Managing yourself on the hill for Scotland winter mountaineering - The Mountain People
How well do you manage yourself on the hill – like a wolf?

Managing yourself on the hill for Scotland winter mountaineering



Managing yourself on the hill sounds a nice idea but for many of us the more urgent issue of getting ourselves to the hill takes the limelight. Especially after the first few blogs where we now realise not only have we got to get ourselves to Glen Coe but we also need to make sure we’ve got the right kit and that we are in reasonable physical condition.
When we get there we need to be slick in the way we put things together on the hill, the way we look after and manage our self. If we’re not, our hopes of adventure, friendship and fun in the Scottish mountains can easily be replaced with disappointment and frustration.
With this in mind, four tips to help us to be ready for “managing ourselves on the hill”:

Expensive time, cheap time


As an adult, I don’t often get told off. To my great surprise, I found myself being told off on an Alps trip for being late at the start of the day. The guide explained, “There is expensive time and cheap time. Cheap time is the evening before, expensive time is the morning before. Make sure you get ready in cheap time”.
Preparation is the key to success in mountaineering. Use the cheap time wisely – try out any new kit before you arrive, check your existing kit is fit for use, make sure you can get everything in your bag, know how to fit an ice axe to your bag, that sort of thing. Then, when you are on the trip, pack your bag as far as you can the evening before. Get up early enough to have breakfast and make lunch and sort out last minute things.

Saunas and ice baths

A single day Scottish winter mountaineering usually involves moving between sweating like you are in the desert to freezing like you are in the arctic. Kit and layers need to be taken on and off regularly. Similarly, conditions underfoot can move from wet soggy mud to gun-metal neve. Crampons get taken on and off more times than you’d wish for. And then, those super expensive guaranteed waterproof gloves get wet and cold. Time to change them for a dry pair from your bag.
All this means it is going to be helpful to have your kit well organised in your bag. Make sure you can get to your crampons easily and are ready to put them on and off. Think carefully about what “spares” you are going to take. I like to take three pairs of gloves or mitts, one pair to wear and two spare pairs in my bag. It can be very windy, have your map tied to something (if you hear a rumour that my map was whisked out of my hand in strong winds on my winter ML assessment it is not true).


Mental triggers

During the day, things happen, like a boot lace becoming loose. We consider the situation, realise to tighten the lace we’d need to take our gloves off, decide that would be cold and that the lace is not too loose and will be fine until we next stop. Essentially, we come to the comfortable conclusion that we, “Can’t be bothered”. If you find yourself having this thought, or similar, it is a mental trigger to say we need to address the situation now – shoelace, getting something to drink or eat, changing gloves, putting something warm on, getting goggles on etc. Good discipline is important.


Singing with the team

Some of us are probably already concerned a bit about our fitness. The increased speed with which we now walk up the stairs at home we know is not quite the preparation we originally had in mind. We fear that when we get out on the hill the pace may be a little more than we feel comfortable with.
Whether or not the pace is too quick it is good to recognise that manging yourself includes talking to others about how you are, the pace – too fast or slow, your comfort, your feet and those sorts of things. Set out each day ready to communicate how things are going for you.
And finally, looking after your attitude and morale are key to having great days in the mountain. Demanding conditions can easily take it out of a group leading to the team trudging along, in silence, for long periods of time. You don’t have to lead us in a song but choosing to be cheerful and friendly will bring big rewards for you and your group.

Categories: Blog, Mountaineering, Scotland
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