The Weather and Your Route
Welcome to the second in our series of posts about planning an enjoyable and safe day out in the mountains. In this post we’ll talk about the weather and how it might affect your plans.
Where do I look?
Whether it be a small hill or a big mountain, the weather can have a big impact on your day. As well as checking the forecast we also monitor the weather for at least five days before. Its always good to know what the weather is doing prior to you walking your route. If theres been a lot of heavy rain then the rivers could be in spate, the ground is likely to be sodden, if its cold then there might be patches of ice.
There are a number of sources to get weather forecasts from and we tend to aggregate from the following:
- The Mountain Weather Information Service is generally the go to for all mountain weather forecasting;
- The Met Office for specialist mountain weather forecasting is a great source;
- YR is a Norwegian site that we find is generally quite good with its localised forecasting;
- Magic Seaweed uses surface pressure charts to show incoming weather off the Atlantic (where the UKs weather generally comes from)
All of the above have apps available which are handy to have on your phone as well. MWIS and the Met Office are comprehensive enough, breaking down everything you need to need to know in a handy format.
Take some time to look at each to understand the information on offer.
What do I look for?
We normally check the forecast the night before and then the morning of our day. When checking the forecast its handy to have you map out with your route to understand which direction the weather is coming from and how it affects your route.
For the examples below we have taken the forecast from the Met Office.
It will give a quick summary and any weather hazards that you should take notice of. In this case the gales and wind chill effect would cause me some concern, especially if the route was across the direction of the wind. If I was doing a high ridge day then I might consider changing the route to avoid this.
The sunlight warning would mean I’d ensure I have enough protection such as long sleeves, a cap and sun cream.
What is the wind direction?
This indicates where any weather front is coming from and if you need to change your route. Taking into account the above example, if the wind is coming from the east and the route is on a high exposed ridge or east facing slope then it could be worth changing your route to stay out of the wind.
The Beaufort Scale will help you determine how strong the wind will be and what effect it will have on you.
Is it going to be wet?
Typically the forecast above does not show any rain but it would normally indicate how heavy the rain will be and what time its due to start or end.
If theres going to be heavy rain all day then it might be worth staying low and choosing a walk more sheltered. That being said, a bit of rain isnt likely to stop us going out. But if you have a group with inadequate boots and waterproofs then they’re going to have a miserable day.
How warm or cold?
The higher you go then the air pressure drops and it gets colder. Mountains can have their own weather environments so while it might be warm and sunny in the valley, at over 1000m it might be cold and wet. The forecast will show the expected temperatures at each elevation.
If its freezing, wet and windy then thats the ingriedients for hypothermia. If its too hot then you might need shade and sun block. The temperature will also determine the clothes you take.
Will there be much cloud?
If there’s a lot of cloud forecast then you really need to be spot on with your navigation or you could get lost in some pea soup conditions.
There is a lot to take in regarding the weather in the mountains and a lot of it comes from experience. The above is a generalised view on what to consider.
If you’re interested in learning then look for a free online course such as this one from Future Learn.
If you have any questions then leave a comment or drop us an email.
Next time we’ll look at the sort of gear you might need.