Es­cape a white­out

Trail (UK) - - CONTENTS -

QWhat’s the best way to sur­vive and nav­i­gate my­self out of a white­out? Steph Storey, via emai●

Pau● says A com­plete white­out can cause a mas­sive sen­sory loss, as you have no vis­ual ref­er­ence. So if head­ing out in snow, or a fore­cast of hill mist/fog, plan ahead for a pos­si­ble white­out.

Prac­tice your ice axe ar­rest and at­tach­ing cram­pons be­fore­hand, and check you have packed your gog­gles with change­able lenses (or­ange tint for low vis) and usual win­ter kit. A sat nav de­vice and ex­tra bat­ter­ies are ex­tremely use­ful, but preload maps, routes and near­est safe lo­ca­tions – for ex­am­ple huts – so they’re avail­able off­line, and check it has marked your start lo­ca­tion be­fore set­ting off.

Plan your route us­ing large fea­tures that won’t be ob­scured by snow, and use handrails and any un­miss­able catch­ing fea­tures. Forests can of­fer some pro­tec­tion. In a group, dis­cuss the es­cape route and what to do in a white­out be­fore leav­ing. Stay close to­gether, con­sider rop­ing up, ap­point a tail-end Char­lie to check bear­ings and en­sure no­body is left be­hind. Also it is use­ful to agree hand sig­nals be­fore leav­ing, as talk­ing in a bliz­zard can be im­pos­si­ble.

You will need ‘dead reck­on­ing‘ to nav­i­gate. Mark your map with dis­tance, di­rec­tion (bear­ing), du­ra­tion and dan­gers, and men­tally walk through the route so you know what to ex­pect. I mark key al­ti­tudes of way­points and note wind di­rec­tion and speed too, so I know which way I’ll be blown if my path drifts in strong winds. And lastly, I set my al­time­ter be­fore leav­ing.

If con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rate, try wait­ing for 15 min­utes to see if it passes. If not, ei­ther get to lower ground or sit it out by find­ing a nat­u­ral in­den­ta­tion in the land­scape and use your storm shel­ter. If you can’t tell which way

■ Paul is co-founder of the UNS – a char­ity pro­vid­ing nav­i­ga­tion cour­ses for hill­walk­ers, with all prof­its go­ing back into the hills. Trail read­ers can cur­rently en­joy 10% off the School’s week­end nav­i­ga­tion cour­ses! Sim­ply go to www ul­ti­mate­nav­i­ga­tion­school.co.uk and en­ter ‘trail18s’ at the check­out for your dis­count.

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