Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Blog

hiking

Essential Kit for Hiking in Mountain Terrain.

As the seasons turn and autumn takes hold, the weather gets wetter and cooler and the available daylight hours decrease. It’s important to ensure we carry the essential kit to keep us safe in the mountains. Here is my take on what we should be carrying in our pack when we take to the hills…

What is a Softshell Jacket?

What is a softshell jacket? The term has been around for a while now, and refers to those jackets that are not specifically ‘hardshell’, that is to say waterproof jackets that keep out the weather and may or may not have a degree of breathability. The word ‘softshell’ covers a wide range of jacket types…

Featured Hike – Slieve Donard, Slieve Commedagh and the Mourne Wall.

Slieve Donard at 850 metres is the highest peak in Northern Ireland and one of the ‘4-Peaks’ (the highest points in each of Irelands four provinces). It’s a very popular mountain and is most often climbed from Newcastle via the Glen River path. This is the shortest and quickest ascent of the mountain and is…

Choosing the Right Hiking Boots – What to Look for.

Buying new hiking boots, especially for the first time hillwalker, can be a precarious and daunting prospect. So how do we make sense of the technical jargon and the bewildering array of styles, designs and prices available? The first thing to consider is the type of terrain are you likely to be using your footwear…

Hill Skills Series – Top Tips for using Walking Poles

Many hikers use walking poles when out in the hills, and with good reason.  They help maintain balance, reduce the impact on our knees hips and ankles, (particularly in descent and when carrying a heavy pack), and are a useful support on slippery ground and when negotiating a river crossing.Using poles will also give you…

Smarter Navigation – 20 Top Tips for Trouble Free Navigation

Being able to navigate accurately in the mountains in all conditions is one of the most important skills you can learn as a hillwalker. Mountain Rescue teams are regularly called out to hikers who have become disorientated by poor visibility in the mountains.  Always carry a map and compass, and have the skills to use…

Layering for Hillwalkers

Layering, in a mountaineering or hillwalking context, refers to the principle of wearing layers of clothes to maintain comfort, dryness and warmth when being active outdoors. A good layering system would involve a baselayer, worn next to the skin for comfort, a midlayer to provide insulation, and an outer layer to keep out the wind…

Choosing an Insulated Jacket

December 1st marks the meteorological start of winter and snow has already fallen in the Scottish hills and on the Macgillicuddy Reeks in Co. Kerry. If there is a chance to get out into the mountains this winter you might be considering getting an insulated jacket to keep out the cold. Here is what you…

Staying ‘hill-fit’ during Lockdown

Staying ‘hill-fit’ is a guest blog by Kathryn Fitzpatrick – Freelance Guide. Unless you are lucky enough to live within 5km of the hills, getting out hiking is not an option for the majority of us at the moment, however staying ‘hill-fit’ doesn’t always have to include the hills. Check out a few tips below…

Getting Prepared for Winter Hiking

With snow already in the Scottish Highlands it looks like winter is about to arrive our mountains and bring with it the inherent problems of poor visibility, cold weather and challenging terrain. To ensure you don’t get caught out when venturing into the winter hills it’s time to prepare for the harsher hiking conditions to…

Featured Hike – Knocknahillion and Letterbreckaun – Maumturks

The Maumturks lie to the east of the 12 Bens, on the far side of Lough Inagh, in Connemara. Like the Bens they are made from tough quartzite rock that weathers to a pale hard gravel and which holds very little vegetation on the upper slopes where soils are very thin or non-existent. Like the…

Using the Five D’s in a Navigation Strategy

Long established with trainers and mountain professionals alike, using the five D’s at the beginning of each navigation leg, particularly when first learning these vital skills, ensures that no essential information is missed and adds structure to our decision making process when navigating in the mountains. Mountain navigation is often complex and difficult, with steep…

Mountaintrails Covid-19 pandemic policy – What you need to know

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mountaintrails will ensure that all events will be carried out in line with the advice from the Irish Government. This will be reviewed in the light of government policy. We will be taking all possible precautions to keep everyone safe whilst participating in our activities. CANCELLATION – In the event…

Featured Hike – Glendalough (Derrybawn and the Spinc).

Glendalough sits in the Wicklow Mountains are a range of granite hills a short drive south of Dublin on the east coast of Ireland. Shaped by the glaciers that covered this land more than 12,000 years ago, they are now a series of rounded mountains and ‘U’ shaped valleys that rise to a high point…

Contours and Contour Interpretation

Understanding contours and being able to interpret the shapes they make on a map is a very powerful navigational tool. However, all too often contour interpretation is overlooked in favour of more obvious features such as streams and forests. An experienced and competent navigator will look at the contours early in the process and use…

Winter Gloves – making the right choice

I’m a bit of a winter glove obsessive. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s that I suffer with cold hands but I am constantly on the search for the perfect winter gloves and dip into outdoor stores regularly to check out the latest offerings. So, what are the important features I am looking…

Lake District hiking Weekend 31 August -04 September 2023

Lake District Hiking Weekend Here is a great opportunity to climb the highest mountain in England (Scafell Pike) and other iconic Lakeland peaks. Numbers are restricted to 18 participants, plus our 2 guides. You will need to be a competent hillwalker with experience of climbing some of the higher tops in Ireland. We will be…

