Weather conditions in the mountains can and do change extremely quick, especially during autumn, winter and early spring, conditions on the tops and the higher you climb will be hugely different to that in the lowlands. The following items are regarded as essential for high-level winter hill walking, mountaineering and climbing and it is vital that clients be fully prepared for and have the necessary gear to deal with the extreme and at times severe conditions experienced in the harsh mountain environment. Your guide will carry a group shelter, basic first-aid kit, technical climbing gear, navigation equipment and provide any ropes if needed.


A 30–40 litre backpack is recommended and should have a waist and a chest strap.


Backpacks are generally not waterproof and the rain covers that come with them are not that dependable (they blow off, are not that waterproof either and in strong winds act like a kite) so it is best to just use a dry bag inside your pack. Special purpose dry bags are available in various sizes but a cheaper and simpler option is a black refuse sack to line the inside of the entire rucksack and individual luncheon/zip lock bags for keeping car keys, wallet and phone giving extra protection to these vulnerable items.


Waterproof / windproof jacket and over trousers: 

Wet is the enemy of warmth, so decent waterproofs are essential to keep you dry. For winter it is highly recommended that both tops and trousers are of a breathable fabric such as GoreTex or EVent or similar comparative fabric which allows breathability/venting and as a result allows sweat vapor to escape, otherwise you’ll have the potential of being wet from the “inside out” as condensation builds up on the inside. Make sure over trousers they have a full length or ¾ zip so you can get them on over your boots.


Make sure you choose trousers that are stretchy, comfortable and allow enough space to move your legs freely. It is advisable that they are not too thin and possibly contain a warm insulated layer. Denims are NOT acceptable, dry very slowly once they get wet and in turn extract vital heat from the body.

Warm inner base layer: 

A sports type base layer of moisture wicking material works best such as a sports jersey, jogging or gym top. This will help evaporate off any sweat and stop you feeling the chill when you stop. Cotton is best avoided as it traps moisture and hence doesn’t allow this to happen and when damp, stays damp!

Mid Layer/Warmth layers: 

It is better to wear several relatively thin layers than a single thick one so you can more easily adjust your temperature. The Mid Layer absorbs the moisture from your base layer and generally this layer can be wool or fleece which both stay warm when wet, fleece being lighter and quicker to dry. Like the base layer, various fleeces are available to suit different seasons or activities. Micro fleeces are very popular as are windproof fleeces which have the advantage of keeping a chill wind off the body. All are available in crew or zip top neck, this is a personal choice, and fleeces with zips allow more temperature control than crew neck types.


Walking Socks: 

A good pair of hiking socks can make all the difference between an enjoyable hike and an uncomfortable one. The best walking socks are non-cotton and high wicking, meaning they move moisture away from your feet to help regulate temperature and keep them dry, prevent blisters and avoid ‘hot-spots’.

Head wear: 

Warm hat or beanie. Neck gaiters / ‘buffs’ can also be useful. Consider sun protection/ lip balm as it is still possible to get burnt during Winter.


Gloves should be insulated, waterproof and long enough to cover wrists. It is advisable to take more than one pair as well as a thinner pair of liners. Consider mitts – they are warmer than gloves, but at the expense of dexterity.


Gaiters provide protection from water and snow, add some insulation and guard against crampon snagging.

Adequate amount of drink: 

You will require at least a litre. A sweet sugary drink is always a welcome treat and perhaps a flask of hot drink in colder weather.

Lunch and snacks: 

Bring enough but don’t overdo it as remember, you have to carry it all! When packing your lunch, it doesn’t have to be a slapdash effort, you deserve to feast well on slow releasing carbohydrates that replace the energy you use. It’s important to bring something you will really enjoy and can eat easily. A lightweight lunch box is recommended as it will help avoid your food getting squashed! Consider the temperatures and avoid chocolate goodies if it is warm as these will just melt, while chewy sweets can be a dental nightmare in cold conditions. A trail mix combination of nuts and dried fruit, is a great source of energy.

Head Torch: A vital piece of standard winter kit + Spare batteries


Boots can be categorized into 4 categories – trail shoes, hiking boots, backpacking boots and mountaineering boots. In winter, only consider the use of mountaineering boots. This type of boot can be made of leather, fabric, plastic or a combination of any of the three.

The 4 categories of mountaineering boots: B0, B1, B2 and B3.


B0 boots are 3 season boots and are not designed for winter use.

B1 boots are 4 season with a semi-stiffened mid-sole to take crampons and a more supportive upper. These boots do not have the toe or heal lips to take mountaineering crampons, therefore can only be used with type C1 crampons (see below).

B2 boots have a near fully stiffened mid-sole, higher ankle profile, thicker upper. Suitable for general winter walking, glacial terrain and mid-grade climbing. These boots are designed to take crampons with heel-clip bindings, but they can also use C1 crampons.

B3 boots are totally rigid, usually plastic and have the facility for heel clips and wire toe balls. These are suitable for general walking, hard ice climbing, glacial terrain and high altitude mountaineering.


There is a huge variety of ice-axes with different shapes and sizes. They can be divided into three broad categories – walking, mountaineering and technical. In general ice axes comprise of a shaft with a head at the top and a spike at the bottom. The head on most axes will have a pick at one end and an adze (a small shovel or scoop) at the other.

Walking ice-axe:
A walking ice axe is typically 55-75cm long, with a straight shaft and basic adze. These axes will have a ‘B’ (for basic) branded onto the adze or elsewhere. Better quality walking ice-axes may have a rubber grip on the lower shaft. Axes can come with a leash which when connected to the wrist avoids accidental dropping down a slope.

Mountaineering axe:
Mountaineering axes are slightly shorter than general walking axes. Most have a straight shaft, though some do have a slight bend in the upper part of the shaft which aids swing when cutting steps in ice. The pick is more curved and the shaft is stronger than a walking ice-axe, therefore better suited for use with ropes and hooking. This type of axe will have a ‘T’ (for technical) branded onto the adze or elsewhere.


Crampons are classed C1, C2 and C3


C1 crampons
C1 flexible crampons have typically 8-10 points and are fully strapped or have a flexible cradle/strap combination. For general winter walking C1 crampons are fine and can be attached to most boots.


C2 crampons
C2 articulated crampons tend to have 10-12 points and likely a cradle/heel-clip attachment. C2 Crampons can only be used with B2 or B3 boots. With more pronounced front points than C1s, C2 crampons are fine for steep walking, scrambling or mid-grade climbing, but are also acceptable for walking on easy angled terrain.


C3 crampons
C3 rigid crampons are technical crampons for winter climbing and can only be attached to B3 boots. Due to their weight and stiffness, this type is not recommended for general winter walking.


All new crampons come with anti-balling plates. These are flexible plastic sections designed to prevent snow build-up on the underside of crampons. Check the size of crampons before buying, if you have large feet, you may have to buy an extender-bar.

The following are also highly recommended for winter walking and mountaineering:

– Walking Pole/Poles: Assist forward movement, reduce impact on your knees, and help with balance in difficult, uneven and boggy terrain. A pair is best but many hikers also just use one.
– Re-sealable plastic bags to keep equipment/phones dry
– Camera
– Sun Glasses

– Sun Cream

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