Walking Boots are your passport to freedom, so it’s imperative that you get the right footwear to suit the conditions and the type of activity you're looking to do. Our guide takes you through the elements you should consider when buying your next pair of boots.
Decide what the principal activity you want to do in the outdoors is, and then choose a boot designed for that activity. All boots can be categorised into one of the following ways:
B0 – flexible 3-season boots for valley, hill and mountain walking, backpacking, scrambling and via ferrata. They are not recommended for use with crampons or for use on snow in the mountains.
B1 – stiff but flexible 3-4 season boots for use on or off the snow when hillwalking and backpacking in the mountains. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B2 – very stiff 4-season boots for use on snow when hillwalking, climbing or mountaineering. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B3 – totally stiff and flat-soled ice-climbing boots for serious snow and ice-climbing and mountaineering. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B0 boots are not recommended for use with crampons
B1 boots can be used with C1 types of crampons
B2 boots can be used with C1 or C2 crampons
B3 boots can be used with C1, C2 or C3 crampons
You’ll find two sizes– UK and Euro – in many boots these days. We’ve listed them all here (left) so you can work out whether they’ll fit you!
Stiff uppers are better for rocky ground and winter use, and they allow crampon straps to be comfortably fitted. Softer uppers are more comfortable and so are best for valley walking where less support and protection is required than on rocky mountains.
For winter walking, look for grooves that are at least twice as deep as the thickness of a pound coin. Lug depths less than this are ideal for hill and valley walking. But if the lugs are less than the depth of a single coin, they won’t give much grip in mud or on grass and they’ll also wear down quickly on harder surfaces. The heel breast (the cutaway section between forefoot and heel) should be three times the thickness of a pound coin for hillwalking above or below the snowline. Boots with shallower heel breasts are best kept to good paths at valley level.
Press the toe box with your thumb and then pinch it on the sides. If it flexes easily, the boot is best restricted to good paths in the valley, while a stiffer toe box is better for rocky mountains and winter use.
Grab the boot by the toe and heel, and bend the heel towards the toe. Then twist the toe while holding the heel steady. The harder it is to bend the boot, the better suited it is to snow and rocky ground, and crampon use. The softer the flex, the better the boot is suited to use on good paths in the valley. A 3-4 season boot is stiffer than a 3-season boot but not as stiff as a 4-season boot.
Support Choose boots with minimal underfoot support for walking on good valley paths, but go for those with a stiffer sole and plenty of support underfoot for use on rocky mountain terrain.
Cushioning With the boots on, stamp your feet on the ground to get an idea of how well they can cushion impact. More cushioning is best for walking, but climbers may prefer less cushioning to allow a greater ‘feel’ for what they are standing on.
Pinch the heel cup between the fingers. If it is soft and flexible it won’t offer much support, so such boots are best restricted to valley path use, while boots with stiffer heel cups are better for rocky mountain walks and winter use where maximum support is useful.
Stitching will come apart over time, so a boot with minimal stitching will be most durable. But double stitching improves the durability considerably and adds extra security to the seams. Stiff uppers made of thick leather will be more durable than those made of synthetic materials. To improve durability, look for a rubber rand around the sides, toes and heels. The most durable boots are best for rocky mountain use and winter use, while less durable designs are best kept to valley paths.
If the upper is made of one piece of leather, or is relatively stitch-free, the boot will be as waterproof as most people will require – particularly if it is made of thick leather. Boots that are covered in stitching or those made with synthetic materials will leak more easily and are more prone to wear, while a waterproof lining such asGore-Tex will make the boot waterproof.
The UK offers so many great walking options, however there’s one thing that you can’t rely on and that the weather. A good waterproof jacket is an essential piece of outdoor clothing when planning a day outdoors, this handy guide highlights what to consider when buying your walking jacket.
On high-priced jackets you can expect to find that the fabrics used are the most waterproof and breathable available – and while there may be small differences between them It’ll will be difficult to notice on the hill. Your comfort will often therefore be dictated by features such as the hood, pocket and sleeve design. However, on lower-priced waterproof jackets fabric breathability and the durability of waterproofness are more important considerations. Some jackets might have Gore-Tex fabric, eVent, Polartec Neoshell or a range of proprietary fabrics.
Normal zips used on jackets are not waterproof so they are usually covered by an external single or double stormflap. Water-resistant zips are commonly used on high-priced jackets but these are not waterproof either. As these zips may leak, they are often fitted with an internal flap which is designed to channel away any water that enters this area.
Even the best waterproof and breathable fabrics allow condensation to form, so it is important that you can increase ventilation of the jacket. A front zip can be used for venting, as can underarm zips, also called pit zips and mesh linings in pockets can increase airflow through the jacket. However note that mesh pockets may also allow water to pass through.