10 Top Tips for New Hillwalkers

New to hillwalking? Check out these top tips to start you off in the right direction. 1. Love your feet Getting the right footwear is possibly the most important factor in determining the success of your hillwalking career. For tracks and low level routes when you might have only a light pack, then lightweight flexible…

5 Top Tips for Climbing Lugnaquilla mountain

Lugnaquilla is the highest mountain in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, and at 925 metres it is the highest point in Ireland outside of Co. Kerry. Shaped rather like a large upturned Christmas pudding with 3 large bites taken out of it, there are a number of ways to climb this mountain, all of which…

Assessing Personal Risk when moving on Steep Ground

When considering how to ascend or descend a particular section of steep terrain, whether steep wet grass or a rocky outcrop, it is important to make a personal judgment on your ability to safely negotiate the ground ahead of you. When assessing the risk to your personal safety it can often be useful to think…

Featured hike – Galtymore and the Cushnabinnia Horseshoe

Time: 6.5 hours         Distance: 13km        Height gain: 1040 metres Galtymore is the highest inland mountain in Ireland and at 919 metres, is the 14th highest in the country. It sits squarely on the border between Tipperary and Limerick and forms a majestic centre piece for a tough horseshoe hike that takes in three great mountains,…

Featured Hike – Mweelrea via the ‘Ramp’

Time: 6.5 hours         Distance: 13km        Height gain: 900 metres The Mweelrea Massif encompasses five tops, aligned around an imposing horseshoe, and with Mweelrea (814m) at its’ centre. Mweelrea sits in the southwest corner of Co. Mayo, on the northern side of Killary Fjord, where its imposing crags dominate the skyline. It is the highest peak…

Staying Hydrated in the Heat – What you Need to Know

Water is essential to life, and a lack of it will soon lead to serious health issues and ultimately to death. A lean person comprises around 70 – 75% water, losing just 1% of this will leave you dehydrated, losing 2% and things are getting serious. Water carries heat away from the vital organs and…

When is it a good time to turn back?

On a recent winter hike with a group of clients to Lugnaquilla mountain (930 metres), I decided we had to turn back when we were on the plateau, and tantalisingly only 1 km from the summit cairn. Why did I do this and what were the thought processes that led to this decision, when is…

High Wind in the Mountains and the Impact on Hikers.

High wind in the mountains can be a real game changer, it can have a profound effect on safety and morale. It can make it feel much colder than it actually is (wind chill effect), and can be unpredictable in direction and speed. Strong winds, (those over 40-50km/hr), are going to impede your progress, and…

Taking and following a compass bearing from the map

Before being able to take an accurate compass bearing it is essential to understand the relationship between True North, Grid North and Magnetic North. The Three Norths Grid North Grid North is the navigational term for the northward projection of the north-south gridlines on a map. In Ireland it lies to the east of both…

5 Top Tips for Navigating with an Altimeter

Many of us have an altimeter as an integral part of our mountain watches, but how many of us know the skills of navigating with an altimeter? Here are 5 tips on how to use an altimeter as a navigation tool. Before we begin however, a note of caution, altimeter watches rely on barometric pressure…

Why is my waterproof jacket not waterproof?

This is a lament we hear often on our courses and guided hikes, sometimes spoken in frustration, sometimes in anger, and most often at the end of a wet day. So why is our precious waterproof clothing failing to perform? In many cases it is because we are simply asking too much of it. The…

Top Ten things you should know about Ticks

As summer advances ticks are becoming more active, and more outdoor enthusiasts are finding these unpleasant critters embedded in their skin. To understand the importance of avoiding being bitten, here are our Top Ten things you should know about ticks: 1.  Ticks are arachnids, and related to spiders and scorpions. They have a 3-stage life…

Natural Navigation – How to find your way using the natural world around you.

It’s a cliché to say we have become reliant on technology, and we certainly need a map and compass, and perhaps a GPS system, to find our way around unfamiliar hills. But how did our ancestors find their way around, and what natural features did they use to navigate across the land in times gone…

Essential Kit for Hiking in the Mountains

I was recently asked to produce a list of essential kit for hiking in the mountains (outside of winter), and I have reproduced it here, with some expanded explanations. The list is not comprehensive, and you may have a few items that you never leave home without to add to this list: Rucksack A pack…

Relocation Techniques in Navigation

One of the most important navigation skills is being able to relocate yourself when you have become ‘lost’ or more correctly, ‘temporarily misplaced’. Having the relocation techniques to deal with such a situation is a key element in being a competent navigator. Firstly, do not panic. Stay calm and stay where you are. Many people,…

What you need to know about Hypothermia in the Mountains.

