Preparing for the Hills!!!

Slieve Gullion

South Cairn, Slieve Gullion

Yippee!! January is finally over and with the evenings visibly lengthening and the mornings brightening, hill walkers can chase the “January Blues” away. So, it’s time to get serious with that New Year resolution and in response to all the emails and messages, yes you do need a basic level of fitness to walk with us and yes you will need a basic level of kit!! Unfortunately we do not have the man power for a beginner’s group so if you are earnest about getting fit or fitter and joining our motley crew, you will need to put in some serious effort. On average our lowest grade walkers, or C Group, walk for 4/4.5 hours, cover 12/14km, and not content with 1 hill, normally climb a whole “flock” of hills on one walk. So here are a few pointers to get you started…

Fitness- As a baseline if you can walk from the Courtyard Car Park, to the South Cairn (Cave) at the top of Slieve Gullion and back within 3 hours you could comfortably walk with our C Group. So if you’re more “couch potato” than “super athlete” you will have to put in some personal effort to attain the necessary level of fitness before walking with us. ( If you have any doubts at all about your fitness, please try this walk before coming out with our group. It is all on good surface and very well marked. If you aren’t sure of the route, get in touch with us.) Remember we have members from 18 to 70+ who are walking at this level, so please don’t be put off but it does mean you need to get out and put a bit of effort in. We aren’t all athletes and some people are happy to stay at this level. Membership opens again in April for the 2014-15 year, so with that as your goal, you have a couple of months to put in some serious training!!

Kit- From the outset get used to carrying a rucksack. We recommend one with a waist strap as this helps distribute the weight on your hips rather than pulling on your shoulders and back. You should be carrying: a personal 1st aid kit with the basics- plasters, blister patches, headache tablets etc., a whistle and head torch, a dry layer of warm clothing, and at all times of the year, even Summer, a hat and gloves. In addition always carry food, a hot drink and water, it takes only the slightest mishap to turn a gentle 3-4 hour walk into a mammoth 6-8 hour hike!

The following are non-negotiable:

Boots- deep tread walking boots, these protect and support the ankles from sprains and breaks.

Jacket– a proper outdoors water/wind proof jacket- all jackets designed for outdoor activities carry a rating for precipitation, anything with a rating over 10,000 is the ideal.

Clothing– layers of clothing is best, avoid cotton and denim, (jeans) as they get wet and stay wet. Most outdoors wear is made with quick drying properties.

Highly Recommended:

Walking poles– poles take the pressure off the knees, the most common problem for avid hill walkers is bad knees!

Gaiters- these clip onto your boots and cover the lower leg, thus keeping feet and trouser bottoms dry when you are crossing streams or as invariably happens, you step into a bog hole!

Waterproof over trousers – good for not only keeping you dry but also as protection against the wind

Our leaders and members are always happy to share their experience and advise new walkers on fitness and equipment, alternatively check out the FAQ section of our website  www.gaponorth.co.uk/faqs.html  for more information.

Good luck with the training regime and we look forward to welcoming you into our Group!

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