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Are you ready for winter?

For many people winter is the season when Scotland's hills and mountains truly come into their own - and when you see those crystal clear images of crisp, snowy peaks under a clear blue sky it's hard to argue against it.
But winter also throws in short days, battering winds, blinding white-outs and avalanches, so you have to be well prepared to venture out into the mountains with any degree of safety.
 
Take our fun quiz to test your winter skills and knowledge with a dozen questions to find out whether you're a mountain champ or just an abominable snowchump.
For many people winter is the season when Scotland's hills and mountains truly come into their own - and when you see those crystal clear images of crisp, snowy peaks under a clear blue sky it's hard to argue against it.
But winter also throws in short days, battering winds, blinding white-outs and avalanches, so you have to be well prepared to venture out into the mountains with any degree of safety.
 
Take our fun quiz to test your winter skills and knowledge with a dozen questions to find out whether you're a mountain champ or just an abominable snowchump.
1. What length is best for a general winter mountaineering axe?
When the head of the axe is held in your hand and your arm is down by your side the tip of the shaft should reach to your:
Knee
Top of your boot
The ground
Any length will do - it's the pick that's important
dtthtrhdrtrh
dtthtrhdrtrh
Correct. If the axe is too short the user is likely to start to bend over to use it as they are walking along, putting themselves out of balance. If the axe is too long then it is dangerous for carrying on the rucksack and cumbersome in the event of it being used to ice axe break. So length of ice axe depends on your height and should just touch the top of your boot when held by your side. Find out more about ice axes here.
Correct. If the axe is too short the user is likely to start to bend over to use it as they are walking along, putting themselves out of balance. If the axe is too long then it is dangerous for carrying on the rucksack and cumbersome in the event of it being used to ice axe break. So length of ice axe depends on your height and should just touch the top of your boot when held by your side. Find out more about ice axes here.
Wrong. Very short axes are designed for ice climbing. Trying to use such an axe for walking is going to put you out of balance. Too long an axe is going to be cumbersome if you have to use it to ice-axe brake and is dangerous when carried on your rucksack. So length of ice axe depends on your height and should just touch the top of your boot when held by your side. Find out more about ice axes here.
Wrong. Very short axes are designed for ice climbing. Trying to use such an axe for walking is going to put you out of balance. Too long an axe is going to be cumbersome if you have to use it to ice-axe brake and is dangerous when carried on your rucksack. So length of ice axe depends on your height and should just touch the top of your boot when held by your side. Find out more about ice axes here.
2. Are special boots required for winter hill walking?
Yes
No
Only if you're going to be on the steepest hills
Correct. Your boots are the most essential tool for enjoying the winter hills and it is essential that a rigid winter mountaineering boot is worn to stay safe. Rigid boots are vital for kicking steps in hard snow and for fitting your crampons to. Winter boots are rated with a ‘B’ rating system. Find out more about what you need from winter boots.
Correct. Your boots are the most essential tool for enjoying the winter hills and it is essential that a rigid winter mountaineering boot is worn to stay safe. Rigid boots are vital for kicking steps in hard snow and for fitting your crampons to. Winter boots are rated with a ‘B’ rating system. Find out more about what you need from winter boots.
Wrong. Sorry, but the answer is a big fat YES. Your boots are the most essential tool for enjoying the winter hills and it is essential that a rigid winter mountaineering boot is worn to stay safe. On hard snow or ice you can slide uncontrollably even on a gentle slope, and rigid boots are vital for kicking steps in hard snow and for fitting your crampons to. Winter boots are rated with a ‘B’ rating system. Find out more about winter boots.
Wrong. Sorry, but the answer is a big fat YES. Your boots are the most essential tool for enjoying the winter hills and it is essential that a rigid winter mountaineering boot is worn to stay safe. On hard snow or ice you can slide uncontrollably even on a gentle slope, and rigid boots are vital for kicking steps in hard snow and for fitting your crampons to. Winter boots are rated with a ‘B’ rating system. Find out more about winter boots.
3. I’ve heard that a pair of ‘micro spikes’ are a lot lighter and cheaper than a regular pair of crampons. So what sort of terrain can I use them on?
Anywhere. They’re ideal for big mountains where you want to keep the weight down.
Not on rocky mountains, but they’re fine for other hills
Nowhere. They’re simply dangerous
Great for flat forest tracks or pavements, but not for the hills.
Correct. Micro Spikes or similar are great for walking/running on icy flat tracks such as forest tracks or pavements. But because they are only attached with rubber, as soon as your foot is on a slope they will just roll off. It is true that they are cheaper and lighter than a regular pair of crampons, but if you are heading into the hills a proper pair of crampons is required which are compatible to your boots. Crampons, like boots are rated, this time with a ‘C’ rating. Find out more about choosing the correct crampons.

