocked by how much the glacier had receded. I felt like I’d been winded”
“In the face of these catastrophic impacts, you can’t not do anything,” says Lauren. “You have to try and stop it.”
POW UK’s goal is to create the most inﬂuential base of concerned outdoor citizens in the country – be they skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, trail runners or weekend hikers – and to push for systemic change. “UK politicians are not going far enough, and it’s destroying the places we love,” she explains. “The government has committed to net zero by 2050 but we have no roadmap to get there. [And] while the International Energy Agency said, as of 2021, no new oil and gas projects should be approved, the government is oﬀering new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.”
Lauren is quick to note that POW UK is an apolitical organisation, as they don’t feel it’s helpful to nail their colours to any party’s mast. “The problems we’re facing are bigger than any political divide. We need to take everyone with us and put more pressure on the climate ambition we’re seeing from all the parties.”
In seeking to build a movement, POW UK is urging people to stop feeling guilty about their personal carbon footprint which, Lauren claims, is a counterproductive concept promoted by the fossil fuel lobby to deﬂect blame away from themselves and onto the individual.
“There is [not] a plastics crisis because you didn’t recycle, there is [not] a climate crisis because you took your kids on holiday… We should feel empowered, not guilty,” she suggests, because the large carbon reductions we need will only be achievable through big system-wide changes at a national and international level.
That’s not to say people shouldn’t think about their choices and make carbon adjustments wherever possible. But
equally, they shouldn’t feel “perfection paralysis” – the sense that they can’t join the ﬁght for climate action because they still sometimes ﬂy to the mountains or drive to the shops. “Progress over perfection is the key to eﬀective campaigning here,” she says.
POW UK runs community education and engagement programmes, and encourages those who love the outdoors to lobby their local MPs on climate action. They recently wrote an open letter to British Cycling to question whether Shell is an appropriate sponsor, and have been working on bringing politicians outside the corridors of power and into the landscape itself – such as Green Party MSP Lorna Slater, who joined them for a hill walk.
“There’s no better place to talk about the impacts of the changing climate on nature, but also on our mountain communities,” says Lauren, “whether that’s the economic impact on guiding businesses for snowsports or mountain biking in the Highlands, or the cultural impact on local people wanting to enjoy the outdoors. It’s bad for business and it’s bad for people.”
As Lauren explains, we all rely on healthy mountain ecosystems – in ways that stretch far beyond our next ski holiday, mountain bike or hiking trip. “And if we can’t stand up and say, ‘Hey, can we reduce our emissions, and dramatically decrease our reliance on oil and gas and look at better alternatives?’ then I’m not sure who else is supposed to do it on behalf of us.”
HOW THE CLIMATE CRISIS IS AFFECTING MOUNTAIN ENVIRONMENTS*
Snow coverage in resorts under 2,000m has shortened by 22-34 days in the last 50 years.
Global heating in the Alps has seen an increase of about 2°C already, twice as fast as that of the northern-hemisphere average.
As a rough rule of thumb, the average level of the snowline rises by 150m per degree Celsius.
Resorts under 1200 metres are unlikely to have the snow to function by mid century – and 25% of resorts in the Alps are below 1200 metres.
It’s estimated that under a +2°C global warming, Alpine ski tourism could lose up to 10.1 million overnight stays per winter season. *According to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, released in 2021
of all ski hardware sales at Ellis Brigham are donated to POW. Visit protectourwinters.uk
“We should feel empowered, not guilty”
BUCKETWords Abigail Butcher
Any skier or snowboarder who loves their sport has a dream – that classic, bucket-list run they’ve seen countless times in pictures and videos and which they aspire to ride in real life. Holders of the mighty Ikon Pass, which covers more than 50 mountains across the globe, can access many of these legendary lines using just one lift ticket. So, whether you want to time yourself against the elite of downhill skiing, experience bottomless ‘Japow’ in the Land of the Rising Sun or just cruise the piste while soaking up some of the world’s most stunning mountain scenery, here are a few of the very best.
JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING, USA
The Run: Corbet’s Couloir Terrain: Oﬀ-piste Stats: Jump in can be 25ft; max pitch 45 degrees
Diﬃculty: Expert Ikon Pass: 7 days/Ikon Base Plus Pass: 5 days (B)
Located in the Teton mountain range – above the legendary resort of Jackson Hole – Corbet’s Couloir is dubbed ‘America’s scariest ski slope’. Ride the Aerial Tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain (3,185m) and, if it’s open, you can watch skiers drop into Corbet’s as you pass by. While that’s enough for some, if you’re brave enough to take it on then exit skier’s left from the cable car and the entrance is in front of you – a narrow funnel about ten feet wide, overlooking the town. Depending on the amount of snow, there’s a big or small drop oﬀ a cornice at the entrance (it can be up to 8 or 9 metres!), landing in a steep chute with rock walls on either side. Once you’ve negotiated the 45°section, the ski out through the couloir is more mellow, softening to an apron that’s usually stashed with powder thanks to its protection from the weather.
The Run: Vallée Blanche Terrain: Oﬀ-piste Stats: 20km long; 2000m vertical descent Diﬃculty: Advanced Ikon Pass: 7 days/Ikon Base Pass: 5 days
No matter how many times you’ve been before, the mountains around Chamonix will take your breath away. Not for nothing has this historic town cemented its place as a mecca for alpine adventurers of all stripes. The journey up the Aiguille du Midi cable car is a bucket list experience in itself; marvel at the audaciousness of those postwar engineers who constructed a lift station atop this sheer pinnacle of rock at a dizzying 3800m. From here, you can embark upon the famed Vallée Blanche – a 20km oﬀ-piste run through Chamonix’s extraordinary glacial landscape. There are four classic routes down; the main ‘voie normal’ navigates a massive variety of bowls, séracs and crevasses, all under the gaze of the mighty Mont Blanc. Depending on the snow levels, you can ski right down to town (with a lunch stop at the Refuge du Requin) or catch the funicular train at Montenvers above the jaw-dropping (though rapidly shrinking) Mer de Glace.
The Run: The Peak
Stats: Summit 1308m; 200-600m vertical descent
Diﬃculty: Advanced to expert Ikon Pass: 7 days/Ikon Base Pass: 5 days (B)
Situated on the northern island of Hokkaido, Niseko is the original home of ‘Japow’. Annual snowfall here averages a whopping 15 metres, and the best of the ﬂuﬀy stuﬀ can be found at ‘The Peak’. You’ll need to earn those turns, though: access begins with a sizeable boot pack of 128 vertical metres above the King 4 lift, taking you to the summit of Mt Annupuri (1308m). It’s a popular hike known locally as the ‘Peak Procession’, and there’s plenty of competition to be the ﬁrst up after a storm. The views are worth it alone – catch it on a good day and you’ll enjoy a 360-degree panorama taking in Lake Tōya, the Sea of Japan, the Paciﬁc and Mt Yotei. Then choose your way down – take the east side if you’re new to powder skiing, or the western face if you’re more experienced and have the right kit (and a guide). Research your route carefully – while the rewards are rich, many of the lines involve a hike out at the end and there’s no western-style rescue service in Japan.
The Run: Shadows & Closets
Terrain: Oﬀ-piste (inbounds)
Stats: Summit 3165m; 580m vertical descent
Diﬃculty: Advanced Ikon Pass: unlimited/Ikon Base Pass: 5 days (B)
Colorado is home to the highest ski resorts in the USA and consequently enjoys bucketloads of fresh snow every winter – in fact, ‘Champagne Powder’ is literally a trademark of the resort of Steamboat. The best of it can be found on Sunshine Peak, at the top of the Sundown Express chair. From here, follow the route skier’s right to enjoy two of the ﬁnest tree runs anywhere in the world: Shadows and Closets. Both are a magical Narnia of perfectly gladed ﬁrs, spaced out well enough that you can open the throttle and occasionally disappear into your own spray without fear of slamming straight into the next trunk. Neither line is terrifyingly steep, so any reasonably experienced powder skier should be able to make it down safely, but with over 500m of vertical descent to navigate you’ll need strong legs! Better yet, visibility in the trees remains good even during storms; to be honest, that’s when these woods really come alive.
