12 Winter Hiking Tips | Winter Trekking and Climbing

12 Winter Hiking Tips

12 Winter Hiking Tips from Snowy Eryri (Snowdonia) by Gerwyn Roberts

With the recent blanket of snow transforming the rugged landscapes of Eryri (Snowdonia) into a winter wanderers paradise, here’s some great winter hiking tips from our locally based Mountain Leader, Gerwyn Roberts. Gerwyn is born and breed in Eryri and has worked with Adventurous Ewe for a number of years leading treks and cycling challenges across the varied Welsh terrain so he’s perfectly placed to help you make the most of the great outdoors during the winter months…..

When the days become shorter and the weather gets colder, it’s easy to lose the urge to go outside. However if you take the steps and venture outdoors, you’ll discover that hiking and running in the snow can be a lot of fun. It may even elevate your spirits and improve your mental health if you shift your attitude and utilise these winter hiking and running tactics. I made the most of the snow while it’s here in Eryri. I spent my time running and scrambling in the mountains. The weather was epic, it felt like I was in the alps. But even though the mountains do look picturesque in the winter, the weather and conditions can change very quickly. Recently I saw many hikers on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) in just trainers and poor clothing which is far from ideal especially since white out conditions were expereinced. It’s very important to be prepared no matter how many times you’ve hiked Yr Wyddfa or any other mountain.

12 Winter Hiking Tips from Snowdonia

Here are several additional winter tips to be aware of that differ from hiking and running in other seasons:

  1. Trek in the light. Daylight hours are shorter in winter, so have a plan and hit the trail early to avoid being out in the dark. Always carry a head torch just in case.
  2. Make a plan. Hitting the trails in the winter hiking takes longer than the summer – you tend to move slower and encounter more obstacles. Plan accordingly and always check the weather forecast. I use Mountain Weather Information Service, MWIS
  3. Back up. Technological devices tend to malfunction in cold temperatures, so be prepared by bringing extra batteries or battery packs and try to keep your devices warm. Don’t rely solely on your phone and keep it in airplane mode to reduce power use.
  4. Navigation know how. Snowpack can hide the trail, trail markers and cairns making it easier to get lost. Pay attention and if you’re unsure, turn back or ensure you have a means of calling for help. Plus always let someone know your plans and when you expect to finish.
  5. Eat up. Exercising in winter burns more calories, so you need to stay nourished. This will help keep you warm, too.
  6. Drink up. Dehydration expedites the onset of hypothermia, so stay hydrated. I love to make a hot vimto with a dash of honey to drink in the mountains.
  7. Keep breaks short. Keep moving to keep yourself warm. The longer you stop, the more time your body has to cool down, so keep breaks as short as possible if you are hiking in a cold climate.
  8. Layer up. Layering your clothing is the best way to stay warm and dry, without getting extremely sweaty once you get to a more challenging part of the track. Start off with a base layer, which transports your sweat away from your skin (wear merino wool or wicking fabrics, do not wear cotton). Then add a middle layer for insulation. Lastly, wear an outer layer as a shell will shield you from wind, rain, and snow. 
  9. Cover up. Your skin is your largest organ and very much worthy of protection. Covering your skin is going to prevent it from exposure and potential frostbite caused by low temperatures and the freezing winter breeze.
  10. Rack up. Pack some crampons or microspikes in your bag to avoid slipping on ice. If you don’t have this equipment, then don’t venture onto any icy terrain.
  11. Pack up. Pack spare clothing, plus a foil blanket and shelter! Pack all your kit inside a dry bag to keep your gear dry.
  12. Know your limits. If you don’t feel confident in heading out into the mountains during the winter season, why not join Adventurous Ewe on their exclusive Snowdonia Winter 7 Summit Trek? Or get in touch with them to book a private local Mountain Leader such as myself.

I hope you find these 12 winter hiking tips useful. So get outside and enjoy the frozen wilderness in a safe manner. If you need some inspiration on some other winter hiking adventures, check out these multi-day treks. There’s plenty of places to explore during the quieter winter months.

Gerwyn Roberts Photogaphy