Big pockets are great for storing maps, guidebooks and gloves, and they can also be used to protect your hands from wind and rain. Rucksack belts obscure access to some pockets, so make sure they are well-positioned to avoid this problem.
The hood should fit snugly so it doesn’t blow off, but it must also move with your head so you can see where you’re going. The peak may become bent when the jacket is stashed in a rucksack, so look for a wired one that can be easily reshaped to allow good vision even in the wind.
For over 800 reviews of waterproof jackets perfect for all types walking visit our outdoor directory by clicking here.
How to shoot the stars - wherever you are!
Few subjects are as captivating as the stars, so it’s easy to spend hours gazing at them. Dan Mold of www.practicalphotography.com explains how to capture astro images loaded with detail.
If you’ve ever tried to take a picture of the night sky using the automatic mode on your camera or phone, doubtless you’ll have been disappointed with the results. Creative cameras with manual modes, such as DSLRs, have the ability to capture a much higher level of detail than the human eye. But they do need to be set up correctly to do the night sky justice, so stabilising your camera with something like a tripod is essential for this technique.
Dark Sky areas
The night sky can look very different depending on where you are on the planet, as you’ll be able to see different star constellations. The southern hemisphere also gets a much clearer view of the Milky Way, so places like South America and Australia can be particularly good for these kind of shots. Regardless of where you are, you’ll want the sky to be as dark as possible.
A dark sky area is one that is far away from the light pollution of city street lights, as this light will bleed into your shots, reducing contrast and star visibility. There are loads of dark sky maps online showing you where these dark pockets are. In England, places such as Kielder Forest in Northumberland become fantastically dark in the evenings. You can also use apps such as Star Walk 2, which show you where specific constellations are, as well as where the Milky Way sits in the sky. This particular app also informs you of special celestial events such as meteor showers.
Set your camera up on a tripod and compose your shot. Focusing can be tricky as there is little light, but if you place your active AF point over a star it should be bright enough to lock on to. If the autofocus keeps hunting back and forth, don't worry. Go into your camera’s Live View mode and zoom in on the screen view so you can clearly see how sharp the focus is. Put your camera or lens into manual focus and adjust the focusing ring until the stars are pin-sharp.
Go into your camera’s manual mode, set an ISO of 800 to begin with and open your aperture as wide as it will go. This is usually f/3.5-5.6 on a kit lens, but if it will open further that’s even better. Shutter speeds will vary between 5sec and 15sec, so start with a 10sec exposure as your first test shot. Set the 2sec self-timer so you don’t jog the camera and start the exposure. Alternatively, you can use a shutter release cable.
Take a look at the shot on the back the back of the LCD and if it’s too bright reduce the shutter speed a little. If it’s too dark, increase the ISO and shutter speed a little until the exposure looks right. Make sure you don’t set a shutter speed longer than 15sec, as after this your stars will turn into long trails rather than sharp pinpoints of light. This is because the Earth’s rotation is more noticeable in these longer exposures.
Step-by-step - How to edit your star shot:
1. Tweak the RAW
Make sure you shoot in the RAW format, as these files hold much more data – very handy for star shots when you need a broad range of tones, from the deep black sky to the bright stars. In your RAW editing software increase the exposure a little until you’re happy with the result. Push up the shadows and decrease the highlights to preserve detail in the darkest and brightest areas of the shot.
2. Dodge and burn in Photoshop
Having a good level of contrast between the bright stars and dark sky is crucial for creating a great astro pic. In Photoshop you need to use the Dodge and Burn tools to selectively add these pockets of contrast. Start by clicking on the Burn Tool to make it active and in the Tool Options set the Range to Highlights and the Exposure to 3%. Make sure the Brush is soft so you can apply the effect gradually. Now brush over the areas of the sky you’d like to darken and keep painting over them until you’re happy with how dark they appear.
Then switch to the Dodge Tool. Keep the settings the same as before, but this time set the Exposure to Midtones and paint over the parts of the sky you’d like to brighten. This includes the horizon, stars, foreground and Milky Way. Finally, set the Exposure to Highlights and paint over the stars to make them really pop. You can switch back and forth between the Dodge and Burn tools until you’re happy with the result.
