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As we approach spring and the days grow longer, more and more of us will be taking to the hills for fresh air and exercise.
It’s important to remember, however, that it’s still very much winter up on the hills so it is vital to be properly prepared and have the right kit.
Check weather forecasts and avalanche reports before setting off and make sure you have planned a route, an alternative route and have left a copy with a friend so someone knows where you are. Climate conditions and forecasts can be checked on the Mountain Weather Information Service website at www.mwis.org.uk.
The Scottish Avalanche Information Service publishes daily reports and forecasts of observed snow, mountain and avalanche conditions at www.sais.gov.uk.
Local mountain guides emphasise the need for appropriate winter walking boots. These should be at least B1 grade to cope with moderate snow and ice and to be used with crampons where necessary. Appropriate crampons to fit the boots will also be necessary for walking over snow and ice, as will an ice axe and a helmet to protect from falling ice or rocks and goggles should also be worn to ensure good visibility at all times.
Walking poles can be very helpful for steep terrain. It is important to have proper training in using ice axes and crampons and local winter skills courses are available for this. Many can be found at www.walkhighlands.co.uk/guides.shtml.
Layering up is another top tip, as is carrying spare clothing such as a fleece or insulated jacket in a rucksack. These should include a base layer top and bottoms, mid-weight fleece, winter walking/soft shell trousers, waterproof outer layer including jacket and trousers/salopettes.
Thick socks should also be worn, along with a hat and buff combo or balaclava and gloves.