“Shadows and Closets are a magical Narnia of perfectly gladed ﬁrs”Photo
Niseko Tourism | Alister Buckingham
The Run: Kill the Banker Terrain: Oﬀ-piste (inbounds) Stats: 2000m long; 873m vertical descent; 35 degrees max pitch Diﬃculty: Advanced Ikon Pass: 7 days/Ikon Base Pass: 5 days (B)
Legend has it that Kill the Banker gained its name when the original financier of Revelstoke Mountain Resort was led down the run shortly before the lifts opened in 2007. “What are you trying to do? Kill me?!” he exclaimed. Like Corbet’s Couloir, it occupies a crowd-pleasing position right under the main gondola, and skiers tackle its pillows, cliffs and steeps in full view of everyone riding the lift. As with any run, conditions vary massively during the season, but you can drop into the line from just beneath the Mackenzie Outpost coffee shop and ride the trees all the way down to the bottom using the pylons as your reference point even in poor visibility (and this being British Columbia, storms are common). Just be prepared for eye-watering levels of thigh burn; Revelstoke boasts some of the most sustained steep descents in North America, and Kill the Banker is no exception.
The Run: Dolomites Hidden Valley Terrain: Piste Stats: 7.5km long; 1730m vertical descent Diﬃculty: Intermediate Ikon Pass: 7 days/Ikon Base Pass: 5 days
The Dolomites are a UNESCO World Heritage site, a unique chain of mountains that was once a tropical seaﬂoor; indeed the rocks themselves are made from fossilised coral reef! To visit this beautiful corner of Italy is to take a mind-boggling trip into geology, and what better way to take it all in than with a descent of the famous Hidden Valley. Beginning at the top of the hair-raising Lagazuoi cable car (2,778m) this lengthy red run is not particularly challenging to ski – but that’s just as well, since your attention will be drawn to the incredible surrounding views of the Marmolada Glacier, Col Gallina and Cinque Torri. As you continue down, the piste winds under frozen waterfalls and past pink limestone cliﬀs to the tiny hamlet of Armentarola. Here, if you haven’t got your skins and don’t want to skate, you can grab a tow from one of the Noriker horse-drawn sleighs trailing knotted ropes for just a couple of euros.
ASPEN SNOWMASS, COLORADO
The Run: Highland Bowl Terrain: Oﬀ-piste (inbounds) Stats: Summit 3777m; max pitch 48 degrees Diﬃculty: Advanced to expert Ikon Pass: 7 days/Ikon Base Plus Pass: 5 days (B)
A rite of passage in Aspen Snowmass, the north-facing terrain in Highland Bowl oﬀers a bounty of treats for those who can tackle the 45-minute hike up. It’s an oﬀ-piste zone but not (in American resort terms) out of bounds, which means it’s regularly patrolled and the avalanche risk is kept to a minimum. Although a snowcat runs every hour and cuts out about 15 minutes of the schlep, we wouldn’t bother – the run down will feel all the better if you tackle it with warm legs. Stop for a photo on the chairlift seat at the top and then pick your line; there are no fewer than 18 named ways down, from tree runs to chutes to wide-open powder ﬁelds. The most extreme terrain is found at Filip’s Leap (ideal for jump turn practice!); the mellowest line is known as G-5, and the steepest pitch is Go-Go Gully. When you’re done, go grab a drink and at Cloud 9 Bistro; it’s as much of an institution as Highland Bowl.
BIG SKY, MONTANA
The Run: Big Couloir Terrain: Oﬀ-piste (inbounds) Stats: 426m vertical descent; max pitch 50+ degrees
Diﬃculty: Advanced to expert Ikon Pass: 7 days/Ikon Base Pass: 5 days (B)
Search for “Big Couloir, Big Sky” and results include: “Is there a triple black diamond in skiing?” Big and Little Couloir are two of the steepest inbound runs in the US – the drop-in alone is 60 degrees – and the run is very tightly patrolled; you cannot go down alone, and only two skiers are permitted entry every 15 minutes. Big Sky resident and extreme skier Dan Egan describes Big Couloir as “undoubtedly one of the most iconic runs in the world. [It’s] visible from miles away. The chute drops 1400 vertical feet down the face of Lone Peak, with a moderate dog leg turn about halfway down –adventure skiers travel from around the world to see and ski it.” After navigating the knuckle-biting entry and rounding the turn, the chute opens into a wider section where the pitch drops oﬀ to a more moderate 35-40 degrees. From here, you can ﬁnally relax and enjoy the ride.
PALISADES TAHOE, CALIFORNIA
The Run: KT-22
Terrain: Oﬀ-piste (inbounds)
Stats: Summit 2400m; 549m vertical descent
Diﬃculty: Advanced to expert Ikon Pass: Unlimited/Ikon Base Pass: unlimited (B)
The late great Shane McConkey once said KT-22 is “the greatest lift in America.” Situated in the Sierras above stunning Lake Tahoe, this high speed quad sweeps skiers 1800 vertical feet in a matter of minutes, depositing them in a powder playground boasting every kind of feature from chutes and spines to pillows, cliﬀ drops and gnarly steeps. In fact KT-22’s challenging terrain has birthed so many ski and snowboard careers – including JT Holmes and Jeremy Jones – that locals call it The Mothership. If you want to follow in their footsteps, though, you’ll need to get there early – it’s not unusual to see people lining up from before dawn after a fresh snowfall to get ﬁrst tracks. If it’s your ﬁrst time, head right oﬀ the chair and follow the ridge to enjoy a straightforward descent down the Saddle; if it’s dumping, go left and stick to the trees oﬀ Red Dog Ridge. Whichever route you take, be sure to doﬀ your cap at the metal eagle placed in memory of McConkey on top of the famous twin spires, which you can see from the lift.
The Run: Hahnenkamm
Stats: 3.3km long; max pitch 40 degrees; 860m vertical descent
Diﬃculty: Intermediate Ikon Pass: 7 days/Ikon Base Pass: 5 days
Known as the world’s most dangerous downhill ski run, the ‘Streif’ at Kitzbühel is legendary for its high-speed jumps, steeps, curves – and even a short uphill section. A ﬁxture on the World Cup calendar since 1931, any racer who completes it safely is considered a winner. If it’s open, you can ski parts of the Hahnenkamm down piste 21, a red run which happily skirts the more serious elements of the course making it more accessible to families and leisure skiers. When you reach the bottom, having negotiated the notorious twisting sections of Mausefalle, Steilhang, Brückenschuss and Hausbergkante, spare a thought for the professional racers who regularly reach speeds of more than 100kph – and imagine how fast Fritz Strobl must have been travelling in 1997 to set the course record of 01:51:58!
NORDICA WOMEN’S BELLE
It’s no accident that Nordica’s Belle DC 72 is our overall ski of the year for women. The innovative design includes a dual wood core with rubber pulse layer and a shorter binding plate, providing intermediate and advanced skiers with great ﬂex control and increased damping for a playful and fun ride. Nordica’s Natural Stance technology is designed to reduce fatigue on long piste days, but also emphasises control.
CLOUD C11 SKIS
+ M 10 GW BINDINGS
A stunning-looking ski with plenty of premium tech, the Cloud C11 oﬀers more than a little of the right stuﬀ. A poplar wood core delivers shock absorption and stability while optimising weight, and a full sidewall ensures precision in and out of turns. Atomic’s Servotec Light technology amps up the vibration damping too, making this ski an eﬀortless pleasure to carve those runs with all day. In fact the only thing smarter than the lines you’ll draw are the looks.
NORDICA WOMEN’S PROMACHINE 105 GW £400
When you’re looking for technical precision but without the discomfort of a race boot, the Promachine 105 steps up. It’s easy to custom ﬁt thanks to the Infrared Technology and an Isotherm 3D Cork and PrimaLoft liner that’s also toasty warm and long-lasting. A Tri-Force Construction shell keeps the weight to a minumum, and combines diﬀerent plastic stiﬀnesses to ensure maximum energy transfer.
K2 MEN’S RECON 120 MV GW £425
Another old favourite, the Recon 120 boasts a new matt livery for the 22/23 season and continues to oﬀer impressive performance and sophisticated feel – all while keeping weight to a minimum. The Powerfuse Spyne stiﬀens the rear of the boot for maximum support, while the Powerlite Shell deploys four diﬀerent stiﬀnesses of TPU to increase performance across the mountain.
The e-Magnum has become a regular sight on (and occasionally oﬀ ) pistes across Europe over the last few years. An advanced ski that’s not diﬃcult to use and push hard, the sophisticated technology packed into these is eye-opening. Witness the wood, carbon, Titanal laminate and graphene core, or the Energy Management Circuit – the world’s only electronic ski dampening system – which delivers a smooth, powerful and reactive ride.