TOP TIP: When buying your crampons take your boots into the outdoor store to ensure you get a good fit and the appropriate crampon for your boot.

 

Correct. Micro Spikes or similar are great for walking/running on icy flat tracks such as forest tracks or pavements. But because they are only attached with rubber, as soon as your foot is on a slope they will just roll off. It is true that they are cheaper and lighter than a regular pair of crampons, but if you are heading into the hills a proper pair of crampons is required which are compatible to your boots. Crampons, like boots are rated, this time with a ‘C’ rating. Find out more about choosing the correct crampons.

TOP TIP: When buying your crampons take your boots into the outdoor store to ensure you get a good fit and the appropriate crampon for your boot.

 

Wrong. It is true that they are cheaper and lighter than a regular pair of crampons, but if you are heading into the hills a proper pair of crampons is required which are compatible to your boots. Because Micro Spikes and similar products are only attached with rubber, as soon as your foot is on a slope they will just roll off. They’re fine for forest tracks or pavements, but are a liability in the hills. Find out more about choosing the correct crampons.
Wrong. It is true that they are cheaper and lighter than a regular pair of crampons, but if you are heading into the hills a proper pair of crampons is required which are compatible to your boots. Because Micro Spikes and similar products are only attached with rubber, as soon as your foot is on a slope they will just roll off. They’re fine for forest tracks or pavements, but are a liability in the hills. Find out more about choosing the correct crampons.
4. We all know it can be pretty windy in winter in the Scottish hills. What is the highest wind speed I can go out in?
40-50 mph
50-60 mph
60-70 mph
It depends
Correct. Because there are so many variables such as underfoot conditions, physical ability, whether you are heading into the wind or if the is wind behind you. As a general rule 35 – 40 mph will start to affect your balance as a fit, strong adult. Over 70 mph is a show stopper. Read more about the effect of wind speeds in the mountains.
 

TOP TIP: A great mountain weather forecast can be found at www.mwis.org.uk

Correct. Because there are so many variables such as underfoot conditions, physical ability, whether you are heading into the wind or if the is wind behind you. As a general rule 35 – 40 mph will start to affect your balance as a fit, strong adult. Over 70 mph is a show stopper. Read more about the effect of wind speeds in the mountains.
 

TOP TIP: A great mountain weather forecast can be found at www.mwis.org.uk

Wrong. You’re certainly going to be thinking very carefully about whether to go out if the wind is approaching 70mph, and even at lower speeds you may want to moderate your plans, but it really does depend on so many other factors, such as underfoot conditions, wind direction, physical ability and fitness. Read more about the effect of wind speeds in the mountains.
 
TOP TIP: A great mountain weather forecast can be found at www.mwis.org.uk
 
Wrong. You’re certainly going to be thinking very carefully about whether to go out if the wind is approaching 70mph, and even at lower speeds you may want to moderate your plans, but it really does depend on so many other factors, such as underfoot conditions, wind direction, physical ability and fitness. Read more about the effect of wind speeds in the mountains.
 
TOP TIP: A great mountain weather forecast can be found at www.mwis.org.uk
 
5. Which, statistically, is the most dangerous avalanche warning?
Green (Low)
Yellow (Moderate)
Orange (Considerable)
Red (High)
Black (Very high)
Correct. It may seem counter-intuitive, but virtually all avalanche incidents in Scotland involving people occur on a Considerable rated slope. Why? Probably because people take a chance, assuming that the slope would have to be forecast as a High hazard before it is really dangerous. Read more about avalanches
 
TOP TIP: Do a thorough risk assessment before committing to a slope forecast as Considerable hazard. For more information check out the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service website www.sais.gov.uk
 
Correct. It may seem counter-intuitive, but virtually all avalanche incidents in Scotland involving people occur on a Considerable rated slope. Why? Probably because people take a chance, assuming that the slope would have to be forecast as a High hazard before it is really dangerous. Read more about avalanches
 
TOP TIP: Do a thorough risk assessment before committing to a slope forecast as Considerable hazard. For more information check out the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service website www.sais.gov.uk
 
Wrong. The correct answer is Orange (Considerable). Virtually all avalanche incidents in Scotland involving people occur on a Considerable rated slope. Why? Probably because people take a chance, assuming that the slope would have to be forecast as a High hazard before it is really dangerous. Read more about avalanches.
 
