Be prepared

The more time you spend in the mountains the more you’ll realise that the mountain environment is a ‘law unto itself’ – one minute you’re putting on suntan lotion and the next there’s a howling gale blowing. Knowledge is power, but the secret to being safe is to understand the mountain environment and to be prepared for anything it can throw at you.

Walk Safely image.JPGHill walking encapsulates the ideology that you should be independent and able to look after yourself. We do not have a right to be rescued by volunteer rescue teams and should not think that our safety is guaranteed by the emergency services. Returning in the dark or a forced bivouac, are simply situations for which you should be prepared – they do not necessarily justify alerting the mountain rescue. However do not hesitate to call Mountain rescue when it is really needed!

Mountaineering Ireland's Walk Safely leaflet

National Guidelines for Climbing & Walk Leaders 

Let friends know your destination- the effectiveness of mountain rescue teams is greatly helped if a description of your plans is available. You could leave a map with the intended route. The advantage of route cards, especially when you are starting to plan and navigate, is that it forces you to look in detail at your intended route. If you do leave a route card or map, let people know on your return. The downside is that you may change your plans.

Carry the correct equipment -  There is no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate clothing and equipment but don’t be fooled that having the latest equipment turn you into a competent mountaineer overnight or will prevent an accident. If you carry equipment for every eventuality you will travel so slowly you will end up needing it but leave something behind and that’ll be the thing you need. Gradually, by gaining experience in the hills, you will get to know what to leave out and when.

Plan your route - just looking at a map and asking questions before setting off or drawing the intended route on a map, will ultimately save you time during your walk. If the weather is poor and the route complicated put bearings and distances for key stages of the journey.

Ask yourself:

  • Have you packed your rucksack with the necessary items?
  • What is the weather going to be like - bad weather and poor visibility can dramatically affect-estimated times but the effect of high winds and poor weather can be protected against by choosing a sheltered route and staying off ridges.
  • What route are you taking?
  • How steep is the terrain - you may have to zigzag your route for comfort but this will take longer?
  • What is the ground like? Are there boulders, scree or boggy vegetated ground that may slow you down and can they be avoided
  • Streams - these can quickly become impassable in heavy rain (see lightweight expeditions).
  • Break your route down in to smaller legs/sections.
  • Create a mental picture of the legs.
  • Are you going round hills or over them?
  • What general direction are you heading?
  • Are there any prominent features you will pass on the way e.g. streams, paths, buildings, valleys, steep hills?
  • How far is it?
  • How long will it take?
  • Are there any dangers for example, steep slopes, hidden cliffs?

Rucksack essentials for day walking

  • Map (in a watertight case)
  • Compass (optional GPS receiver)
  • Extra clothing
  • Extra food and water
  • First aid kit
  • Head torch (extra bulb/batteries)
  • Knife (or multi-use tool)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • Whistle
  • Emergency survival bag