ATOMIC WOMEN’S HAWX ULTRA 115 S GW £450
This latest iteration of the Hawx Ultra 115 is not only stylish but exceedingly warm and comfortable. The Thinsulate insulation used in the inner all-but-guarantees warm toes, and the Mimic Platinum mouldable liner will cater to the exact contours of each individual foot. Meanwhile, there’s oodles of performance on oﬀer thanks to its Energy Backbone and Prolite technology that deliver ampliﬁed but natural-feeling power transmission.
SALOMON MEN’S S/PRO ALPHA 120 GW £430
The Salomon S/Pro Alpha 120 is focused on advanced to expert skiers and has been designed to improve heel hold, a tweak that not only boosts performance but also makes the boot easier to get on and oﬀ. Although the ﬁt is oﬃcially ‘narrow’, the true shape is more towards a close-ﬁtting medium, making it a surprisingly versatile option. Performance is top notch, of course, thanks to the adjustable Power Spine and PU shell.
JACKS TRADES ALL MOUNTAIN
SKIS + BOOTS
NORDICA WOMEN’S SPEEDMACHINE 3
115 GW £425
When you’re seeking performance, the Speedmachine 3 115 is a solid choice. One of the stiﬀest boots in the Nordica range, this woman’s speciﬁc, medium width boot features top notch materials and premium comfort. The 3 Force construction shaves weight and simultaneously boosts stiﬀness and power, while the pre-shaped 3D Cork Fit W PrimaLoft liner and Infrared Technology in the shell make for out-of-the box comfort and easy customisation.
HF 110 GW £410
Acceptable in the 80s, rear entry boots are back in vogue – and for a very good reason: they’re much easier to get on and off. Nordica’s Hands Free (HF) take on the returning trend both look and feel the part. A warm 3D Cork Fit PrimaLoft liner and Infrared Tech shell ladle on the comfort, while the lightweight materials and medium to wide fit will undoubtedly prove popular with a huge number of skiers.
K2 MEN’S MINDBENDER 89TI £565
The Mindbender 89Ti is the hard-snow specialist in the Mindbender line-up, featuring a narrower waist width and contact points that are further out from the mount point, which is intended to improve turn initiation and add a general sense of precision. The Titanal Y-Beam construction increases power, while the narrower metal in the tail of the ski aids manoeuvrability in all conditions.
SCOTT MEN’S PURE MISSION 98TI £580
An all-new all-rounder, the Scott Pure Mission 98Ti is designed to take on whatever conditions the mountain can throw at you – and have a riot in the process. The twin tip rocker tip allows for optimal ﬂoat in deep powder, while the Scott Titanal re-enforcement works with the paulownia/ beech wood core to deliver performanceenhancing ﬂex and rebound. In short, this ski will put a smile on your face.
ELAN WOMEN’S RIPSTICK 88 £520
A superlight all-mountain ski that handles astonishingly well, the Ripstick 88W is designed speciﬁcally for women who want ease of use with plenty of performance on tap. The Amphibio proﬁle and SST sidewalls bring fantastic agility to what is at heart a calm and conﬁdent ski, and with Elan’s TNT Technology – which integrates Vapor Tip Inserts into a wood and carbon core – the whole ride feels lively and playful.
ENFORCER 88 UNLIMITED £480
Exclusive to Ellis Brigham, the Enforcer 88 Unlimited oﬀers lightweight precision via a narrow waist, and an elongated nose for better handling in poorer, softer snow conditions. The poplar wood core ensures a good response in any situation, while the new Carbon Chassis LT reduces weight and increases stability all round.
SALOMON MEN’S MTN 86 CARBON
If ‘light is right’, the MTN 86 Carbon must be very, very right. Weighing in at just over a kilo, the construction features a carbon-reinforced full woodcore that’s dedicated to cutting the grams. The agile feel is carried through to the width, which is a nimble 86 mm underfoot for precision and conﬁdence. Constructed from up to 40% sustainable materials, you can go as hard as you need while minimising your impact on the mountain environment we all love.
DPS MEN’S PAGODA TOUR 100 RP £1,300
The US-made Pagoda Tour 100 is a UK exclusive for Ellis Brigham, and oﬀers nimble, versatile backcountry performance alongside the lightest performance-toweight ratio of any ski on the market. Considering the 100mm waist it’s a playful and ﬂoaty ride, relying on the Pagoda Tour construction for damping and stability – which now features Algal Sidewall Technology, made from 63 per cent microalgae. The wonders of sustainable materials never cease to amaze us!
SCARPA MEN’S MAESTRALE RE-MADE
The Maestrale Re-Made is a limited edition model that’s available in the UK exclusively through Ellis Brigham. The shell, cuﬀ and tongue are made entirely from plastic scraps, reducing waste and helping to bring the boot’s CO2 emissions down by 27%. Weight has also been cut thanks to the ingenious Wave closure system, while a generous 60 degrees of motion provides welcome relief for your feet when climbing.
SALOMON MEN’S MTN SUMMIT PRO £590
Incredibly lightweight, and with an impressive 75-degree range of motion, the MTN Summit Pro very much aims to take the struggle out of the climb – there’s even a full rubber sole for better traction. Rest assured the downhill feels just as good, with a BOA Fit System and ankle strap providing plenty of heel-hold and stability, while a wide Powerplate and Ultramid polyamide shell construction gives you all the stiﬀness and response you need.
K2 WOMEN’S DISPATCH £525
The all-new women’s speciﬁc Dispatch W is aimed squarely at skiers who want to explore everything the mountain has to oﬀer. It features a TPU cuﬀ from the world of alpine skiing for extra comfort yet still manages a decent 60-degree range of motion when walking in uphill mode. With a fully-heat mouldable Tourﬁt liner and a full Vibram outsole, these are a great combination of up and down performance and comfort.
FREERIDE SKIS + BOOTS
ATOMIC MEN’S HAWX ULTRA XTD 130 CT GW £630
The Hawx Ultra XTD not only looks the part but adds serious capabilities both up and downhill. Prolite construction with Grilamid cuts excess weight for the uphill sections, which are also aided by 54 degrees of movement in the pivot. The Free/Lock 2.0 switch makes the transition as smooth and simple as possible too. It’s is a high performance boot that blurs the line between allmountain and freeride touring.
K2 MEN’S MINDBENDER 120 LV GW £525
A versatile, medium fit boot that offers great precision as well as low weight, the re-liveried 22/23 Mindbender 120 LV still features a stiff and powerful ski setting, thanks to the carbon-reinforced Powerlock Spyne and Powerlite shell. GripWalk compatibility opens up your binding choices, and a PrecisionFit Pro Tour liner will fit you like a glove. Earning your turns never felt so comfortable.
ATOMIC WOMEN’S HAWX PRIME XTD 115 CT GW £560
The Hawx Prime XTD brings equal measures of comfort and performance to women looking for the ultimate all-mountain freeride boot. Offering a mouldable True Flex PU shell and PU cuff (the former boasting a Memolink additive that improves stretch characteristics) and with GripWalk compatibility, this is a strong, stable and predictable boot.
ARMADA MEN’S LOCATOR 96 £605
Stable and easy to manoeuvre, the Locator 96 offers lightweight versatility across the board, tackling anything from icy refrozen sastrugi to waist deep powder with aplomb. A caruba core and carbon reinforcements combine with the Ti Binding Dampener – a sandwich of rubber and Titanal – to improve response and reduce vibration during longer days on the hill.
DPS MEN’S PAGODA 112 RP £1,300
A UK Ellis Brigham exclusive, the DPS Pagoda 112 RP oﬀers a fantastic ride in powder but a stable hardpack experience too, making it a great ski for both resort and backcountry scenarios. The carbon ﬁbre, aspen, ash and paulownia woodcore construction gives you conﬁdence in more varied conditions, while the deep tip and tail rocker/taper help dampen unwanted feedback as well as boosting ﬂoat.
ATOMIC WOMEN’S BACKLAND 98 £580
The Atomic Backland 98 is a ski that handles touring just as well as hacking around the resort, which is no mean feat. Designed to tackle a wide range of snow conditions, this women’s speciﬁc model is 98 mm underfoot and, fronted by the HRZN tips, it ﬂoats as well as carves. A carbon spine runs the full length of the ski – as does the ultra light woodcore construction – to deliver extra stiﬀness without extra weight.
