Dave Sarkar, qualified Mountaineering Instructor and co-editor of the Gear magazine Climbing Gear Reviews page takes you through everything you need for going running in the mountains in winter.
Part 1 covered Navigation, Clothing packs – you can read the post here.
Hardware – Crampons, Axes, Heatdorches, Poles and Watches
So, in part 1 we got our navigation, clothing and feet sorted out now let’s look at covering steep ground. The big question is crampons or spikes? If you are just beginning to get out into the mountains or lacking in experience I would say stay away from steep ascents and descents and just aim to get out on less demanding terrain – in these cases spikes will work well. The Kahtoola Micro Spikes are ideal as they are lightweight, are easy and quick to fit and take up little pack space. They are also useful for verglassed rock and path as well as steep grass.
Crampons & Axes
Crampons are only suitable for steeper ground and the more experienced, they don’t work well with running shoes as the sole is too cushioned for them to work effectively. That said the Kahtoola KTS Hiking Crampon would work as they are amongst the most flexible crampons.
On top of that you shouldn’t be venturing out into the mountains in snowy conditions without an ice axe. I like a nice light one, but not the lightest you can buy. UK mountain conditions are very different to Europe, the snow is often shallower with rock or grass under or it is bullet hard, so I prefer a slightly heavier weight one. The Petzl Gully fits the bill nicely, it’s heavier than the Ride and has a sliding trigger for steeper terrain when needed.
The vast majority of your runs will have the axe stowed away. If you want to look like a pro then stow your axe through the haul loop (the loop at the top of the pack that is sometimes call the grab loop) and diagonally through the back. That way when you need to deploy it you can pull it out just like a samurai warrior! Remember to have a spike protector on – I’ve also used a bit of hosepipe to cover the whole pick (which is safer as well as cheaper).
Other items that you will need to pack are a decent headtorch, it’s an absolute pain to have to use a sub standard headtorch when you’re on technical ground in darkness. I used the Petzl Nao for a few years until I eventually found it a little too cumbersome (although the power was awesome and blinded everyone I looked at). For the last couple of years I’ve been using the Petzl Reactik+ which has been much better. I keep a spare Reactik battery pack which I use with AAA Lithium batteries, it’s lighter than a dedicated rechargeable battery pack. This has now been superseded by the Actik and Actik Core.
I always like to have a lightweight emergency bag and a tiny first aid kit too – the new Rab Ark is amazing (although I never plan to use it!) way lighter, and warmer than a standard orange bag (although it’s still orange) and at 105g there’s no excuse to not carry it. First aid wise I carry an Adventure Medical Kit .3 which is the lightest kit in the range but I’ve added a stretchy crepe bandage to mine which is a super versatile piece of kit to have.
Poles & Watches
Poles – I’m a huge pole fan and have been using the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z for ages. The only problem with these is that you can’t have snow baskets on them but that’s a small price to pay for the compact and light nature of these great poles.
Watches – I personally prefer a tracking watch to using my phone to record to Strava as every time I’ve used that in the mountains my phone has died within a couple of hours. That combination of continual use, cold and damp seems to kill my iPhone with astonishing regularity! Remember that with a watch you will need the skill to convert a grid reference to where you are on a map as a watch will not have good enough mapping to do that for you.
Facewest stock a great range of Suunto watches for most budgets and I would suggest a modern tracking one with a HR function so, like me, you can monitor your whole life! I would also recommend a chest HRM over a wrist HRM as that will give you some added metrics and is more accurate at reading your heart rate.
That just about covers it, with all that kit you should be fine for a day out running in the mountains, whatever the conditions throw at you. Remember that you should be able to get it all in a small day pack that cinches tight to your body.
I haven’t discussed food and drink (I’m a M&M’s, cheese and jelly baby man with a small amount of hot drink in a 500ml Nalgene bottle – I’ll top up at streams when I’m thirsty). No kit however will be a substitute for good general fitness, a weird love of suffering and pain but when it all comes together running through the mountains will be some of the best runs you will ever have.
Remember the training mantra – consistency (get out into the mountains as often as you can), gradualness (build your experience up gradually and over several years) and modularity (short periods of training and trips to the mountains to see how you are improving).
Dave Sarkar has over 30 years of experience in the UK mountains and beyond. He is a qualified Mountaineering Instructor and co-editor of the Gear magazine climbinggearreviews.com. He lives and climbs in Leeds and you will find him, most often at his spiritual home -Almscliffe Crag or running over the Yorkshire Dales.
Find more gear and clothing reviews at Climbing Gear Reviews page.