In the Part 1 we gave you some navigation tips and tools that you can try in the comfort of your own home or office. Now, we’re taking you outside, all the way to… your garden! Here is a trio of techniques that you can learn in your own outdoor space before taking them to the hills to put into practice.Read More
Trail’s photographer Tom Bailey covers more miles on the hill than most (if not all) walking gentlemen. Hence, so do his boots – and more often than not they’re transporting a fair weight of kit over difficult terrain. Correctly fitting boots are essential. Finding himself in the Lake District in need of a new pair at short notice, he drops in to the George Fisher store in Keswick to chat with John Owens about his requirements.Read More
QUESTION: THERE SEEMS TO BE A LOT OF CHOICE WHEN IT COMES TO WEATHER FORECASTS. IS THERE ONE THAT'S PARTICULARLY GOOD FOR MOUNTAINS?
ANSWER BY JEREMY ASHCROFT, MOUNTAINEERING EDITOR
"All weather forecasts are derived from the
same raw data – that is, land-based weather stations, weather buoys, satellite sensors, aircraft and ship feeds. It is the interpretation of this data that varies, and generally the variance tends to be user-driven. For example, the forecasts you see on national television are aimed mainly at the general population and
will generally focus on where most people
live and work. For a more specific mountain forecast you really need to track down reports that use interpretation modelling designed specifically for mountain areas, for example
the Mountain Weather Information Service – www.mwis.org.uk
"Mountains have a huge influence on weather locally and generate microclimates. For this reason developing an active or even an obsessive interest in a full range of weather forecasts is ‘best practice’ for any mountaineer. Learning what all the different charts mean and comparing the detail with what you experience on the ground will over time allow you to make your own interpretations. A good place to start is by learning how to read a synoptic chart; this will allow you to understand what’s heading your way. You can also glean extra information by looking at webcams, reading other people’s hill blogs, and checking out walking and climbing forums."
Even the most adventurous of us are inevitably sometimes confined to staying at home. When you can escape, safe and competent navigation sets you free to explore the hills – and you can practise much of it while stuck inside! Here are three simple skills you can try indoors that really will improve your outdoor nav.Read More
We take the fragmented, round-stoned expanses of our highest peaks for granted – but have you ever wondered what caused them?
The UK’s mountains used to be taller, some of them much, much taller. But over millions of years they have been eroded down to their current size, a process which continues. Rain, wind and ice constantly attack summits, creating cracks, crevices and hollows. Moisture gets in to these weak points and, when it freezes and expands, exerts pressure on the rock. Regular freeze-thaw cycles can eventually split stone apart. Repeat this process over millennia and you end up with carpets of shattered rock, such as those seen on the summits of Scafell Pike, Tryfan and the Glyders, and Ben Nevis. These in turn are exposed to the perpetual battering by the elements, sculpting the stone into irregular shapes – all of them the result of the weather’s war of attrition with our peaks.
Question: I’ve seen signs asking climbers to stay off crags due to nesting peregrines. Does this have any implication for walkers?
Expert: Jeremy Ashcroft
Trail’s mountaineering editor, Jeremy is also the author of Britain’s Highest Mountain Walks, pb Collins. He knows the UK hills better than his own reflection.
"The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) in England and Wales and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS) are partners with organisations such as local authorities, RSPB, National Trust and the National Parks in implementing a scheme of climbing restrictions on crags during the nesting season. These are very site-specific, and tend to operate on sectors of crags rather than the whole crag.
"The signs will indicate which areas are restricted, and possibly a time span. As soon as it is safe for climbers to have access the restriction and the signs will be removed. Clearly this would also apply to scramblers on the same sector of a crag, and in theory walkers either directly above or below the sector could cause a disturbance. The signs should give specific directions, but either way the best bet for walkers is to give localities where restrictions apply a reasonably wide birth. A good rule of thumb during the breeding season is that if you become aware of an agitated bird you are likely to be near its nest or fledgling – in which case give them space and head elsewhere."
QUESTION: Help! I’ve ripped my Gore-Tex jacket. What can I do?
EXPERT: GRAHAM THOMPSON
GT is Trail’s technical editor – anything he doesn’t know about outdoor kit isn’t worth knowing.
"This really depends on the size of hole. A pin hole is enough to allow leakage, while a long tear will need more than a simple patch to prevent it reopening in use. It’s important not to just stitch a patch over a hole or even just stitch up a tear, as stitch holes themselves will leak, unless they’re sealed. A strip of gaffer tape works surprisingly well, making this an ideal method for mid-trip repairs of any kind of hiking gear for walking and trekking. Indeed, a gaffer tape repair I made to a pair of Gore-Tex Paclite trousers in 2000 is still in situ and is still working perfectly! Gaffer tape is not totally waterproof, though, and depending on the location of the tear it may over time come detached – so a more professional option is a McNett Gore-Tex Repair Kit, which includes a pressure-sensitive adhesive patch of Gore-Tex, designed to stick and provide waterproof and breathable performance. If the tear is more than a couple of centimetres, however, small patches probably won’t be adequate, so then the best option is to send the product away to be repaired by companies such as Lancashire Sports Repairs at www.lsr.gb.com and Scottish Mountain Gear Limited at www.scottishmountaingear.com
QUESTION: I often do walks that turn out to be too ambitious. Is there any ‘easy’ way to assess a route’s timings?