SKI TOURING SKILLS
With a pair of touring skis, the world is your oyster. Scottish Mountain Guide Andy Townsend of Glenmore Lodge shares his top tips on venturing into the backcountry.Photos Ed Smith
They say that polo is the sport of kings. I respectfully disagree. For me, ski touring deserves the sporting crown. What’s more, you don’t have to be mega rich or own a stable full of ponies to enjoy it; you just need to be prepared to learn some new skills and put in a bit of eﬀort.
The rewards for those who do are limitless. With a pair of skis, some touring bindings and a set of climbing skins, you can explore the whole mountain without relying on lifts. You can also start wherever you fancy, enjoy the best snow and follow your own timetable.
In short, ski touring is freedom – and a good day in the backcountry will not only keep you ﬁt but enrich your soul for many years.
Here’s how to get involved.
Learn the Basics
Touring is not quite as simple as jumping on your skis, sliding up to a summit and then hoovering up the powder on your way down. There’s a lot to learn in terms of technique and safety, but don’t be put oﬀ; if you can ski, you can ski tour. The best way to get started is to book an introductory course with either a qualiﬁed mountain guide or an instructor. Having someone experienced to hold your hand and share their knowledge as you head into the backcountry for the ﬁrst time is invaluable.
A lightweight boot and binding set-up will deﬁnitely save you energy on the climb, but sometimes a slightly heavier ski will actually improve your performance on the descent. It’s all about ﬁnding the sweet spot, so seek advice in-store.
If you are going to invest in one bit of kit, make it your boots. A good pair will improve your day far more than any ski. Get them ﬁtted by an expert, and choose a model that suits your experience and ambitions. If you want to charge at high speed, go for a freeride boot; if you want to ski slower but cover more distance then select a lightweight ski mountaineering boot. Finally, pack the essentials. Remember, you should never leave the pistes without carrying the ‘holy trinity’: a transceiver, shovel and probe (see overleaf). You’ll also need spare layers and gloves, a small repair kit, a ﬁrst aid kit and plenty of food and water. It all adds up, so invest in a proper ski touring rucksack; this will distribute the load lower on your back so that it doesn’t interfere with your skiing.
Master the Climb
For maximum eﬃciency, don’t lift your skis oﬀ the ground as you climb. Instead, push them forward, making sure they never lose contact with the snow. The best technique involves thrusting one hip forward, then moving the pelvis laterally over the new uphill ski before thrusting the opposite hip forward. This motion uses the hip ﬂexor, which will take some time to develop and can feel sore at ﬁrst.
Skinning should be slow and eﬃcient; there’s no need to rush or go too steeply uphill. The real skill lies in picking a line for your ascent that avoids steep sections, minimises the need for kick turns and keeps the use of heel raisers on your bindings to a minimum. Rushing the ups will only make you sweaty and less able to enjoy the downs.
Before you consider touring, it’s essential to build your oﬀ-piste skills at the sides of the marked runs (aka the ‘sidecountry’). Snow quality can vary from turn to turn, and it’s vital that you
“A good day in the backcountry will enrich your soul”
“NOTHING BEATS EXPLORING UNTRACKED SNOW WITH YOUR FRIENDS”
can cope with anything the mountain throws at you –especially when you’re a long way from medical help. The top three backcountry skills to master are:
1. Sideslipping. Although it’s a basic technique, the ability to perform a controlled sideslip at a moment’s notice – down steep or hard snow and around obstacles – is crucial.
2. Stem Turns. The classic stem turn is a versatile and dexterous move that can be performed on almost any terrain, at any speed.
3. Jump Turns. This is your ‘get out of jail’ card for steep sections, tricky snow and obstacles. Plus, they look awesome!
90% of avalanche victims trigger their own avalanche. That’s a scary statistic, but the Scottish Avalanche Information Service has developed a straightforward guide to help you plan a safe trip into the backcountry. ‘Be Avalanche Aware’ (BAA) encourages you to consider three elements:
1. The current and past avalanche risk – including weather and mountain conditions.
2. The human element i.e. you and your group’s personal skills and experience.
3. The speciﬁc terrain and landscapes you intend to visit that day.
By considering these three factors at every stage of your journey – including planning – you will be able to make more informed and less emotional decisions. Check out beaware.sais.gov.uk
Although it’s essential to carry a transceiver, shovel
and probe, it’s important to remember that these items are rescue equipment – not safety equipment. In other words, they don’t stop you getting in trouble. Attending an avalanche course with your regular ski partners is a great way to ensure that you’re all familiar with how to use them and consider hazards in the same way.
Navigating on skis in perfect weather is relatively straightforward, but reduce the visibility (or even remove it completely) and it becomes a serious and stressful business. The main problem is that it’s hard to estimate your speed and therefore calculate the distance you’ve travelled.
Faced with a whiteout, unless you want to rely on your Jedi-like skills (never wise) you’ll need to reach for the map. Having GPS on your phone is helpful but you mustn’t overlook a traditional map and compass, since these don’t rely on a battery that can fail in the cold temperatures. Route ﬁnding should be practised before it’s needed; there are lots of tactics that a ski tourer can develop in order to navigate safely through the mountains and back to the café for hot chocolate.
The ups and downs of ski touring are all part of the fun; nothing beats the feeling of exploring remote, untracked snow with your friends. Glenmore Lodge is Scotland’s national outdoor training centre, oﬀering in-depth ski touring courses and other essential backcountry skills. glenmorelodge.org.uk
£90 - 185g
Extremely lightweight and well-designed, this probe’s quick-lock assembly means it folds out in a trice. A contrasting depth scale – including clear 1-metre markers –keeps you informed when shovelling, while its larger-diameter probe tip improves snow penetration. The tensioning system is also aramid for longer life.
ORTOVOX PRO LIGHT
£70 - 440g
Weighing in at only 440g, the Pro Light avalanche shovel is also highly packable thanks to its telescopic shaft. Made from high quality aluminium, it’s a sturdy shovel that won’t weigh you down on even the longest tour and is ready for use in seconds. The clever notched design also allows it to be used as a snow anchor or for building a rescue sled.
ORTOVOX DIRACT VOICE
£350 - 210g
The Diract Voice digital transceiver brings timesaving voice navigation to rescue operations, as well as an impressive three-antenna design which oﬀers double the range thanks to intelligent frequency switching. A large, easy to read screen and automatic switchover in case of a secondary avalanche make this a top-tier safety device.
AWAY CROWDS BACKCOUNTRY SAFETY GEAR
ORTOVOX AVABAG LITRIC TOUR 30 £1,025 - 2.41kg
The key feature of the Avabag LiTRIC Tour 30 is that it features an electronic airbag system. That makes it hassle-free to practise with and straightforward to carry on ﬂights. It’s a top-quality backpack with all the tool storage you’ll need on tour – simple, eﬀective, and there when you need it.
SALOMON MTN LAB
£160 - 365g
Protective and comfortable, the MTN Lab is all you could want from a ski mountaineering helmet, passing the certiﬁcation tests for climbing and biking too. Lightweight and merino-wool insulated, the MTN Lab is made from recycled materials and features headlamp attachment points for those early alpine starts.
BLACK DIAMOND NEVE PRO £150
BLACK DIAMOND VENOM LT CLASSIC
A 10-point aluminium design makes the Neve Pro crampon perfect for lightweight snow travel. Its centre cable construction saves even more weight and lets you fold it in half, making it easy to stow away, as well as enabling toolsfree length adjustment. Steel wire bails up front, and an aluminium bail at the rear, will ﬁt welted boots securely.
£100 - 240g
An extrememly lightweight ski mountaineering axe, the Venom LT Classic features a replaceable Hot Forged MTN Classic pick, while its grooved shaft tapers to a steel spike that delivers optimum snow plunging (this too is replaceable). This is a powerful and versatile tool that will prove invaluable on any backcountry expedition.
SKI TOURING CLOTHING
THE NORTH FACE
SUMMIT TSIRKU FUTURELIGHT £675
TNF’s super-technical freeride jacket packs in multiple standout technologies. FUTURELIGHT fabric delivers exceptional breathability with reliable waterproof protection, while durability is bolstered with the addition of stronger-than-steel Spectra ﬁbres in a ripstop grid. A long length adds protection against spindrift and powder to boot.
