##This section is only a guide, if you are not experienced on hills and mountains it is advised that you get adequate training to keep yourself safe. There is a link at the bottom of this page who run mountain training and its advisable to take part##
Scotland’s hills and mountains are what many people travel thousands of miles to see and they are majestic and some are still have snow covered tops. The range such as the Cairngorms for example covers 472 sq miles and has 18 Munros which are mountains over 3,000 feet high as well as plenty of paths, tracks and hills.
The range of hills are beautiful both in all seasons, some of the tracks are easy to walk, specially laid paths which are gentle and even with a wheel chair can be negotiated, then there are other paths which for semi fit, taking it easy, see the scenery and the wildlife and many areas have shelters with maps and what you may see.
Then there are the routes that need a bit of fitness as the routes do have gradients that can burn the calf if you are not used to it, but again take it slow and steady plenty of fluids and food that will give you an energy boost.
If you’re feeling fit and you think that your legs can carry you then you get into serious hill walking, yep still on the hills and not reached the mountains yet. This is where the real exercise comes in so if you are not used to step inclines it would be suggested that you should get into practice of inclines so maybe a month before you have planned your vacation hit the exercise bike or a few miles or so on steep incline, but remember many a person are rescued due to problems with fitness, torn muscles, twisted knees and ankles.
You if you are feeling daring you could try The Corbett’s are the mountains in Scotland between 2500 and 3000 feet high, with at least 500 feet of descent on all sides. There are 222 Corbett’s spread around Scotland again fitness is the thing, think how high 500ft is then find a building with stairs about the same height and have a climb and see how you feel at the top. But you have to remember when you get to the top; you will not be looking out a window at a rain soaked city, you will be looking over spectacular scenery with fresh air filling your lungs and the excitement of beating a challenge.
Then we come to the serious mountains which if you are not experienced then do not attempt on your own, either go with someone experienced, find a club that runs guided climbs and possible for a fee, (see bottom for more information) climbing a Scottish mountain is one of the greatest feelings that one can have. So if you are not very fit, or you want to see if you would be able to attempt a Scottish mountain then most large towns and cities around the UK have leisure centres and many have climbing walls and climbing instructors.
Knowledge is the key you can learn the basics of the skill and you can get fit at the same time, but the lack of knowledge and experience will get you hurt and others if you have to be rescued.
In the days of smart phones most come with GPS and you can download an electronic compass which is ideal, but only if they work and if your phone runs out of charge or you drop it 500 feet or more you are without something that could save your life!
So if you don’t know teach yourself how to use a compass and read a map, there is plenty on the net which you can learn from, books in the library and you may find a class. The Ordinance Survey make some very detail maps which you can purchase for the area you will be going, online you can print maps from the OS website
Your compass and map is your life line so make sure it is a good quality and the compass is not one you get free with a Christmas cracker, yes people have used them, the compass must have;
Sighting mirror: The mirror allows you to view the compass dial and the background at the same time. Move up to a model with both declination adjustment and this feature if you plan to travel off trail or want more precise navigation
Clinometer: One of the most common applications of the clinometer has to do with measuring angles as they relate to the slope of natural formations or buildings and other human construction projects. The idea is to measure the angle with an eye toward identifying any amount of slope, with respect to the gravity that is involved. The clinometer may be used to measure both inclines and declines, based on the perspective of the individual calculating the measurements.
Declination adjustment Magnetic declination or variation is the angle on the horizontal plane between magnetic north (the direction the north end of a compass needle points, corresponding to the direction of the Earth's magnetic field lines) and true north (the direction along a meridian towards the geographic North Pole). This angle varies depending on position on the Earth's surface, and changes over time.
Clothing; If you are having a gentle stroll on a marked out footpath then apart from a good pair of boots to help support the ankle and keep your feet dry. The higher you go the more things can happen, the chance of rain, if there is snow on the ground, and then you will get wet. Even in the summer it can be nice and warm where you have park your car or where your camped, but the higher you go the cooler it will get, it can be windy, low cloud comes in and can rain and that’s in the summer months.
