If we take Monday this week (27th November 2017) for example, then the conditions in the valleys were ok, windy and cold, with rain showers pulsing through with wet snow falling to lower levels. The tops however were a completely different story, with winds reaching 50mph and blizzard conditions in the shower, with of course the showers falling either as snow or hail or both and a wind chill of minus -15ºc or more!
With conditions forecast as such and knowing we were going to be spending time ascending and descending the summits of Skiddaw (possibly the windiest summit in the Lakes), Great Calva and Blencathra, with near zero degrees bogs to wade through we knew we would be getting cold, so the above clothing selection is pretty much what Charlie was wearing, plus he has a chest infection at the moment so he wanted to nurse that the best way he could whilst still heading out (our advice would be, don't head into the fells with a chest infection, better to nurse it at home... however....).
The pack you wear is almost as important as your waterproof jacket, meaning it must fit well and serve the purpose you need it for. There are a plethora of running packs from race vests to mini-exped packs.
For winter we advise between a 12L to 20L pack, depending on what you're doing.
We use a 12 litre pack for short runs, like around the Helvellyn Edges from home, or for longer foray's out Charlie prefers a 20L pack, especially when he's guiding, as a 20L pack allows him to take all the extra's and safety kit he feels he might need.
What he takes depends upon the weather, but below we'll list essentials and then 'nice to have's', that will become essential if the weather is particularly foul.
The packs we most like at the moment are Ultimate Direction, although we do also favour Montane and OMM as well.
Carrying water can be a problem during the winter months. Remember as well, each 1ml of water weighs 1 gram, so 1 litre of water is 1KG!
There are several methods, all tried and tested.
Ice Axe/Walking Axe - Having an ice axe is great, but remember its also essential how to use it. We can all manage to use the axe to gain height, hooking it into frozen turf and ice, maybe hooking it round a spiked rock.... but its still a skill, one might take to it well, another might struggle.
However, it is essential to be taught how to use your ice axe to break in case of a slip or fall. This is the main essential skill you really need to know about your axe. This is the skill that could literally save your life!
We recommend a really lightweight aluminium ski mountaineering racing axe for running, but there are plenty of other very light walking axes on the market. A 50cm shaft will be fine for most, as remember you are trying to move as light as possible through the fells and if you combine the weight of a proper winter pack, then you will realise its essential to get the lightest in all of the above.
Crampons, Spikes and Winter Shoes - Essential for hitting the snow-line. Many runners head into the hills without spikes and fair fine, but then the day you need them and don't have them, well thats a silly error. Better to carry them and not need them, than not carry them and find you really need them.
If you run in a pair of Inov8 Oroc's or something similar then you don't necessarily need spikes, although I prefer the use of spikes as they give great traction to all footwear, whether its a pair of trail shoes, running sandals or lightweight walking boots. They are extremely versatile.
We favour Kahtoola Microspikes for use on hard pack snow, ice and mixed ground like Striding Edge, when the snow is minimal or at least a dusting. They are perfect for running in the Lake District, but do have their limitations.
Kahtoola KTS Steels are the next step up and sit between a 'Microspike' and a full winter boot and crampon. KTS Steels allow you to run well in deep and drifted snow, whilst still working excellently on hard pack snow and can perform well on ice, but Microspikes work better when the snow is harder.
KTS Steels will take you into terrain where the terrain moves from running into mountaineering and its more than possible to climb up to Grade III ice, if the route is chosen carefully and the runner/climber possesses the skill set to do so.
Inov8 Oroc's, Ice Bug shoes and other 'dobbed' or spiked shoes will replace the idea of running with Microspikes on, they are a great addition to winter running, but in my mind not a full replacement for microspikes, I guess it depends on the terrain you run on.
We have some very special guests joining the Mountain Run Team for our 2018 skills weekends.
Charlie gives an inside view to competing in the Elite Class of the fabled OMM mountain race, one of the toughest of...