“Plans are useless but planning is indispensable” – Dwight D Eisenhower

Team Montane athletes Simon Yearsley & Malcolm Bass offer their tips on how to plan successful, regular winter route dates.


The biggest obstacle to getting winter routes done is the rest of our lives. Work. Love. Family. Christmas. Houses. Skiing. The second biggest, and far more frustrating, is our climbing partners’ lives. Of course we have our priorities in exactly the right order. But as for them, well they slew wildly between obsessive fanaticism and a total lack of commitment to the cause.

Stating the obvious: you can’t climb anything if you’re not there.

We have found the only way to get out reliably is to get the dates in the diary at the start of the winter. Firm fixed dates: “we will climb together on the weekend of the 6/7 Feb”.  Not: “let’s see how things are looking in February”. For most of us, climbing on a couple of fixed days off each week, it is almost impossible to pack, extract ourselves from our commitments, and get north or west on the very short notice that the fickle winter weather gives us. For the effective weekend warrior, Thursday night is for packing and weather forecasts, not for hunting for partners and re-scheduling the weekend.

Planning is indispensable: make firm intentions with trusty partners to go climbing on certain planned days throughout the winter. But, because plans are useless, plan nothing beyond that until a couple of days before.

Don’t book accommodation in advance. You will be wasting your deposit as that weekend it will blow south westerly at eighty miles and hour and be eight degrees on the summits. Or you will end up tied to accomodation in warm, wet Glencoe when Lochnagar is in stellar condition.

Don’t chose a venue till the last minute: when driving to Scotland from Yorkshire on Friday night Malcolm leaves it till just south of Glasgow to decide whether to go east or west. And often, in the face of hopeless forecasts, we end up not  going winter climbing at all. Save petrol. Save the planet. Train. Make other people happy. Do some work.

But should the forecast be good, should your long dreamt of route be in condition and your days free, your trusty (pre-booked) partner had better be free too. No report to write for Monday, no need to spend more time at home, no tickets for whatever. Of course I understand that other things can get in the way, life happens. Even if the weekend was in the diary. I understand. I’m not  a fanatic. I”ll understand and forgive that person, maybe even fix another date. Once.

But on the second occasion, on the second occasion that partner will be condemned forever to the howling void.

But it’s not going to be like that. Your partner will be on the phone, eager: “have you seen the forecast?”

Of course you have. And the pictures too. Virtually no wind. Cold. Great visibility. Every buttress lightly feathered with frost. Every crease and gully leaking styrofoam ice. Your days free.

” What do you fancy?”

Get the dates in the diary.

Read more about Simon and Malcolm on their Team Montane athlete profiles.

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