Climbing winter routes in the UK has given me some of my most memorable and enjoyable days out climbing, however being based in London means I like to make sure that routes are ‘in’ before I make the long and expensive drive north. Fortunately in recent years this has become a lot easier because of the great resources available on the internet. I have put together some of those resources that I have found to be invaluable.
My first port of call is always the weather. During winter I watch the TV forecast on a daily basis, I like to have a general picture of what is going on and what has happened over the weeks leading up to a trip. I then keep an eye on a few websites, I keep this to a minimum as I don’t like to feel as though I’m looking for a forecast that fits what I want, let the information dictate your plans.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/ - Good old auntie for a good general outlook. The pressure charts are useful and the UK video forecast is good if you miss the TV bulletins.
http://www.metcheck.com/UK/ - Plug in the location you are interested in and up comes the information in a number of different time formats.
http://www.mwis.org.uk/ - My favourite, it’s accurate and tailored to the various mountain regions in the UK. They also have links to a number of instructor blogs, more on that below.
There are a huge number of other weather sites out their giving all sorts of different information in different formats. They are interesting to look at but I have never felt the need to over compliment my decision making with too much data. I have found the above four links to be enough to get many good days out on the hill.
My next step is to look at the avalanche risk.
http://www.sais.gov.uk/ - For Scotland this is the one great resource. The latest forecast is invaluable and there are useful area blogs for key climbing areas which give further information.
I always check this after the weather as I like to make my own mind up about how slopes might load rather than just take a forecast for granted. In the mountains we are all responsible for our own decision making and localised loading can take place which is best read/examined on the hill rather than on a website or a bit of paper.
Blogs and Webcams.
There are hundreds of these. They give a general idea of what people have been getting done. Lots of instructors put out information, though the downside can be that once the word is out the routes can get mobbed! Web cams are also fantastic as there’s nothing quite like seeing for real how a mountain is covered, there can be any exaggerations!
So in no particular order here are a few that I’ve used: