Featured Hike – Benbaun and the Glencorbet Horseshoe.

Benbaun (Binn Bhán) is the highest mountain in Co. Galway and the 12 Bens range in Connemara. The name means  ‘White Peak’ and at 729 metres is an impressive sight from the Inagh valley below. It sits at the head of Glen Corbet and is the subject of one of Irelands best mountain walks, the Glencorbet Horseshoe. Our route follows the horseshoe and takes in Benfree and Benbrack as well as the impressive Benbaun. As with many routes in the Connemara mountains car parking is an issue and with only a few places to park it is important to consider

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 this autumn.   Rucksack A pack of 30 – 35 litres capacity is best, and would be sufficient for carrying what you would need for the day. Rucksack liner or cover My preference is always for a liner, a waterproof bag that sits in the

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 and that, in part, adds to the confusion over the distinction between soft and hardshells. Let’s start by listing and explaining some of the properties that these jackets can offer.   Water resistance* Repels water but will not keep it out for long periods of

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 a route much used by charity hikers and those keen to ‘bag’ the summit. Our route is not so straightforward, as we take the much more scenic trail from Meelmore Lodge and climb both Slievenaglogh and Slieve Commedagh along with Slieve Donard. This is a

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 on. Hiking boots are now produced to suit all types of terrain, from easy graded trails to high, pathless mountainsides.  Understanding this will help you narrow down your choices considerably. To simplify it down a little let’s look at the five most common styles

5 top hikes in the Wicklow Mountains

See our pick of the five top hills to climb in the Wicklow mountains. They are not necessarily the five highest, but instead offer a range of scenery, conditions and level of difficulty to have something for everyone.  Lugnaquilla The highest mountain in the Wicklow and the highest point in Leinster, Lugnaquilla (925 metres) is an imposing giant of a mountain. Sitting like an upturned bowl in the landscape it dominates the southern end of the Wicklow mountains. Though not a technically difficult summit to reach, it does require stamina as the 800 metres of ascent required to reach the

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 more of a full body workout, by exercising the upper body as well as the legs. Unfortunately, some folk using walking poles gain little of these benefits because they are either using them incorrectly or they are incorrectly adjusted. Walking poles are often placed too

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 them. However, even the best navigators can make mistakes. By following the tips given below you can avoid making some of the common navigation errors and minimise the chances of becoming disorientated in the mountains.                     

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 and the rain. Within this basic formula, there are a number of options and tweaks that can be made depending on the conditions we are likely to encounter and our personal preference. A good layering system allows for better temperature regulation as it is relatively

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 need to know before you buy. Down or Synthetic? The insulation used in ‘puffy’ jackets falls into 2 broad categories, down and synthetic. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. Down is an organic product, feathers to be precise, and can be either goose or duck

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 to help maintain or build your hill-fitness over lockdown, so when the time comes and we get back outside into the mountains you’ll be ready to go..! What is ‘hill-fit’ anyway?  When we talk about being ‘hill- fit’ we mean keeping our cardiovascular system (heart

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 come. Here is a check list of the things to consider before heading out. DRESS TO IMPRESS Make sure you are dressed for the conditions you are likely to meet when winter hiking. Warm and wicking baselayers are a must, they will keep you dry

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 Bens, the Maumturks are rocky and steep sided, giving them a rugged mountain feel that belies their relatively modest stature, the highest point being Barrslievenaroy at 702 metres. Their closeness to the Atlantic makes these mountains a tough proposition in bad weather. As with many

An Introduction to the Upland Flora of Ireland

In this webinar we discuss the upland flora of Ireland. Starting in the valleys (Lowland Zone) and working our way up the slopes to the exposed and harsh mountain tops (High Montane Zone). Ireland has a number of ecological zones in its upland terrain, from temperate rainforest to blanket bog, heath and montane plateau. Here we look at the characteristics of these ecological environments and introduce some of the strange and interesting plants that may be found there. Produced by Russ Mills of mountaintrails.ie

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 and rocky ground and with the possibility of poor visibility. To make our navigation easier in this challenging environment it is important to break our journey down into a series of manageable shorter sections called ‘legs’. We can then navigate each leg in turn and

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 of any activity being cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the government, if you contract Covid-19, or if you are deemed a close contact of someone infected and must restrict your movements you will be offered a transfer of date or a full refund.