ANSWER: ROB JOHNSON MIC
A qualified International Mountain Leader, Rob’s led groups all over the world via his company www.expeditionguide.com
"The traditional way of calculating how long a route will take is to use Naismith’s Rule. The basic rule says ‘Allow 1 hour for every 3 miles (5km) forward, plus 1 minute for every 10m of height gained’. On OS maps with contour lines at 10m intervals this means the ascent can be calculated by adding one minute per contour. You may find you actually walk a bit slower or maybe quicker than 5km an hour, so you need to allow for this in your calculations. A tip is to carry a timings card [left] that will give you the time taken at different speeds, to save doing the maths on the hill. You can make your own, or Google will produce a few different formats!
Even easier still is to use a piece of route-planning software to plan your route, and work out the total ascent and timings for you. There are examples from Anquet, Memory-Map and ViewRanger, and many can be used as part of a navigation aid on your smartphone or GPS too. The Ordnance Survey website has a free route-planning tool on its ‘OS Maps’ page: see www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/osmaps To the time calculated to cover the distance of your route don’t forget to add in some rests to enjoy the view or have some lunch. In the winter allow a bit of time before sunset to get back off the hill before it goes dark. Route-planning is a big part of the fun, so enjoy it!
What's the best course of action to take if you're camping in the mountains and a thunderstorm strikes?
Interestingly, the average annual frequency of lightning over most of central and northern Scotland is less than five days, compared to 15-20 days in parts of southern England. As such, if you're walking north of the border, hopefully you’ll manage to avoid it altogether. Even if you're in southern England, it's still a fairly rare occurrence. It’s not all good news, though.
The average lightning flash is 2 miles long, travels at over 140,000mph and can reach temperatures approaching 30,000 deg C. Add to that the fact that a bolt can contain over 100 million volts and 100,000 amperes of current, and it’s probably no surprise to learn that a tent offers little protection from a lightning strike.
Let’s start at the beginning – and as with so much – planning and preparation is key. Check the weather in advance, and if lightning storms are on the cards you may wish to reconsider camping at all. Even though the odds of being struck in your lifetime are just 1 in 3,000, lightning kills an average of 3-6 people every year in the UK and injures 30-60 people. Clearly you don’t want to be part of that statistic.
If you still intend to head into the hills you need a safety plan. The truth is that the safest place to be during a lightning storm is in a well-constructed building. A car is also a suitable shelter, but stay away from any metal surfaces inside the vehicle. If you’re within easy reach of a car or building you should be prepared to abandon your camp in the event of a storm.
‘AVOID SEEKING SHELTER NEAR LONE,
TALL TREES OR UNDER ROCK OVERHANGS’
However, most wild camping takes us well away from the beaten track, meaning retreat to civilisation is not an option. Avoiding wide, open spaces or exposed hilltops is obviously a good idea when pitching your tent – anywhere that you are the highest point on the landscape is a bad place to be during a storm. You should also avoid seeking shelter near lone, tall trees or under rock overhangs. Lightning hitting a tree can jump to objects in close proximity, and lightning strikes can arc across openings in rock such as caves or overhangs. If you’re in the way, it’ll go through you. Wherever you pitch your tent the fact remains that once lightning starts, you may be better off outside your tent than in it. While your tent won’t attract lightning as such, a wet tent and metal poles make excellent conductors.
But how do you know when lightning is approaching? Because sound travels slower than light, you’ll see lightning before you hear the thunder that accompanies it. Counting the time between the flash and the clap will give you a rough idea of how far away the storm is; 3 seconds equals 1 kilometre, 5 seconds equals 1 mile. Lightning can travel as much as 10km from the storm, so the general rule of thumb is that if it’s less than 30 seconds between the lightning and the thunder, it’s close enough that you could be at risk. What’s more, nearly half of all deaths caused by lightning strikes occur after a storm has passed. You should assume you are still potentially at risk until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. These timing guidelines are known as the 30/30 rule.
‘five out of six people killed by lightning were male’
So, you’ve determined that a storm is approaching but you’re too far away to run to shelter. To give yourself the best chance of not being struck, you should move to lower ground (such as a dry ditch) as quickly as possible, discard any metal objects such as ice axes or poles, and crouch down with both feet close together, tuck your head in and place your hands on your knees. This will lower your height, reduce your exposed surface area and minimise the effect of any electrical charge striking the ground nearby. Do not lie flat – this increases the area of your body exposed to strikes from above or through the ground. If your hair starts to stand on end and metal objects hum or buzz, you should make a swift retreat to another location as a strike may be imminent.
