Top 10 Treks for Solo Travellers

There’s no need to be nervous about daunting travel destinations anymore.

Just because your friends can not join you it does not mean you have to miss out on a fantastic adventure holiday. Group travel is safe and more popular than ever. Our friends at KE Adventure Travel tell us nearly 56% of their travellers are independent, with no extra supplement for booking solo. Take a look at their top 10 adventure trekking holidays perfect for those wanting to travel alone and share the experience with like-minded walkers.


Imagine relaxing in the lodge in Namche with your new found friends chatting about the first ever view you had of Everest. This trekking holiday is not only one for the bucket list, but it’s a fantastic holiday to meet other trekkers every night in your mountain lodge accommodation. With mind blowing views every step of the way this KE Bestseller will ensure you have amazing memories to take home and share. 

17 days, departures Oct–May. From £1425 Land Only


KE’s classic Moroccan trek is the perfect holiday to meet fellow travellers whilst staying in locations popular with other international trekkers.  The excellent local guides are renowned for making sure everyone is looked after from start to finish and this adds to the all-round social experience.  Everything is taken care off right down to enjoying the dramatic scenery and summit of Mount Toubkal!  With all meals and airport transfers included, plus plenty of 5* reviews, One Week Toubkal is the perfect choice!

8 days, departures May - Oct. From £395 Land Only


Another KE Bestseller, this holiday always has good group sizes. It’s popular with single travellers and although you may be really sociable, you may also want your own space. So, there is a single supplement option to have your own room and tent throughout the whole of this holiday. Summit Ras Dashen with likeminded travellers, enjoy superb trekking and UNESCO site visits all in the safety of local English speaking guides.

13 days, departures Oct-Mar. From £1695 Land Only


4. Corsica Haute Route – The Complete GR20

(image no.4)

You’ll stay in mixed accommodation on this holiday so you’ll definitely have a sociable time during this challenging trek which walks the complete route from north to south. Exchange email addresses while enjoying the views from the granite peaks over the dramatic coastline, as you trek across the spine of this beautiful island.

15 days, departures Jun - Sep. From £1595 Land Only


Wild Albania is a remote, beautiful, intriguing and mind-blowing destination; you will never receive a warmer welcome than from the local people here. You can opt for a single room in the hotels, but most of the accommodation throughout the trek is shared as you stay in traditional mountain homestays and village accommodation where you’ll enjoy real local hospitality. No need to worry about exchange rates after Brexit, this holiday is all inclusive* from the minute you land.

9 days, departures Jun - Sep. From £595 Land Only

*excludes miscellaneous expenses – drinks souvenirs etc


With #Bigwarmhug being the latest message from Tenerife there is no need to feel alone on this ‘all year round’ sunshine island. Can’t get your friends to join you for a weekend away? Then why not head off for your own for a short break. "What did you do at the weekend?"  "Oh I watched the sunrise from the highest peak in Spain and you?"  Jealous - they will be!

4 days, departures Jan-Feb & Oct–Nov. From £395 Land Only


Another iconic trek for the bucket list – but without the crowds on the main Inca Trail! While relaxing in the mess tent, you’ll find yourself chatting over the highlights of your day with your new found friends. Was it the dramatic views down the Apurimac canyon, the incredible sunset on the Llama terraces or the anticipation of Machu Picchu that is the topic of conversation?

13 days, departures Mar-Oct. From £1295 Land Only


Bhutan is a Shangri La, but with strict rules for visas and travel it is not the easiest of countries to visit. However, KE’s classic holiday which treks across three high passes and of course visits the famous ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery, takes care of all of that for you. You can just relax and enjoy this spectacular circuit trek in the comfort and safety of your fully guided group.

12 days, departures May, Sep-Nov. From £2495 Land Only


This winter adventure is great fun for independent travellers. It is only 3 hours from the UK, fully guided and has single room options throughout. Go on the hunt for the Northern Lights, hike over glaciers, watch geysers explode and visit glittering Ice caves; This holiday is jam packed with experiences to share with your fellow travellers and also includes the impressive Gullfoss waterfalls and a few nights in Reykjavik!

5 days, departures Oct-Apr. From £945 Land Only


If you are worried about your first solo adventure, then the Singalila Ridge is perfect for a first time trekker in the Himalaya. It is easy walking following good trails and the altitudes are not extreme. There is lots of social time in the mess tent when you’re camping and some great guided sightseeing when in Darjeeling. Everything is taken care of on this holiday, from the airport transfers and internal flights to all the accommodation, meals and sightseeing tours. 

