Hiking Safely on the Hills
SAFE WALKING TREKKING OUTDOORS
If you are contemplating a long distance walk, or indeed a day walk, on the any of the high level routes in the UK, such as The Pennine Way, for the first time, between October and May, please be aware that you are embarking on a test of your endurance and stamina, especially when carrying a backpack.
Each stage in a long distance walk involves a period of several hours spent outdoors, often in isolated and remote locations and sometimes at altitudes above 400 metres, in possibl;y rain or snow. A number of factors must therefore be taken into account at the planning stage.
Weather Conditions & Daylight Hours
Regardless of when you undertake the journey, you must check the expected weather conditions each day. Between October and May there is increased risk of high winds, heavy rain, sleet and sometimes snow blizzards. Any of these, together with the significantly smaller number of daylight hours, can provide a challenge for the unwary.
If you have arranged for back-up luggage to be transported by your next accommodation, then a medium size rucksack (25 to 30 litres capacity) will be adequate to carry your daily needs of clothing, food and liquid as well as a basic first aid kit. Alternatively, if carrying all your equipment yourself then greater capacity will be needed, depending on what you consider to be the bare essentials!
Guide Books, Maps & Compass
Most UK long distance walks are quite well signposted. However, it is unwise to embark on any unfamiliar route without a good Guide Book and a Ordnance Survey map of scale 1:50,000 to show a broader topographical picture on either side of the route. Maps in guide books are generally good but of necessity relatively narrowly focused on the route. I prefer to be able to "see" what lies to either side, mainly for my own enjoyment and to be aware of possible escape routes should the weather turn bad on a high level path.
Maps to scale 1:25,000 give much better detail; ideal for day trips but too bulky for long distance hiking because you will need more of them. Fine for when you decide to explore an area. If you are used to mainly one scale of map, be aware that your "map speed" will be halved or doubled if you change scale.
Good mountaineering practice recommends carrying a compass on all hiking expeditions. Contact your local hiking club for a quick navigation course if you are not confident with a compass.
Mobile phones tend to work only on the hills; valley signals are often poor. An optional extra but can be useful in an emergency.
Warm and dry hiking is happy hiking, especially for non-hardened beginners! Therefore comfortable walking/hiking boots and socks, a hat, gloves, fleece jacket, water & wind-proof jacket and over-trousers are essential outer wear, as the conditions dictate; if you're sweating, take something off. Beneath that, wear layers, starting with a synthetic wicking shirt (I wear them with long sleeved which can be rolled up when summer walking).
Synthetic vests do not absorb sweat like cotton vests and are therefore more comfortable next to the skin when you take your outer garments off for a lunch break, and are quick to dry. (Antarctic sledgers simply shake off the iced sweat in the morning and bingo...a nice dry shirt!) If you are new to trail walking then the advice of a specialist hiking gear shop is a wise preamble to setting foot on mountain.
Some Mountain Safety Tips
Never undertake a walk in wilderness country alone. Two is the minimum & three is better.
Wear or carry suitable clothing, food, basic first aid kit, survival bag, head-worn waterproof torch, plenty of spare batteries (they always seem to run out when you need them) & a whistle, preferably on a lanyard, so you know where it is.
Know how to read a map and use a compass. Always carry both and use the map to maintain a check on your location and rate of progress; it is so easy to miss a turning and head off into the unknown!
Know the weather forecast; be alert to changing conditions en route.
Plan your route.
Rough terrain and a heavy pack will limit your speed to around 2mph or less if unfit. Leave a note of your plan and expected arrival time at the place of departure and don't forget to report back on arrival. No-one wants to leave the comfort of a warm pub to search the hills at night for you if you're tucked up warm in your bed!
Carry a mobile telephone; only use it to summon Mountain Rescue in a real emergency. Don't forget to charge your phone every night too, before you go to the pub!
If an emergency arises stay calm; think before you act. If someone needs to leave the scene to get help, take bearings from known features if possible, leave plenty of warm clothing with the injured party plus a light and whistle and a hot drink if possible. If summoning help, first identify your location (grid reference), then contact Emergency Services (999) and ask for Mountain Rescue. Be prepared to buy a lot of drinks in the pub that night!
The Countryside Code.
Respect the people who live and work in the countryside. This is their home.
Respect private property and farmland as well as wildlife and the Environment; do not light fires except at designated campsites.
Take all litter home.
Leave gates as you find them - open or closed.
Always use gates and stiles in preference to fences, hedges or dry stone walls.
On roads without pavements, walk in single file on the right hand side, and use a torch to warn oncoming motorists of your presence.
In a nutshell, be sensible and enjoy yourselves! Happy Hiking!
Mike Jozefiak seems to have survived 56 years relatively unscathed (physically, anyway!) and is still thirsting for knowledge! "Experience is the comb Life gives you after you have lost your hair"!
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