Although the vast majority of fatal strikes kill just one person, nearly one third of lightning strikes causing injuries hit two or more people. Stay at least 5m/15ft away from other people – huddling together increases the risk of being struck and of multiple injuries. As of yet, we mere mortals are unable to accurately predict lightning 100 per cent of the time. But by knowing what to do in the event of a storm you dramatically increase your already favourable odds of not being struck. One final word of warning. Between 1852 and 1999, about five out of six people who were killed by lightning in England and Wales were male. Nobody ever said Mother Nature was fair.
A strike is made up of between 3 and 12 individual lightning ‘strokes’.
There are three different ways of being struck by lightning:
Direct strike: the lightning hits you and goes to earth through you.
Side flash: the lightning hits another object and jumps sideways to hit you.
Ground strike: the lightning strikes the ground then travels through it, hitting you on the way.
About 2,000 people are killed worldwide by lightning every year.
US park ranger Roy Sullivan held a Guinness World Record for surviving seven lightning strikes over 35 years.
On 31 October 2005, 68 cows died on a farm near Dorrigo, Australia when lightning struck the tree they were sheltering under and spread through the ground.
The irrational (eh?!) fear of lightning and thunder is astraphobia.
Lightning myth buster
MYTH There’s no risk of lightning if it’s not raining.
FACT In some circumstances, such as the elevated storms that occur over parts of southern Britain, lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from rainfall. You’ve heard the phrase ‘bolt out of the blue’, right?
MYTH Lightning will never strike the same place twice.
FACT Tall, pointy places are always going to be high on the list of lightning’s preferred destinations and will often be hit regularly. The Empire State Building is hit nearly 25 times a year, and while that number may be much lower for hills and mountains, anywhere with a history of strikes is best avoided during a storm.
MYTH Wearing shoes or boots with rubber soles will protect you from lightning.
FACT The lighting strike will have travelled up to 3 miles at speeds of over 140,000mph. A few millimetres of rubber on your feet will make no difference whatsoever.
MYTH Don’t touch somebody who has been struck by lightning – they could still be electrified.
FACT Not only will they carry no electrical charge, they will almost certainly require medical help. Dial 999 and summon the ambulance service. If you know how, you may be required to administer CPR if the victim has suffered cardiac arrest.
For more information on lighning and how it's formed visit:
ANSWER JEREMY ASHCROFT
Trail Magazine's mountaineering editor, Jeremy is also the author of Britain’s Highest Mountain Walks, pb Collins. He knows the UK hills better than his own reflection.
"Well, the quick answer is yes. Which ones might be most suitable will depend on a number of issues, and in many respects they are issues that have to be addressed by all mountain goers: risk, ability, commitment and companions. If your friend uses a conventional wheelchair and it is just you accompanying her, in the first instance I’d head for a ‘Miles without stiles’ route – they are all detailed online. The Lake District has a well-developed network, with Scout Scar giving a real summit experience. If your friend then gets the bug, seriously consider a specialist off-road wheelchair like a ‘mountain trike’ [see the photo, left]. There are some amazing wheelchairs being developed at the moment, and if using one of these then slightly more challenging routes up rougher tracks could be attempted. Mam Tor in the Peak District (above) and Park Crags (Grizedale Forest, Lake District) would fall into this category. After that the sky is the limit; and with friends to help if necessary, summits that have an access network or forgiving geology like Skiddaw, Black Combe or Cairn Gorm have to be doable with a bit of determination."
Stashing gear is a useful way of saving energy when you’re backpacking on multi-day walks – kind of base camping without the camping. Done responsibly and thought out logically, it can really open up possiblities on a route.
1. Think about when
Look at your route. Is it an out-and-back? If it involves a loop are there any points pre- or post-wild camp when your ‘out’ trajectory crosses your ‘back’ trajectory? Does your route involve spurs of ascent up to big peaks that revisit, for example, the same col? If so, then you could potentially save some energy by ditching the heavier bits of your gear in a stash. Anywhere you revisit could be a potential stash area – the trick is to make it convenient for your overnight stops.
2. Think about what
Obvious things to stash are heavy, non-emergency essentials like sleeping mats, pieces of tents (or whole tents if you have a back-up shelter), luxury camp items and stoves (not gas or fuel as this is a fire hazard) – all of which could knock a fair few kilogrammes off your packweight. Non-obvious items include such things as drinking water, a dry change of clothes, an extra jacket and additional food that you wouldn’t take otherwise – all of which would make your day if you found them waiting for you in a wild camp.
