Safety (from a Newsletter by Michael Grainger)
Just a few tips on staying safe out on our walks and treks! A few thoughts for our newer members or those who have not done much hill-walking with us recently. With the exception of our A walk (where those taking part are expected to have the experience and ability to look after themselves irrespective of navigational or terrain difficulties), all or walks are lead by members who have knowledge of the routes and how to bring their groups along them safely. However, we all have a responsibility to make these outings on the hills as safe, enjoyable and incident free as possible. There are three elements that contribute to an enjoyable day out are Ourselves, the Terrain and the Conditions.
Firstly, Ourselves: ABILITY and EXPERIENCE: you don’t have to be super fit to enjoy a day out on the hills, but it stands to reason that the more often you get out and about during the Winter, the fitter you will become and this leads to greater enjoyment both for yourself and the others in your group, no matter what level walk you are on. Buy a map for yourself for an area you intend to walk in quite often and ask an experienced club member to point out to you how to recognize features, measure distances, plan a route “there and back”.
Secondly. Clothing and Equipment: Anyone interested in hill-walking can pick up copies of the various magazines that deal throughout the seasons with the right gear to wear and the right way to wear it. Find one which talks about the best clothing to keep you safe and comfortable and which describes the “Layering System” which ensures that you stay as dry, cool or warm as possible throughout your walk or trek in all seasons. Pay particular attention to your boots. The ankle support is essential so runners, wellies or golf shoes will not be accepted on a walk or trek. The shop assistants in outdoor stores are very knowledgeable and helpful. They will help you find a boot that works well for you. Remember some garment or boot tags can be misleading: there are grades of “waterproof” which will keep you dry in summer showers but won’t be good enough for an overnight trek on Carrauntoohil. But if you are not planning the overnight on Carrauntoohil just yet, maybe the lighter gear will do fine for a while. Not everyone uses walking poles – some use one, some use two. They do give you stability on rough or uneven ground. Ask someone how to hold them properly, lots of people don’t.
Next, the Terrain: We are very fortunate with the scope and extent of the walking and trekking routes available to us down here. We are never much more than an hour and a half away from the start of a good day out on the hills the Reeks, to the Comeraghs, the Galtees to Beara. As you become fit and confident on the hills your will develop an awareness of the different types of terrain and how to negotiate your way through, over or around them. Get to know your likes, dislikes and limitations. Don’t always shy away from the “hard bits” but learn to get from A to B safely, with confidence and without taking twice as long as everyone else in the group.
Lastly, the Conditions: Poor visibility, rain and high winds can turn a day out on the hills into a dangerous experience for all hill walkers, especially for those with limited ability and experience over difficult terrain and with inadequate clothing or footwear. Plans may have to be changed before or during a walk to adjust to the weather or experience of the group. Yes we do promote independence in the hills, but there if you are with a group you should make sure you don’t wander off. It increases the risk of getting lost or injured and causes unnecessary grief for the walk leader who needs to keep an eye on other members of the group. And this is for experienced people as well.
Our club has an excellent record on safety, especially considering the range of walks we do year in year out in all weathers. We’ve never had to be rescued for getting lost or falling off something and it is up to all of us to keep that record intact.
Lets get out there and enjoy it !!