13 days, departures Apr & Oct–Nov. From £1295 Land Only


A little preparation can help you feel more secure about travelling alone. KE has also put together answers to some of the most commonly asked questions, to help you feel more secure about travelling as a solo traveller.

Click HERE to find out more

 

Pokémon Go gamers warned to stay safe in the mountains

Pokémon Go fans have been warned to make sure they don’t just go, but also come back safely from hunting the vitrtual creatures in the UK's wild places.

pokemon-go-in-the-mountains

The craze for collecting virtual Pokémon characters via a phone app has delighted youngsters (and the young at heart) and mystified everyone else, as collectors track down the characters through the GPS feature in their phones. But mountain safety experts have reminded fans that – though there are undoubted health benefits from getting outdoors and active – they need to be aware of where they are and how to get home again.

But mountain safety experts have reminded fans that – though there are undoubted health benefits from getting outdoors and active – they need to be aware of where they are and how to get home again.

After discovering – purely in the course of research – that Pokémon Go characters can be found aplenty even in the Cairngorm mountains, Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Adviser with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: “From a mountain safety perspective there are clearly a few issues here. It is not difficult to imagine a situation where a Pokémon Go gamer finds themselves lost and unable to find their way back to safety. It would be equally easy to see how someone could put themselves into danger focusing on their game rather than focusing on the ground in front of them.”

She added: “Another aspect of Pokémon Go is the game’s ability to eat your battery life. All the biggest battery-eating culprits are in action, and your screen is the biggest battery hog. On top of that, you will be using your camera, so that you can see the Pokémon in the real world. And to top it all off, the ever hungry GPS is a must to find the Pokémon in the first place.  A classic combo for a dead phone very quickly.


“If your phone is your only tool for navigating your way out of wherever you have found yourself, then you are in for trouble.”


Having spent a day wandering the hills with one eye on the phone, Heather admitted: “It’s a fun game, and it does encourage folk to get out and about and enjoy the great outdoors with all the health benefits that brings.
“However, gamers need to be aware if they are playing in an area that they are not familiar with – particularly in the mountains – that they should very much stay ‘switched on’ to where they are and how to get themselves home safely.”

For more information on remaining safe in the mountains, visit www.mcofs.org.uk/mountain-safety.asp

Avoid being struck by lightning!

What's the best course of action to take if you're camping in the mountains and a thunderstorm strikes?

Thor gets busy chasing wild campers off the hills. © JOHN CANCALOSI/ALAMY

Thor gets busy chasing wild campers off the hills. © JOHN CANCALOSI/ALAMY

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.


Zap facts

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:
www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/learn-about-the-weather/thunder-and-lightning/lightning

HOW TO MAKE A GEAR STASH

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.

Using a waterproof dry bag to stash gear... serruptitiously. Photograph: Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

Using a waterproof dry bag to stash gear... serruptitiously. Photograph: Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

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

Stashing camping gear in Knoydart and marking position with a GPS device. Wilder places lend themselves to this technique more readily. Photograph: Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

Stashing camping gear in Knoydart and marking position with a GPS device. Wilder places lend themselves to this technique more readily. Photograph: Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

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.  

and finally...

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

 

 

 

 

 

PUB POSER: WHY DOESN'T BRITAIN HAVE GLACIERS?

THEY ARE STILL DOING THEIR VALLEY-SCULPTING IN NORWAY, ICELAND, CANADA, THE ALPS AND ELSEWHERE - BUT WHY HAVE BRITAIN'S GLACIERS GONE?

The British mountains are glaciated enviroments. They just don't have glaciers any more. If they were to return, though, it would be here in Scotland's Cairngorms.
Photograph Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

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&A: Are bothies a purely Scottish thing?

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?

Dalballoch Bothy in the Monadhliath mountains. Photograph: Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

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&A: Shoes vs Boots for uphill

Q I really struggle going uphill. Could it be anything to do with my boots? Would approach shoes be better?

Could your choice of footwear be limiting your walking?

Could your choice of footwear be limiting your walking?

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."

Q&A: How to get high abroad

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?  

A 4000m Alpine Peak is something many aspire to... but where to start? Photo: Jeremy Ashcroft

A 4000m Alpine Peak is something many aspire to... but where to start? Photo: Jeremy Ashcroft

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."

 

BEAT THE MIDGES THIS SUMMER

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.

Culicoides impunctatus (Highland Midge) feeding. Photograph: The Pilbright Institute

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
different locations.
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.

