Go away, build a snow hole and sleep in it
The perils of extreme weather discourage most from winter ventures into the hills. Rupert Isaacson combines an invigorating short break with essential lessons in survival; UK OUTDOORS
Sunday 09 February 1997
It does not have to be like that though. A guided course in winter mountaineering skills under qualified instruction seriously lessens the chance of your getting into trouble on the hill. Navigation, winter skills, such as digging snow-holes, avoiding avalanches and use of ice-axe and crampons, mountain first aid and scrambling - safely negotiating slippery and exposed ground - these are what a winter mountaineering course can offer. It's also a great way to cure the midwinter blues and get some wind in your hair. There are a number of centres offering courses in these skills, mostly to existing or would-be outdoor instructors and wilderness leaders.
However, John White's Mountain School in Cumbria is aimed more at introducing beginners to the winter hills. His weekend or week-long Winter Walking Skills courses teach you how to use an ice-axe - for moving on steep ground and for stopping yourself when sliding - and how to use crampons. Avalanche awareness and prediction, snow-holing and navigation are also taught. By arrangement, if weather conditions permit, and the general level of the group seems high enough, it might be possible to spend a night in a snow-hole, high up on the Cumbrian pikes.
You should be relatively fit - as if for a hillwalking trip - but you do not have to be superman or woman to take a basic course. Even if you never use it to full effect, what you learn with John White will certainly stand you in good stead the next time you go walking and the fog comes down, or you lose the trail and have to navigate your way with a compass. Winter Walking courses have a maximum instructor to student ratio of 1:6.
If you are more experienced - have learned some basic rope work and climbed and abseiled a little - the Winter Mountaineering course is probably your best bet. Covering the same curriculum as the introductory course, this next level goes on to include with some climbing techniques, basic rope skills, belaying (learning how to fix ropes safely for climbing and abseiling), ridge scrambling and more complicated navigation. By the end of the weekend you should have tackled one or two beginner winter climbing routes and should be able to go on to learn ice climbing. Winter mountaineering courses have a maximum instructor to student ratio of 1:4. John White's third weekend course, aimed at people who have already climbed some simple winter routes, is the Ice Climbing weekend. These go into the more specialised techniques of ice-axe and crampons, ropes and belays, and will get you up your first proper ice-climbing route, weather permitting, by the end of the weekend. The maximum instructor to student ratio for these advanced courses is 1:3.
The price of each course includes YHA accommodation. However, if you want a bed and breakfast or hotel, that can be arranged and the YHA accommodation price subtracted from the general tariff. All courses run from January to March. John White also organises six-day trips into the Sierra Nevada in Andalusia, Spain, during these times. However, these are for more experienced mountaineers. Beginners should stick to Cumbria.
With easy access from Ambleside (John White will collect from the bus or train station), this makes a feasible place for a weekend break if you're coming up from the south.
John White Mountain School, Garden Cottage, High Close, Langdale, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9HH. Tel 015394 37387.
Winter courses run to around the beginning of April, though rock-climbing and other mountaineering skills are taught all year.
Dormitory youth hostel-style accommodation provided; you can take a B&B room for a pounds 9 supplement, or stay in the excellent Langdale Hotel, 015394 37302, for pounds 60 a weekend.
Breakfast and packed lunch included.
Minimum age 8 years, special discounts for youths.
Clients require their own holiday insurance.
Staff trained in first aid and mountain rescue.
British Mountaineering Council.
Winter Walking weekend: pounds 99; Winter Mountaineering weekend: pounds 120; Ice Climbing Weekend: pounds 120. 6-day Winter Mountaineering course: pounds 295.
10% deposit required, non-refundable. Balance due two weeks before start date. Late bookings accepted if space available.
Ambleside is off the A591. If travelling by train (around 3hr 30min from London), take the Euston-Glasgow line and change at Oxenholme for Windermere, seven miles from Ambleside; free pick-ups arranged by centre. National Express buses also run to Windermere.
10 April 2015 07:00 PM
15 April 2015 12:56 PM
Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month
15 April 2015 07:27 AM
A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state
13 April 2015 11:39 AM
Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
02 April 2015 01:14 PM
Video: Tom McPhail, head of pensions at Hargreaves Lansdown, says May's outcome could alter your pension
30 March 2015 04:22 PM
Video: Simon Read talks to Fidelity's Tom Stevenson
01 April 2015 12:00 AM
Video: The Independent's Personal Finance Editor runs you through the key facts about Premium Bonds
27 March 2015 08:30 PM
27 March 2015 08:30 PM
20 March 2015 07:30 PM
Mark Dampier: 'We're on our own in retirement. They've pulled pensions to pieces'
Questions of Cash: I don't use Amazon Prime, but my credit card bill says I do
Donald MacInnes: 'I have to have £500 a month spare from now until at least 2035'
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
Defined-benefit pension schemes: Rebate change in 2016 may leave you out of pocket
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
General Election 2015: Polish prince challenges Nigel Farage to a duel over immigration question
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...
£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...
Day In a Page
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000