Low Cloud

Low Cloud

Low cloud is a common feature of mountain weather

Low Cloud 

Low Cloud


How are Clouds Formed

At a basic level, clouds are formed when there is moisture present in the air, and that moist air rises to an altitude and to a temperature where the moisture condenses, and forms clouds. Mountain areas are more susceptible to cloud, as they force air upwards, which cools the air and forms clouds. (See also temperature.)

For more info on clouds, The Met Office have a great web page, which can be found here.

Walking in the Cloud
Given the higher propensity for mountain areas to have more cloud than lowlands, it's likely that at some point in your walking career you will find yourself on a hill shrouded in low cloud (sometimes referred to as hill fog or mist). For some people, the thought of being in cloud and thus reduced visibility, is a scary thought. On calm days, for others, the cloud can be a soothing calm, only interrupted by voices of other walkers, invisible to the eye.

There are some challenges associated with low cloud, being:

  • loss of sense of direction, as visual reference points disappear
  • associated navigational difficulty
  • difficult to judge distance travelled
  • loss of view, which is always annoying!

Low cloud on the way up Steeple in the Lake District 

 Scoat Fell to Pillar
                 Image courtesy of ritesh3 CC by 2.0

White Outs

You may have heard the expression 'white out'. Low cloud alone is not a white out, thus the above pictures are not white outs. A proper white out exists only when there is snow on the ground; read more under the snow section.


Loss of visual reference points can mean that getting mislocated is more likely. The navigation section of this site provides guidance lots of advice and info about techniques to navigate and relocate yourself should you become mislocated. Top of the list is to know where you have been at certain times, which makes relocating yourself much more straightforward as it narrows the area in which you could be located. Making a note of times and location is a key point, and having a pad & pencil with you can help with that. See also feature tick-list.

Top Tips

  • Regularly check you direction against the map...
  • By taking a land to map bearing
  • Confirm that the actual direction of travel is equal to the intended direction of travel on the map

Higher Level Cloud

Higher level clouds can be used as a indications of the prevailing weather. More info on the Met Office cloud page.