3. THINK ABOUT HOW
The best method is to use a large waterproof drybag the size of a rucksack liner in a dark colour. It’s worthwhile printing your name and contact number on it, just in case – but moreover you need to ensure that everything inside stays dry. Gear stashes generally aren’t huge (you have to carry it in and out, after all) but if there’s more than one of you, it may be worth stashing in separate bags in case one gets compromised.
4. THINK ABOUT WHERE
Under a boulder is perfect; but if the area is completely blank and exposed, consider another for two reasons: (1) you don’t want your stash to be obvious; and (2) you need to be able to find it again. Ensure the location is away from major paths, and doesn’t interfere with crags or require digging or the movement of anything. If you have a GPS-enabled smartphone or a hand-held navigation device it’s worthwhile dropping a waypoint marker.
We love the hills because they’re generally free from miscreants, crime and all the other things that living in civilisation brings.
But be aware that whatever you leave could conceivably get pinched, so ensure you don’t leave yourself exposed or heartbroken if it does. Thus your car keys, grandma’s wedding ring and that life-saving shelter are not ideal items to stash...
This article originally appeared in Trail Magazine
THEY ARE STILL DOING THEIR VALLEY-SCULPTING IN NORWAY, ICELAND, CANADA, THE ALPS AND ELSEWHERE - BUT WHY HAVE BRITAIN'S GLACIERS GONE?
THE simple answer is that Britain is not currently cold enough to sustain large masses of ice throughout the year. Even in the high Scottish mountains, where snow patches linger late into the summer, the temperatures aren’t low enough. The last UK glaciers are thought to have melted following the last ice age – around 11,500 years ago – although scientists recently discovered evidence of there having been a small glacier in the Cairngorms as recently as the 1700s, during what was known as the ‘Little Ice Age’.
Today, glaciers and ice sheets are found at extreme latitudes like the North and South Poles, and at high altitudes such as in the Himalayas and the Alps. It’s been calculated that a year-round temperature drop of as little as 2 deg C (or a rise in elevation of 100m or so) in the highest points of the Cairngorms could cause year-round snow to deepen in the sheltered corries and the beginnings of glaciation could begin again; although with the current trend towards warmer temperatures, this is unlikely to happen.
Q The rustic, free shelter of bothies are a characterful addition to the texture of the UK hills. But are they only found north of the border?
ANSWER JEREMY ASHCROFT
Trail Magazine's mountaineering editor, Jeremy is also the author of Britain’s Highest Mountain Walks, pb Collins. He knows the UK hills better than his own reflection.
Bothies as we know them today are basic unlocked shelters found in mountain or wilderness areas. They are mostly redundant buildings that have been left open by their owners and can range from single-room shepherds’ huts to multi-room shooting lodges. The tradition for using them for walking and climbing started in the Scottish Highlands; there are greater concentrations here than anywhere else. However, they aren’t exclusive to Scotland, and similar open shelters can be found in the Lake District, the Pennines, and the mountain areas of Wales.
Again they are mostly old estate buildings, but in England and Wales you also find disused quarry huts. Around 100 bothies are maintained and looked after by the Mountain Bothies Association; again the lion’s share are in Scotland, but in their care there are also a good spread throughout England and Wales.
If you haven’t used bothies before you should essentially treat them like a stone tent. Some have sleeping platforms, tables and chairs, and some even boast functioning stoves; but you can never count on what’s available so be sure to take all you would need for an overnight stay under canvas apart from the tent! For further information and the Bothy Code visit www.mountainbothies.org.uk
Q I really struggle going uphill. Could it be anything to do with my boots? Would approach shoes be better?
ANSWER GRAHAM THOMPSON
GT is Trail Magazine's technical editor. Anything he doesn’t know about outdoor kit isn’t worth knowing.
"There are many reasons why you might be struggling to walk uphill, and footwear is only one factor to consider. The type of terrain and your skill at moving over it, your fitness, balance, style of walking, body weight, rucksack weight, the stability of your rucksack and much more all need to be taken into account.
"In terms of footwear, boots have the advantage of supporting the ankle, stabilising the foot, reducing discomfort on rockier ground and keeping debris out – and this can make it easier to walk uphill. But approach shoes are lighter than boots while promoting dexterity and freedom of movement in the foot, which allows a more nimble approach to walking over rougher ground.
"Some people do find walking uphill easier in shoes than boots, but the drawbacks are that you may get more debris in the shoe and this type of footwear may flex more on uneven ground, leading to potentially greater discomfort or the need for the foot to work harder. It’s also very important to consider the stiffness and lug pattern of the footwear as both will probably be of a greater influence on performance than if the footwear is a shoe or boot design."