HOW TO...REPEL

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

 

 

BIVVYING FOR BEGINNERS

It’s that time of year when outdoor masochists lose every shred of sense and start kipping on top of mountains. But is bivvying as scary as it looks? 

Bivvying on the summit of the legendary Buachaille Etive Mor. It may be mad – but who wouldn't want to? Photograph: Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine

What is bivvying?
Bivvying is sleeping outside, usually in a wilderness environment, using just a rudimentary means of protecting yourself from the elements – namely a bivouac or bivvy bag. In its most basic form, a bivvy bag is a waterproof sack, a little larger than a sleeping bag, although some bivvies have a single hoop to make them feel a little less claustrophobic.

Why should I do it?
Even the lightest one-person tents are still heavier than a simple bivvy bag and take up more space in a rucksack. For travelling fast and light, you can’t beat a bivvy. The other disadvantage of a tent is that you’re limited with where you can put it, while bivvies can be used anywhere there’s space to lie down, and don’t require tent-peg-compatible ground. You could kip on a summit, in a cave, or even on a mountainside, waking up to views most people can only dream of.

What gear do I need?
The kit:
1 x bivvy bag
1 x sleeping bag
1 x sleeping mat
1 x large dry bag or waterproof sack
Usual camping food and water
Usual hillwalking kit and clothing, plus an extra warm insulated jacket

Where should I do it?
Ideally you want a spot that offers shelter from any wind and rain.
Siting your bivvy on the lee side of a boulder or in a small hollow will help, while in designated bivvy spots like those found on Skye’s Cuillin Ridge, low, purpose-built walls constructed of rocks provide the same protection.

Don’t forget about the aesthetic value of the location, too. If you know where the sun is going to set or rise, if there’s a view of your favourite mountain, or if you just want to be able to see where you’ve parked the car, take the time to choose a spot that provides you with the most pleasing outlook.

How does it work?
Insert your sleeping mat into the bivvy bag, then add a sleeping bag. Place all your kit and any spare clothes inside a big dry-bag. Unlike a tent there’s no space to store your pack and boots but you still need to protect it, so put your kit somewhere it can’t blow away, or anchor it down.

Once you’re set up and ready for bed, slide into your bivvy bag and get comfortable. If fine weather’s forecast, you can leave the bag unzipped; but apply insect repellent as the little biters may be up to no good during the night. Otherwise, zip yourself in and nod off to the soundtrack of the wilderness around you…

BIVVYING: MORE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Do I need a bivvy bag to sleep outside?
No, but if there’s any chance of getting wet, either through precipitation or dew (and in the UK that’s most of the time), you’ll want one.

Will I need a sleeping bag too?
Yes. A bivvy is just a waterproof cover. It offers little by way of insulation, so you’ll want a sleeping bag to keep you warm.

What about a mat?
Yes. Even if the terrain is comfortable, you can lose lots of heat through the ground. Sleeping mats add comfort and insulation, and fit inside most bivvy bags.

Will my face get wet?
Bivvy bags usually zip up completely. While this can make them feel a little like a body bag, the waterproof nature of the material means you will at least be kept dry.

Will I be able to breathe in the bag?
As well as being waterproof, bivvy bags are also breathable to reduce condensation, so you won’t suffocate!

Could I roll off the side of a mountain?
In theory, yes. Unlike a tent, a bivvy bag isn’t anchored to the ground. But it takes some effort to roll over, particularly if you have a sleeping mat, so you should be safe.

Do survival bags do the same job?
Survival bags don’t zip up completely so, unlike bivvy bags, they are prone to leaking in wet conditions. They’re also not in the slightest bit breathable, so you’re likely to end up soaked in condensation and sweating like a grizzly bear in a sauna.

 

Gearing up for Winter

Winter is arguably the most spectacular time of year to be in the mountains - but only if you have the right kit. Forget something essential and you could find yourself in serious trouble. Mountain Training's Bryn Williams takes us through the gear choices he makes to ensure that a cold day on the hill is still a good one...

Autumn into winter is my favourite time of the year to start heading out to the hills, as the colours are changing and the end of the day is sometimes rewarded with stunning sunsets. The clothing and equipment choice become a vital part of venturing into the hills during the winter months, so here's an idea of what I'll be taking with me.

