Early walking days, time to reflect before we judge

"Hindsight is a wonderful tool.
But sadly, it can only be applied after the event!"

What a statement to open with.....

Here I want to share some thoughts with you, which I have already shared in an earlier posting; “Peak Rambler’s Ramblings; another year ends and time to reflect
At the end there are some links to postings and sources of information that might be of interest.

I'm not alone, there are many more who like me, started in very much the same way, and taken the opportunity to learn from our elders, to enable us to enjoy our hobby more safely.
I've provided a link to Martin's story towards the end and also in my list of links to look at.
A time to reflect,
an enjoyable and successful winter walk
We all have done it, many still do, criticise those who have to get rescued from the hills and moors that we so love and cherish. We don’t wish to see gates and permits permitting when and when not folk can get out and enjoy the outdoors, or even restrict the areas they can go based on their skills.

Or is it a good idea?

I'm not writing this to be judgemental, merely to share some thoughts that might help those out there who are vulnerable and hopefully guide them nicely the right way.

One of life’s great teachers, is experience!

Remember, we’re all vulnerable, it’s just that training and experience have helped to reduce, not remove, the risk.
Believe it or not, learning hill skills is fun
This was the end of a night navigation session, on open moorland in Snowdonia
There is a wealth of information out there, but often, for the newcomers to our wonderful hobby, it's not always easy to find, or even grasp.

However, while there is a wealth of information, there is also a minefield of mis-information, assumptions and other sources of misleading reports and details regarding routes, equipment and many other aspects.

At this point, I will say you can't beat a proper training course, where you will learn a lot from a qualified and experienced instructor, and also have fun.

One brilliant way to teach children, and animals, is fun, and making it a game. After all, search and police dogs are taught that if they do their job properly, there’s a toy, usually a ball, at the end of it. Perhaps as adults, we still like the adventure and play to learn just the same?

So here it is, the piece I wrote back in January 2015, though the photos are a today's addition.

My early walking days, not something to be proud of, but neither am I ashamed, for things were not like they are today were equal to what many of us today, condemn when we see inadequately skilled and kitted folk on the hills and moors.

Back then, I didn’t have the knowledge or skills I have today, but to the best of my ability and skills at the time, I got out and enjoyed the outdoors.

There was a wild camp on Kinder, in the late seventies, with friends, using old ex-army heavy canvas ridge tents, no real map skills, no real appreciation for clothing, not that clothing was very technical back then and pure guess work.

Ok, we never really hit the plateau, even though we thought we had, but it was still fraught with issues, that we were totally ignorant of. 
Kinder Low in winter dressage
Beautiful but dangerous

Dangers of hill and moorland walking, fog and low cloud!
This was about an hour later than  the above photo
when descending from Kinder Low
It wasn't long before it was 'WHITE OUT' conditions!
Visibility was severely reduced
and serious navigation skills are required

But we were out in the wilds, really enjoying the life!

As time went on, I started to accrue the knowledge and basic skills, but nothing to what I have today. There were no obvious courses, some books and magazines, but I was a bad book reader back then…..

So, what am I saying?

Many of us have been there, poorly kitted out, little or no knowledge, out in the hills or on the moors etc, but subsequently we’ve gained the skills to a reasonable level and upgraded our kit accordingly, budgets permitting.

Perhaps many of the folk we see out in the wilds, on the hills and moors, inadequately kitted out, poor or no navigation skills and outdoor knowledge, are just that, innocently out there, enjoying what we enjoy.
Learn how to use a map and compass, correctly
I enjoy chatting to folk when I’m out walking, whether in my group, or not, and also when I’m solo walking, I’ll stop and chat with passers-by, sharing briefly their days experiences and wish them a safe and enjoyable day.

At times, I’ve offered advice, even though not asked for it, some hadn’t even thought of the consequences, but all, have been grateful.

On one occasion, one young couple on Kinder changed their route, avoiding the plateau and were extremely grateful, for they never envisaged Kinder plateau being so wild!