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 of 940 metres but are more typically 600-800 metres high. The poor nutrient levels of the thin soils and the dense peat that covers much of the hills, coupled with the high rainfall that leaches out what nutrients remain and forms an impenetrable ‘ironpan’, results

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 the information they provide to make good navigation decisions. What are Contours? A map is a 2-dimensional representation of the 3-dimensional world. To be able to depict three dimensions on the flat surface of a map the cartographers employ a number of techniques. The most

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 for when trying on new designs? The gloves have ideally to be waterproof (though that is always difficult when there is a gaping hole where your hand goes in) be quick drying, have good insulation to keep your fingers warm, and have a reasonable amount

Exploring the Winter Mountains

This week sees the first significant snow of the season. With winter closing in perhaps it’s time to consider the plans we need to make to safely explore the winter mountains. The winter mountains can be a magical place and offer some great rewards, crisp frosty mornings, misty valleys, long reaching views and snow topped hills are but a few of the wonders to be experienced at this time of year. However, the Irish mountains can be an unpredictable place in winter too. With uncertain weather, they can also bring inherent risks such as strong cold winds; boggy and slippery

Using hiking poles – Yes or No?

I regularly get asked by clients if using hiking poles is a good idea and my answer may sometimes sound noncommittal, ‘well maybe yes, maybe no’. In reality it is down to the individual to determine whether hiking poles are for them. To help with making that decision I have laid out the major advantages and disadvantages below. But first it is important to use the right technique when using poles, otherwise many of the advantages are lost. I see far too many hikers using poles incorrectly, to the point where they are doing more harm than good. Adjust the

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 staying at the Borrowdale YHA in 2 and 4 person private rooms with bunk beds, using shared bathrooms. Breakfasts are included in the package. The hostel is self catering, but they do provide evening meals (not included in the price), they also have a  bar.

Scotland Winter Skills & Ben Nevis Weekend – 04/08 March 2022.

Scotland Winter Skills & Ben Nevis Weekend Here is an exciting opportunity to sample some Scottish winter walking (mountaineering), with awesomeness guaranteed. Learn the skills of hiking in the snowy Scottish hills, use of a walking ice axe and the correct use of crampons, then use these skills for a guided ascent of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. A superb winter outing..! Numbers will be limited to 12 persons and there will be 2 instructors for the 3 days of mountaineering. Winter hiking clothing will be essential, e.g. good winter gloves, goggles and waterproof pants and winter

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 boots would suffice. More demanding ground, such as rocky, high mountain paths would require a more rigid boot, with a stiffer more aggressive sole for grip and perhaps a higher level of ankle support. Fabric and leather mix boots are now very popular, they are

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 lead to the large stone summit cairn, topped by a triangulation pillar. The summit plateau is a bare undulating surface of short, wind swept vegetation. Paths are indistinct at best, and very hard to follow in low cloud, which often shrouds this mountain. To the

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 in terms of a chart of the likelihood of a slip, and the possible consequences of such a slip occurring. This is depicted below in the form of a traffic light system, green (safe); orange (caution); red (danger):   The likelihood of a slip is

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, Cush, Galtybeg and Galtymore. Galtymore is most often climbed from the south, via the black road, but this easier ascent misses out on the stunning views of the mountains north face, and of the several corrie loughs that sit under its imposing shadow. Our route

Featured Hike – Mweelrea and Ben Bury via the ‘Ramp’

Time: 6.5 hours         Distance: 13km        Height gain: 1040 metres The Mweelrea Massif encompasses five tops, aligned around an imposing horseshoe, and with two major named summits, Mweelrea (814 m) and Ben Bury (795 m). 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 in the province of Connaught and one of the great mountains of the 4-Peaks Challenge*. The easiest and most often used route to the summit involves a start near the Silver Strand, on the western side of the

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 transports it to the surface through your skin, where it is removed as sweat. The sweat evaporates from the surface of your skin and this cools you down. If you do not replace this water you will quickly become dehydrated. Being dehydrated effects the efficiency

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 it a good time to turn back? There is an old mountaineering saying, ‘The best decision you will ever make is the one to turn back’, and it is often true. To make this crucial call there are a number of criteria that must considered,

