Summer walking, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”

With the weather we British experience, I felt that phrase as an apt opener. After all, many of us go a little mad when the sun shines and it gets really warm, an extremely pleasant change from the traditional weather of rain, cloud and other dull options!
That famous phrase was originally written by Noel Coward and first performed in “The Little Show” on the 1st June 1931 at the Music Box Theatre in New York.

It's holiday time for a great many folk, time to bask in the sun on the beach, getting a tan, watching the waves lash on the shore!

Holiday time, watching the waves lash against the shore

In my first seasonal walking blog Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! I made this very statement, “I love every season for walking, each has its own beauty and each has its own challenges and dangers.”
In my second season blog: Spring time walking, its pleasures and hidden dangers!,
I opened with: “Spring can be a very diverse season weather wise!
Well, summer is still quite a diverse season, but probably not quite so diverse, even though we have had snow in summer.
Yes, snow in the Midlands!
The summer of 1975; Dickie Bird recalls when SNOW stopped play in Buxton from the Buxton Advertiser.

This is what we expect for summer

But would you believe snow in June?
(Peak Rambler library photo December 2011)

I mentioned before in Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! that we tend to think of summer as the safest, while spring and autumn being safer than winter, but they still harbour their dangers. However, here I'll just cover summer.

But it's not all doom and gloom, honest. We do have many pleasant walking days.

Before I go any further, a disclaimer.
I cannot nor will I be held responsible for any incidents arising from this blogpost. All I am doing is sharing with you my personal views of the pleasures, challenges and dangers that springtime walking has.

Just as with winter walking, if you take the right precautions and the right training from fully qualified people, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy summer walking in relative safety.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough, not one of us is free from danger while walking, at any time of year. Therefore it is up you the individual to ensure you walk safely, and if you’re in a group, then it is a shared responsibility to walk safely and look out for each other.

Though it’s rare, even professionals have accidents at any time of year and need to be rescued, and that’s where the training comes in.

Hopefully after the nasty bit, I hopefully you’ve not thought what a waste, summer isn’t dangerous, or even I’ve scared you off?

This blog will be no different to the others; I’ll leave a list of websites at the end where you can seek the latest information. However, probably one of the best central points of mountaineering information and also where courses are available, both at home and abroad is the British Mountaineering Council, often just called The BMC.

Though winter walking, is probably one of my most favourite times to be outdoors walking, all the seasons have their highlights and pleasures, as well as hidden dangers.

According to the meteorological calendar, used by the Met Office, summer starts the 1st June while though the spring equinox is around 20th/21st June, notably called “The Longest Day”, where you enjoy the longest amount of daylight during any year.

For this write-up, the same as the other two, I’ll opt for the first day of summer on the astronomical calendar, which is around 20th/21st June, also known as the longest day, taking us through to the autumn, which is around the 20th/21st September, which is known as the equinox.

Before I go any further, you may be wondering why the Met Office uses the 1st of the month?

I contacted the Met Office and asked the question, and basically it comes down to admin and data collection, making it easier to use calendar months rather than splitting the month.

Even during the summer, you still need to wear clothing suitable for the conditions prevailing, to go out and experience nature at another wonderful time of year.

Mountains, hills and moors, are exposed areas
often require suitable clothing, even in summer!

Nature is considered to have fully woken up as once the summer has arrived, but that’s not quite the case. Nature still very much alive all year through and if you think about it, snowdrops in bloom during February?
Swifts, swallows and many other migratory birds are starting to fly south, even as early as the beginning of August!
Are we safer walking in summer?
Well, not really.
It’s not unusual for overnight temperatures in many parts to drop below 10ºC, especially when you’re out in the open countryside or out on high exposed ground.

Have a look at the readings taken early on Monday 4th July 2016, from a digital weather station I have located at my home, which is in an urban environment.