It’s not always easy to tell who is innocently ignorant, and those who are blatantly arrogant.

But there are those blatantly arrogant and push their luck!
Not even all the kit and skills can make you totally safe!

I took a tumble atop Alport Dale back in October. An ML I know took a very nasty tumble off a mountain while solo winter walking. The local mountain rescue team rescued him and he required a hospital stay, in a local hospital before being transferred to a hospital near his home.

His embarrassment, one of his rescuers was on the same Glenmore Lodge Winter course as him!
It can be very bitterly cold walking in the British winter

And windy!

There are hidden dangers when winter walking,
like cornices that you might be walking on, if close to an edge!
We’ve heard of mountain rescue team members falling to their deaths on home ground!

Kit and skills are not guaranteed to stop the inevitable happening, merely reduce the chances and improve our chance of survival should things go wrong.

It can be very hot walking in the UK!

Enjoy the views and tranquillity
To finish this, I know many of you are like me, will stop and share the day’s experiences, so what I’m going to say, you will most likely do. But those who don’t, perhaps a little time tactfully taken to get to know inadequately kitted folk might save a life and put them on the right road to safety!
Remember, stay safe and enjoy the outdoors, and if it looks dangerous, or unsafe, the chances are, it could easily be the case, so change your plans, or turn back if necessary.
Also, always leave a route plan and estimated times and instruction who and when to call for help, with a responsible adult. So if you're delayed and need help, then your rescuers have a good idea where to go.
Take the time to learn outdoor skills, like
  • map and compass,
  • clothing and equipment
  • when and where to walk
Learn how to stay safe, how to call for help when there is no mobile phone signal;
  • Your call                   Six blasts every minute
  • Your rescuers call   Three blasts every minute
Above all else, don't be afraid to share your experiences, not only could you learn something new, but someone else could benefit from your experiences and stay safer as a result.
Yes, I was innocently foolhardy in those early days
Yes, I was lucky, well, we all were
Yes, I've since taken part in many training sessions and learnt the skills I need to try and stay safe out on the hills and moors.

And what's more, I've been happier exploring areas that I wouldn't have deemed possible, especially in winter.

Hindsight is a wonderful tool, but sadly, it can only be applied after the event!

A proper training course, lead by a qualified and experienced instructor, is not only educational, but also can be good fun, and what you take away from the instruction is invaluable.

It won't stop you having an accident, merely reduce the chances, and you will alert yourself to possible dangers and workout the best way to reduce the risk, if you can't eliminate the risk.

That's called RISK ASSESSMENT.

It's something many people feel is a dirty phrase, but in reality, you do it subconsciously all the time. When you cross the road, or if you're driving, pulling out on to a busy road, you hold back, assess the situation, them, when you're satisfied its safe to do so, make your move.

A simple acronym I was once taught while completing a Remote First Aid Course:

S    STOP          Before you go any further, are YOU safe?
T    THINK         Think what dangers there might be around
O   OBSERVE   Observe your location, look for hidden and obvious dangers
P   PROCEED   Once you're satisfied you're safe, then proceed

Incidentally, a Remote First Aid Course, is exactly as it sounds, a first aid course designed for those who spend a lot of time out in remote and wild places. It teaches you first aid, and probably more importantly, TRIAGE, which is how to assess  who needs to be treated first.

Before I close, the story I'd like to share with you, from a fellow hill walker, Martin, who like me, and a good many others, started the same way, but we developed our skills. Martin's story is about his very early hill walking days, and it called: Hillwalking in the 1980’s – My First Mountain, Great Gable and Wasdale, no gear and no idea!

Martin's story is worth a reading.

A phrase to remember: 
"If in doubt - Leave it out"
The hills and moors will still be there another day.
Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler

Twitter           @PeakRambler
YouTube       Peak Rambler on YouTube
Links to postings and sources of information that might be of interest:

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