It may seem a little late in the season to be writing about preparing for winter. After all, it is January. But I was saving this post as a way to explain how I get my kit in order before heading off on a winter mountaineering trip. Since the trip to Scotland I had in mind now seems vanishingly unlikely, I may as well just tell you anyway.
1. Find all your kit
Starting with an obvious but crutical one: make sure you can find all your kit. Yes, really check. It saves the last minute panic of being certain you had something but being unable to find it where it should be. Even the best kit-filing system can go awry.
Once you’ve found everything, the check it’s all up to standard and in good working order. For example, making sure there is no visable damage and everything works the way it should. Check your ice axe seems sound, your helmet isn’t damaged and your torch actually turns on. Ridiculously dim torches normally catch me out at this time of the year. Replace or replenish those batteries.
2. Crampon TLC
Related to the above – I’m very bad at looking after my crampons. Or at least, I could be a lot better. Mine are still fairly new and sharp-ish, but there is a bit of rust developing. The general consensus seems to be that a little bit of surface rust is fine on crampons and to be expected. You can give them a little bit of TLC with wire wool, but it won’t stop further rusting. Some people put WD-40 on it before storage. I’d be inclined to try vaseline, but haven’t so far!
It does also help to clean and dry them properly at the end of your last trip, before forgetting about them for half a year. Also, if you’re curious about my crampon bag, I made it out of an old pair of jeans and milk bottles. Instructions here: How To Make A Crampon Bag From Jeans And Milk Bottles
3. Cleaning and polishing boots
I get a bit lazy with boot cleaning over the summer. It’s easily done when you aren’t coming back from every walk covered in mud. As the weather gets wetter and colder, I make a point of giving my leather boots a clean and waterproofing. They are what you’d call “summer” boots (B0) but I wear them year round on Dartmoor.
I used to use things like Nikwak (and still do sometimes for boots that aren’t straightforward leather), but found it not to be very effective. Now I just wash my boots in a bucket of warm water – or possibly several, depending on the amount of mud. Then I wait for the leather to mostly air dry away from heat sources. Finally, I use a liberal coating of saddle polish, applied using a medical glove.
I take no credit for this method: a friend taught me when I bought my first pair of leather walking boots. But it works a treat.
4. Reproofing jackets and trousers
It’s about the turn of the autumn when I start to notice if my jackets aren’t beading any more. It feels hard to justify taking the time out to reproof an old jacket – especially when you wear it almost daily. But it is well worth it in the long run. I try to get it in early in the season, or just before a big trip. Other than waterproof trousers and jacket, I’ll do softshells and gaiters too.
5. Repairs and Alterations
Another “I’ll get around to it” sort of a task. If anything needs sewing up, patching or gluing now is the time to do it. For instance, I’ve got holes in the ends of most fingers on my liner gloves. (This seems to happen on all my pairs – and I swear I don’t have claws! Why does this happen so much?) There’s also a gaping tear opening up in one of my gaiters that needs a new patch and some seam grip.
I probably should have mentioned this before reproofing. Typically, I’d clean the fabric, then do the alteration, then reproof the fabric. I’ve levelled up my waterproof trousers in this way by adding cordura patches on the knees and back.