Note: This page is provided for for a brief informational page for Glasgow University Mountaineering Club Members only and is in no way a comprehensive guide. Please be safe and understand the participation statement that you will have agreed to to be a member of the club.
If anyone hasn't realised, you have signed away any blame that you can give to more experienced people and have agreed to take responsibility for yourself on trips.  That sounds harsh, so we help!!!   Winter weather is important so you need to keep an eye on the forecast coming up to a trip. I recommend the following:
The Met Office ( provides and overview for nearby cities and villages.When guessing whether it'll be icy on a hill, remember it gets colder about 1 degree for every 100m altitude gained, so 4 degrees in Fort William is about -8 on top of Ben Nevis. Add wind chill and you may want crampons, axe and an extra fleece!Compare it with the Mountain Weather Information Service (

The Met Office also has a more specific mountain areas forecast:


For winter you MUST keep an eye on the Avalanche Information Service (when it starts on the 15th Dec.)  Note the avalanche rose and direction of dangerous slopes:

There is also good advice on what you should be looking for and what you need to understand.  (There is never a situation where you can't go out, just where you can go.)
Avalanches happen when these layers, or slabs, slide off the one below. See the video in 3 above for a layer sliding off the one below or 4 and 5 to see the top of a slab (crown) after the rest has avalanched.
These layers build up after snowfall (avoid avalance prone slopes after snowfall) and during winds, when large amounts of snow (wind slab) can build up downwind of a high point.
What can you do about it?
  1. Keep an eye on the forecast so you know when fresh snow has fallen, the snow will stabilise over a few days or avalanche. In these conditions it's dangerous and the avalanche category will reflect that.
  2. Look at the avalanche rose, because you should be able to figure out the direction the windslab is built up on.
  3. Dig snow pits; the simpler the better. Dig down with your axe so you can see and touch the snow layers. Play with them to see how easily you can make them slide.
Remember that 92 percent of avalanche accidents are human triggered so don't follow others blindly.
Put MET office, MWIS and SAIS as favourites on your browser and waste studying time getting to know what each of them mean. Remember that you are also in a club that helps out so ASK if you have concerns!

Winter Skills

If you haven't got any winter skills, this is some suggestions of what you will be learning:

Crampons can be used several ways, these are shown here:

Different crampons fix in different ways, get them early and try them in the hall, then you know they fit.

The reason for an ice axe is self arrest. Here's Roger: (we think he should get an OBE.) It is essential to learn and practice, but is also really good fun too, so no excuses for not self arrest practicing down every slope you come to (so long as you can see that it is safe!) On a more serious note, I knew the theory of self arrest but had never practiced it the first time I went out in winter. I headed for a climb, but slipped on the way to it and went hurtling off. It is much harder to remember theory when rocks are approaching and I still have the scars from that day. My partner (who had no experience either) and I went off and found a safe slope and hurled ourselves down it for the rest of the day. (On your back with head downhill is hardest and the benchmark.)

Don't get too flustered because it sounds horrible, it's not. This is where the club comes in, as you can take assurance from someone else going out with you who has done it before.

Some more stuff on staying alive in winter:

Quite a few mentions of the obvious crampons and ice axe, which the club have to lend to you. Quite a few mentions of the not so obvious bothy bag, which the club also has to lend to you (if you don't know what one is, YOU are the MAIN person that should be borrowing one. Email me to get one, keep it in the bottom of your bag (it's like a emergency tent.)