Lyle Brotherton, Trail Magazine contributor: “When I was struck by a British adder (Viper berus), while on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in west Scotland last summer, I felt relatively relaxed in the knowledge that few adults have died from their bites, and that I knew exactly what to do. How wrong I was!
“It was a typical strike: I had unwittingly placed my foot on a rock immediately next to the adder, and it struck me in self-defence, after giving a short warning hiss. I instinctively moved backwards, alerted the rest of the party and looked for any other snakes nearby before I sat down and rolled up my gaiters and trouser leg, carefully examining my shin. The adder’s fangs had not managed to penetrate through my outer garments, and thus I was saved what
I now know to be excruciating pain and frequently enduring after-effects of a British adder bite. My fellow team members all proffered different advice: ‘Lie still’; ‘Apply a tourniquet’; ‘Pour lots of water over it’.
“But none of the above is correct! We soon realised that not one of us, including me, really knew what to do. Then, when later I chatted with other Mountain Rescue team members, they too were equally unsure.”
Knowing how to avoid been bitten in the first place, and knowing exactly what to do if you are bitten, is must-have info. David Lalloo, Professor of Tropical Medicine, is a world expert on snakes and the treatment of snake bites. Here he details what to do if you do fall victim to a British adder…
ADDERS: KEY FACTS
The adder (aka viper) is Britain’s only venomous native snake, and it’s found on mainland Britain and some islands off the west coast of Scotland. It hibernates during the winter months.
It is identified by dark diamond patterns on its back and its quite small size (rarely more than 60cm in length; grass snakes can be double this).
Half of bites are to people’s hands, usually occurring when either putting a hand into a recess in rock or trying to pick an adder up!
For every four strikes, an adder will successfully bite a person. With just over 100 people a year being admitted to UK hospitals due to an adder bite, that means an annual total of over 400 people have an adder strike at them. For every 10 bites (with fang punctures proving that the skin was penetrated) five will result in no injection of venom – the so-called ‘dry bite’ phenomenon.
Pet dogs are just as likely to be struck and the effects are more severe, as venom concentrations are higher than in humans because of their lower body weight. Bites occur between February and October, peaking in June to August. Human deaths are rare, with no more than a dozen in the last 100 years, but non-fatal bites are much more common and strikes more frequent still.
The adder is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).
The effects of adder bites range from localised pain and swelling to severe pain and symptoms that persist for up to 9 months in 25 per cent of all victims. In rare cases they can be fatal.
WHAT'S A BITE LIKE?
Immediate sharp pain from one or two small holes where the fang(s) have penetrated the skin
A sensation of tingling and local swelling that spreads from the wound
Spreading pain, tenderness and inflammation
Reddish lines and bruising appear; a whole limb may become swollen and bruised
- The earliest and most distinctive symptoms are fainting associated with itching skin, hives, wheezing, and swelling of the lips and mouth.
IF YOU ARE BITTEN...
1 Move out of range of further strikes and other snakes.
2 Inform the rest of your party what has just happened, and encourage them to be careful.
3 Leave the bite wound completely alone.
4 Remove all rings / jewellery on the bitten limb.
5 If the bite is on a hand or arm, immobilise it with an improvised splint/sling. Do not tightly wrap the wound.
6 If there is any impairment of vital functions like airway, respiration, blood-flow or heart function, support these as a priority.
7Identify on your map the quickest route to habitation or the nearest road (unlikely to be your planned start / finish point).
8Dial 112 or 999, ask for an ambulance and tell them that you have been bitten by an adder, inform them where you are heading and arrange to meet them there. Give them an accurate grid reference and any other location clues you can see there, such as road names or building nearby; this is your RP (rendezvous point).
9If you can’t get through to 112 or 999 on your mobile, text the emergency services from it (see www.lfto.com/112 for details on how to register for this service) and keep dialling them en route to your RP.
10 When you reach your RP – either habitation or a road – if the ambulance is not already there, stop any vehicle and ask them to take you to the nearest hospital; don’t wait for the ambulance.
Do not wait for help to come to you, unless you are absolutely sure it will be there in less than 30 minutes and that you will be transported off the hill in a vehicle or on a stretcher. (Mountain Rescue rarely gets to casualties in less than 2 hours.)
How to prevent a bite
Look out for warning notices on heaths and commons, and be generally aware adders might be about.
Wear walking boots and long trousers, and ideally gaiters (good for preventing ticks too).
Never put your hand into a hole or crevice, for example between rocks. If you need to retrieve something, stand well back and use a stick to reach it.
Never pick up a snake, even if you think it is harmless or appears dead.
