Tips for Happy Hill-Walking
A friend recently asked me if it was possible for anyone to walk the path to the top of Pen-Y-Fan.
She thought it was mainly for committed outdoor walkers, or people with lots of hill-walking experience. I explained that anyone can access the walk and, in fact, I see many people of differing abilities walking Pen-Y-Fan. However, there are some quite simple, yet essential things to consider, that will help to make your walk safer and more enjoyable.
Leading from our conversation, I thought I’d post some things that I hope will help to make a day-walking experience easier, and a bit kinder to any children on the walk.
Check the weather report.
The Met office website is really simple to access and understand, yet a comprehensive source of information. I always check the night before any trip, as well as on the morning of my walk. The weather can change quite suddenly, and you may need to adapt in order to be properly prepared. If you want a good view at the top, wait for the weather to be clear. There’s nothing worse than getting all the way to the top, and find that everything is shrouded in thick mist or fog! It also helps when deciding upon the correct clothes to wear for the day and, if the children are coming on the walk with you, good weather helps to make the whole experience more fun and engaging.
Always have breakfast!
It sounds like such a silly, common sense thing to advise but, on any normal day, you might usually be able to get away with just grabbing a quick breakfast bar, or missing breakfast altogether. Not if you want to have the energy to fulfil a happy days’ walking! By having breakfast, you’re giving your body the best possible start to get you up that mountain. Without that start-up boost, it won’t be long before your energy levels start to drop and pretty soon after, you’ll feel like giving up before you’ve even properly started.
Have a good pair of walking boots, or really sturdy footwear.
You don’t have to buy a very expensive pair of boots, as many outdoor shops have a wide selection, and at a range of reasonable prices. They can also give advice if you ask before buying. However, if you do buy a new pair, make sure you wear them before your walk to help them become supple, as I’ve seen many people get blisters because they’ve walked in stiff, brand new boots. Another good tip is to wear a thicker pair of socks. I wear a thin liner sock, and then a thicker walking sock over this. It helps to reduce blisters and makes for a more comfortable walk, but it really is down to personal choice. I’ve also seen many walkers trudging up the path of Pen-Y-Fan with completely inappropriate shoes and I really feel their pain. But if you take care of your feet, they’ll take care of you.
Take a rucksack and wear the straps on each shoulder.
I often see lots of people struggling up hills and mountains with handbags, carrier bags etc, and it looks as if it’s such an awkward pain. Again, you don’t have to spend a lot. Most children have a good school rucksack these days, and that’s all you need. You then have something decent to adequately carry your lunch, a spare jumper, bottle of water and maybe a hat and gloves depending on the time of year. I do tend to carry a small first aid kit, but that’s completely up to you. However, things like wet wipes and some hidden sweets or chocolates can make the day more comfortable, especially if you have children with you. Wearing one strap slung over a single shoulder promotes a lop-sided, slouching walk, which can become irritating and tiring. On a prolonged walk, you should wear both straps over your shoulders, as it helps with a more comfortable “even walk”.
Plan your route.
Proper planning prevents poor performance. You really ought to know where you’re going, how long the walk should take, and if it is suitable for the ability of your group. You want to enjoy yourself, so if this is a new experience for you, or if you want an easy, relaxing walk, don’t choose somewhere that takes all day or, for example, is continually up steep hills, as descending can be just as taxing as going up! A little light research can reap real rewards, as a good walk will make you want to go again, and each time possibly try something harder. It really is meant to be enjoyable and fun.
Go with friends!
This will make the day much more enjoyable, and you’ll have massive motivation to get to the top. You’ll help each other, share lunch, chat on the way and find it a lot happier and easier having friendly, familiar faces by your side.
Take it a pace that everyone is happy with.
If you’ve planned the whole day for the walk, take the whole day. I love taking the time to enjoy the environment, pacing myself to incorporate a few necessary rest breaks, and chat to any fellow walkers. I can then complete any walk without looking like a red tomato, and completely out of energy. Also, it may take a few reserves of determination and energy leftover, just to return from a good walk.
Never underestimate the importance of a hat, gloves, a waterproof coat and spare jumper.
Sometimes, I’ve left Cardiff when the sun is shining and the weather’s quite hot. By the time I’ve driven to Brecon, the sky is overcast and the cold has set in. Again, this is where checking the weather is essential, but Mother Nature seems to just love throwing a “curve-ball” now and then! Mountain summits can have completely different weather ststems from that at the bottom. Often, when you reach the top, the wind is quite invigoratingly strong, and you’ll be so happy that you packed a warm hat, gloves and a spare jumper. Equally, don’t forget that in warmer weather, you’ll need a sun hat, sun tan lotion and plenty of bottled water for hydration.
These are just a few tips that might help if you’re new to walking, especially if you’re keen to venture out into mountainous or even forestry areas. Over the years, I’ve followed and developed these simple tips when I prepare for a walk, and it’s always made my day safer and more enjoyable.
My last tip is to just have fun and enjoy yourself! Walking is a wonderful activity and can be tailored to suit everyone’s abilities. The health benefits are encouraging, too.
Regular walking strengthens your heart. It reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. The Stroke Association estimates that a brisk, 30-minute walk every day helps to lower and control the high blood pressure that causes strokes, potentially reducing the risk by up to 27 percent.
So, what’s stopping you!