BLACK DIAMOND WOMEN'S RECON STRETCH SHELL
Practical and understated, the BD Recon oﬀers all-round weather protection in a comfortable format due in no small part to the stretchy, waterproof and breathable BD.dry 3-layer fabric. You'll ﬁnd a ski helmet compatible hood, massive hand and chest pockets and underarm vents to dump heat when required.
PATAGONIA MEN'S POWDER TOWN
The Powder Town oﬀers excellent protection thanks to a 2-layer H2No waterproof outer shell, roomy zipped pockets and a storm-proof helmetcompatible hood. The hidden feature is the use of 100% recycled fabric and completely PFC-free durable water repellent treatment.
NORRØNA WOMEN'S LOFOTEN GORE-TEX PRO
Norrøna’s Lofoten jacket is a carefully considered design that prioritises top notch lightwight materials . A 3 layer 70D GORETEX Pro shell oﬀers a durably waterproof and breathable shield, while good sized vents will help you to dump heat when climbing and large pockets can swallow whatever you need for the day.
RAB MEN'S KHROMA KINETIC
The Khroma Kinetic harks back to the original pitch of the softshell – hardshell levels of protection but far more breathability and stretch. This promise is upheld by Rab’s Proﬂex fabric, while the helmet-compatible hood with wired brim fends oﬀ more serious weather if required. Rear vents and mesh lined pockets also boost breathability.
PATAGONIA MEN'S POWDER TOWN BIBS
As with the Powder Town jacket, the bibs are crafted from 100% recycled H2No 2-layer fabric with PFC-free durable water repellent, but to an all-new design. As well as excellent protection from the mountain elements and a relaxed ﬁt, the deep waist-to-knee venting zips allow heat to be released easily, and the seat to be easily dropped when required.
NORRØNA WOMEN'S LOFOTEN GORE-TEX PRO PANTS
Stylish, well-cut but robust, these backcountry bib pants are just the winter armour you’re looking for. A zip-oﬀ stretch bib with adjustable braces hugely amps up the warmth and weather resistance on oﬀer. Built to last from 200 denier recycled nylon face fabric and GORE-TEX Pro, the Lofoten GTX are premium in the best sense of the word.
CLIMBING ON THIN ICE: WINTER EXPEDITION BEN NEVIS
The highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis, is also home to the greatest cliﬀs, ridges, gullies and faces to be found on these shores. Although not easy to appreciate from a walk up the mountain path, its North Face is a diﬀerent world – and one that is regularly explored by winter climbers. At some point, they will all make a pilgrimage to Nevis to test themselves on the mountain’s trickiest ﬂanks, dive into the deep history of the place and experience its immense scale.
In the dying days of March, as the glens began to feel the ﬁrst warm breath of spring and buttresses and rocks were starting to reappear lower down the mountain, the summit was still in the grip of winter. Bright sunshine and daﬀodils at sea level gave no hint of the thick snow and ice up above. The ice climbing was at its best. Sally Hudson, Caspar McKeever and I chose this moment to tackle some of Ben Nevis’s classic climbs.
FAWLTY TOWERS – GRADE II, 3*
With so many climbs to choose from, it was hard to know where to start. Tower Ridge is always tempting; it’s the greatest of the famous ridges and a natural draw to every aspiring winter climber, but a very big undertaking for your ﬁrst ascent. So the team agreed it would be wiser to attempt some of the routes on its ﬂanks. Fawlty Towers was our ﬁrst choice; it’s easy to ﬁnd since it was facing us on the walk up to the CIC alpine hut. A slightly spicy start progressed into moderate climbing broken down into nice pitches, with Coire na Ciste laid out below and the big buttresses standing guard at the top. There are several lines to choose from of varying diﬃculty, but four or ﬁve pitches on Fawlty Towers reach the very narrow crest of Tower Ridge. To get down, we abseiled from the narrow snow crest into Douglas Gap and then down the gully below. It was a wonderful ﬁrst foray to learn the layout of the North Face and get a feel for its scale.
GLOVER’S CHIMNEY – GRADE III, 4***
Feeling like we could push higher up the mountain, our team next went into the upper reaches of Coire na Ciste, to the Garadh. Its name comes from the Gaelic word for ‘garden’, and indeed it is a strangely ﬂat place where you could almost set out a blanket for lunch and take in the view. If you’re going ice climbing however, there’s no time for picnics. Straight up above is Glover’s Chimney, a plumbline hanging directly below Tower Gap.
From the security of an ice cave, Caspar led the way up a very impressive pitch with intense exposure, spiralling up the cascade into a vast arena of open space. The angle eventually relented and a few pitches of steady snow led straight up towards the ﬁnal narrow slot, which oﬀered super traditional chimney climbing – with ice for the picks and rocky ledges for the feet.
THE WHITE LINE – GRADE IV, 3**
When you learn that The White Line was descended before it was ﬁrst climbed, you can’t fail to be impressed by the skills of Goodeve and co (who ﬁrst explored this part of the mountain). We were hungry for more ice climbing, and this route certainly delivered! Seven long pitches with ice screw belays, tricky route ﬁnding and awkward belay stances lent the whole climb a very big feel.
The second pitch was so sustained – on glassy, smooth ice – that we were constantly on our front-points, protected only by ice screws. Our calf muscles were screaming for a rest well before we topped out. The wind swirling around Coire na Ciste only added to the sense of exposure; we were a very long way up, and the ice that broke away from our picks took a long time to tumble all the way down.
“The ice o our picks took a long time to tumble all the way down”
here, the scenery opens up to reveal the whole of the North Face”
TOWER SCOOP – GRADE III**
The ‘Cold Climbs’ classics Orion Direct, Hadrian’s Wall Direct and Point Five Gully looked down on our little group impassively as we made the long walk up Observatory Gully on the other side of Tower Ridge. A band of crags sits near the top, where we found Tower Scoop – a relatively small route in this, the home of the biggest ice climbs in the country. Even so, at 100m high it is a great line, exposed and sustained from start to ﬁnish. Tower Scoop was climbed in three pitches of great ice followed by a big snow slope. Caspar was lucky to ﬁnd some ice to belay on at the top, but quite often you need to protect your second with a snow anchor belay. On this steep slope – directly underneath Tower Gully – it feels like a very exposed position to anchor yourself to the snow.
UPPER TOWER CASCADE (RIGHT HAND) – GRADE III**
Above Tower Scoop and leading onto the very last section of Tower Ridge are some ice cascades that barely get a mention in the guidebooks. As a consequence they are rarely climbed; it’s a good place to ﬁnd great ice with nobody else around. We opted for the right hand line of the three available, and were rewarded with grade III ice climbing followed by steep snow, arriving on Tower Ridge about 80m below the top. This was a chance to enjoy the view from Tower Ridge without having to negotiate the complex route up the ridge itself. Up here, the scenery opens up to reveal the whole of the North Face and the mountains of Càrn Mòr Dearg, Aonach Mòr and Aonach Beag, stretching all the way beyond to the Cairngorms. It would have been easy to feel overwhelmed, but a few minutes of straightforward mountaineering got us up the last few steps and onto the summit plateau.
Mike Pescod is an IFMGA certiﬁed British Mountain Guide based in Fort William. His company provides world class mountain adventures on the west coast of Scotland. Visit abacusmountainguides.com
£210 (each) 550g (each)
PRICE £165 (each) 430g (each)
When you need an all-round mountaineering and alpine tool, the Vertex ticks all the boxes - lightweight, technical enough for steeper ground and with a modular pick, but also eminently plunge-able on snow slopes. There’s enough of a curve in the shaft geometry to protect your knuckles on steep ice, and the T-rated pick oﬀers a good balance between penetration and strength.
If you’re looking for an axe that’ll handle anything from winter walking to ice and mixed, the Quark should be on your list. A good, plungeable shaft and spike combine with the foldable griprest, while the head geometry is comfortable on technical and easier ground alike.
GRIVEL G12 NEW-MATIC EVO
PRICE £160 (pair) WEIGHT 986g (pair)
There are numerous reasons the Grivel G12 is a bonafide mountaineering classic, namely the fact that it is pretty close to indestructible, dependable and easy to fit securely on to a vast range of boots. The latest version is 50 grams lighter than its predecessor, but still offers a foolproof C2 fit and the security of 12 stamped
( steel points.