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 50-60km/hr), are going to impede your progress, and will significantly increase the risk of you being blown over and injured. In addition, walking into a strong headwind for a number of hours will sap both your energy and morale. Add significant gusting and you will be constantly adjusting your balance, foot placements 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 True and Magnetic North. True North True or Geographic North is aligned with the Earth’s axis and points to the geographic North Pole, the axis on which the Earth is spinning. In Ireland it lies west of Grid North and east of Magnetic North. Magnetic

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 to calculate altitude and as the barometric pressure fluctuates so does the altitude reading, and this can lead to serious errors if not addressed. It is important to re-calibrate the altimeter regularly by re-setting it to the correct reading when a known altitude is reached,

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 techi bit…. So called ‘breathable’ fabrics have a micro pore membrane bonded to a hardwearing outer layer. This membrane allows water vapour to pass through, but not liquid water. This in turn means that the moisture you produce when working hard is allowed to escape,

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 cycle, larvae, nymph and adult. At each stage they need a blood meal to grow, ticks feed on small mammals, deer and sheep and will bite humans. They are most active in late spring and summer.   2. Tick bites do not hurt, therefore you

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 by? Here are 5 ways in which our forebears may have navigated around the landscape; and though we don’t suggest you leave your map and compass at home, it might be fun to try these out sometime, and see if you can navigate like the

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 of 30 – 35 litres capacity is best, and would be sufficient for carrying what you would need for the day. Rucksack liner or cover My preference is always for a liner, a waterproof bag that sits in the main compartment of your pack and

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, on realising they are misplaced, will press on more quickly, or walk in any direction in the hope of finding something they recognise, thus making the problem worse. Have something to eat and drink, this will both give you time to calm down and increase

What you need to know about Hypothermia in the Mountains.

Hypothermia occurs when the core temperature of the body falls below 35°C. Exposure Hypothermia occurs over several hours following exposure to moderate cold. The casualty becomes exhausted and then cools rapidly as their energy reserves are depleted and they are no longer able to shiver to re-warm themselves. Immersion Hypothermia occurs where the casualty has had a sudden immersion in cold water or snow, the cold rapidly overwhelms heat production. Although rarer in the mountains, it can happen if someone falls in an icy stream.   Main Causes and factors Hypothermia occurs when a body loses heat to the environment faster than its

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 glow from the sun is reflected back by the russet yellows and browns of the autumn leaves. Descending a hill at sunset, with crisp clear air and a stunning sunset is a special moment to savour. But as the seasons march on, and autumn turns

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 kilometres x 100 kilometres (1 kilometre is a thousand meters). There is a datum point set off the south west coast, which defines the 0 point, and each 100 km square is measured from here. The Irish grid is 500 km x 500 km and gives

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 to hiking in hot weather and when the sun is beating down all day, and the most obvious of these are sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion. Sunburn Campaigns in recent years to alert us to the dangers of exposure to too much sun seem to

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 the more important features of day packs, (and one or two of the more frivolous ones.) Size – This is possibly the most important consideration when choosing a hiking pack.  Pack size is measured in litres, and denotes the volume of the pack.  Mountain runners might

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 lines and the top of the map points to grid north. But north on the map is not necessarily lined up with north on the ground, in the landscape around you. By lining up, or orienting, north on the map with north on the ground

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 the rugged beauty of Carlingford mountain further east, with the rocky summit of Slieve Foye and its undulating 6 kilometre ridge. The Cooley peninsula juts out into the Irish Sea between Dundalk Bay and Carlingford Lough, at its northern end lies the border with Northern

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 lake, Lough Dan; and offers wonderful all round views from its’ breezy summit. Though only 641 metres above sea level, it has a reputation as a windy and exposed hill, and hikers can often find themselves having to change their plans to avoid the windswept

20 Top Tips for trouble free navigation

Accurate mountain navigation in misty 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 them. However, even the best navigators can make mistakes. By following the tips given below you can avoid making some of the common navigation errors and minimise the chances of becoming disorientated in the mountains. In poor visibility, always take a bearing from a summit to determine your direction of onward

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 to join up with others in a club setting, or go with a more experienced friend or a guide.  Once you have ventured out a few times and listened to conversations about different clothing and equipment, the best routes to take, the secret of good

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

Mountaintrails guided hikes are devised to take you off of the normal routes and into the higher, wilder and more rugged parts of the Irish mountains. They are all fairly demanding and need some thought as to the clothing and equipment required, so what do you need to bring on our guided hikes in Ireland? Here are a few key points: The importance of good footwear.  What may be safe and acceptable will vary with the grade of the hike and the time of year. Having the right footwear is not just a matter of comfortable dry feet; there are

