Five mountain walks that are better served cold

Posted by Hanna Lindon on 25/11/2015
An icy Kinder Scout, ripe for exploring. Photo by Phil Tinkler/ Shutterstock.

Don’t let falling temperatures curtail your adventures in the hills. These wondrous wintery walks are even more brilliant in chilly conditions.

1. Kinder Plateau

It’s the highest point in one of the UK’s most visited national parks - so why doesn’t Kinder’s summit plateau seethe with walkers year-round? The answer is that it’s damn near impassable in all but the driest or coldest conditions, thanks to the pathless peat bogs that lure in and trap unwary walkers. If you want to explore this atmospheric but treacherous high ground (strong navigation skills essential), then wait for a good, hard freeze. Not only will the ground be far more manageable underfoot, you might also be treated to the spectacular sight of Kinder Downfall in all its frozen glory. It takes a serious drop in temperature to reduce the tallest waterfall in the Peak District to icicles - but when it happens, you will find few more beautiful sights anywhere in the country. 

2. The Greenburn Round

If you’re looking to tackle the Wainwrights then you might want to leave areas of the Central Fells until the first big freeze. Armboth Fell, High Seat, High Tove and Bleaberry Fell are all notoriously boggy in wet weather - but to really make the most of an iron-hard frost, have a crack at the Greenburn Round. At a bite-sized seven miles it’s easily shoehorned into a short winter day, and takes in Steel Fell, Calf Crag and Gibson Knott as well as the summit of popular Helm Crag. The area between Steel Fell and Calf Crag is a boot-sucker for most of the year but really comes into its own during a cold snap, and the views from the ridge are knockout without too much pant-wetting exposure. Finish up with a hot toddy in front of the fire at the Travellers Rest in Grasmere.       

3. The Tarmachan Ridge

If the first snowfall has you dreaming of white-blanketed ridges and yet you can’t quite muster up the courage to tackle a monster like the Aonach Eagach, get thee to Loch Tay in the Southern Highlands. The ridge that runs above the loch’s western end, spanning Meall nan Tarmachan, Meall Garbh and Beinn nan Eachan, is the perfect introduction to Scottish winter mountaineering - huge views, plenty of wow factor and just a small helping of fear as you traverse the bad step on Meall Garbh, and a point where the ridge pinches to just a few feet wide. You’re unlikely to need a rope unless the bad step is particularly icy, but you will need to be handy with an ice axe and have enough juice in the tank to handle an 11-kilometre route with 800 metres of ascent under winter conditions.   

4. The Glyders

Didn’t think it could get any better than a mid-summer round of the Glyderau? Try taking on the range’s two highest peaks under a thick covering of snow and ice. The most dramatic winter approach is via Cwm Idwal, where a tumbling cascade of steep ice falls offers a taste of the treats to come. Glyder Fawr’s 1001m summit - a barren landscape of broken rock in summer - is wonderfully ethereal given a sprinkling of snow, and the high-level romp over to Glyder Fach will unveil some of the most glorious wintery views in Wales. If you’ve had enough at this point then the dodgy scree descent on the south side of Bristly Ridge can prove far more amenable in good winter conditions. Otherwise, take the Miner’s Track back down via Llyn Bochlwyd to Ogwen Cottage. 

5. The Ring of Steall

Hoping to cut your winter teeth on a truly impressive mountaineering route? The Ring of Steall in the Mamores is one of Scotland’s real classics - a ten-mile, four-Munro epic, which can just about be crammed into a short winter day if you’re fit and experienced enough. It’s superb in summer and unreal under a cover of snow, with views and exposure to satisfy your wildest hill walking fantasies. Non-climbers needn’t panic - ropes shouldn’t be necessary - but the tricky sections around An Gearanach and the Devil’s Ridge have prompted some guide authors to give it a grade I rating. Start early and don’t tarry.

Heading out in winter conditions? Read our essential winter know-how


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