Simple rules to bear in mind and when applied, these can make all the difference between an enjoyable day’s excursion or a painfully miserable experience.
Clothing: Essential to dress in accordance with the weather, especially the changeable Irish variety. Be prepared for “four seasons in the one day.”
a. Several layers are better than one thick garment as these can be peeled off or put on to suit changing temperatures. A good quality fleece is recommended.
b. Carry a waterproof outer layer including jacket, leggings and hat.
c. Cotton trousers that dry quickly after a shower are better than denims – which are not recommended.
d. Keep a complete change of clothes at the ready for the end of the walk. These can be left in the car.
Footwear: Strong, waterproof boots with a good grip and ankle support are necessary for off-road walking and in the hills. Comfortable, reasonably waterproof, walking shoes, but not runners, are fine for casual walking on country by-roads.
Backpack: Essential to carry additional clothing, food and water. Keep it as light as possible. It also allows you to keep your hands free for better balance. Using a bin liner inside your backpack will ensure your spare clothes stay dry.
1. Listen to the weather report the night before.
2. Check map, gear and walk details before leaving. Learn to use a map and compass because GPS doesn’t always work and batteries can go flat.
3. Avoid high peaks if rain or low cloud and fog seem imminent.
4. Do not enter the uplands alone.
5. Let someone know your expected time of return.
6. Most accidents happen when descending rather than ascending a mountain. Thus keep your hands out of your pockets.
7. Bring a whistle, torch and a first aid kit.
8. Pick one person to lead and read the map.
9. Analyse a walk to take account of the slowest member of the party.
10. Remember to take your time; there’s no rush! Enjoy the scenery and be safe.
Finally, it is only with experience that you will learn to adapt these rules to suit yourself and your party. Start simply and remember it is ‘how often’ rather than ‘how much’ you walk that is the key to long term health and stamina when taking up hill walking. “Bain taitneamh as an tsuiloid (Enjoy the walk).”