Top Ten Tips For getting out into the hills more often…
We’ve all been there – we love the outdoors, we love getting muddy and seeing what is around the next bend in the oath, but we’re also human. Sometimes we just can’t find the enthusiasm for it. The weather is wrong. You’re too tired after a rough week at work. The final of I’m a Celebrity is on this weekend (actually, I’ve never been in THAT situation!).
Sometimes you need to have a new reason to raise the enthusiasm to go back to the places you love, or at least something to inspire your frineds to join you. These tips aren’t the definitive list for hillwalking inspiration, but I urge you to try at least one of them this weekend!
1. Start a ‘Tick-list’
There are a few ‘hill lists’ for the hills and mountains of the U.K. The Munros, the Corbetts, the Wainwrights, the Marilyns, there are lots to choose from. The point is that by ‘ticking off’ the summits listed you are encouraged to climb hills that you might not normally bother with. They may not be the highest or the most spectacular, but they may have hidden charms that are well worth discovering.
2. Train for an ‘event’
Hillwalking is great training for all sorts of outdoor activities. It encourages aerobic fitness, stamina and uses muscle groups that don’t normally get exercised! So it doesn’t really matter if you are training for a marathon or a charity cycle ride, hillwalking is a great way of getting fit and staying fit.
3. Try and get the ‘perfect’ summit photo
The mountains are just naturally photogenic. Craggy outcrops, tumbling streams, huge open and unspoilt vistas. It’s difficult to take a really bad photo in the hills, but it can be a lifetime’s work to take a great one. The best way to maximise your chances is to persevere and keep heading up in all weathers. Still, foggy days in winter are often a good bet, as you’ll rise above the clouds and experience a temperature inversion, where you are stood on the summit in glorious sunshine, and the surrounding peaks are like rocky islands in a sea of clouds.
4. Wild Camp
Most of us have probably spent at least one night under canvas in our lives, most probably as a kid on holiday, but if you have then I will bet that it was on a campsite somewhere. Whilst Wild Camping is technically illegal in most of England and Wales, it is tolerated in most areas. Walking for a couple of days carrying everything you need on your back, apart from collecting water from streams every now and again, some would argue that it’s the only way to experience the hills. Just be warned, once you get into it it’ll be difficult to prevent the ‘wanderlust’!
5. Go hunting for history
Old mines, Roman forts, World War 2 air crash sites, ancient burial cairns… the hills of the UK seem to have been pretty busy places from time to time. With a little bit of detective work you can find all sorts of hidden artifacts scattered all over the place. Some require a little bit of searching for, and some are well known but it’s a good reason to visit little-known corners of the mountains.
6. Take up geocaching
This ‘sport’ rose to popularity once GPS receivers became cheap enough for the average hiker to own. Soon after people were ‘hiding’ objects (often old ammunition boxes or Tupperware, even 35mm film canisters) in obscure parts of the countryside and listing the rough co-ordinates online for others to seek. Most ‘caches’ contain a logbook for the visitor to sign, and sometimes contain riddles or clues to reveal the location of subsequent ‘caches’. You do need a GPS receiver to partake in this sport, but all of the details of the geocaches can be found for free online. You’ll be amazed how many there are in and around your local neighbourhood!
7. Become the next Attenborough
Try taking a closer look at the grass you’re walking over, the lichens and mosses you pass by on that old stone wall, the birds, insects and mammals that surround you without you immediately realising it. A couple of guidebooks or even an app for your phone will reveal their names and how incredibly hardy they are to survive where they do. Suddenly the seemingly empty landscape is teeming with life, and you’ll be keen to go and find new and rare flora and fauna in the quiet corners away from the tourists.
8. Try walking in the dark
Normally the average hillwalker tries very hard to be off the hills before it gets dark, but sometimes they don’t know what they are missing. If you are a good and confident navigator, have a good headtorch and know the area, why not try a bit of nocturnal walking? If there is a full moon, the weather is calm and you have the right gear then a nightime ascent of your favourite mountain will reveal a different side to it – and you’ll probably have the place to yourselves! Don’t go solo on your first attempt and make sure that you have filed a route plan with somebody first though.
9. Make use of alternative transport
Most of the mountains in England and Wales have a variety of bus routes running through the valleys under your favourite hills, and with a bit of planning you can make a day into an adventure. Park your car at your intended destination, hop onto a bus (or even a restored steam railway?) and a short journey will take you far enough away to make the return journey into an inspiring walk. This method is great for doing ridge routes, or if you particularly loathe circular walks!
10. Stay in a bothy
These are very basic mountain huts, free to use and always in secluded locations. The vast majority of them are in Scotland, but a handful are scattered in the Lakes and Wales. They often have a wood-burning stove, a table and not much else! But they are a good alternative to staying in a tent. More info can be found at the Mountain Bothies Association website www.mountainbothies.org.uk.