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Author interview: Stephen Goodwin, Winter Walks in the Lake District

Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Photo: Stephen Goodwin
Stephen Goodwin’s new guidebook Winter Walks in the Lake District is a collection of easy snow climbs and enjoyable fell walks to help you make the most of cold-weather outings. Following the book’s release, Stephen gave us an insight into the routes featured in the book, advice on winter walking and climbing and what he loves about rambling and scrambling in the snow.

You have written two other Vertebrate guidebooks: Lake District Climbs and Scrambles (2015) and Day Walks in the Lake District (2009). What will readers find that’s new in Winter Walks in the Lake District?
A dusting of snow or even a hoar frost transforms the hills. But cold, short days add a new seriousness. The clean rock of Helvellyn’s Striding Edge, for example, becomes a bristling snow and ice ridge, a very different proposition from summer, while modest fell tops can become anything from fairyland to the tundra, depending on the weather. And winter brings enchantment to coves and crags you might not be drawn to in summer. The change in the season brings changes to the routes you choose and how you tackle them. One new guidebook is barely enough!
What do you enjoy about walking in the Lake District in winter? 
The clean, crispness of the air after frost or snow, the feel in quieter places that you are treading new tracks (even when you know there’s a summer path buried beneath), sharing sandwiches with a raven – about the only bird that toughs it out on the tops in winter – the sheer wonderment that a landscape so familiar can be so magically transformed.

What are the essentials for a cold-weather walk/climb? 
A flask of hot coffee (tea if you must), a slice of fruitcake and a piece of cheese – perfect accompaniment to contemplation on a frozen fell top! Take careful heed of the weather forecast and pack enough warm, windproof clothing for the worst of any likely scenario. Conditions may seem benign on the streets of Keswick or Ambleside but on the fells above the wind can cut through your layers like a icy knife. Crampons or micro spikes should be carried if there is likely to be ice or hard-packed snow underfoot, and an ice axe if venturing on steep ground. Plus the year-round usuals of map, compass and head torch.

Which are your top three favourite winter routes featured in the book and why?
That’s a tough one. But, in no particular order, here goes: The horseshoe from Grisedale of Nethermost Pike’s east ridge and The Tongue off Dollywaggon Pike – entertaining enough to need an axe and crampons under snow but no rope, along crests that catch any sun that’s going and where in all probability you will be making fresh tracks.
High Rigg from St John’s in the Vale – easy walking on undulating moorland, a pleasure in all seasons, winter perhaps best of all. 
Riggindale and High Street – again, nothing technical, but a shapely ridge rising above the tear-drop tarn of Blea Water and a promenade along the finest ‘High Street’ in the country, no shops but wares beyond price!
Are your favourite winter routes the same as your favourite summer routes and if not what makes them different?
Not necessarily. A deep freeze and layer of snow can make a pleasure out of terrain that is normally oozy bog or loose scree. Of course a classic route like Striding Edge remains a classic whatever the season, it’s just that winter brings a whole character change. 
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