TOP TIP: Do a thorough risk assessment before committing to a slope forecast as Considerable hazard. For more information check out the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service website www.sais.gov.uk
 
Wrong. The correct answer is Orange (Considerable). Virtually all avalanche incidents in Scotland involving people occur on a Considerable rated slope. Why? Probably because people take a chance, assuming that the slope would have to be forecast as a High hazard before it is really dangerous. Read more about avalanches.
 
TOP TIP: Do a thorough risk assessment before committing to a slope forecast as Considerable hazard. For more information check out the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service website www.sais.gov.uk
 
6. On what angle of slope am I likely to trigger an avalanche?
20-30 degree angle
30-45 degree angle
45-60 degree angle
Correct. In fact the most common angle statistically is 38 degrees. However it no good knowing this information without being able to judge what angle of slope is in front of you. There are several practical ways to learn this and electronic devices are available to help you. Why not get the new Be Avalanche Aware (BAA) app which has a clinometer function as well as lots of other excellent information. There’s more information on avalanches here.
Correct. In fact the most common angle statistically is 38 degrees. However it no good knowing this information without being able to judge what angle of slope is in front of you. There are several practical ways to learn this and electronic devices are available to help you. Why not get the new Be Avalanche Aware (BAA) app which has a clinometer function as well as lots of other excellent information. There’s more information on avalanches here.
Wrong. The answer is 30 – 45 degree angle. In fact the most common angle statistically is 38 degrees. However it's no good knowing this information without being able to judge what angle of slope is in front of you. There are several practical ways to learn this and electronic devices available to help you. Why not get the new Be Avalanche Aware (BAA) app which has a clinometer function as well as lots of other excellent information. There’s more information on avalanches here.
Wrong. The answer is 30 – 45 degree angle. In fact the most common angle statistically is 38 degrees. However it's no good knowing this information without being able to judge what angle of slope is in front of you. There are several practical ways to learn this and electronic devices available to help you. Why not get the new Be Avalanche Aware (BAA) app which has a clinometer function as well as lots of other excellent information. There’s more information on avalanches here.
7. Tick the item below that ISN'T a recommended item for your rucksack this winter.
Bivi bag
Synthetic duvet jacket
Bag of sweets
Hot drink
Group shelter
Sit mat to keep your bum warm when you stop for lunch
Correct. A sit mat for your bum might seem a bright idea, but it’s likely to blow away as soon as you get it out of your rucksack – and most of us just sit on our rucksacks anyway. All of the other items are strongly recommended for your winter rucksack. See here for a comprehensive list of kit for winter.
Correct. A sit mat for your bum might seem a bright idea, but it’s likely to blow away as soon as you get it out of your rucksack – and most of us just sit on our rucksacks anyway. All of the other items are strongly recommended for your winter rucksack. See here for a comprehensive list of kit for winter.
Wrong. The only thing not recommended by the experts for your winter rucksack is the sit mat for your bum. It’s liable to blow away and probably isn’t as good a seat as your rucksack anyway. All the other items should be regarded as essentials, either to use on the day or to take as a precaution. See here for a comprehensive list of kit for winter.
Wrong. The only thing not recommended by the experts for your winter rucksack is the sit mat for your bum. It’s liable to blow away and probably isn’t as good a seat as your rucksack anyway. All the other items should be regarded as essentials, either to use on the day or to take as a precaution. See here for a comprehensive list of kit for winter.
8. Days out on the hill in winter can be both physically and mentally challenging. Which of the following sentences do you think should be at the forefront of your mind when it comes to planning your winter adventures?
I’m a fit strong hillwalker and can easily cope with a round of three Munros in winter.
Doing a day of 15km is very achievable for me.
My mate Brian did a circuit of the Ring of Steall last week and said it was amazing, and it only took him seven hours car to car, so that’s where I am heading on Saturday.
I’m going to look at the weather and avalanche forecasts to decide which is the best plan for my trip.
Correct. Doing your ‘homework’ is vital. What is an easy day under summer conditions can be very different in winter with high winds, deep snow and short daylight hours. Likewise, what was in great condition last week, could be totally out of the question this week.
 