What would you need for a day on the hills, in Scotland they say you can have all four seasons in one day and its true your host has experienced it.
The first thing is clothes that dry reasonably quick, doesn’t hold water like denim so even if you do get wet in the summer the clothes doesn’t take long to dry on you. Layers the more layers the warmer you will be as the air gets trapped between the layers and insulates you, in the summer just being careful you don’t over heat and you end up with heat exhaustion.
Starting with a base layer, next to the skin which keeps you warm in the winter and in the summer wicking t-shirts move sweat and moisture away from your body to keep you cool. Look for the lightweight, quick-drying fabric or specially treated Merino wool. Then another layer, of thermal then a Fleece top or jacket not one for £4.99 or given away with a magazine, you don’t want to skimp on your safety.
A waterproof jacket, a well-made, good quality 3 in 1 this has a fleece zipped inside so if you get to warm you can take off the fleece and still stay dry, of vice versa. With many jackets you get what you pay for and it could be a lifesaving investment, so if you can afford it go for GORE-TEX® products are well known for providing long-lasting, comfortable weather protection you can trust from your head down to your toes. It is a membrane is at the heart of all GORE-TEX® products. Due to its microporous structure it has some amazing characteristics, laminate is created by bonding the GORE-TEX® membrane between high-performance lining and outer textiles. Product technologies offer unique solutions for specific activities and climate conditions to fit your individual needs. You will find it on all mountain clothing and footwear and if you can afford it then go for it. More Info.
Waterproof bottoms also as even in the summer deep heather, long grass and of course the downpour and if you’re high enough you can come up against snow, breathable so you’re not sweating. Around your calf and cover the top of your boots you have your Gaiters, not always needed but they great in long grass, heather and thorns.
If it’s a cold or if it’s warm a hat is an essential the obvious one is to keep your head warm in the winter, but many people forget that the higher you go the stronger the UV is so a baseball cap or beanie for the hotter months, Don’t forget the sun creams, sun screen and something for the lips, even on snow sunscreen and sun glasses are essential. Addition to the beanie you can get them with Midge nets and if you are one of those unlucky people who are a target for the little beasties a head net is ideal. Don’t forget gloves, again not just for winter, a good hard wearing pair of gloves, your host has a pair of leather and elastic gloves hard wearing when needed and flexible so you don’t feel restrained in them, if you have to rock scramble then you don’t want to tear your hands apart and of course using ropes nothing worse than a rope burn, a rope burn can debilitating.
Then once you have all your clothes ready to go have a second set in a dri-bag in your rucksack, crossing a river, a slip on mud can put you into a wetland marsh area or heavens above it may even rain, having a dry set of clothes is essential if you get wet, even in the summer wet clothes can drop your core temperature and the higher you are the cooler it can be.
Footwear. If you are going to walk in the hills on flat level ground or to the top of a Munro it’s essential that your footwear is ‘Fit for Purpose’ meaning that they have a good grip on rocks, mud or grass and they need to grip if you are going up or down an incline, the last thing you want to have is your boots to let you down when you need them the most. The support for your ankle is essential many a walker has been let down when their boot doesn’t support the ankle when a small stone put the footstep off kilter; last thing
you want is a torn ankle 10 miles from the safety. Gortex to keep your feet dry, comfy and breathable. Think of your boot as the tyres on your car, you wouldn’t go on the road with worn or wrong tyres for the situation; it’s the same with your boots. When you go to buy boots, do not buy online, go to a specialist outdoor suppliers and get fitted as you would a suit, many suppliers have a ‘Foot Doctor’ a machine you stand on and it gives an image of the sole of your feet where the pressure points are and then you can have an insole made to fit which will makes a world of difference, if there is not one locally you can by insoles which you put in your boot and then starting with the right one heat with a hair-dryer for a few minutes then you put your foot in and it moulds to the shape of your foot, you do the same with the left and you have a very comfy pair of insoles.