Readings taken on Mon 4th July 2016
 for Sun 3rd July 2016
Daytime max temp 22.2ºC

Readings taken on Mon 4th July 2016
 for Sun 3rd July 2016
Overnight MIN temp 8.3ºC
As you can see, even in an urban environment:
  • Daytime maximum temp   for Sunday 3rd July 2016 = 22.2ºC
  • Overnight MINIMUM temp for Sunday 3rd July 2016 =    8.3ºC

Incidentally, the general weather observation at my home for Sunday 3rd July 2016 was:
"Dry, clear sky sunny start, moderate cloud, sunny all day."

For further info:
  • Barometer:           1005.2 millibars (trend: rising)
  • Wind:                    Westerly
  • Speed:                  F2 (3.8mph) ave F3 (9.8mph) max gust
  • Relative Humidity  57%
Something to remember:
Under normal atmospheric conditions, with altitude increase, the air temperature often drops between 1°C and 3°C for every 1,000ft (300m) height gained!

The height at my home location is 110 metres asl, so if you're on Snowdon, at 1085 metres asl, some 975 metres higher than my home, the temperature drop is most likely to be between 1ºC and 3ºC cooler.

That means the overnight temperature on Snowdon's summit could easily be as low as 5.3ºC!

Now, to open matters up more, out in the open countryside at the same altitude, without the warmth of the urban environment, the overnight minimum temperature could easily be two or more degrees cooler than it was at my home location, taking the open fields overnight minimum as low as
6.3ºC, or lower!
Based on the temperatures at home, purely for example purposes only, the summer overnight temperature on:
Snowdon's summit could easily be as low as 3ºC!

Now to look at the other end of the temperature scale....

We do have the extremes where the temperature can be very hot, so hot that HEAT STROKE and HYPERTHERMIA can set in!

Notice that hyperthermia and heat stroke are two separate things.
Also, do not confuse HYPERTHERMIA with HYPOTHERMIA.
So, how to do this all as safe as possible?
I mentioned in my Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! write-up that I treat walking the hills and moors with the utmost respect, though winter walking probably more so. But that doesn’t mean I drop my guard during summer, or any other season.
If you have read Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers!, or Spring time walking, its pleasures and hidden dangers! I recommend you do read them, or even just as a refresher on what I’ve said about those two season.
So, where are we at, winter walking has its dangers, so does spring time walking, and now, I’m putting summer walking on the spot!
Am I’m being either a killjoy or boring?
No, that’s not my intention; I want you to enjoy the hills and moors as safely as possible.
Walking is there to be enjoyed and carried out as safely as reasonably possible.
Generally summer is warmer, and can be very hot as well, so it’s wise to have clothing and kit suitable for all variations.
So what do I do?
I make sure I’ve got all the right gear, clothing and adequate water. I usually 3 litres in a hydration pack (water bottles are adequate enough), plus a reserve supply in a separate bottle of 500 millilitres.
Some of you are asking; “What’s a hydration pack?”
A hydration pack (often called a bladder pack) is like a water bag that sits in your rucksack (or whatever suitable non-temperature controlled drink you choose) with a long tube to enable you to suck water in the same manner as you would use a drinking straw to drink a soft drink from a glass.

Hydration pack sits nicely in a pouch inside my rucksack

The rucksack has a dedicated hole
for the tube from my hydration pack to feed through.

The tube then feeds along the rucksack strap
to a mouthpiece so I can drink water while on the move

However, there is a pitfall with the hydration pack; you cannot monitor how fast the pack is emptying!
That is why I have a reserve bottle, so if I do empty my hydration pack, and I need to use my reserve, then I know I need to cut short my walk, or find additional water.
For the hardened walkers among us, you can carry a water filter, where you can draw water from a stream, river or other suitable flowing water source, and filter it through a fine membrane to remove many, not all, of the bacteria and other harmful things that can make you seriously ill.
You may wonder why I use water and not a soft or fizzy drink?
We’ve all been there, you’ve gone to fill that vacuum flask or drinks bottle, only to find it still retains the odour from your last drink!
That’s why.
If you must use flavoured drinks, then avoid fizzy drinks. Not only are they at risk of spraying everywhere due to being pressurised, which is a waste, they’re not very good at replacing lost fluids.
That’s why I use water.
I also carry a 700ml flask of hot water and some drinks sachets or cuppa-soups, so if I become benighted and the night gets cold, I’ve something warm to drink.
Again, just like the hydration pack, my flask only ever has hot water in to avoid that unpleasant odour scenario.
To see what I carry, or variations of depending on what I’m doing, when and where, see my blog What's in my pack? for more information.
We’ve looked briefly at hydration, which is extremely important, because if you don’t keep hydrated, then you risk not only becoming ill, but also not returning safely home.
However, clothing is also very important, and today, the outdoor world has a lot of suitable, lightweight clothing to protect and keep you comfortable.

