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West Highland Way winter novice

Can a relative novice walk the WHW solo in February?

You'll be fine!
Wait until Summer
Get some winter training/experience first
Total votes : 14

West Highland Way winter novice

Postby liveseaandsky » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:31 am

I'm a relative novice to backpacking and entirely new to doing it in winter conditions. I walked the Pennine Way in 18 days back in September, but that's all my experience aside from DofE.

I'm thinking of doing the WHW solo in the next month or so. I'm happy with my fitness level as I'm going to take it slow (I will have 10days+ to complete it in), and with my cold weather gear (Rab Neutrino Endurance 600, comfort -3C, limit -9.5C + silk liner, Thermarest XLite, MSR Freelite 2 and a Rab continuum jacket + a fleece). However, I'm concerned that my skills will not be up to it, I am a passable navigator but have had no winter/low visibility experience. I figure that if the worst comes to the worst I can always get in my tent + sleeping bag and wait out any bad conditions. I'll carry a phone for GPS coordinates as a backup to a map too.

I have some flexibility so can call it off if the weather forecast is awful.

Anyway, my question is whether or not you guys, with experience of this trail, think it would be foolish for me to tackle this trail in February?

Thanks a lot for any help in advance!
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Re: West Highland Way winter novice

Postby Mal Grey » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:39 am

I think the very fact you're asking in such a considered manner suggests you've got the right decision making attitude to it. As it mostly relatively low level (compared with summits), your escape options are fairly frequent. There are a few areas that you'll want a good forecast to start - over Rannoch and the Devil's Staircase for example. A little additional nav practice wouldn't be amiss, but if the snow line is above the moor, it should be straightforward.

I think the bigger decision for myself would be whether I'd enjoy the looooong dark nights for an extended period. 16 hours of darkness feels a long time in a small tent in the cold.

Go for it!
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Re: West Highland Way winter novice

Postby jmarkb » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:21 pm

Barring very heavy snowfall to low levels, the walking should not be much problem. The camping may be more of a challenge: long hours of darkness and hard to dry any gear that gets wet. As Mal says, it’s easy enough to bale out if you aren’t having fun, so no harm in having a go! Doing a practice night or two out beforehand wouldn’t go amiss, though.
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Re: West Highland Way winter novice

Postby rgf101 » Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:02 pm

I think your problem might be going too slow. 10+ days for the WHW is 10 miles a day. You'll be spending hours and hours in your chilly tent, or supping hot chocolates in the tea rooms and pubs.

I find I make more miles in winter than in summer on low level walks like that - there's a tendency to keep going to stay warm, rather than take long breaks and enjoy the sun.

Apart from that - grand, go for it, but make sure you know where your nearest accommodation options are and that you've got money to use them if things go pear-shaped.
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Re: West Highland Way winter novice

Postby liveseaandsky » Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:06 pm

I'm planning for it to take a lot less than 10days! I just have that long before I have to be anywhere else.
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