High energy flapjacks, rocket fuel for hikers

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

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 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

Hill Skills Series – Navigation – a basic 3 step strategy for relocation when temporarily lost in the hills

It’s important when out in the hills to know where you are at all times. That seems pretty obvious, but unfortunately it is often ignored when hiking through open and mountainous terrain.  Navigation is essentially about getting from A to B, but unless you know where A is then how can you find B? If, at some point during your hike you no longer know where you are, either because of poor visibility or through a navigational error, then this three stage guide will help you relocate yourself. 1) Don’t Panic We have all felt that rising sense of dread

Wind Chill

  What is ‘Wind Chill’?   The core temperature of a human body is around 37C. The air around us is usually cooler than this and so we lose body heat, particularly from exposed skin. Wind chill is the term that describes this heat loss, and the increased effects of low temperatures and wind. When wind blows across the surface of exposed skin it will remove heat from that surface, making us feel colder than we would in still conditions. Wet skin and wet clothing will exacerbate the problem, as the rate of heat loss increases from wet surfaces. The

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 and depth is radically altered and familiar landmarks disappear from view, so being prepared is essential. Whether you are looking for a bit of adventurous night hiking, or you find yourself out later than you expected, the basic rules for survival and comfort in the

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 magnet for hikers from all over Ireland and beyond. But here, in Mayo, they are of ancient hard sandstones, which give the mountains a severe and slightly malevolent presence, particularly when under low, glowering cloud. Magnificent Mweelrea from Ben Gorm. The best known of Mayo’s

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 blue, you may become clumsy and irrational. You have hypothermia At this stage there is plenty you, or your buddies, can do to reverse the cooling process, and you need to act immediately to prevent the situation worsening. But how did you get to this

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 processes during the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, and is currently drained by the Kylemore river, which flows into the lough of the same name. Here you will find the well know tourist destination of Kylemore Abbey, with its Victorian gardens and well

DJOUCE, WAR HILL & TONDUFF – Powerscourt waterfall and the Liffey Head bog.

Join our next challenging, hard graded guided hike on Saturday 9th August. Djouce, Warhill and Tonduff. https://www.facebook.com/events/750571751648483/

How to survive hot weather in the mountains

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

First time wild campers – check this out!

Thinking of your first wild camping trip? Then check out our blog on essential kit for summer wild camps in Ireland and the UK http://russellmills.blogspot.ie/

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 pack, it is no good packing to make your trip uber comfortable only to find you cannot lift the rucksack off the floor, ( believe me, I have seen this). A good guideline for total pack weight is that it should not exceed 20% of

The Coomloughra Horseshoe – the best mountain ridge walk in Ireland?

  Heading towards Beenkeragh On a hot summers day in June, a few days before the summer solstice, I hiked a popular route in the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, a compact but stunning range of mountains in the southwest of Ireland.  This circular route is known as the Coomloughra Horseshoe. The hike is around 12 km ( 8 miles), with 1300 metres (4265 ft.), of total ascent in the day, and goes over the summits of the three highest mountains in Ireland; Carrauntoohil, Beenkeragh and Caher. At 1040 metres Carrauntoohil is not a huge mountain, but its high crags rise from near

The dangers of lightning

After the recent heavy storms, some good advice from Mountaineering Council of Scotland on staying safe if you get caught in the open. http://www.mcofs.org.uk/lightning.asp

The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher – A recent 3 day trip to the west coast of Ireland

The west coast of Ireland boasts a treasure trove of natural wonders and astonishing landscapes, and in County Clare there are two of the best, the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. We based ourselves for three days of exploration in the seaside village of Ballyvaughan, which boasts a small harbour, several hotels and a number of excellent restaurants. We began our trip with a day hiking in the Burren, an example of a karst limestone landscape, and an area of national ecological importance. The karst landscape of the Burren Here, limestone rock is exposed at the surface, where the

The Slieve Blooms and the Galtees – two brief encounters

Ridge of Capard, on the Slieve Bloom Way  SLIEVE BLOOMS This area of upland bog and conifer forest, cut by river valleys, is known as the Slieve Bloom Mountains, but really they are best described as hills. The highest point, Arderin, is 527 metres, (1729 ft.), high, and the 399th highest ‘mountain’ in Ireland. They rise out of the central plain of Ireland, a sandstone prominence more resistant to glacial erosion than the softer limestones of the plain.  This is an area of national and international importance for its upland blanket bog ecosystem, a globally rare habitat that in Europe

Hiking and Scrambling in Snowdonia, the land of the red dragon.

