Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Q.1 Can I become a member – how do I join?
Yes, membership is open and costs £20 or €25 per annum from 1st April to 31st March. You must complete an application form (click here for Membership Form) and apply to the Secretary.
Membership forms are also available at the beginning of all of our walks in the pub.
Membership of the Club is open to individuals who accept that hill walking is an activity with inherent risks of personal injury and agree to be responsible for their own actions and involvement.
Hill walking requires significant effort so it is wise to ensure that there are no Medical Reasons why you should not participate.
If in doubt, check with your GP. If you have a Medical Condition which could affect your participation in this sport, it is YOUR responsibility to inform/discuss this with any club committee member. This information will remain confidential.
Participation in any given walk is at the discretion of walk leader on the day.
Q.2 Can I walk next Sunday even if I’m not a member? Can I just turn up?
Yes, you can just arrive and walk if you are fit enough and properly kitted out. You can either join immediately or pay a ’Casual Walker’ fee of £2.50 or €3 per walk to see if it suits you. You can do this twice in any year after which you must join the club to continue walking with us. Please read our sections on Fitness and what you need to bring.
Q.3 Why can I not continue paying the Casual walker fee without joining?
This is primarily for insurance purposes.
Q.4 Am I insured, or does the club have insurance?
The club does carry insurance however it is important for you to understand that this does not cover you for any personal injury. Our policy covers the club for third party claims. The cost of personal injury insurance would be prohibitive so if you are concerned as to your individual situation you should look into insurance for yourself.
Q.5 Where do the walks start from?
The walks start from different locations depending on the routes taken but we strongly encourage everyone particularly new people to gather at the Gap O The North Pub in Jonesborough at 10 a.m. sharp on the morning of the walk.
We have a cup of coffee/tea here ,register and car-pool here and have a short safety/route briefing from the leader on the day.
Q. 6 When are the walks on?
The walks are on alternate Sundays throughout the year. Please click on Walks Schedule for details.
Q.7 Will I enjoy myself?
Yes. The Social aspect of our club walks is very important to us and we encourage people to come back to the pub afterwards to enjoy an open fire ,a welcome bowl of stew, and whatever you need to wash it down!
The aim of the club is to promote hill walking as a healthy and rewarding pursuit that can be enjoyed by everyone .People join for many different reasons; love of the outdoors, to get exercise , to meet people and to gain a better appreciation of the environment we walk through.
Local history and an appreciation of our environment are intrinsic to our club and wherever possible we try to incorporate a couple of short talks on things as diverse as local history, mythology and landscape interpretation.
Q.8 How long do the walks last?
The walks vary but usually last 4½ to 5 hours excluding travel time to and from the mountain range. Occasionally, depending upon the grade of the walk or the weather, the walk could be as long as 6 hours or as short as 3½ hours. We are usually back at the pub around 4 or 5 pm.
Q.9 Do we stop for lunch?
Yes, normally halfway through our walk and a cup of tea always tastes better in the hills. There is normally a bowl of delicious stew courtesy of our hosts in the Gap O’ The North pub Jonesborough afterwards.
Q.10 Where do you walk?
We try to walk alternately in the Mourne’s, Cooley and Ring of Gullion/South Armagh area.
We have a long term commitment as a club to help and encourage the development of a proper way-marked way on the unique ring-dyke that makes up the Ring Of Gullion. This would entail an almost continuous 60 km hill-top walk in our own beautiful part of the world.
Some walks are farther afield.
Q.11 Walks in other areas?
Yes, a number of trips are arranged each year. These are to other parts of Ireland and we normally run one week-end trip in late September /early October. Priority is given, if necessary, to existing members. These trips come as a package and we have plans in the future to walk in Wales, Scotland and England.
Q.12 Can I join at the start point of the walk or must I travel to Jonesborough?
You can go directly to the start of the walk if you need to but people who have not walked with us before are required to go to the pub beforehand and we encourage everyone to do the same.
Q.13 Could anyone give me a lift?
The club arranges car sharing in the pub before each walk and we encourage people to take turns with their cars if possible, however if you don’t have a car you are more than welcome and we will try our best to accommodate you.
Please Note that on most Mournes walks we run a coach with a limited number of seats at a cost of £5 per head. This can be paid for in advance at the previous walk or by contacting our club secretary. A phone call without having paid does not secure a seat.
Most of the Mournes walks are linear with starting and finishing points having long distances between so if you have not got a seat on the bus transport arrangements are up to you both to the starting point and away from the finish.
The bus cannot ferry people back to their cars at the starting point.
Please note that the Mournes walks do tend to be more difficult than some of our more local walks so please check with a committee member in advance as to the level required.
Q.14 Can I bring my children?
No. Membership is limited to those of 18 years of age or older.
Q. 15 Can I bring my dog?
No. Unfortunately we have a strict no dogs policy. Dogs can be a nuisance in walking groups even if on leashes .A lot of the time we walk only at the discretion of farmers and landowners.
Q. 16 Can your club help with a charity/fundraiser walk we are running?
This is a question that constantly arises and we have a club policy in relation to this….
The Gap O’ The North Hill-Walking Club unfortunately cannot officially take part in or lead any outside walks or events primarily for insurance reasons. However it is our policy to wherever possible support or recommend to our membership any events that the committee deems a worthy cause. The participation of any club-member in any third –party event is entirely on their own behalf.
This is one of the things that we as a club find most difficult to quantify and accommodate. We want to remain as open as possible to all new people and encourage people to get out into the hills and enjoy this fantastic sport but we have to be realistic from a safety perspective and work with the amount of trained leaders we have available to lead walks of varying grades. The fitter you are the more you will enjoy your walk.
