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Rockhounding in Winter: A Bad Idea?

Updated: May 31, 2023

Is it OK to hunt for stones in winter? TSC say no.

[Updated 31st May 2023]

Team TSC are no strangers to the rough weather of a Scottish winter. From dog walking to bringing in the food shop, the weather gets grizzly. As you can imagine, looking at rocks out in exposed places with harsh conditions can turn nasty in no time. Winter means it's time to stop for the season, which gold panners and geology lovers count from late spring until that first frost arrives.

Once the snow arrives it's too late. And between you and I, you can't see rocks in the snow anyway. A third reason to avoid winter hiking and rock hounding is the frost. Once those minerals are iced into the frozen earth, all you can do is hunker down for winter.

Is it OK to hunt for crystals in winter? From personal experience, we say no. It is dangerous, you can easily lose your footing, and if you fall in a loch at the top of a Scottish hill, you will be hypothermic before you reach the bottom.

Winter Rockhounding: A Bad Idea?

The thing about rockhounding in the winter in Scotland, is that everything is cold, frozen, slushy, or wet. There’s no nice happy medium. The days when you do get a dry, sunny afternoon, that afternoon is approximately 4 hours long. You need to plan ahead if you want to look at dirt on a Saturday afternoon.

Winter rockhounding is a different ballgame. It is colder and therefore more dangerous. Going out into rivers and burns is a no-go. Mountains and hills are only available on pleasant days. Frost will make you fall and it will solidify those rocks better than a cementation. One of our last trips was up in the mountains, the final trip there for the winter. The snow in the collecting area meant we couldn’t see the rocks, but also that they were frozen to the ground. At times like this, it’s better to admit defeat and go home than to push through with tools.

So if you can brave the cold and you really, really, really want to go out there, how do you rockhound in winter safely?

Being Safe on Winter Rockhounding Trips

When you are out in the winter, now is more important than ever to tell people where you are going and when you will be back. Take a phone with a charge in it and consider buying a solar charger for emergencies.

Don't go alone.

You should keep a first aid kit, preferably on you but if not then in your car. Carry antiseptic. Bring plenty of water: you will need it to wash dirt off rocks and to drink, so bring more than you think you will need.

Be sure your car is winter ready.

Try not to go out of mobile phone signal range.

If hiking a hill or mountain, check the weather report before you go. Check sunset time and a cut off point. If the sun sets at 4 and you have a 2 hour climb, make sure the latest you turn back is 2pm. If you pass climbers in the dark on the way back down it is customary to remind them of the time. The pros will ignore you but appreciate it and the noobs could use the warning.

If you want to be extra safe, download the what 3 words app. This assigns every location in the world a three word tag that lets emergency services find you faster. We’re not partners or anything, we just think it’s a great idea.

Last but not least, if out in the winter, take dry clothes and shoes.

And take your gloves. It’s gie cauld oot there.

The Stone Circle

Over the last few years in the hobby, we have looked at different dirt piles in multiple locations. In winter, spring, summer, and autumn. Health concerns and the cost of living crisis have kept us far closer to home in 2023. We are increasing our collection of unique Scottish gifts for sale and our selection of Scottish and British minerals secured from other established rock hunters to keep adding interest to your TSC experience.

You can check out our shop for some of our spectacular Scottish crystal finds. If you can’t buy from us, you can also support us through following us on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok.

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