On the weekend of 14th-17th March, a Saint Patrick’s Day holiday weekend in Ireland, I ran a trip for the Hillwalkers Club from Dublin, to the ruggedly raw and beautiful mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales. This remarkable area of mountains lies close to the coast at the northwest corner of Wales, and is within easy reach of Dublin by ferry and car. Seven of us arrived around 20.00 at our accommodation in Llanberis village, a cosy guest house, and soon headed to the neighbouring pub for dinner and a discussion of the weekends plans. The forecast was for dry but

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

As a teenage boy, I read a book by Earnest Hemingway, titled ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’. Since then this mountain has always fascinated me, and as a geology student studying the volcanic rocks of the African Rift valley, I revisited that fascination in my mind. This colossal cone of rock, rising from the hot African plain, and topped with glaciers and snow; one of the seven summits, the highest point on the continent of Africa, is a wonderful mountain and a challenge attainable by anyone with determination. Kilimanjaro, 5895 metres high, seen from the Moshi road. It must be over

Ledge Route – Ben Nevis, Scotland

In summer, Ledge Route is a 450 metre grade 2 scramble that finishes at the summit of Carn Dearg, a 1221 metre subsidiary top of Ben Nevis. Under snow and ice it is a grade II winter route and reputedly the best of its grade on the mountain. On 10th January this year, three of us headed up the valley of the Allt a Mhuilinn in the grey half light of a wet morning. The imposing massive wall of Carn Dearg rose to our right from the valley floor, its higher crags lost in the pale misty cloud, snow clinging

Kilimanjaro 2014

At the beginning of February I headed for Tanzania and Kilimanjaro, where I helped out with a successful climb of this 5895 metre mountain, in aid of a prestigious cancer charity. Details of the trip will soon appear on our blog, at http://russellmills.blogspot.ie/ where you can check out other trip reports, and see great articles on hill skills and gear selection.

Pictorial review of a hiking year, 2013

Where did I go hiking in Ireland in 2013?I thought it might be worth doing a photo review of the year, month by month, to pick out some of my highlights.2013 was a year of unusual weather, a late and exceptionally cold winter that ran into April, a warm and balmy summer, and a very dry autumn. This is reflected in the images I have picked out to illustrate the hiking year. January Winter really only got going in January, and it certainly made up for lost time, with heavy falls of snow over much of the uplands. We stayed

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 long day out in the mountains. These figures are somewhat generalised, our metabolism slows as we get older, using less energy, and there are always variations between individuals. To provide a constant and regular supply of fuel when in the mountains we need to pay

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 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.

Pyrenean foothills – a few nature notes

The forested hillsides of the Pyrenee-Orientales region of southern France, with the Pyrenees in the distance.  I am back from a recent holiday to the Pyrenee-Orientales region of France, that’s the bit on the Mediterranean coast near the Spanish border, close to the eastern Pyrenees. Here the rock is predominantly limestone, often typified by karst-like terrain and tall pale limestone cliffs. The valleys and lower hills host myriad vineyards, while the steeper and rockier ground is predominantly clothed in a forest of drought stunted small trees and shrubs.  European praying mantis, this one is a female, the male is smaller and a

Carrot Ridge and the Maumturks – Connemara revisited

With good weather forecast for the west of Ireland over the August Bank Holiday weekend, I decided, along with two friends, Piotr and Natasza, to head for the mountains of Connemara. These quartzite hills, (hills or mountains?, this became a discussion point over the weekend,) have intrigued me since I first visited them back in January, and I was keen to explore them further. Approaching the summit of Leenaun Hill. We arrived around Saturday lunchtime, and parked up in the small lough side village of Leenaun, snuggled at the eastern end of Killary Harbour, a long narrow fjord, (the only

The Burren in June – a land of unusual geology and remarkable flora

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

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 memorable mountain days. However, our trip was presaged by the prospect of heavy rain showers and cloudy, windy weather. Our base for the four days was Clifden, a lively little town on the southwest of the range, but at this time of year,half closed for