Over the years, I have come across a bewildering array of foods that hikers take in to the hills, from bagels with peanut butter to pasta and red pepper salad.However, when quick, easy to eat, and energy packed food is required I have found that these oat and fruit flapjacks really fit the bill.
I have often been asked for the recipe, and so here it is.

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.

They are quick and easy to make,and are moist and delicious. Conveniently easy to eat, there is no need to remove your awkward winter gloves, which is ideal in harsh winter conditions.
In addition, they keep for days, which makes them great for those multiday trips in the wilds.

Flapjack recipe

250 grams Porridge oats
150 grams Dried cranberries or other dried fruit
50 grams Sunflower seeds
60-80 grams Brown Sugar (use the higher figure for a sweeter mix)
180 grams Olive spread, or butter if you want it richer
4 tablespoons Golden Syrup
Half teaspoon cinnamon
Roasted crushed hazelnuts, (or more sunflower seeds)
Melt the olive spread, golden syrup and sugar in a large saucepan, then stir in the porridge oats, fruit, cinnamon and seeds. Mix thoroughly.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from oven and leave to cool, after half an hour cut into eight portions and leave to cool completely.
Store in a sealed container until needed. Wrap portions in cling-film to take on your hike, each portion contains approximately 440 calories.
Bon appetite!

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.

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Lugnaquilla summit in it’s winter coat

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.

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From left to right: Liner, fleece and insulated 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

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Good article from UKHillwalking.com on how to survive hot days in the mountains, (that is if we have any more this year).

http://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/page.php?id=5676

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By selecting the right clothing you can enjoy the hills in all conditions.
‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing’, is a quote that has been used many times and in various forms. It simply means that if you have the correct clothing then the weather should pose no threat or impediment to your day’s hiking. With proper clothing you will remain warm and dry, even in the worst weather.
In reality, one of the biggest challenges of cold weather hiking is managing sweat and keeping yourself from overheating.
Multiple layering will keep you comfortable all day.
You will need a clothing system that will keep you comfortable across a wide range of activity levels, from standing still to strenuous exertion, and in varying weather conditions, from cold and crisp sunny days to windy and wet outings. Sweat will evaporate much slower in winter than in summer and even small amounts could leave you feeling cold and clammy once you stop exerting yourself. Keep comfortable by moving at a pace that does not result in overheating and remove layers as you warm up.
Remember that you will spend some time during the day not moving, perhaps waiting for other group members or eating lunch.
Your clothing will need to keep you comfortable in all these varying conditions.

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).

Synthetic base layers are generally cheaper, more durable and faster drying, though they will smell with use. Merino wool is more comfortable against the skin, offers more insulation, and is naturally antibacterial, making it a lot less smelly.
There are now hybrid base layers available, typically 85% polyester and 15% merino wool, which aim to combine the best of both wool and synthetic. For winter use they are my current choice.
Opt for a long front zip, as this will help with temperature regulation.

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.

There are ‘softshell’ layers available which combine a thin fleece with a windproof outer layer such as ‘pertex’. They offer high moisture wicking with good insulation and wind resistance, and work well on cold dry days, avoiding the need for an outer shell jacket and helping to avoid overheating.
A full length zip will allow for a greater degree of temperature control.

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.
This simple system can be varied depending on the weather and temperatures encountered. The mid layer can be replaced with a thin insulated jacket of down or synthetic material like ‘Primaloft’, and softshell jackets that combine layers, (as described above), can be used with or without an outer shell.
Layering in this way offers maximum flexibility to stay comfortable and warm in all conditions.
Legs should not be forgotten, good softshell pants will provide insulation and be windproof. Some will keep off a shower, but should be combined with breathable waterproof pants for full weather protection.
A fleece hat or beanie and waterproof gloves should complete the kit, a lot of heat can be lost through the head and cold hands can make for a miserable and potentially dangerous experience.
Finally, cotton clothing has no place in your cold weather kit, preferably not even socks and underwear. It will absorb moisture, trap it next to your skin, and keep you cold and damp all day, leading to possible hypothermia once you stop.
To learn more about Mountaintrails guided hikes check out the following pages on our website.
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.

Fossil corals

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.

Mountain Avens

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.

 

 

Spring Gentian

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!

Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach from Stob Coire Leith
 
After my week on Skye I was looking forward to a different view, different terrain, and to meeting up with some old friends I had not seen for a little over 12 months.
It was a beautiful sunny day as I drove down through Glen Sheil and Glen Garry, with magnificent views of glimmering lochs, bright green forests and snow flecked mountains. I was heading for Kinlochleven, at the head of Loch Leven, to stay at the Fell and Rock Club hut there,  as a guest of my good buddy Les Meer.
 
Sunday dawned cloudy and cool, but crucially there was little wind and the cloud was high, so four of us decided to go for the Aonach Eagach ridge, on the northern side of Glencoe. This iconic serrated ridge boasts two Munro’s and some of the best scrambling in Scotland, and is usually done east to west, with a finish at the Clachaig Inn, and this indeed was our plan.

The route ahead from Am Bodach
The ridge is a mix of easier walking sections and some grade 2/3 scrambling, most notably the Pinnacles, where the exposure is breathtaking, and a good head for heights and a steady nerve are required.
After the long pull on a well made path up to our starting point, Am Bodach, we picked our way along the ridge, first negotiating the down climb from Am Bodach, and then on to the first Munro, Meall Dearg. From here the going got harder as we approached the Pinnacles, and to add a little spice to the day it began to rain, making the well polished holds slippery and needing extra care, so much so that the camera stayed firming in my pack over this section!
Les and Dave posing for the camera
 
 
The rain eased and eventually stopped and too soon we reached Stob Coire Leith, pausing to take in the stunning views all around. To the north, Ben Nevis and the Mamores; to the south the huge bulk that is the complex mountain, Bidean nam Bian, still with a reasonable covering of snow;  and to the west Loch Leven, Loch Linnhe and the seemingly never ending panorama of mountains beyond. 
 
From here the route became easier, more of a ridge walk than a scramble, as we made our way on to Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, the second Munro and the end of the ridge.
 
Looking back along the Aonach Eagach ridge
 
 
 
 
 
The old, traditional route down from here is the Clachaig Gully, but this has become eroded and very dangerous, so we headed across the slope below Cnap Glas, getting more magnificent views down Loch Leven and beyond, before reaching the road and our transport back to the Clachaig Inn for a well earned pint.
 
Day 2 – Monday, we planned to head down into Glen Etive and climb the 1078 metre Ben Starav and it’s neighbour Glas Bheinn Mhor, at 997 metres.
Again the day was cloudy, but a little warmer than the one before, and it felt it as we began our ascent of the long north ridge of this imposing Munro. The summit drifted in and out of the clouds and light rain showers accompanied us as we climbed.
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.