If you are very close to an adder, stand completely still for couple of minutes then back away very slowly. If you remain calm and still, the snake will depart without harming you.
This article originally appeared in Trail Magazine's July 2014 edition.
Q I’m no mountaineer, but I want to climb something really high abroad to experience altitude. What’s out there for someone like me?
ANSWER: ROB JOHNSON, MIC.
A qualified International Mountain Leader, Rob’s led groups all over the world www.expeditionguide.com
"I always recommend that people first dip their toe in the water with something smaller and with good local infrastructure, and then progress onto bigger and more remote trips as they discover how their bodies adjust to altitude and the routine of being away on an expedition. A great first trip for example would be a week of trekking in the Alps, perhaps ticking off some of the 3000m summits in Switzerland and staying in mountain huts along the way. If you enjoy this, a week in the Atlas Mountains would be a good progression. The food is all a bit more ‘foreign’, it’s further from home in a different culture, you can get over 4000m quite comfortably and the accommodation is all a bit more basic.
"Moving on from that you could look at your first high-altitude trip. Objectives like Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp work really well so long as you take it slowly and allow yourself lots of time for acclimatisation. This will get you over 5900m on Kilimanjaro. You could also consider one of the larger Himalayan trekking peaks such as Mera Peak in Nepal, which stands at 6476m and is the highest of the trekking-only peaks in the Himalayas. On a trip like this you need to go slowly, have plenty of rest along the way, be able to sleep in communal, basic accommodation and eat a pretty repetitive diet – and the smaller trips will help you to prepare and enjoy the big one all the more."
Midges can be the bane of a hillwalker’s summer. They swarm, they bite, you itch. Here’s how to minimise their impact and keep your peak-bagging scratch-free.
HOW TO... AVOID
Intel Midges like moist, sheltered conditions, such as tarns or bogs that are out of the wind.
Action Keep to high, dry areas where the lack of moisture and increased breeze keeps them away. Ridges, summits and exposed, well-drained plateaux are best for walking and camping.
Intel Midges dislike strong sunlight and are about in greatest numbers at dawn and dusk.
Action Plan your route to avoid midge-prone areas at either end of the day, and shun shaded locations like forests and woods where they can
be found throughout daylight hours.
Intel Overall weather conditions across the country can influence midge densities in
Action Visiting www.midgeforecast.co.uk will give you detailed predictions for midge activity across Scotland, while Met Office predictions of breezes will reduce their numbers anywhere.
Intel Midges need access to skin to feed and are attracted to dark-coloured clothing.
Action Cover up as much as possible with long-sleeved tops and by wearing trousers rather than shorts. Avoid black or dark blues and greens and stick to lighter, brighter-coloured apparel.
DEET: This chemical repellent is arguably the most effective type. It is available in different strengths, and repellents with 25-40 per cent DEET are fine for midges, but side effects including an ability to soften and damage plastics, plus its questionable suitability for use on children or people with sensitive skin or asthma, puts lots of would-be users off.
Smidge: Developed specifically to combat the Scottish midge (hence the name), Smidge is DEET-free and has been tried, tested and proven in the midge-swamped Scottish Highlands. It’s water- and sweat-resistant, repels mosquitoes and ticks as well as midges, is safe for use on children and is recommended by the World Health Organization.
Avon Skin So Soft: When Royal Marines take to covering themselves in the Dry Oil Body Spray from Avon’s Skin So Soft range, it’s probably not for its nourishing, hydrating and softening properties. It turns out that it’s also pretty effective at keeping biting bugs away, although who are we to say that an RM Commando doesn’t want beautifully moisturised skin?
Marmite: Let’s be clear: you’re not supposed to smear it on your skin. Anecdotally, eating Marmite is said to help repel midges, although there’s no science to back this up. But whether it’s something to do with the vitamin B in it, or because it changes how your skin smells, the biggest factor will be this: do you love it or hate it?
HOW TO...TREAT BITES
Clean: As well as preventing infection, cleaning the bite ASAP can help reduce itching. An alcohol or antiseptic wipe is best, but soap and water will do if available. Applying antiseptic cream is a good idea, too.
Zap: These little devices (above) can be used to administer a small electrical shock to the bite (don’t worry, it’s very, very small), which will relieve itching and reduce swelling. It may sound bizarre, but they really, really work – see our Used and Abused review on page 100.
Relieve: Antihistamine bite relief creams can help reduce swelling and itching when it
does start to become a nuisance. Some people are prone to extreme allergic reactions to bites, and it’s worth carrying antihistamine tablets for use in such cases.
THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE SEPTEMBER 2014 EDITION OF TRAIL MAGAZINE