TOP TIP: Don’t over estimate what you can achieve, it’s always easier to add onto a route than to over extend yourself.
 
Correct. Doing your ‘homework’ is vital. What is an easy day under summer conditions can be very different in winter with high winds, deep snow and short daylight hours. Likewise, what was in great condition last week, could be totally out of the question this week.
 
TOP TIP: Don’t over estimate what you can achieve, it’s always easier to add onto a route than to over extend yourself.
 
Wrong. What is an easy day under summer conditions can be very different in winter with high winds, deep snow and short daylight hours. Likewise, what was in great condition last week, could be totally out of the question this week. The correct answer is d), to do your homework, check the weather and avalanche forecasts, and decide on that basis what the best plan is for your trip.
 
TOP TIP: Don’t over estimate what you can achieve, it’s always easier to add onto a route than to over extend yourself.
Wrong. What is an easy day under summer conditions can be very different in winter with high winds, deep snow and short daylight hours. Likewise, what was in great condition last week, could be totally out of the question this week. The correct answer is d), to do your homework, check the weather and avalanche forecasts, and decide on that basis what the best plan is for your trip.
 
TOP TIP: Don’t over estimate what you can achieve, it’s always easier to add onto a route than to over extend yourself.
9. I’ve only ever used my GPS/phone to navigate in summer, is this still OK in winter?
A map and compass is essential as well as having the skill of how to use them
GPS/phone is way quicker and more accurate – it’s all you need
GPS/phone is fine, but make sure your companion has one too in case your batteries go down
You should stick with the method you know best
Correct. Particularly in winter, modern technology has its limitations both with battery life and accessibility. The cold will deplete the battery power far quicker than in summer and with big gloves on most electronic devices are inaccessible. This, combined with hostile conditions such as rain/snow, may render your electronic gadget unusable. A map and compass should always be your first choice in winter; electronic devices are an awesome addition to your navigation, but don’t rely on them. You can read more about navigation here. Need some winter navigation skills? Try one of our winter navigation courses.
Correct. Particularly in winter, modern technology has its limitations both with battery life and accessibility. The cold will deplete the battery power far quicker than in summer and with big gloves on most electronic devices are inaccessible. This, combined with hostile conditions such as rain/snow, may render your electronic gadget unusable. A map and compass should always be your first choice in winter; electronic devices are an awesome addition to your navigation, but don’t rely on them. You can read more about navigation here. Need some winter navigation skills? Try one of our winter navigation courses.
Wrong. Electronic Gadgets are a great tool and an important addition to your navigation ‘tool box’. However, particular in winter conditions their functionality can be severely impaired. Battery life will be shorter due to the effects of the cold, the screen may be difficult to read in hostile weather and impossible to operate with gloves on. Even a GPS with buttons will be challenging to use with big winter gloves/mitts.
Wrong. Electronic Gadgets are a great tool and an important addition to your navigation ‘tool box’. However, particular in winter conditions their functionality can be severely impaired. Battery life will be shorter due to the effects of the cold, the screen may be difficult to read in hostile weather and impossible to operate with gloves on. Even a GPS with buttons will be challenging to use with big winter gloves/mitts.
10. What does the term ‘wind chill’ mean?
Wind chill is a horror movie
Wind chill is the cooling effect of wind on exposed skin
Wind chill is a popular cocktail containing Russian vodka
Wind Chill is a brand of outdoor clothing.
Correct. Wind chill is the cooling effect wind has on people – the ‘feels like’ temperature – which can be much lower than the actual air temperature and can cause you to lose warmth much quicker than you’d expect. Check out this YouTube video from the Met Office for a very simple description of what wind chill is.
(In fact Wind Chill IS the name of a horror movie – but that’s not going to help you when you’re freezing solid on the hillside.)
Correct. Wind chill is the cooling effect wind has on people – the ‘feels like’ temperature – which can be much lower than the actual air temperature and can cause you to lose warmth much quicker than you’d expect. Check out this YouTube video from the Met Office for a very simple description of what wind chill is.
