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If this is the year you take on one of the great British mountain walking challenges? There are a lot to choose from, but whether you’re spending a few hours reaching the summit of your first major mountain or multiple days tackling several peaks or a long distance trail, they all abide by the same basic principles, and there are some tips you should definitely take to heart.
Do some training:
It may just be walking, something you do every day, but that doesn’t mean you can just walk up a mountain with no training – or, even if you manage to walk up a mountain with no training, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it as much as you would if you were fit and strong enough to enjoy the experience.
Mountain walking is about general fitness and leg strength. Find a training plan that works on these two abilities and you’ll be well on your way to success. A training plan can be a great motivator and will help to reduce the pre-challenge nerves when you feel you’re preparing properly.
Test your kit beforehand:
There’s a lot of kit that comes with mountain walking, and you really want to avoid a scenario when the first time you use it is on the challenge itself. Not only can this waste time, it can lead to frustration and mean the equipment becoming useless if not used properly. Learn where all the zips on your waterproof jacket are, how to properly fit and adjust your backpack, and how to use walking poles. Test your walking boots on hills, in mud and for long hours out. Make sure you can fit new batteries to your head-torch and that you have enough dry bags to stop anything in your backpack getting wet.
A good tip is to sign up for a guided walk or a whole weekend in advance of the challenge. Get help from the walking guides and learn how to use your kit in the hills.
Respect the locals:
Mountain challenges take place in remote rural communities, and even if you don’t see anyone else in the hills, you’ll be passing houses and villages, and walking in protected areas. You can help to create a positive impact if you make an effort to keep the noise down while passing through, don’t drop litter, pick up any litter you find, and follow the countryside code if you’re in farmland.
If you really want the challenge to have a positive impact, stay locally, and if you’re only walking for a day, why not stay the night afterwards and explore the area at a more leisurely pace the day after. Try and buy food locally where possible, and don’t forget that the pub is a key ally to the hillwalker, and should be sampled frequently!
Eat normal food:
Your body is used to what you eat, and you know what you like and don’t like. So avoid being drawn in by expensive energy gels or protein shakes. If you try something new on the day of the challenge, you’re likely to make yourself sick, and eating too many gels or other sugary carbohydrates without a balanced meal won’t do you any good.
Try to eat the kind of things that you’d normally eat when out on a walk and that release energy slowly rather than in a rush. If your challenge lasts for several days, try and stick to normal meals in-between the walking; eat more than you normally would to help you recover and give you energy for the next day, but make sure you know what you’re eating.
Let someone else do the worrying:
You’ve trained hard and have tested all your kit. The mountain challenge is just round the corner and perhaps you’ve raised money for a good cause. One good way to make sure it all goes smoothly on the day is to let someone else do the organising by joining a guided group. Forget about the logistics, the navigation, the accommodation booking and the travel and just concentrate on remembering to pack everything, on getting enough food and fundamentally, on enjoying the day.
Being guided by a mountain leader will open up the landscape to you, giving you not just a great challenge day but an insight into the mountains, their history and wildlife. It’s much better to know that any emergencies will be dealt with by professionals, that the support is there, and that you’re likely to be in a group of other individuals as dedicated as you are.
So what are you waiting for!
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