Hypothermia is a serious condition and can affect mountaineers and hillwalkers at any time of year. Learn to spot the signs and symptoms and know what to do if hypothermia affects you or your colleagues. Hypothermia occurs when the core temperature of the body falls below 35°C. Exposure Hypothermia occurs over several hours following exposure to…

Autumn essentials – cold weather gear for the hills

Autumn is definitely upon us, the clocks go back at the end of his week, reducing the amount of available daylight in the evenings. Despite the gathering gloom and the cooler days, autumn also brings with it some great opportunities for the hiker and mountaineer.  The quality of the light becomes magical, and the golden…

Hill Skill Series – Understanding grid references

A grid reference is a series of letters and numbers that defines a unique square on a map, the more digits used the greater the accuracy and the smaller the square. Every country has its own unique grid, the lines are aligned north-south and east-west, forming a series of squares. In Ireland the grid is divided into squares 100…

Top 10 Tips for Hiking in the Heat

It seems as soon as the hot weather arrives in Ireland it has gone again. But it may return, and summer heatwaves do occasionally occur in our uncertain climate. In addition, many of us now head to hotter countries like Morocco, France and Spain to take hiking holidays.  Know Your Enemy There are inherent dangers…

15 Features to look for when buying a hiking pack

(A selection of day packs from 25 litre to 45 litre.) The two questions, “What size of pack do I need?” and “What features should I look for in a new hiking pack?”, come up time and again during discussions with our clients on our Mountain Skills Courses. Here I try to explain some of…

Hill Skills Series – Navigation; setting the map

Setting the map is a fundamental navigational skill that all competent mountain navigators should be familiar with. When you open out a map, you intuitively hold it rather like a newspaper, so the writing can be read the correct way up. The straight lines you see running up and down the map are the north/south grid…

Featured Hike – Carlingford Mountain

It is entirely possible, as you are rushing up the M1 from Dublin towards the Mourne Mountains, to completely miss the magnificent hills of the Cooley peninsula. If you were to look up from the road between Dundalk and Newry you might see the wooded slopes of Black Mountain on your right, but you would miss…

Featured hike – Scarr – Wicklow Mountains

Scarr mountain, (the name derives from ‘Sgurr’ which means a rocky ridge or peak), sits on the eastern edge of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, some 5 kilometres north of the better known and much visited scenic valley of Glendalough. In contrast Scarr offers a much quieter experience. It too has a magnificent glacial ribbon…

Why do a Mountain Skills course?

More and more of us are taking up hiking as a way of getting fitter, enjoying the fresh air, (a moot point perhaps when it’s grey and raining), meeting like-minded people and exploring the natural environment.  For some, heading out into the mountains for the first time can seem daunting, and it can be reassuring…

What do I need to bring on a Mountaintrails guided hike?

Mountaintrails hiking tours are devised to take you off of the normal routes and into the wilder and more rugged parts of the Irish mountains not often visited by other tour companies. They are all fairly demanding and need some thought as to the clothing and equipment required, so what do you need to bring…

Gloves – how to avoid cold hands in the winter 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…

Hill Skills Series – 8 Tips For Successful Night Hiking

As the nights draw in and the available daylight hours decrease, there is an increasing risk of having to finish your hike in the dark. Or on the other hand, maybe you want to try a bit of hiking after nightfall? Either way, hiking at night is a completely different experience, your perception of height…

The mountains of south Mayo

The mountains of south Mayo and north Galway straddle the border between the two counties, and here, on the rugged Atlantic coast they meet in the vicinity of Killary Harbour, the only fjord in Ireland. South of the fjord the mountains of the Twelve Bens and the Maumturks dominate, their pale grey quartzite crags a…

Hypothermia – Causes, treatment and avoidance

Normally your body temperature lies between 36.5 and 37.5C. If it begins to drop below this you will feel cold, you might start to shiver, rub your hands together or look in your pack for a fleece. If it drops below 35C you will start to shiver, your mood may change, your lips may go…

The Glencorbet Horseshoe, 12 Bens, Connemara

Glencorbet, at the northern end of the 12 Bens range in Connemara, Co. Galway, does not immediately inspire like it’s southern counterpart, the Glencoaghan horseshoe. And whilst on a sunny day Glencoaghan will attract many hikers, you can find relative solitude to the north. Glencorbet, like all the glens here, was formed by scouring glacial…

Hill Skills Series – Backpacking kit for summer wild camps in Ireland and the UK

When organising our hill skills overnight trips, we give our clients a list of the essential gear they should take. In this blog I have expanded that list to add explanations and notes on my own experiences of over 35 years of wild camping. Perhaps the overriding consideration is the overall weight of your full…

Hill Skills Series – Fueling your body for the mountains – nutrition and hydration

Our bodies need fuel, food, to provide energy for our bodies to function, this energy is often quantified in terms of kilocalories, (Kcal). On average, a man will require 2800Kcal – 3000Kcal a day and a woman 2000Kcal – 2200Kcal. When we exercise this demand will increase, and we might burn another 1000Kcal on a…

Hill Skills Series – Winter hillwalking – layering for cold weather comfort.

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…

The Twelve Bens, Connemara, a winter excursion

2012 was one of the wettest years on record in Ireland, and particularly so in the west, so this February it seemed like a good idea to head to Connemara and see for ourselves. Not as daft as it sounds, as February can be a cold, dry and sunny month, great for long views and…