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Hiking Tips

I like the auld bit of hiking. The whole thing of getting outdoors and pushing yourself. It’s a great mix of nature and exercise. When you’re doing it you’ll often see other hill-walkers and climbers and you’ll exchange a pleasant hello and maybe a bit of banter. Then you encounter the people who don’t do it as much and you’d almost have to pay them to talk to you.

The first group are grand. They’re friendly and welcoming and usually share the same interests. Mainly being the love of getting out. They’ll also have a common look about them. They’ve got the gear and they genuinely look happy about being out. If you’re planning on getting into hill-walking or climbing the bigger mountains there are a couple of things you should put on a checklist;

  • Clothing: Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. Head to any of the many outdoors shops around Ireland and you’re sure to pick up proper pants, t-shirts, jumpers, jackets and socks. They’ll make a big difference to your morale and indeed your safety. In winter time and in cooler weather warm and appropriate clothing could be the difference between a successful climb and an accident. Hats, gloves, scarves should all be in your bag. Bring spares as well. Spare socks and tops are the big ones, but try fit some spare pants in there too.
  • Footwear: Invest in decent boots. Decent boots will pay dividends in protecting your feet and keeping you steady on the rocks. Don’t just buy the cheapest or indeed the most expensive pair. Try them on, see if they support your ankle and the sole of your foot. These two things will be most likely to bother you on a hike. Also, try and make sure they’re waterproof. Mountains and hills tend to have rivers, bogs, large ponds. Soggy socks will ruin your day. Gators are handy too.
  • Equipment: Walking poles are extremely handy. Especially on windy days and on longer hikes. They are very effective in helping you climb and keep your balance. Know how to use them. When you should keep them shorter and when they should be longer. They’ll also make for handy splints if you or one of your party hurts something in a fall or slip. Bring a compass and map and do your best to keep orientated on your hike. Electronic GPS devices are cool and all but can be absolutely useless. Try and do a bit of research on your route as well. Do not rely on your phone for anything but calling for help.
  • First Aid: Bring a basic first aid kit. Plasters, scissors, bandages, that kind of thing. You may not need them but somebody else who is injured may need them. They weigh very little so why not bring them.
  • Supplies: Food and water are the big ones, especially the liquids part. For the longer hikes you will sweat and need hydration so try bring between 1.5 and 3 litres of water. Some lucozade can also be a good pick me up. Soft drinks though are mostly useless and work against your energy levels and hydration. Brings snacks and a main snack for when you reach your peak. Fruit, sandwiches, tins of tuna are all good choices. A hot drink in a flask can also boost you on the trip. Toilet paper. Bring toilet paper. You never know when you’ll need it, but surely it’s one of those things you’d rather not miss having.
  • Talk: Tell people where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be. That way if you get injured or stranded you shouldn’t be missing for too long. If you’re driving try not to hide your car when you park it, that way people will have a good indication as to where you started.
  • Bag: why bring all that nice dry stuff and then bring a bag that will soak up the water like a sponge. A good waterproof bag will cost you between €30-€50 and will come with a cover for when (WHEN) it rains. Try go for a 33/35 litre bag, they’re the perfect size. Lots of places to put all your stuff.
  • The Weather: The weather rules, you will not beat it. Look at the forecast. If it’s not too bad you’re good to go. If it’s to be particularly poor then maybe choose a different hike or less challenging route.
  • Plan: Have a plan (at least a rough one). Know where you’re going, what to expect, when the sun goes down, the basics really. Plan to bring what you need. Don’t go crazy though, there’s no point lugging a massive pack around if you’re only out for a relaxing hike.

The last time I went hiking with a small group there was a wind warning in effect and on a mountain or a hill you really feel that. I was fine. I was snug in my ski pants, jacket and 2 layers underneath with my hat, gloves and scarf. I was astounded and shocked by the people I saw coming up as I headed back down, the second group of people you encounter on days out. There was one group of ladies with no jacket between them all wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants with flat runners. It was a recipe for disaster and on the way down I could hear it in them.

One lady complained that she couldn’t feel her hands and nearly started crying. I don’t blame her. As she was saying that her friends where leaving her there. Which was in particularly poor form as the one lady with a small bottle of water had passed me already. They were clearly not prepared for the day that was in it and the climb ahead. I also once encountered two hikers who had relied on their GPS, which failed them. They went a long way in the wrong direction. Luckily for them it wasn’t too late to correct their mistake.

In not preparing in even the slightest way they were putting themselves at risk. In doing that they were putting others in harms way. If we’ve seen anything over the past few months it is that there is a network of brave volunteers out there who are prepared and ready to go rescue and help people who get stuck or injured. Yes, sometimes the shit just hits the fan and you need to get help. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that they wouldn’t have to go out so much if people just got the basics right.

So…KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Plan ahead and try avoid the hassle of making the news. Try not to go beyond your abilities. Over time you will be able to do more, but take it easy. Most importantly, get out there and enjoy yourself. Take in the fresh air, the sights and the relaxing feeling that comes with putting your boots on the ground.

Please do share your own tips in the comments below. What would you add in?

A Bad Week

So some weeks you have your good days and your bad days. The past week was a bad one for me. Unfortunately I did the one thing I told my (relatively new) wife I wouldn’t do and I kept it to myself. OK, so there are plenty of things I told her I wouldn’t do, but in terms of things to not tell her, that was a no no. Sure, I could go out and have the 10oz steak and tell her I had the side salad, but when it comes to mental health I think we’re both quite clear on the subject. Talk or it will eat you up.