Note the hat and long sleeves on my synthetic base layer,
all part of my sun protection

Sweating is probably one of the most uncomfortable scenarios you can endure. There is not a lot more uncomfortable than a sweat laden top or trousers, so we tend to wear short sleeves to reduce the effects of that horrible sweaty wet sensation.
But fear not, there are a lot of garments out there that will disperse the sweat away from the skin. There are synthetic materials and also natural materials, merino wool being one of the most notable natural materials that do keep the body feeling fresher, no matter how hot or cold the temperature is.
However, be wary of some cheaper lesser known merino wool garments. True merino wool should not irritate the skin.
My personal preference on a hot sunny day is the synthetic long sleeve base layers, often aiming for a notable brand that I know, and I know others have used successfully, not only to disperse the sweat, but also providing protection against the sun. Especially when you’re out in the blazing sun for many hours….
Trousers, a lot of folk prefer to wear shorts, cut-offs or three quarter length trousers.
Personally I find three quarter length trousers annoying, because they always seem to rub just on the knee. However, I do like shorts, but I don’t wear them while walking.
This is for two reasons:
  1. sunburn
  2. ticks
The first is obvious, the second, not quite so.

Ticks are nasty little critters

See how small a tick is before feeding from its host,
then how big it can get, during and after feeding from its host!
Ticks are nasty little critters, which lie in wait on foliage to then attach themselves to feed on the blood of its host. The host is usually a mammal, dogs, sheep, cattle, deer and humans among a great many.
Unfortunately many ticks carry bacteria that can make you, and other animals that it feeds from, extremely ill, in some cases leading to paralysis!
You wouldn’t think walking in Britain we are subjected to such debilitating creatures, but we are.
Myself, I’m a victim of a nasty tick bite and as a result, now have facial palsy, facial paralysis, or as it used to be called, Bells Palsy. You can read about my story in Bells Palsy, The Flu and Lymes Disease.
Rest assured, it hasn’t stopped me getting out and about, but it has made me more careful and aware.
With most foliage being at leg height, trousers, along with gaiters, long socks and other items to cover the legs, will go a long way to stop ticks attaching themselves to you.
So that is why I won’t generally wear shorts. But again, the sunburn issue is still a very real one, and again, just as with tops, there are trousers out there which are lightweight and dissipate sweat relatively well, keeping you comfortable most if not all day long.
Hats, I always wear a hat, summer, autumn, winter or spring. Not only will it help to keep your head warm in winter, but hats also help to keep the sun off your head.
Again, just as with tops and trousers, there are many good hats out there, that are lightweight and brilliant for keeping the sun off your head.

Personally I prefer to wear a full grain leather boot all year through.
Note I wear gaiters, to help stop ticks getting to my legs.
Gaiters are also good for reducing water ingress over the top of the boots
in wet conditions

Boots, a very important piece of your walking kit, and probably the one item you should spend as much as you can sensibly afford. 
Your boots have to support not just you, but all your clothing and gear, including the rucksack (mentioned shortly), which will carry fluids, food, spare/extra clothing, maps, first aid kit and many other things. 
Those poor boots will get hot, wet, sweaty wet, muddy, covered in dust, scuffed by stones and boulders, and a whole host of other abuse in the duty of supporting you and your kit over many different variations of terrain and temperatures.

Talking of boots getting wet, even in summer, we can still get heavy rain, flooded footpaths and boggy ground!

This and the next photo were taken mid-June!
The water here, though a fairly steady flow,
still came over our ankles!