Clothing

Start cold and avoid getting too warm and sweaty early in the day. My choices would generally be:

Start of the day:

 - Long-sleeved base layer with high neck

 - Light windproof layer

 - Insulated (synthetic) gilet/vest

 - Thin gloves, Bu , thin hat

 - Soft shell trousers

 - Gaiters

As height is gained or it starts to cool down or rain:

 - Soft shell jacket (with hood)

 - Lightly insulated gloves (not too bulky)

 - Waterproof trousers (with ful-llength zips and ideally high waist/bib style)

Poor weather:

 - Waterproof jacket (fixed hood that can be easily adjusted with gloves on)

 - Synthetic insulated jacket (slightly larger size, which allows it to be worn over the top of all other layers, plus fixed hood)

 - Big insulated and waterproof gloves

 - Thicker beanie hat

Equipment

During the winter months you'll end up carrying more equipment and clothing than in the summer months, so for starters think about the size of your rucksack. A 40 litre pack is ideal, especially with compression straps (for holding an ice axe and walking poles), supportive waistbelt and a pocket within the lid to stash snacks and random bits and pieces. The equipment I use in winter will differ from summer - always remember that you might need to use it with big gloves on and in the dark.

In my rucksack:

 - Map (including spare and a case or lanyard)

 - Compass (with large base plate)

 - GPS (to assist with the map and compass)

 - Flask (0.5-1 litre with hot drink)

 - Water (0.5-1 litre)

 - More food than summer (mix of slow-energy-release snacks and some sugary quick hitters)

 - Headtorch (brighter and more robust than the one I carry in the summer)

 - Phone within a waterproof case

 - First aid kit

 - Spare gloves or mitts

 - Spare hat and Bu

 - Group shelter (big enough for your team to get in)

 - Blizzard survival vest (one per team member)

 - Walking pole(s)

 - Sunglasses and lip cream

 - Clear goggles (that can be used in darkness)

Essential Winter Kit

Most of the equipment above will be carried within the autumn months, and as winter arrives I'll then add some further essential kit to the list:

 - Winter boots: I use fully rigid winter boots (B3 rated). I like the extra support in winter, and they make kicking steps on short snow patches much easier and far more stable.

 - Crampons: Must be compatible with the boots you use, and robust. A mountaineering crampon would be ideal for most journeys, and if using a B3 boot it will allow a 'clip-in' style that gives a snug and secure fit. Stash them in a crampon bag rather than using point protectors. 

 - Ice axe: Essential kit for support when walking, cutting steps and ledges, aiding balance and arresting a slide should one occur. A longer axe will give more support when walking uphill, whereas a shorter axe will be more useful on steeper, rockier ground. A 'B' (basic) axe is fine for personal walking, and a 'T' (technical) axe is needed if you plan to do roped winter climbs where the axe may be part of a belay. 

 - Fix-it kit: The usual boot laces and duct tape, plus some zip ties and a multi-tool for fixing crampons.

 - Knowledge: One of the main differences in winter is the knowledge required to use the winter equipment competently (ice axe and crampon skills) along with an understanding of the differences and challenges of winter navigation and avalanche awareness. A winter skills course can be a good way to take your summer walking skills into the winter environment.

To find out more about the Hill and Mountain Skills Scheme run by Mountain Training, including the course contents and registration details, visit www.mountain-training.org

skills-dps-winter-kit.jpg

Walk your way through Christmas Dinner

Here's your guide to some of our best festive food on a cook's tour of the culinary capitals of the British Isles!

1. SWEET CHESTNUTS

The sweet chestnut was introduced to Britain from Europe, and so it tends to be more prevalent in the estates and parkland of southern England. The nuts are available from mid-October and give off an unmistakable warm aroma when gently roasted over embers and served hot. They make brilliant soup and are a wonderful addition to home-made stuffing.

GET THEM HERE: Mature estate woodlands including London's great parks and the grounds of stately homes in the home counties.

WALK HERE: Download our 'Richmond Hill' walk from www.lfto.com/cwroutes

2. SMOKED SALMON

Farmed salmon is more sustainable than the increasingly scarce wild fish, but intensive salmon farms have come in for criticism. Look for fish reared on the west coast of Scotland, in sea lochs with strong tidal currents. These minimise the impact of the waste on the surrounding ecosystem, and the flesh of the salmon will be firmer and leaner.

GET IT HERE: Inverawe Smokehouse, Taynuilt, Argyll (www.smokedsalmon.co.uk).

WALK HERE: There are pretty woodland walks direct from the visitor centre.

3. SPARKLING WINE

While we can't actually refer to it as champagne, sparkling English wine is now regularly beating French fizz in blind tastings. Our friends across the Channel are so worried that they're busy buying up swathes of Sussex and Kent in a bid to stop English winemakers stealing any more of their thunder. So if you usually indulge in a drop of fizz to celebrate the festive season, buying British is the way to go this Christmas.