As a rough guide we think that you need to be comfortably capable of walking from the lower courtyard car park at Slieve Gullion forest park via the forest drive and take the new mountain path from the upper car-park to the summit cairn (cave) and back in 3 hours. This walk is approximately 10km and climbs 450 m but is all on both tarmac forest drive and very good mountain paths. This should mean that you are fit enough for our C group. This is only a guide to a minimum level of fitness required.
Although you will see significant health and fitness benefits from walking with us once a fortnight, it is not enough on its own to maintain the fitness levels needed and you should be doing some form of cardio exercise in between walks.
Q.17 How hard are the walks?
Our walks are over mountains and are a lot different to walking on roads. Consequently they are much harder than flat walking.
Q.18 Will I be fit enough?
We are a hill walking club; we therefore, strongly recommend a good level of fitness and some experience of hill walking if possible.
If you have climbed a full mountain in the recent past, you should be fit enough for our ‘C’ Group.
All new hill walkers must walk with our C group for their first walk to see how the pace etc suits them.
Q.19 Are there any easy walks and what about flat walks?
No sorry, we are a Hill Walking Club. We realise everyone has to start somewhere, as we all did and we try to remain as inclusive and welcoming as possible so at different times of the year we run a short series of introductory walks.
Also some of our walks, particularly those in the South Armagh area are easier than for example the Mournes walks but they still require significant effort so please check with any committee member or our walks schedule as to when these are on.
We also run a family based Christmas walk and we have hosted large scale events on National Trails Day suitable for walkers who would not normally be fit enough for our regular walks.
Normally, our lowest grade of walk ‘C Group’ requires you to climb as much as 700 metres over a distance of 10 – 12 km.
Q.20 What do the different groups mean -A and B?
These are grades of walk in terms of speed, height gained, distance covered and effort required. ‘A’ is the hardest and ‘C’ the easiest. All groups climb mountains. Newcomers are normally required to start in the C group.
A Group on average could climb 1000 + metres taking in 2 or 3 peaks over a distance of 10 or 12 km.
B Group on average could climb between 700 and 1000 metres taking in 2 or 3 peaks over a distance of 10 or 12km
C Group on average could climb between 450 and 750 metres taking in 1 or 2 peaks over a distance of 10 or 12km.
However these distances and heights climbed can vary a lot depending on what area we are walking in and weather conditions etc.
It’s not all about distance walked and height gained on a walk .Pace is one of the key ingredients and the higher the group the faster the pace so it really is very important both for yourself and the group that you choose the appropriate level.
The leader on the day will advise you and will have the final decision as to which group is best suited to you.
Check with a committee member in advance.
Q.21 How safe is hill-walking as a hobby/sport?
Since the first day the club was formed we have put safety to the forefront of all of our walks. To this end we operate a strict front-man/back-man system who maintain an appropriate walk pace and direction etc.
A significant number of club members have gone through extensive mountain leadership training and leaders must be listened to and respected on the day. We also have a minimum requirement for walking gear etc.
However – hill walking like other outdoor sports is an activity with inherent risks of personal injury and or death and although we as a club will do our utmost to provide a safe walk people need to be responsible for their own actions and involvement.
Q.22 What all do I need to bring/wear?
You must have: Proper Walking Boots with deep tread – Raincoat and– Adequate clothing (layers are the best option) – Hat – Gloves – Packed lunch and at least 1 litre water and a Rucksack.
Cotton T-shirts, clothing /jeans are neither appropriate nor safe to wear.
Walkers not having the minimum gear may not be allowed to walk with us.
We also highly recommend the use of Walking poles, Gaiters and carrying Waterproof Leggings (The Walk Leader can refuse to allow you on the walk if you don’t have the basics). See walks rules.
Q.23 How much will all this cost?
Although walking gear like anything else can cost a lot of money it need not be the case in the beginning. A comfortable pair of tracksuit bottoms (not cotton),synthetic vest or base-layer, fleece top, a waterproof coat and a well broken in decent pair of walking boots (good hiking socks as important) and small rucksack is all that is needed in the beginning.
As you get farther into the sport you can build a “better” wardrobe and add other small essentials (survival bag, first aid kit, map, compass etc.) based on what our members will be more than willing to advise you. See our section on clothing/gear advise.
Q.24 Why can I not wear walking shoes or fell running shoes?
Sorry, but we strictly ask for all walkers to walk in proper hill-walking boots with good ankle support and deep tread, preferably waterproof. Runners are never safe to wear in the mountains. We recognise that there are many expensive and very good quality shoes available but experience has taught us that boots are safer and more appropriate for our walks, so this is a strict club rule.
Q.25 Why is a bum bag not advised as opposed to a daypack/rucksack?
We understand that some people like to travel light but it is virtually impossible to carry adequate food, drink, clothing etc. without a small rucksack.
Another reason is that the leader before any walk will need to hand out various items of group safety kit and if asked to carry something (which will not be very bulky or heavy) we would appreciate your co-operation in this for the over-all good of the group.
Q. 26 Can I become a mountain/walks leader?
We are always keen to encourage people to eventually become leaders with our club and will encourage and facilitate the training of new leaders. This is a rewarding role to pursue and can translate to other walks of life. If you are interested please mention it to the walks organiser or any committee member. There are many different skills to learn from mountain navigation to walks planning, map and compass, first aid etc. and current leaders will be happy to pass on any skills .You can also avail of the opportunity to attend more structured courses. All of our current leaders offer their services voluntarily and pay their membership the same as everyone else.