(In fact Wind Chill IS the name of a horror movie – but that’s not going to help you when you’re freezing solid on the hillside.)
Wrong. Well actually, Wind Chill IS the name of a horror movie, but the answer we’re looking for here is the cooling effect wind has on people – the ‘feels like’ temperature – which can be much lower than the actual air temperature and can cause you to lose warmth much quicker than you’d expect. Check out this YouTube video from the Met Office for a very simple description of what wind chill is.
Wrong. Well actually, Wind Chill IS the name of a horror movie, but the answer we’re looking for here is the cooling effect wind has on people – the ‘feels like’ temperature – which can be much lower than the actual air temperature and can cause you to lose warmth much quicker than you’d expect. Check out this YouTube video from the Met Office for a very simple description of what wind chill is.
11. How many pairs of gloves should I have with me in winter?
None
One
Two
Three
Correct. It might seem over the top, but there is nothing worse than having wet and cold hands, so the best answer is three. On a typical winter day on the hill, the gloves you set off in are likely to be damp with sweat from your ascent even if they are not wet from precipitation. We recommend having a pair to change into higher up - and also, of course, a spare pair, should one pair be mislaid or soaked.
Correct. It might seem over the top, but there is nothing worse than having wet and cold hands, so the best answer is three. On a typical winter day on the hill, the gloves you set off in are likely to be damp with sweat from your ascent even if they are not wet from precipitation. We recommend having a pair to change into higher up - and also, of course, a spare pair, should one pair be mislaid or soaked.
Wrong. It might seem over the top, but there is nothing worse than having wet and cold hands, so the best answer is three. On a typical winter day on the hill, the gloves you set off in are likely to be damp with sweat from your ascent even if they are not wet from precipitation. We recommend having a pair to change into higher up - and also, of course, a spare pair, should one pair be mislaid or soaked.
Wrong. It might seem over the top, but there is nothing worse than having wet and cold hands, so the best answer is three. On a typical winter day on the hill, the gloves you set off in are likely to be damp with sweat from your ascent even if they are not wet from precipitation. We recommend having a pair to change into higher up - and also, of course, a spare pair, should one pair be mislaid or soaked.
12. What is the best fill for an insulated winter jacket for the Scottish winter?
Artificial fibre
Down
Feather/down mix
Polystyrene balls
Correct. Weight for weight down will keep you warmer than most artificial fibres, but down rapidly loses its insulation properties when it gets wet. In consistently sub-zero temperatures this may not matter, but in a typical Scottish winter temperatures may hover around and go above zero, which means your clothes are more liable to get wet. Artificial fibres maintain their insulation far better in the wet.
Correct. Weight for weight down will keep you warmer than most artificial fibres, but down rapidly loses its insulation properties when it gets wet. In consistently sub-zero temperatures this may not matter, but in a typical Scottish winter temperatures may hover around and go above zero, which means your clothes are more liable to get wet. Artificial fibres maintain their insulation far better in the wet.
Wrong. Weight for weight down will keep you warmer than most artificial fibres, but it rapidly loses its insulation properties when it gets wet. In consistently sub-zero temperatures this may not matter, but in a typical Scottish winter temperatures may hover around and go above zero, which means your clothes are more liable to get wet. Artificial fibres maintain their insulation far better in the wet. A feather/down mix isn’t as warm as 100% down and is just as vulnerable to wet.
Wrong. Weight for weight down will keep you warmer than most artificial fibres, but it rapidly loses its insulation properties when it gets wet. In consistently sub-zero temperatures this may not matter, but in a typical Scottish winter temperatures may hover around and go above zero, which means your clothes are more liable to get wet. Artificial fibres maintain their insulation far better in the wet. A feather/down mix isn’t as warm as 100% down and is just as vulnerable to wet.
How do you think you got on there? Are you confident of your skill levels and knowledge? Or do you think you could do with a winter skills course before venturing out this winter?
Click on finish to get your results.
How do you think you got on there? Are you confident of your skill levels and knowledge? Or do you think you could do with a winter skills course before venturing out this winter?
Click on finish to get your results.
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