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The Catstycam Blog

  • Ice Axe & Crampons

    Knowing how to use ice axes and crampons opens up the whole of the Lake District in the winter. Winter walking is a lot of fun and makes you feel like Chris Bonington.

    When it snows people often come into the shop wanting a pair of crampons but without bringing boots that are suitable. Crampons aren’t cheap and after you have bought some good boots stiff enough to take them that is over £200 gone. If you are a novice at winter walking, get a walking axe, with a pick that is not too curved, and then spend a day with an instructor or experienced winter mountaineer, learning self arrest and how to cut a few steps on an icy stretch of  hillside. An ice axe is a lot more use to you than crampons. If you slip and fall (and you are much more likely to trip with crampons on,) an ice axe will stop you sliding down the hillside. Ideally you will have both crampons and an ice axe and a head full of knowledge on what to do with them, but if you are only buying one item, get an ice axe!!

    To use a pair of crampons your boots need to be classed as at least B1, which means they are quite stiff. It is no good trying to put crampons on soft flexible boots. You need stiff boots so you have a good platform under your foot that stays solid when you are strapped into the crampons. Your boots also need a sturdy upper or you will feel the crampon bindings digging into your foot. You can wear 8 point crampons like the Twin Peak with boots that aren’t really crampon rated as long as they are stiff and strong. Because the Twin Peak crampons don’t have front points and have shorter points than normal they are great for winter walking, but not suitable for winter climbing up steep ice. For this you need crampons with front points, and really stiff soled boots.  Please call us on 017684 82351 or email us on info@catstycam.com for more information if you are not sure if your boots will take a crampon.

    Always get someone with experience in winter walking and using this equipment to show you how to use it. If you don’t know anyone then go on a winter skills course before you head out on your own. Distant Horizons based near us on Ullswater will take individuals or groups (www.distant-horizons.co.uk) out for winter skills sessions. Learning to use this equipment properly is essential if you want to make the most out of our winters safely, and enjoy them to the maximum.

    If stiff boots and crampons are a bit too severe for you we have The Spider from Grivel. The Spider is a plastic plate with metal spikes like trekking pole tips that goes under your foot. This can be worn under any walking boots and is held in place by a webbing strap. It is great for frozen paths and pavements but is not meant as an alternative to crampons and does have limits.

    If all you want is to stay on your feet on frozen pavements we have Yak Trax which are like little metal snow chains for your shoes. These are not for hill walking but a great idea that slips onto almost any shoes easily.

  • Footwear

    All good walking boots have removable footbeds as they get worn out and need replacing long before the boots do. Upgrade to a shock absorbing footbed or to Superfeet to improve the fit of your footwear.

    Don’t forget to take out the existing footbed or your boots will be very tight. Always buy replacement footbeds on the larger size for your boots, then trim around the toes to make them fit. When the heel end is in place there should be a 1mm gap at the front to allow for the boot flexing. If your boots are slightly too big volume reducers that go under footbeds will make them a bit tighter. See Boot Fitting & Modification.

  • Fleece

    All fleeces can work as part of a layering system or on their own. Some are warmer than others and some are quite thin so you can wear more layers.

    The same principle for base layers works with fleece layers. You want water vapour to pass through it while it traps warm dry air inside. Whether you are wearing it on its own or as part of a layering system, the same principles apply.
    You need to consider how warm you want your fleece jacket to be. How much do you feel the cold, are you doing active sports or standing around where you will feel the cold more? Do you want a heavy fleece that feels warm and toasty, or a close fitting lightweight fleece with much less bulk?

    Full zip fleece jackets offer better ventilation than pullovers, and fleece gilets make a great warmth layer, keeping your body nice and warm while keeping your arms free of bulk.

    Kids Fleece. Children can feel the cold worse than adults, and they complain a lot more.
    If the fleece is for a child in a child carrier, remember they are not moving around so get colder quicker.

    Fleece Gloves. A rucksack essential around Glenridding. Summer & Winter.
    It’s worth carrying a thin pair of liner gloves in your pack all year round, it can always turn cold on the felltops. Through the winter you do need a good pair of gloves and you need to think if you want waterproof or just warm, and if so how warm?

    Fleece Hats. We all know that we lose most heat through our heads, so get a hat! From close fitting Beanies to crazy Russian furry hats, how warm and how practical do you like your hats?

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