I’m not saying we’re brilliant at the whole expressing ourselves thing, far from it really, but we are learning. We’re learning that keeping it inside often just makes the whole situation a hell of a lot worse. So it was a bad week.

In the grand scheme of things I don’t have it too bad. I have a wife who loves me and a child who lights up when she sees me. Somewhere along the line though I buried something and didn’t talk about it and then something else went in on top of that and then I piled in more on top of that. It was the second anniversary of my Fathers death last week and I guess that was the straw that broke the camels back. All I could hear was the doubt in the back of my head creeping in. All the negativity of the past year had just caved in on me and I was stuck under an avalanche of issues. Ya know, the usual worries and fears had come home to roost. Like a monkey on my back just tapping away at me:

Hey, why haven’t you gotten a career yet, loser? Still no sign of that house for your family, no? Ya know your daughter is going to be ashamed of you, right? You’re doing everything wrong, why are you bothering? That idea will never work, best to just give up! 

Some of those are actual questions (although phrased differently) that have been put to me over the past year. I’m not a weak guy, in fact, at one stage I could actually bench press more than my body weight (I’m also not a light guy). That doubt though, that monkey on my back, was like a weight on my chest, pushing me down into quicksand. I was sinking.

Eventually I cracked, it had to come out. Thankfully my wife was there for me and could help me and we hugged it through. So we settled on a few things:

  1. The negative voices are wrong!
  2. The negative people should be forgotten and be allowed to be miserable on their own time!
  3. My daughter will not care about what I do as long as I’m there for her.
  4. I need to revisit the idea of counselling.

That last one came as a sort of calming revelation. I had been to counselling during secondary school and briefly during my Masters and found it to be very beneficial. It’s not the kind of thing that you have to cling onto for life, but it certainly helps when you’re mentally hitting bottom. Talking things through always helps. At the very least I will not do this for me, but for my daughter. She needs a Dad and she needs one that can cope. Last week I was not coping. Admitting that was hard.

So, now I’ll go to counselling. Hopefully someone will read this and will maybe take a look at themselves and decide that f*** it, I could use a hand to get through this rough patch in my life right now. Counselling is like mountain climbing, you’ll only ever do it one step at a time. Strength does not lie in refusing help, but embracing it.

 

The Zombie Apocalypse

A lot of people spend a lot of time planning for the Zombie Apocalypse. What they’ll do, who they’ll save, where they’ll go. I’d be one of them, I think it’s quite important.

So what do you do? You plan for the occasion. You’ve got a world of nastiness trying to get in to feast on your ever so tasty flesh. Best to not let that happen really.

What do you plan for?

  • Make sure you know what’s going on first. Be an awful shame if you just went around the house swinging a bat and knocked your Mother clean out. Imagine discussing that over Christmas dinner for the rest of time. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
  • Do a roll check. Yeah, sounds a little bit like school, but it sure would be handy to know who’s still in the world of the living. Get people to sound off and if possible secure them in the one location. If it’s not possible then tell them to go to a predesignated safe spot, batten down the hatches and wait for help.
  • If the situation is truly dire and you have Zombie hands coming through the door then you need to bug out immediately. Have your escape route planned and make sure everyone knows the drill. If you live in your standard house then a jump out the window will probably not kill you. Don’t go head first. Feet first and try and roll when you hit the ground. Broken legs are far easier to recover from than a broken neck or the damage some house invading zombies will inflict on you.
  • Be prepared to defend yourself if you need to. If you absolutely have to fight the good fight then you do that. This should be used as simply a last resort. You’ve tried everything else. You can’t escape, you can’t account for your loved one’s, you’ll have to fight it out. Remember, you’re not there for the 15 rounds. Move quick and stay low. If you watch rugby then you’ll notice that the best and most effective tackles occur below the waist. This is the best way of taking someone to ground. Fighting is exhausting and you need your energy to live.
  • Know your escape routes. Know where the keys to the doors are. Know who’s in the house. Know where you agreed to meet when you get out. Remember to bring a phone, you’ll need to call for help.

So there ya have it. A quick guide to what to do if Zombies come knocking. It’s always a bit of craic to talk about that, especially with The Walking Dead coming back on our screens.

Now, I would like you to substitute “Zombies” for “Fire” and “Burglary”. When was the last time you planned for that?

Know your way out. Know your plan. Know who’s in the house. Know what to do. Know that your family’s safety is paramount above all else. Things can be replaced people can’t be.

Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

The Parents

I recently imparted the smallest bit of wisdom on a friend of mine, something I shouldn’t have really known, but something I learned from someone else. It felt good and got me thinking, again, because I think a lot. That’s what I’ll be (hopefully) doing for my child, giving them little bits and pieces along the way.

Then I started thinking again. I just presumed that both of my parents just knew things. They were patents after all, they should know everything! What I’m starting to understand is that they were telling me the little bits and pieces they had learned along the way. I never really gave them credit for just being people.

So now I really feel for my Mam for the pressure she must have been under and I really miss my Auld lad for not being able to share this moment of clarity with him. I’m sure he would have just laughed and patted me on the back.

So hopefully I can let my child know that I am just a person and that I do make mistakes. They’ll understand right? Nah, not at all!