In this blog, we are going to be sharing some top tips for heading out on a mountain day on the UK hills and fells. The main mountainous areas of Britain are Scotland, the Lake District and Snowdonia, although the hills are not high, they can be dangerous for anyone heading out unprepared.
So where do we start?
Here at LDM, we use a framework that has been devised with Mountain Training alongside the UK Mountain Rescue teams and we believe it should be a structure for everybody to follow when heading out for the day.
We ask ourselves these three questions:
1. Am I confident I have the right knowledge and skills for the day?
Be honest with yourself about you and your companions’ knowledge, fitness and ability.
Lots of people call for help because they are lost and/or tired. Consider your navigation skills in the terrain you intend to visit.
Plan for the least able member of your group. Make sure everybody is capable of the intended route.
Build up to the bigger objectives; this includes the highest mountains, winter conditions and scrambling. Don't run before you can walk!
2. Do I know what the weather will be like?
Do I know what weather forecasts to look at? A mountain forecast is much more appropriate to your journey: Met Office Mountain or MWIS.
Know what to look out for:
Temperature (consider the lapse rate)
Sun and UV protection
Do I know how these factors will effect me and my journey? What does a 30mph wind feel like? At what speeds will I be blown off balance? Do I know how cold the summit temperatures are and am I equipped for it?
Be flexible, choose a different route or turn back if the forecast isn't favourable or isn't doing what you thought it would.
3. Do I have the right gear?
Stay warm and dry
Waterproof jacket and trousers
Spare warm layers
Hats and gloves
Well fitted boots/walking shoes
Wool or waterproof socks
Carry a map and compass (and more importantly, know how to use it)
Carry a torch and a whistle (a head torch is best)
Take a fully charged mobile phone
How LDM we help?
When planning a day, everybody is susceptible to human factors in their decision making. These are known as heuristic traps; ask yourself, have you ever fallen into these 'traps'?
Have you visited the terrain before? Maybe it was okay last time but things may have changed; the group, the weather, the ground conditions and fitness are all things to consider and change day to day, meaning we have to make new decisions for a new day.
Socially we may not want to speak up when part of a group or out with friends. We don't want to go 'against the grain' or come across as the weak link, but everybody should have an equal voice in a group planning session, and discussion can only lead to better decisions, so speak up!
"Well, we are here now". "We have come all this way, we have to go". These are some of the most typical views in peoples' decisions making. Don't ignore the signs, if things aren't right you can always come back another time.
4. Expert Halo
Sometimes there is a more experienced member of the group, someone who takes over the decisions making, or maybe you have hired a guide. Not everybody is infallible, we can all make mistakes or overlook something; if its not feeling right for you, then let folk know!
It's all too common to follow others on the mountainside, but are they going to the same place as you? Stick to your plan and don't rely on others, they may have a different objective.
By having an understanding of these 'traps' we can elevate our awareness in our decision making, meaning we can come to safer conclusions in the planning stage of our journey.
Although around 80% of our planning should be done before we leave on our intended route, that doesn't mean you can't alter it. Having a back up, plan A, B, C and escape routes means we don't get fully committed. Be adaptable on the hill and don't switch off, make sure everything you thought would happen is happening and don't be afraid to turn back!
We hope this has helped raise some thoughts towards your planning.
Planning a day of hill walking involves careful consideration of various factors to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Remember, by choosing the right location, checking weather conditions, packing essential gear, and practicing safety precautions, you'll be well-prepared to embrace the beauty of the outdoors on your hill walking adventure.
If there is anything from this blog that you are unsure about, we have mountain skills and navigation courses to help you plan and make the right decisions on the mountain!
Just get in touch if we can help you!