GET IT HERE: Ridgeview, West Sussex (www.ridgeview.co.uk); Chapel Down, Kent (www.chapeldown.com); Camel Valley, Cornwall (www.camelvalley.com).

WALK HERE: The Camel Trail passes beneath the Camel Valley Vineyard, while Ridgeview's vines grow on the chalky slopes of the South Downs - download our 'Ditching Beacon' walk from www.lfto.com/cwroutes

4. CHIPOLATA SAUSAGES

No Christmas dinner is complete without some chipolata sausages on the side. Buy British and look for a minimum of 80% meat content - ideally from outdoor-reared free-range porkers such as Gloucester Old Spots or Tamworths.

GET THEM HERE: Cowmans Famous Sausage Shop, Clitheroe, Lancashire (www.cowmans.co.uk).

5. STREAKY BACON

For perfect devils on horseback, you'll need bacon that roasts nice and crisp rather than steams itself in the oven - so a good dry cure with no excess water is essential. Look for handsalted rashers that have been cured over time, not injected with artificial smoke and frozen before slicing.

GET IT HERE: Denhay Farms, Bridport, Dorset (www.denhay.co.uk).

6. TURKEY

Turkey is the centrepiece of the traditional Christmas lunch, so it's worth seeking out a good one. Organic freerange birds that have been reared naturally in the open air will cook more evenly and taste better, so the additional investment definitely pays off.

GET IT HERE: Woodlands Farm, Kirton, Lincs (www.woodlandsfarm.co.uk).

WALK HERE: See the turkeys - and several other animals - on the 1.5-mile trail around Woodlands Farm.

7. GOOSE

Once an English Christmas fixture, goose has made a bit of a comeback as families look for a more strongly flavoured alternative to turkey. You'll be spooning fat from the roasting tray every hour, but it's ideal for roast spuds!

GET IT HERE: Seldom Seen Farm, near Billesdon, Leicestershire (www.seldomseenfarm.co.uk).

8. HAM

Gently simmered in orange juice and spices, studded with cloves and slathered in marmalade before roasting, the traditional Christmas ham is almost as important as the turkey. The Woodall family have been producing outstanding hams in the western Lake District for nearly 200 years - call in at their tiny shop in Waberthwaite then explore the gorgeous valley of Eskdale.

GET IT HERE: RB Woodall, Millom, Cumbria (www.rbwoodall.com).

WALK HERE: Download our 'Muncaster' walk at www.lfto.com/cwroutes

9. BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Love 'em or hate 'em, sprouts are among the few fresh vegetables available in deepest winter, as they grow above ground and are best harvested after a hard frost. Acres of Brussels are grown in the fertile Fens to reach their peak in late December.

GET THEM HERE: TH Clements, Boston, Lincolnshire (www.thclements.co.uk).

10. PLUM PUDDING

If you plan to make your own, best get your skates on as 'stir-up Sunday', when you're supposed to make the mixture and let it mature, is on November 23rd. If you've left it too late, try the gourmet puds from the Lakeland artisans who introduced sticky toffee pudding to the world.

GET IT HERE: Cartmel Village Shop, Cumbria (www.cartmelvillageshop.co.uk).

WALK HERE: Pick up a Cartmel pud then wander up the Cistercian Way to the top of Hampsfell for stunning views over expansive Morecambe Bay. Download our 'Hampsfell' route from www.lfto.com/cwroutes

11. THE CHEESEBOARD

No festive feast would be complete without a selection of cheese. Ours would be sure to include the following: Caerphilly, Crumbly Lancashire, Hartington Stilton, Isle of Arran Cheddar, Somerset Brie and Wensleydale.

GET THEM HERE: Hartington Cheese Shop, Derbyshire (www.hartingtoncheeseshop.co.uk).

WALK HERE: The pretty village of Hartington, at the head of Dovedale in the Peak District, has recently restarted production of its distinctive stilton. Download our 'Hartington' route from www.lfto.com/cwroutes

12. A WEE DRAM

At 1164ft above sea level in the upper reaches of Glen Trium, Dalwhinnie is Scotland's highest distillery, and its soft, sweet whisky makes the perfect digestif after your bumper Christmas lunch. It also makes a warming tipple for a cold day on the hill.

GET IT HERE: Dalwhinnie Distillery, Inverness-shire (www.discoveringdistilleries. com).

WALK HERE: Explore Glen Trium on our walk beside the falls below the distillery: download 'Glen Trium' from www.lfto.com/cwroutes

xmas-dinner.jpg