Though it wasn't deep, when fording this path where the water,
no, river, streamed across,
due to the speed of the water flow, the water level actually came over my boots!

A rucksack, there are many different arguments and ideas what type of rucksack you should have. 
Personally I use a summer pack, typically around 30-35 litres and a winter pack 40-50 litres.
Why the larger winter pack?
Well, I need to carry more clothing and gear, usually ice axe and crampons, which very easily take up an extra 10 ltrs capacity! 
Hopefully we won’t have any snow in summer, so there’s no need to carry those items, so a larger pack is excess weight.

However, as I mentioned earlier, we have had snow in the summer of 1975, which you can read about in the following article; Dickie Bird recalls when SNOW stopped play in Buxton from the Buxton Advertiser.

All these items are readily available from all good outdoor retailers and often at reasonable prices.

There are many good budget brands out there, so you don’t have to spend a fortune on clothing and gear. However, you can spend wisely and as time progresses, if you feel you want to upgrade to the more expensive clothing and gear, then you can do it gradually, as many hardened hill and moorland walkers have done.

Our early walking days are always going to be fraught with challenges, cost of clothing, lack off hill and moorland skills and a lot more. I, no less than anyone else started in that same manner, as I explain in: Early walking days, time to reflect before we judge.

Just a reminder, you read about many of the items of kit I carry, and why, in; What's in my pack?

Now I’ve given you some ideas what to wear, let us have a look at some of the walks I’ve done and my experiences.

Derwent Moor and those funny shaped stones!
This walk was in quite a warm period of that year, but after a prolong spell of heavy rain. As a result, footpaths were waterlogged and muddy at their best. We also enjoyed further showers on that day, among the sunny periods, so putting waterproof overtrousers on, we had to shelter behind a rock formation.

The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge

The added bonus, being relatively higher then much of the surrounding terrain, we saw the rain coming towards us, so we managed to get covered up relatively quickly and comfortably.

I will add, waterproof over trousers I feel are a bonus, they don’t seem to leak and have the brilliant advantage of side fixings to enable you to put them on over your boots.

No messing with talking boots off and then putting them back on again…

Axe Edge Moor, the Cat and Fiddle pub and a Stag Do
Another wet and waterlogged walk. Once again, the walk required the wearing of suitable weatherproof gear, with the added fun of walking with friends, one of whom was getting married not too long after the walk.
On a wet, claggy day in the Peak District!

Oh, the Stag Do.... Well, you'll just have to read about that...

A Limestone walk from Monyash
A pleasant and very hot day’s walking. Adequate sun protection plus sufficient hydration was a necessity for this walk, which I planned for by keeping vigilant on the weather forecasts leading up to the day.

Blue skies and blazing hot sun,
a complete contrast to the walk mentioned earlier

By the end of the walk, my 3 litre hydration pack felt like it was empty, but the reality was, the water had vapourised due to the heat of the day. On the plus side, I had my small water bottle as a backup if I needed it.

A wander from Monyash to Magpie Mine via Flagg and Taddington

Another hot day’s walking, again ensuring I had sufficient hydration and sun protection.
Magpie Mine, a long since disused lead mine against blue sunny skies.
Mill Hill and the Liberator Sunday 29th July 2012
This walk was on some rather remote moorland, where navigation skills need to be at their best, along with the knowledge of what dangers you can endure walking across marsh land and close to water.

Our first view of the Liberator B24 wreckage, close to the path

Crimpiau, a nostalgic walk from Capel Curig
A moderate day weather wise, not too hot, but not cold, though it could be, covering some of Snowdonia’s wilder terrain.

Llyn Crafnant viewed from Crimpiau summit

Again, due to the remoteness, and exposed terrain, of the area, suitable survival kit and skills are required, along with sufficient hydration, warm and light clothing and emergency kit should I have become benighted.

Moel Siabod and my old Navigation Training Ground
One of Snowdonia’s many magic peaks, again, as with the previous walk, suitable survival kit and skills are required, along with sufficient hydration, warm and light clothing and emergency kit should I have become benighted.

