A Beginners' Guide to Hill-Walking

Enjoying a day in the hills together

A beginners’ guide to walking? How hard can it be? You just put one foot in front of the other, don’t you? If you’re taking your dog for a ramble by the river or a wander in the woods, that’s probably true; but if you’re heading for the hills this summer, there are more things to consider...

Walking with an experienced group is a good way to learn hill skills

Ask a friend...

If you’re a total novice when it comes to hill-walking, a good starting point is to find people who know what they’re doing – team up with friends who go out regularly or join a local walking group.

In some areas, particularly in the 15 National Parks around the UK, various bodies will organise guided walks. Many of these will be free. Check online to find something suitable in your area. Guided walks are also a feature of walking festivals throughout the UK. The Walks Around Britain website publishes a fairly comprehensive list of events all around the country. But remember, not all guided walks welcome dogs. Check first.

Low hills such as Latrigg in the Lake District are popular viewpoints

Where to walk...

It’s best not to attempt the Cuillin ridge or take on the Pennine Way if you’ve never done any hill-walking before. Try following a well-walked path to a popular viewpoint in your local area to test your fitness and get used to using a map. Box Hill in Surrey, Latrigg in the Lake District and Cleve Hill in the Cotswolds are among the many that spring to mind. After that, you might want to try longer walks on other relatively small hills before setting your sight on any of the biggies.

When you’ve got more experience, guidebooks can help you find suitable routes. Make sure you read through walk descriptions before you set off though, so that you know what’s in store. For example, some dog owners might want to avoid stiles as much as possible; many will want to steer well clear of vertiginous ridges such as Crib Goch in Snowdonia or Striding Edge in the Lake District.

Take a map and compass, and make sure you know how to use them

What you need...

Always take waterproofs and warm clothing with you – even in the height of summer.

Your footwear must have good grip and not be likely to result in a twisted ankle on uneven ground. If it’s waterproof too, that’s a bonus.

Carry a map and compass, and make sure you know how to use them.

You’ll need a picnic and water on a long walk, but also carry extra food in case you’re out for longer than planned – for you and your dog.

Emergency equipment for longer days in the hills should include a mobile phone in case of accidents; a whistle/torch should you need to use the distress signal (six whistle-blasts/flashes repeated at one-minute intervals) to summon help; a survival bag to keep accident victims warm; and a basic first aid kit.

And don’t forget your camera! There’ll be plenty of spectacular views you won’t want to forget.

Mountain Rescue...

If you have an accident on the hills or come across an accident victim, dial 999 and ask for mountain rescue. Please remember though, the mountain rescue service is staffed entirely by volunteers; only call them if it is a genuine emergency.

Did you know...?

The weather in the mountains can change suddenly, so it’s important to get an up-to-date forecast before setting out. The Met Office issues five-day forecasts for 10 mountain regions throughout the UK and you can also get detailed, three-day hill forecasts from http://www.mwis.org.uk/