PETZL DART LEVERLOCK FIL
PRICE £220 (pair) WEIGHT 820g (pair)
The Darts oﬀer a fantastically ﬂexible winter C3 crampon platform, due to the adjustable front point setup, which can be modiﬁed between dual points for more general mountaineering to mono point (short or long) for more technical ice or dry tooling. Adjustable and suitable for all technical boots with front and rear welts, the front points are also completely replaceable for longer life.
PETZL SARKEN LEVERLOCK UNIVERSAL
PRICE £170 (pair) WEIGHT 870g (pair)
The Sarken is a C2-rated technical 12-point crampon that’ll take on any terrain, from mixed and ice to easier snow slopes - those burly front points are perfect for the rough stuff. A hidden superpower is the switchable front bail, which allows the Sarken to fit boots with a front welt, as well as less technical mountain boots too.
GRIVEL MONTE ROSA CLASSIC
PRICE £100 (pair) WEIGHT 800g (pair)
Designed as a lightweight winter walking crampon, the Monte Rosa does exactly what it says on the tin, and the simple but effective strapping system will fit pretty much any winter boot on the market. Carbon steel construction will stand up to the rigours of winter walking without complaint, and they’re rated C1 to boot.
GRIVEL G ZERO
PRICE £70 WEIGHT 425g (single)
The straight-shafted G Zero is ideal for glacier walking and nontechnical ascents, oﬀering a lightweight and comfortable grip thanks to the removable head cover that aids grip and improves insulation. The adjustable leash also protects the tip to prevent accidental rucksack damage in transit.
HOW DOES A LAYERING SYSTEM WORK?
A basic layering system has three important functions: to wick sweat away from the skin; to trap body heat; and to protect you from the weather. Each part of your clothing serves a different purpose and works with the other layers to keep your skin dry, warm and comfortable. An effective layering system allows you to adjust and regulate your body temperature when active or resting and as weather conditions change. Knowing how to choose your layers could make all the difference.
NEXT TO SKIN:
BASE LAYERS & THERMALS
A base layer is the 'next to skin' foundation on which a layering system can be built.
BASE LAYER FUNCTIONS
Your base layer's main function is to wick sweat away from your skin and towards the outer fabrics, helping you to regulate your body temperature. Moisture conducts heat 25 times faster than air, so if it can't escape the surface of your skin, you become cold very quickly. In summer, a base layer worn under another light layer will help to reduce your skin's surface temperature through a process called evaporative cooling. They should be closeﬁtting for them to work eﬀectively.
WHAT ARE BASE LAYERS MADE FROM?
Base layers are made from synthetic polyester or ﬁne merino wool as they are both very good at wicking moisture. Cotton t-shirts should not be used as a base layer for active use as cotton soaks up moisture and holds on to it, meaning you become damp, clammy and ultimately cold. You should choose your base layer according to the kind of activity you'll be doing, as well as the duration and location of the activity. For example, hiking in warmer climates will require a lightweight base layer (for wicking moisture only) while skiing in Whistler in January will require a heavier weight base layer to boost warmth.
INSULATION: MID LAYERS & FLEECES
A mid layer is any piece of clothing worn over your base layer and/or under your outer shell. Choices vary greatly, from microﬂeece hoodies to down vests, but they all serve to keep you warm while continuing to allow moisture to make its way to the outer layers.
Since its function is to provide insulation, a mid layer is dependent on 'loft' – space in which to trap warm air. Materials with this property include ﬂeece, merino wool, synthetic insulation and natural down. Each of these have their own beneﬁts and are suitable for diﬀerent conditions and activities.
Fleece is highly versatile and available in a wide range of thicknesses. Thinner microﬂeece garments are very practical, quick drying and make a great option for high-output cold weather activities such as cross-country skiing. Mid to heavyweight ﬂeece jackets are better suited to situations in which you'll be still or inactive, such as setting up camp, but they usually weigh more than other forms of insulation and aren't as compressible.
Merino wool is an excellent natural insulator, and thicker merino fabrics make the ideal mid layer for activities such as skiing and winter walking. Icebreaker's MerinoLoft technology, for example, blends merino and synthetic technology to increase its loft and heattrapping capabilities while continuing to keep you warm even when it gets wet.
Synthetic insulation is a versatile and practical option for a lot of people. There are numerous types, but essentially strands of synthetic ﬁbre create a down-like material that traps heat eﬀectively. It continues to work when wet, dries quickly and is easy to care for. It's also among the lightest of mid layer materials.
GOOSE OR DUCK DOWN
Weight for weight, down is the best insulator available. While hydrophobic down resists the damp a little longer, all down must be kept dry for it to be eﬀective. This means it's best saved for cold but dry days. Since it's such an eﬀective insulator, it makes an ideal layer for low-output activities such as belaying or camping.
"MOISTURE CONDUCTS HEAT 25 TIMES FASTER THAN AIR – SO IF IT CAN'T ESCAPE THE SURFACE OF YOUR SKIN, YOU BECOME COLD VERY QUICKLY"
PROTECTION: OUTER SHELL
The outermost layer, also known as the 'shell', is your main defence against the wind and rain. It usually takes the form of a waterproof jacket.
By preventing further moisture from getting into your clothing, it allows the base and mid layers to continue to wick sweat away from the skin. For a layering system to work well, a shell must be both waterproof and breathable – stopping snow and rain entering, but allowing vapour to escape.
Hard shells are among the most technical outdoor clothing. They are made from laminated membranes, comprising a stiﬀ outer face fabric for durability; a waterproof, breathable membrane such as GORE-TEX in the middle; and an inner membrane to protect from contaminants such as skin oils and dirt.
The term 'soft shell' covers a huge variety of fabrics and technologies, but they all share an emphasis on breathability and manoeuvrability rather than total waterproof protection.
Unlike hard shells, soft shells oﬀer good levels of stretch. They are usually wind and rain resistant, and have a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating applied to the face fabric, but in heavier rain or snow conditions a hard shell is recommended.
ICEBREAKER WOMEN'S 200 ZONE LONG SLEEVE CREW
A good base layer is the foundation of a successful layering system. Step forward the merino Icebreaker. It's warm, insulating yet breathable, and extremely comfortable next to the skin. The Icebreaker also has ﬂat locked seams and generous droptail hem.
THE NORTH FACE MEN'S 100 GLACIER 1/4 ZIP
This base layer will do it all. The quarter zip adds venting but keeps the warmth in, and the small details like the ﬁnished cuﬀs and mid-height collar will see you reach for it again and again – whether at basecamp or heading to the supermarket.
RAB WOMEN'S CIRRUS FLEX 2.0 HOODY
When the temperatures really plummet, the Cirrus Flex is your perfect companion. Windproof, PrimaLoft Silver-ﬁlled and PFCfree DWR-coated, it will shrug oﬀ the worst of any mountain weather with ease and looks great when you arrive at the pub too.
MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT MEN'S LHOTSE GORE-TEX PRO
Robust yet breathable, the Lhotse is the pinnacle of outdoor shell jackets. From the helmet-compatible hood to the harnessfriendly pockets, this jacket – featuring GoreTex’s premium 3-layer Pro fabric – means business in even the worst conditions.
FOR MORE BUYING GUIDES ON ALL YOUR OUTDOOR GEAR,
ARC'TERYX MENS'S ALPHA AR GORE-TEX PRO £520
There’s premium, and then there’s the Alpha AR. Designed for climbers in mountain conditions there’s not a wasted millimetre of GORE-TEX Pro fabric here, which is why the weight is surprisingly low. With a RECCO reﬂector stashed in the hood and reinforcements in high-wear areas, this is ready for adventure.
ﬁll Responsible Down Standard down adds a strong layer of insulation. The down also has a HyperDRY PFC-free hydrophobic ﬁnish, and there’s a decent hood too – a great all-rounder for the cooler months.
TNF MEN'S SUMMIT TORRE EGGER FUTURELIGHT £515
The North Face’s FUTURELIGHT fabric stars in this lightweight but solid mountain jacket that can tackle the most changeable of conditions. The three-layer fabric is breathable and incorporates underarm vents for really claggy moments. All zips are top-notch and durable YKK AquaGuard, while the helmet compatible hood with bonded brim is truly bomber.
RAB WOMEN'S LATOK ALPINE GORE-TEX PRO £440
The Latok Alpine oﬀers a female-speciﬁc take on a mountain classic, updated with the very best design and materials available.