Looking north east along the ridge from Moel Siabod summit

Pen Llithrig y Wrach: “The Slippery Hill of the Witch”
Another pleasant summer walk, covering some remote and exposed ground and enjoying a mix of weather, rain, sun, wind and temperatures ranging from as cool as 10ºC right up to 20ºC!

Not somewhere to be caught out in light summer clothing at night!
"....Breaches in the dam on Llyn Eigiau...."
There is a sad factual story about this dam

Pen Llithrig y Wrach has an interesting name, which a photo I have I demonstrates the possibility of the mountains name origins.

Peak Meet; Parkhouse Hill & Chrome Hill
An interesting weekends weather, with a sunny day on the Saturday, and heavy showers on the Sunday.

We summited Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill, under mixed conditions, hot and sunny, then showers!

The Saturday was blazing hot sun, though we did have a light shower while on Chrome Hill, but the Sunday. Did I say showers?

Parkhouse Hill summit

Looking down our descent route

It was a torrent at times. I gave up trying to pack my tent away reasonably dry, it just kept filling with water as I tried to pack it away, so I dumped the tent, complete with its capacious quantity of rain water, in to the boot of my car.

Those large IKEA bags make great carrying bags and that one held the water a treat. Not a drop was spilt in my boot!

An Autumn Walk on Bamford Moor and Stanage Edge
Why I called this an autumn walk beats me, though it did feel autumnal, but warm, no, hot.

A hot weekend, and enjoyable walk and again, the need to keep hydrated.

Lunch in Robin Hoods Cave

Most of this walk was along a river, so I could have reduced my water quantity and used my water filter.

Bakewell, the Monsal Trail and a Tunnel
This was, still is, lovely steady walk, for all types of walkers. The trail followed the route of the long since disused Midland Railway through a fairly level path and through tunnels.
The Weir across the River Wye, Monsal Dale

Headstone Tunnel

Another hot day, but without a lot of water close by, so the need to carry sufficient hydration and also weather protection was a must.

Classic Kinder walk, and some Gritstone formations
This is probably one of the classic walks of the Dark Peak, in the Peak District. Covering some high and exposed ground, navigation can be an issue if you’re not competent with map and compass, so stick rigidly to the path.

It also covers part of the Pennine Way, a long distance path that in total covers some 286 miles from south to north.

The Woolpacks, Kinder

Pym Chair, Kinder

There isn’t a lot of water courses to obtain water from, so adequate hydration and suitable weather and sun protection was required. Remember, I said it was exposed, so suitable survival kit would be required, any time of year.

To summarise, even in summer, we still need to take care of ourselves and any people in our walking group. Remember, we’re all responsible for ourselves and each other. No one individual is to blame.

We all need to ensure we are suitably kitted out with adequate hydration and food supplies, no matter what time of year.

That way, we can all enjoy our walk, enjoy the scenery and return home safe and happy.

I’ve also included the following link below for further reading:

Modern technology vs. traditional methods!
In this write-up, I look at map and compass verses GPS, mobile devices and a few other things we might and will use while out walking, looking at the positives and negatives of each, in a non-technical format.

Toughprint Waterproof Paper from Memory map
Toughprint waterproof  paper is an alternative to using large unwieldy maps by printing my own on waterproof paper, which really does work. However, I always keep a full map for backup.

Tuff Maps, laminated Ordnance Survey maps with a detached cover
Another type of easier to use mapping, with the full quality and detail of Ordnance Survey Maps.

Bells Palsy, The Flu and Lymes Disease
Something to be aware of during the warmer months, ticks. They can carry nasty bacteria that could make you or others very unwell for a long time

Trekking Poles, love ‘em or hate ‘em?
I love them. Here I explain why I love trekking poles. Please, don’t limit this to trekking poles, you might find Pacer Poles just as good.

Naismith’s Rule including Tranters Correction
An explanation of how to work out if a route you’re planning is achievable in the time you’ve allowed yourself.

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler
Twitter           @PeakRambler
Photo Album Peak Rambler Flickr Photo Album
YouTube       Peak Rambler on YouTube

Links to some of the items I’ve mentioned and written about here:

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