Winter Conditions

Winter Conditions

Recognition of likely winter conditions can lead to you to plan a more appropriate route.

See main Advice & Info section of this site.

Winter Conditions 

Winter Conditions

It doesn't have to be winter for the mountains to be in winter conditions.


Winter conditions can be defined as a time when there is already snow/ice on the hill, or forecast that snow may fall or the temperature may decrease such that ice may form.

Winter Conditions
On the basis that a summer walker may progress to winter walking, the following advice is given: always carry an ice axe and crampons when there is snow and ice present or forecast to be, as a) the crampons may stop you from slipping, and b) if you slip, an ice axe may mean you can arrest your fall. Learn how to use them properly, perhaps with a winter skills course (see training section).

The following is a picture of Snowdon's Pyg Track a week after heavy snow. It was clear from the bottom of the mountain that snow was present, but there was an alarming number of people walking on the narrow 'snow track' who had no winter gear. One guy was wearing trainers. 

A slip off the track at this point, without an ace axe to arrest the fall, would most likely have resulted in serious injury and being evacuated by mountain rescue - see news link below. The slide would have been uncontrollable and for a couple of hundred feet, with a few large rocks protruding from the snow slope, thus the potential to hit one on the way down. The end result could also be death. A bad end to a day in the hills, for sure.

Additional Difficulties

Winter conditions pose more dangers to the hill walker, and although this site is not aimed at exploring winter specific issues, some are listed here so that summer walkers can contemplate whether they are sufficiently skilled to embark on a winter journey onto the hills and mountains of the UK.

  • navigation becomes more difficult as features are covered by snow. Streams and small lakes disappear
  • paths become hidden, meaning that a higher standard of navigation is more likely to be required
  • easy paths become deadly with a covering of ice, with the ice possibly hiding under a thin layer of snow
  • shorter days - meaning less time for walking - feeding into your route planning
  • conditions underfoot - deep snow can slow progress to a halt
  • snow hides rocks, which can make foot placement awkward and slipperly
  • wind-chill is more pronounced as temperatures are lower
  • weather is generally more harsh
  • additional kit needs to be carried
  • additional skills required to use crampons & ice axe
  • in an emergency situation, any wait for rescue services will be a cold one - a good survival bag would be required


Always check the weather forecast when planning your route. If snow in the valleys has melted, there's a chance that it may still be present higher up. Check local information, webcams, online forums etc and know the likely conditions for your intended route before finally deciding.


Everyone has to start somewhere when progressing to winter walking. The recommendation is to attend a winter skills training course, which will equip you with some of the skills that you don't want to learn on the fly!