If you are planning winter walking then again the boot are different needing stiffer soles for one many people have two pair summer and winter. When you buy new boot wear them for at least a month to get the boot worn it, nothing worse than new boots and they blister your ankles and toes, and every step will be agony.
Socks, yes even your socks are important, they get overlooked and they make a big difference, no seams, allow your feet to breathe so you won’t have sweaty wet feet, will not rub and cause frictions between you and your boot, Bridgedale have been making socks since 1914 for the British army and they are perfect for all types of walking you have in mind your host has a pair for every day use. Find them at Nevisports
Winter walking? then a must is a pair of Crampons ice spikes that are strapped to the underside of your boot and for snow or ice it’s a must, if there is ice and you have no crampons then you not going anywhere. If you are buying crampons, then get yourself an ice axe, you never know better safe than sorry. Talk to your supplier about winter walking.
Rucksack To carry all this kit winter or summer you will need a rucksack and there are a good selection a 22 litres days pack for a wonder along trail with the kids and the dog, keeping lunch in, water, a first aid kit and if you don’t plan to leave the level trails then nothing extra apart from making sure you have a charged mobile phone for those ‘Just in Case’ moments. These are reasonably inexpensive and surprisingly quite a lot of space. The going up a little in space you will have the 30 / 32 litre as you expect you can get more into it with spaces for more essentials and these normally come with a waist belt and internal frame many at this size comes with a waterproof hood which is tucked away.
For the serious business end you have the sizes of 67 to 130 litres which you can get the kitchen sink in and possible the fridge. You are planning a week or so wild camping then this size with a good day sac. For this size it’s always best if you don’t order online and go to the Outdoor Suppliers and get yourself fitted making sure that it sits on your shoulders without pressure, a good store will have weighted bag they put in side while you wear it and then you will know which is best for you. A hit if you are planning a long hike get the thickest female sanitary towel and fix them to your shoulders this will help stop any chaffing, as with the boots if you’re new to long distance walking try and get used to the weight on your shoulders and hips with the belt, put some weight in the sac, get your new boots on and take a walk for a mile or so every other day for a month until you get used to the weight and you have worn in your boots. Additional things for your 67-130 litre sacks a waterproof cover as well as a dri-sack for the inside will keep all your kit dry if you have to cross a river or it rains more that it normally rains in Scotland.
There is even a way to pack a rucksack and how you pack it will decide if you have a comfortable on your shoulder or that you are sorry you didn't learn to pack your rucksack.
1. Always pack the heaviest on the bottom and what you will need often and emergency at the top, you don't want to keep your waterproofs at the bottom of your sack so you have to drag everything out to get them. Make use of the side pockets.
2. Decide what you are wanting to take with you, lay them out so you can see what you have.
3. Fill your dri-bag first taking a note of what is in it, the best ways to pack your bag is to roll them tight, take up a lot less room and if you like a shirt without creases then roll. So now you can put you completed dri-bag aside.
4. Place your equipment in groups Food (dri-bag 2)Clothes, Light & Fire (batteries, torches, matches, firestarter) Cooker/fuel, waterproofs. Sleeping bag and if you have roll mat again place into a dri-bag or a heavy weight plastic bag and a spare bag. Wash kit, First aid Iodine tabs. Collapse water bottle/carrier.
5. Start packing with the weight distributed evenly and centrally if you are using a sack with a metal frame then the more weight you can carry with support, starting my placing your tent on the bottom under the sack as well as your cooker (see further down for recommendation for camp stove supplier.) then the rest of the heavy items. Writing down the items as you pack
6. Next is the items that of course weigh a little less but remember try the items that you will need first or in and emergency stay out for the top again write them down.
