A key challenge in modelling coupled ice-flow–subglacial hydrology is initializing the state and parameters of the system. We address this problem by presenting a workflow for initializing these values at the start of a summer melt season. The workflow depends on running a subglacial hydrology model for the winter season, when the system is not forced by meltwater inputs, and ice velocities can be assumed constant. Key parameters of the winter run of the subglacial hydrology model are determined from an initial inversion for basal drag using a linear sliding law. The state of the subglacial hydrology model at the end of winter is incorporated into an inversion of basal drag using a non-linear sliding law which is a function of water pressure. We demonstrate this procedure in the Russell Glacier area and compare the output of the linear sliding law with two non-linear sliding laws. Additionally, we compare the modelled winter hydrological state to radar observations and find that it is in line with summer rather than winter observations.