One slice, (if the quantities below are used), contains an alpine ascent fuelling 440 calories, and two slices gets me through most days in the mountains.
Regular mountain hikers and climbers will know that keeping your hands warm in the colder months is essential.
Cold hands can lead to pain and discomfort, and leave the fingers numb and without feeling. In this state it is difficult to open zips and buckles, or perform the most basic tasks. This is a potentially dangerous situation, especially if trying to navigate with a compass, or open the rucksack to get food or a warm drink. Not addressing the problem can, in the most extreme conditions, lead to frost nip or frostbite and permanent tissue damage.
Some hikers are more prone to suffer from cold, numb fingers than others, possibly due to reduced circulation or narrow blood vessels in the hands. Some people, myself included, suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon, a spasming of the blood vessels in the fingers which drastically reduces blood flow. For us, keeping our hands warm is a high priority when out in the hills.
Hands get cold when heat is lost from the skin surface, this will occur when the ambient temperature is below the temperature of the blood in our hands and fingers, and is exacerbated when there is a wind blowing, or when our hands are wet.
Regular readers will know I am a strong advocate of the layering system to keep warm and comfortable when out in the mountains, and this applies equally to our extremities, our hands and feet. The most practical way to achieve this, and maintain some level of dexterity is to wear gloves.
For those chilly days of spring and autumn wearing a pair of fleece gloves will often suffice, they offer good insulation and can offer a degree of windproof protection too, but note that they are not waterproof.
However, when it gets wintry we need to upgrade our gloves.
I start with liner gloves, these are thin and lightweight, offer a reasonable level of protection, and allow greater dexterity for tasks such as using a compass. Over these I would wear a thicker pair of waterproof insulated gloves, giving me greater warmth from the additional layers and from the trapped air between them. I would recommend outer gloves with a long cuff, this prevents heat loss from the wrist, an area where the major blood vessels are close to the surface and heat is easily lost.
Some people prefer mittens to the outer insulated glove, but I like the dexterity that gloves give me, albeit quite limited.
Most gloves are not waterproof, and all gloves suffer from having one very large hole in them, the one you put you hand in! Therefore it is important to carry spares, you can then change them for a dry warm pair if your gloves get sodden.
Spare gloves are also essential if you inadvertently lose one or both of those you are wearing, spending the remainder of a cold day gloveless is no fun. I am constantly finding gloves in the hills, so this happens more often than you might think.
So when I head out into the mountains in the winter months I will carry liner gloves, two pairs of fleece gloves and two pairs of insulated outer gloves, plus spares for my clients.
Happy hiking with warm hands!
Still 2 places available on our Introduction to Navigation Course next Saturday: https://www.facebook.com/events/488543487956270/
This is a 1 day course for novice navigators on 26th July. Call us now to book your place, 086 4466997
|By selecting the right clothing you can enjoy the hills in all conditions.|
|Multiple layering will keep you comfortable all day.|
A Basic 3 Layer System:
Base layer – a good base layer should move moisture away from your skin, it should be comfortable and offer a degree of insulation. The choice is usually between synthetic, (polypropylene or polyester), or wool, (predominantly merino).
Mid/Insulating layer – this will provide most of the warmth by trapping air in the fibres of the material. Often a synthetic fleece, though wool mid layers are available, they provide insulation while transferring moisture to the outer layer to evaporate.
Outer shell – a jacket or smock with a hood will protect you from wind, rain and snow, and should be both waterproof and breathable. Many people prefer the products made from ‘Goretex’, though other materials such as ‘Event’ also work well. Some manufacturers have developed their own waterproof/breathable materials.
Jackets with full length zips are ideal as they are easier to take on and off.
|Synthetic base layer, fleece mid layer and outer shell jacket.|
|The strange geology of the Burren – Slieve Roe from Mullaghmor in the Burren NP.|
The Burren, on Ireland’s west coast in the county of Clare, is an area of limestone rising to a modest 300 metres above the nearby sea level.
The limestones, from the Carboniferous period, were formed 340 million years ago in a warm shallow sea, and subsequent erosion and the scouring action of glaciers that receded 10,0000 years ago, have exposed these limestones at the surface.
This is a karst landscape, weather worn into limestone pavement of clints, grikes and runnels, with sink holes and underground cave systems.
Fossils of tabulate corals are fairly common, particularly on Mullaghmor.
Sea urchin, ammonite and crinoid, (sea-lily), fossils can also be found.
Despite this astonishing geological landscape, the Burren is probably best know for it’s unique mix of arctic-alpine and Mediterranean flora. As the glaciers retreated, the newly exposed land surface was colonised by plants that today are found on the arctic tundra and on mountains above 1500 metres.
With the warming climate, these arctic-alpine plants hung on in the Burren, and were joined eventually by plants of much more temperate areas. Indeed, the warming nature of the Gulf Stream and the heat retention properties of the limestone enabled plants that would normally be found much further south to thrive here, giving a unique and remarkable assemblage of flora, and in such abundance that can leave a lasting impression on those who visit the area.
Burren in Bloom is a festival that celebrates this abundance, and takes place throughout the month of May, the best time of year to see the wild flowers. However, we visited in early June, and due to the late spring this year, still saw a glorious display of diverse colour on the limestone slopes.
Most abundant was the Mountain Avens, a plant associated with climates much further north, it’s ground hugging foliage covered in a mass of yellow and white blooms.
We walked the green roads, un-metalled tracks, over the low hills in search of the Spring Gentian, and were rewarded by finding this solitary piercing blue flower in abundant clumps.
It is said that if you pick this flower and take it into your home then you will be struck by lightning, but we contented ourselves by taking photographs.
Orchids are another of the Burren’s iconic plants, and there are several species that can be found here.
One of the most commonly found orchids is the Heath Spotted Orchid, but it is often hard to identify correctly as the species has a very variable nature, and there is a strong degree of cross breeding between the species.
Despite this, we confidently identified the Heath Spotted as well as the Early Purple Orchid.
|Heath Spotted Orchid|
We identified many more plants, but one of the more unusual to find here would be the Mossy Saxifrage, a plant of the Arctic tundra regions and mountain ranges between 1900 and 3000 metres. Yet here found at a modest few hundred metres above sea level.
Over 70% of Ireland’s native flora can be found in the Burren, not all flower in the spring, but it is certainly the best time to come and enjoy this spectacle of colour and abundance.
I never really tire of it, and will certainly be back again next spring, and I hope the weather is as good as it was this year!
|The route ahead from Am Bodach|
|Les and Dave posing for the camera|
|Looking back along the Aonach Eagach ridge|
|On the north ridge of Ben Starav|
Here too, the upper corries still held winter snow, and we felt the chill as we made the final push to the summit over a difficult and greasy boulder field.
Winter had hardly released it’s grip on these mountains, the sparse grasses were brown and blasted, with very little sign of any new spring growth anywhere, despite it being the beginning of June.
Lunch at the summit of Ben Starav was interrupted by more rain and we soon moved on along the pleasantly narrow summit ridge to the subsidiary top of Stob Coire Dheirg and then down the rocky east ridge to the bealach. From here an undulating whale back ridge continued north east to Glas Bheinn Mhor, our second summit of the day.
|Ben Starav from below the east ridge|
After a steep and scrambling decent to another bealach, we followed a lovely rocky path alongside the Allt Mheuran. Small tumbling waterfalls and the babbling rush of this small mountain stream delighting us as we made our way back into Glen Etive, down here in the glen there were signs that spring was beginning, with chattering birds in the brightly green birch trees and butterworts glowing yellow in the wet hillside flushes.