The premium GORE-TEX Pro will fend oﬀ all weathers, but is breathable and robust too, while the excellent helmet compatible TriPoint hood will also protect in even the worst winter conditions.
MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT WOMEN'S KRYOS DOWN £400
Durable, weather resistant, and very warm indeed, the Kryos raises the insulation bar by combining down with a GORE-TEX INFINIUM outer for a lightweight but potent package. In a women’s speciﬁc ﬁt, you’ll get 200g of 800 ﬁll Down Codex 100% traceable goose down, wrapped in a hybrid baﬄe construction that’ll fend oﬀ the coldest weather.
Highly packable but extremely weather resistant, the Shelterstone is packed with recycled Polarloft insulation that'll still keep you warm even when wet. The women’s speciﬁc outer shell is fabricated from bluesign approved Drilite Loft 40D, which will fend oﬀ serious levels of hoolie with aplomb.
RAB MEN'S MYTHIC ULTRA £380
Built for the coldest of days, the Mythic is not only very light in its class, but thanks to the heat-reﬂecting Thermo Ionic Lining Technology – combined with 900 ﬁll down – it’s as toasty as they come. The European goose down meets the Responsible Down Standard; it’s also coated with a Nikwax PFCfree hydrophobic ﬁnish to prevent clumping.
RAB MEN'S GENERATOR ALPINE £260
The Rab Generator has been through many iterations, and the latest is one of the warmest and most comfortable yet. A Pertex Quantum Pro outer shell, stuﬀed with PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation and equipped with a roomy, helmet-compatible hood, this will bring warmth to the darkest and dampest of days on the mountain.
HIKING COLD CUMBRIA
Hiking the Lake District in winter holds a magic of its own, as James Forrest discovers.
Am I being brave or just utterly idiotic? Is this whole thing an intrepid escapade or a schoolboy error? I’m struck by how ﬁne the line is between inspirationally pushing your limits and naively walking head ﬁrst into disaster. Doubts trouble my mind, as I lie cocooned in my sleeping bag. It’s -5°C and I’m shivering, despite wearing every item of clothing I have with me. The water in my bottle has frozen solid and I’m exhaling like a cloud-breathing dragon. Maybe wild camping the Cumbria Way in winter wasn’t such a good idea?
At 5.30am I ﬁnally muster the courage to get up – and immediately my doubts dissipate. I emerge from my tent into a wintry utopia that is simultaneously eerie and enchanting. It is like nothing I’ve witnessed before in the Lake District. The brooding silhouette of the surrounding fells is lined with an electric blue hue and backed by a thousand beaming stars. Herdwick eyes glow a demonic green in the glare of my head-torch and a calm Coniston Water shimmers in the moonlight. Thick frost has enveloped everything, coating the world with its icy crystals and transforming the landscape into a sparkling white overnight.
INTO THE WILD
Rewind 24 hours and I’m in Ulverston raring to kick oﬀ my challenge. The Cumbria Way is a 73-mile walk through (obviously) Cumbria and the heart of the Lake District. It journeys the length of the county, starting from the quirky market town of Ulverston in the south to the city of Carlisle in the north, via Coniston, Great Langdale, Keswick and Caldbeck. Most walkers take ﬁve or more days to complete the trail, staying in homely B&Bs and eating in rustic country pubs. But I’ve opted for a wilder, and more economical, approach. I only have four days available – so I’ll hike
18 miles a day and sleep wherever I can pitch my one-man tent. I hope I don’t regret this strategy.
My mission, however, is clear. I’m taking on the hike for a number of reasons: to escape the commercialised madness of pre-Christmas; to lose my winter wild camping virginity – putting my gear (and body) to the test in sub-zero temperatures; and to experience a broader spectrum of Cumbria’s landscapes, rather than visiting the same old Lake District honey-pots time and time again. There are questions I need to answer. Will I be bored out of my mind when it’s pitch-black from 4pm to 7am? How will I cope with the cold? And is winter wild camping all about hardship and survival, or will I ﬁnd a perverse pleasure in this extreme case of hotel avoidance?
It only takes two enthralling days on the trail for me to make up my mind – I love wild camping in winter. How could you not? Every corner I turn I enter the unknown. Every mile brings new surprises, shocks and inspiration. Every stage provides memorable experiences.
“I emerge from my tent into a wintry utopia that is simultaneously eerie and enchanting”A fellow hiker taking a moment to savour Elterwater
In Gawthwaite on day one, as I battle a bitter wind and intermittent snowy showers, I bump into an eccentric old timer who tells me, “This is God’s country – you won’t ﬁnd a better view anywhere in Britain.” We look out over the distant Yorkshire Dales to our right and the enticing, snow-capped trio of Dow Crag, Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam ahead. He is biased, obviously, but I can see the appeal.
On day two I wake pre-dawn and hike in the dark up to Tarn Hows, an estate partly bequeathed to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter. I can almost sense the icy landscape slowly coming to life. The frozen tarn begins to glimmer. Sunlight catches the frosty dusting clinging to the trees’ bare branches. I’m alone, except for a stag I spot bolting through woodland and the amazingly conﬁdent, red-breasted robin that comes to say hello – and share the peanuts I’m tucking into. I know Narnia is ﬁctional, but it feels like I’m walking through it.
I reach River Brathay at midday, a renowned beauty spot with arresting views across reed beds to the lumpy, craggy tops of the Langdale Pikes. It is a clear, crisp, sunny winter’s day. The river is a mirror. Half-mesmerised by the ﬂawless reﬂections of the snowy peaks, I can’t tell where reality starts and the mirror-image ends.
As darkness descends, I set up camp. I have the rugged, vast hollow of Langstrath – Lakeland’s longest uninhabited valley -
“Every corner I turn I enter the unknown”Hiking at Beacon Tarn
to myself. Pitch tent. Check. Boil pasta. Check. Inﬂate sleeping mat. Check. Collect water from nearby beck. Check. Watch in bewilderment as the sky swirls a million shades of pink and brushes the mountainside with ever-changing colours. Check.
FLAPJACKS TO THE FINISH LINE
I think about the previous 48 hours and re-live some of the tougher moments. At Beacon Tarn I can barely enjoy the panoramas because my ﬁngers and toes are so painfully cold. On the near 500m ascent of Stake Pass I hit the deck a few times, unable to cope with the icy, treacherous path, and overnight at Coniston I repeatedly curse myself for not splashing out on a sleeping bag with a higher density of down ﬁlling. But, I quickly conclude, these drawbacks are merely trivial. I’m alive, I’m safe, I’m surviving – and still have 42 miles of this wintry adventure left to enjoy.
Bacon sandwiches, crunchy ﬂapjacks and two lattes are my reward for reaching the cafe at Grange the following morning. I need the energy for the miles ahead along the western shores of Derwentwater to Keswick. I’m feeling fatigued and am grateful for the lack of gradient. Devised by local ramblers groups in the 1970s, the oﬃcial Cumbria Way route is predominantly a lowlevel, ﬂat walk. Some guidebooks oﬀer mountain alternatives for those who prefer summits to the valleys, but there’s no chance I’m volunteering for any additional uphill graft.
The walk’s biggest climb is still ahead of me too. It’s pitch-dark by the time I’m at Grainsgill Beck at the foot of the ascent. I can see the proﬁle of Lingy Hut – a small, wooden bothy that will be my home for the night – on the skyline. 30 minutes later and I’m hopelessly lost. Where on earth is the hut? I’m boot deep in crunchy snow and totally disorientated by a white-out. To make matters worse, my phone battery is dead, so I can’t check my navigation app, and I left my tent with a friend in Keswick in a foolish bid to reduce the weight of my backpack. Oh God, I’m going to have to survive the night out in the open! Panic descends and, in a frenzy, I start rushing around in all directions. And then – ﬁnally, joyously, luckily – I stumble across the shed. Disaster averted. Phew.
As I start my ﬁnal push for the ﬁnish line, I’m ﬁlled with the happiness of a man who dodged a bullet the night before. I gaze back over Lakeland from the 658m summit of High Pike before saying goodbye to the fells and descending slowly to Caldbeck. The rest is a weary, blister-antagonising tramp through woodland, across farmland and alongside the River Caldew, but I enter a robotic, mindless hiking mode and power through the miles quickly enough.