7. Finally of course the lightest and the items that will be needed first. Make use of the pockets for smaller items such additional items to carry along with you is waterproof matches of firestarter, a Magnesium Fire Starter is much better than matches, even waterproof ones, it’s always handy to carry a small zip bag of tinder dry moss, also the bark from a silver birch is handy for catching a spark from a fire starter. A torch of course is essential a head torch as well as a hand-held if you can a wind-up torch they are lighter and do not need batteries. The prices of glow sticks are low enough that they can be taken along. Ideal for marking out where hazards are around your pitch area before it gets too dark to see them and your cuddly teddy.
A first aid kit, you can get some really good ones now and they are packed with a whole range of things you may need
Some people don’t think about the next item but a watch is an essential item (see below), you can get good watches now with GPS, Altimeter, thermometer and of course tell the time, they can be expensive but you have to weigh up the want or the need. It can also be used to find North…
Finding North in the Northern Hemisphere.
1. Find an analogy watch (the kind with hour and minute hands) that is set accurately. Place it on a level surface, such as the ground, or hold it horizontal in your hand.
2. Point the hour hand at the sun.
3. Bisect (that is, find the centre point of) the angle between the hour hand and the twelve o'clock mark (the number 12 on the watch). The centre of the angle between the hour hand and twelve o'clock mark is the north-south line. If you don't know which way is north and which south, just remember that no matter where you are, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. In the northern hemisphere the sun is due south at midday. If your watch is set to daylight saving time bisect the angle between the hour hand and the one o'clock mark instead.
Thanks To (https://www.wikihow.com/Find-True-North-Without-a-Compass)
A small mirror for signalling for help, it has been used for many many years and have saved lives, you get small ones in the discount store which are set at one price. A whistle for the same reason to attract attention and like the mirror the whistle has saved many lives, the louder the better and between the whistle and the mirror you’re saved.
If for some reason you are stuck up a mountain or on top of a hill and the snow comes down, or freezing fog and you need to keep warm quickly then the humble plastic bag will do the job. You can buy thick, bright orange plastic survival bags that will allow you to get inside right up to your head, along with an emergency silver blanket you will reflect your heat back into your body and is the difference between life and death. They both come tightly packed so they take up very little space yet when unfolded they are big enough, it’s best to carry two of each.
Finally if you can afford a Personal locator beacon (PLB): A PLB can help search-and-rescue workers find you in an emergency.
Finally its food, of course if you’re only going out for the day stroll, then you will carry sandwiches, a flask of hot tea, water, energy drinks or stop off for a cheese burger as you pass a café on your route, you know the stuff.
If you are going for a few days or a week you can buy the freeze dried food, which isn’t too bad really, your host used to take the freeze dried commercial Macaroni and cheese, boil some water open the pack and tip it in, it hot, its carbs and its filling but you don’t want to eat that 3 times a day so a company called Base Camp do a great range of freeze dried camping food, its lightweight quick and easy and they cater for Vegetarian, Gluton Free, Lactose Free they also do a range of stoves which is essential unless you are going to build yourself a little fire which, please try not to as they have been known to get out of hand, only build a fire if its life or death So now you have an idea what is required for a gentle 30 minute walk through the Scottish hillside or a climb over one of the 284 Munros there are scattered about Scotland.
What about training, do you know what to do when if a member of your party becomes ill, or you stuck up a mountain in waist high snow, if not then it is suggest before you do anything you learn some mountain skills. Mountaineering Scotland offers a year round programme of mountain skills courses for members, sharing knowledge that can be life-saving and will certainly improve your awareness, confidence and enjoyment of days in the mountains.
Our courses are delivered by a high quality professional instruction team, led by our own Mountain Safety Advisor, Heather Morning. Each autumn and winter we also run a winter mountain safety lecture tour to help prepare beginners and experienced hill walkers alike for the winter season ahead.
To complement our courses and events, check out our website for essential skills advice, plus safety DVDs and online videos hosted on YouTube, as well as links to other relevant organisations connected to the Scottish mountains. More information can be found here.
The best thing you can take with you and will help you get up and come down happy that is KNOWLEDGE.