Winter training tips
Whether you are out rock climbing or hill walking this winter, take note of these pointers from mountaineer, Everest climber and OS Champion Bonita Norris.

Winter training tips

Having become the youngest woman from the UK to climb Everest, at just 22, the English adventurer knows a thing or two about working out in cold conditions.
The OS Champion uses running as the basis of her fitness over winter and says it's her favourite time of year to get outside.

"Winter is beautiful and the best time of year to exercise," she explains. "Some popular places are crazy busy in summer, but if you make the effort you can be rewarded with peace and quiet and a very different-looking place. And it feels like it's all yours."

However she's also quick to point out the importance of thorough preparation, utilising the correct kit and respecting the conditions.

Here are her key pieces of advice:

1. Get your clothing right: This makes a huge difference in winter whether you're climbing or hill walking. I go rock climbing probably once a month during this time and a day spent climbing is not like normal outdoors exercise. There are long bouts of sitting around between climbs and belaying or spotting your climbing partner, followed by short bursts of climbing, which puts lots of stress through tendons - not good if you've got cold while sitting around.
When I'm resting between climbs I'll be wearing two or three down jackets, gloves and hand warmers. I'll also have super thick socks on to keep my feet warm. Putting on climbing shoes with cold feet is really unpleasant. I wear the minus 50° mittens I wore on my Everest summit day to keep my fingers warm, and get a lot of jealous looks from other climbers for those.

I then run and jump around for 10 minutes before I tie into the rope, and the moment I'm ready to climb I whip off all the extra layers and go up in just a base layer, as I know I'll start getting hot really fast as soon as I'm off the ground.
2. Start early, finish early: If you’re going to start hill walking this winter I’d always recommend getting up really early and getting back early – this is what I was taught - start in the dark, finish in daylight, not the other way around. You're less energised at the end of the day, and if you get caught out in the dark when you're tired, you could have an epic on your hands. In winter, it's good to start before dawn - you get to appreciate the amazing sunrises from whatever hill you're climbing.

3. Get your bearings: Winter navigation skills are a must for anyone venturing into the hills at this time of year. One New Year’s Eve my group got lost in the Cairngorms in a near white-out. It was nearly midnight by the time we found ourselves back at the car. We were tired after a long day and took a wrong bearing, it's easily done if you're not used to navigating in winter conditions.
My advice would be to use more than one navigation method – have a back-up. Always take a spare GPS and keep the batteries warm by having them close to your skin (ladies I put mine in my sports bra!).

Always take a paper map if you're going to be using a phone to navigate in case it loses charge. And make sure you can take a bearing with a compass and follow it successfully.

Refresh your map-reading skills for every eventuality, not least because the British weather can change so quickly.

[If you haven't done so already then be sure to check out this set of videos from another OS Champion in Steve Backshall as he runs through how to read a map and use a compass.]

4. Be bold and stand out: If you're going to buy a new winter kit this year, try to buy something bright and colourful. Black or dark navy/dark purple jackets are harder to spot against a winter landscape and this could make a huge difference in an emergency.
5. Down to a T: I love taking a hot flask when climbing or hill walking. Never underestimate the impact a cup of hot tea can have on you mentally and physically when you’re cold and a bit tired! It’s one of the best feelings in the world and can be a lifesaver, too.

  • Looking for a walk this winter? We've got hundreds to choose from in our Challenges and Events sections.

As part of the #GetOutside campaign, Ordnance Survey is asking for people to make their own pledges – from walking the dog longer and further, to scaling Britain’s highest summits. Anyone looking for more fresh air and to get active can pin their pledge to the map through the #GetOutside website -

There is also the added incentive of a weekly draw to support the best pledges and the handing out vouchers to support the activities – from ice cream vouchers for the family, to a pair of new walking boots for that ultimate challenge.

The campaign was created by OS in response to new research findings which show that a quarter of the British public won’t walk anywhere that takes over 15 minutes.

Ordnance Survey is also looking for inspirational adventurers that are passionate and enthusiastic about Britain, and who are great at motivating others to get out there and enjoy it, to join Bonita as well as wildlife presenter and naturalist Steve Backshall and endurance adventurer Sean Conway as champions of the campaign - click here to nominate someone.


1000's of events, challenges and trips to choose from...

Find my next goal
Need any help?

If you would like any help or advice, please contact our helpdesk.

Email us Chat now

Related articles