Before I really realise it, I’m in Carlisle, standing in the majestic Cathedral Quarter. No-one notices the relief on my face. No-one congratulates me on the accomplishment. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve ﬁnished, I’ve broken my winter wild camping duck, I’ve survived – and it has been a Lakeland experience to rival the best summer can oﬀer. Perhaps this whole thing was a good idea, after all?
“I can almost sense the icy landscape slowly coming to life”
If you’re camping during winter then reliable shelter is a must. Solo hikers should explore a lightweight one-person tent like the MSR Elixir 1, which features solid fabric panels to help retain warmth when the temperature drops.
Any winter adventurer worth their salt will invest in a proper four-season sleeping bag. The Rab Neutrino Pro 700 is ﬁlled with premium goose down that’s toasty warm, light and compressible.
A good night’s sleep starts beneath your body. Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XTherm provides crucial insulation from chilly ground and a good amount of cushioning. It also packs right down for maximum portability.
Top of the list at the end of a day’s hiking is a good brew and a warm meal. The compact and stable MSR WhisperLite International is a remote fuel stove that oﬀers better winter performance and more pot choices.
Tackling a multi-day trek like the Cumbria Way requires a comfortable, spacious backpack. Osprey’s durable Aether series is a classic choice; this 65-litre version will hold all you need and spreads the load perfectly.
With minimal daylight to play with during winter, you’ll come to rely on your head torch. Petzl make some of the best in the business – like this Actik Core model boasting 600 lumens and a USB-rechargeable battery.
SCARPA WOMEN’S MESCALITO TRK GTX
LA SPORTIVA WOMEN’S TX5 GTX
PRICE £185 WEIGHT 460g
The TX5 bakes in much of the learnings from La Sportiva’s classic lightweight Trango series, giving you stability and good ankle protection, married with precision and great grip in all conditions. A nubuck upper, deep protective rand and Vibram Megagrip sole are the tools you need to get the job done.
ALTA BUNION II GTX
PRICE £220 WEIGHT 525g
Hanwag’s walking platform is a tried-andtested one, with many variations for diﬀerent foot shapes and sizes, so this big toe jointfriendly cut is a logical step – especially if you suﬀer from hallux valgus. Even if not, the generally wide-of-foot will also enjoy the nubuck leather upper, GORE-TEX membrane and Vibram Endurance Pro sole as well as the uprated cushioning in the sole unit.
TREK LV GTX
PRICE £230 WEIGHT 765g
The truth is that good quality leather stands the test of time - a fact that the Scarpa Trek LV GTX deploys in the shape of a 1.8mm oiled nubuck upper, married with a much more modern GORE-TEX liner, and a Vibram Biometric Fly outsole for added traction. For reliable, long lasting, all-season performance, these boots are perfect.
PRICE £235 WEIGHT 650g
Meindl has a long heritage of making premium, super-capable but comfortable boots - no small achievement. The Meran GTX are a great example of that in action - waxed nubuck uppers, GORE-TEX membrane, memory foam and a super-plush cork and ﬂeece footbed come together to give you a boot that’ll carry you through any terrain with ease.
SALOMON MEN’S QUEST 4 GTX
PRICE £185 WEIGHT 655g
Salomon’s Quest platform has graced many a foot over the last few years, but the latest iteration is an improvement in every sense. The ADV-C 4D chassis cradles the foot, but combined with a nubuck upper, waterproof membrane and a shock absorbing EnergyCell midsole it’s a real mile-muncher.
Artilect Darkhorse 185
Promising 35% more thermal retention, the Artilect Darkhorse offers warmth, flexibility and comfort in one lightweight package. Superfine 18-micron merino wool with flatlocked seams adds luxury to that comfort, while the hinged construction allows the coverage to be adjusted to suit changing conditions.
SHOP THE RANGE
GEAR UP FOR THE COLDER MONTHS
Smartwool Full Cushion Ski Sock £26
A top quality ski sock is key when you want long lasting comfort on those big days eating up the miles on or offpiste, and leading brand Smartwool never disappoints. This particular model is over the calf length for full boot coverage, contains 64% Merino Wool, is seamless for comfort and hits the sweetspot in terms of thickness.
Barts Bretia Hat £40
The warmth factor of a hat is often the most important thing, but sometimes you need warmth and style - which is where this faux fur bucket hat comes into play. Astonishingly comfortable and cosy, there’s an internal strap to customise the fit, and four colourways to pick from.
Black Diamond Mercury Mitt £110
If your hands ‘run cold’ then the BD Mercury mitts should be on your list - now with a 100% recycled shell fabric and packed with 170g PrimaLoft Gold on the back of your hand and 133g PrimaLoft Gold with Grip Control on the palm. The long gauntlet keeps spindrift at bay, and the leather palm is durable and grippy.
Buﬀ Polar Adult £28
The Buff is arguably one of the most versatile outdoor clothing items around, and the Polar Buff adds in a little extra winter heft in the shape of a fleece section. As versatile as ever, it’ll keep your neck and head warm in the worst conditions and is UPF 50 rated for when the sun peeks out.
Sealskinz Women’s Waterproof All Weather Insulated Glove £55
A real all-rounder, this entirely waterproof, women’s Sealskinz glove will fend off the worst of weather while retaining dexterity. The smartphone-compatible technology in the thumb and index finger will be constantly useful, and the goatskin palm will stand up to years of wear and tear.
A top quality glove will serve you well on the hill, and these beautiful cowhide leather Fall Line numbers will protect from cold and abrasions or impacts alike. Fibre-insulated and robust, the Neoprene and Velcro wrist closure is not only highly durable but traps heat impressively well.
Lifesystems Reusable Hand Warmers £5
On the coldest of mid-winter days a hand warmer can be that little bit of luxury that makes all the difference, and these reusable numbers will keep performing their magic time and time again. Lasting up to 90 minutes from a single recharge (dunk in boiling water) they’re a pocket rocket to keep the chill at bay.
Therm-ic UV Warmer £25
Portable and powerful, the Therm-ic solves the regular challenge of damp boots and gloves by drying them with safe UV radiation. USB-powered, they’ll circulate warm air throughout your boots or gloves overnight, giving you the simple but considerable luxury of cosy items in the morning.
Smartwool Women’s Hike Full Cushion Crew £25
Winter hiking puts big demands on your feet – something these Smartwool socks are designed to combat. Premium 61% merino wool is body-mapped to ensure a perfect ﬁt and strategic cushioning, while the breathability and seamless design ladles on the comfort factor. These will be ﬁne companions for the cold months ahead.
While Manchester is brilliant for its proximity to the Lake District and Wales, sometimes it’s nice to stay closer to your doorstep. Longdendale Valley is a favourite with locals and my go-to spot for an after work run. With an absolute wealth of walking and biking tracks on the moors, and enjoying commanding views over the Manchester skyline, it’s an amazingly accessible outdoor destination that’s perfect for those early winter evenings.
THE DARK PEAK
Though not as high or as rugged as some of the UK’s other mountainous areas, the Dark Peak is undeniably full of character. The sweeping heather moors, punctuated by exposed rocky edges, are a paradise for walkers and climbers – as are the old forests that nestle within the valleys. Cold weather brings great conditions for climbing on gritstone, and the clear winter air will allow you to see for miles from the tops; the hardest thing is choosing what to do!
Name: Sam Markovic
Job: Outdoor Trainer
Main activities: Hiking, Camping, Climbing, Trail Running, Outdoor Photography
Part of the EB family for: 31/2 years
Less crowded than its iconic neighbour Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) – particularly in the colder months – the Glyderau are formidable mountains, bristling upwards from the Ogwen valley in a mass of soaring cliﬀs and proud ridgelines. There is nowhere better in England or Wales for the enthusiastic scrambler. Y Gribin is a great choice for ﬁrst timers; less technical and committed than the North Ridge of Tryfan and neighbouring Bristly Ridge, it still
Remote Eskdale is a hidden gem, dramatically less busy than the honeypot areas of the Lake District that lie further east. With a collection of fabulous pubs in the valley (The Boot Inn is a real highlight), you could be forgiven for never heading into the hills at all. That said, if you’ve got the legs for it then hike up to Great Moss –one of the most extraordinary mountain landscapes in the UK – and it’s very likely you’ll have it all to yourself.
LATOK ALPINE GTX
For rapid winter ascents at the sharp end, expertly balancing weight, fit and durability. Built with 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro Most Breathable, the new Latok Alpine GTX is designed for swinging ice tools and making every reach. Stay dry, protected, and making upward progress on the steepest rock and ice.