Keen traveller, Ben Fletcher, is an adventure and general outdoor activities enthusiast. In the last two years he has spent a lot of time travelling and hiking around the UK, the world, and very soon will be heading out to Belize for a jungle survival adventure! In this blog he shares some of his favourite hiking locations in the UK and shares his knowledge about the particular areas as well as sharing his top travel and hiking tips.
The famous Peak District, a location mainly consisting of wild country is always a challenge because you have to prepare the route you are going to take and how long it will take you before you depart. There are very little buildings on your route and you are required to navigate using just a map and compass (everywhere you look is either field, mountain or water with no one to ask for help so it can be very tricky). A key element of planning the route is checking (and double checking) paths with local guides to make sure they are safe to use.
I bring all of my own gear for these ventures, a 65 litre expedition rucksack houses 4-5 days of food, spare clothes for when it gets cold up in the mountains and waterproofs... I definitely needed the waterproofs! I also carry medical supplies such as a full first aid kit, rope, safety whistle and a tent (or a hammock if I'm feeling crazy enough to brave the elements).
I have been out in the wild mountains twice so I am still learning important little tricks and knowing what the weather can be like in the North of England... I was, truth be told, a little apprehensive. As far as experiences go, though it was not the most high octane or fast moving activity there was, the walks I did were. Some of the mountain passes were treacherously thin and on sections where I had to climb up rocks, the rain and mist greatly affected visibility and grip.
The hikes, although arduous in places and very wet, gave fantastic views across valleys (when the cloud cleared). My advice to you for when you travel to the Peak District is pack for wet weather, you may be lucky and the weather will stay dry but chances are you'll find yourself in heavy downpour and wading through bogs! Definitely invest in waterproof socks and dry bags as well as a good waterproof coat... no-one like to be walking while damp with wet feet and boots!
The Lake District is filled with fantastic scenery, good high mountains and friendly northerners. We were staying at a bunkhouse that backed onto a pub just outside of Keswick, a great location on a hill that overlooked a bit of the town, not to mention it was a 30 metre walk (or stumble! Haha!) from the pub door to our bunk beds.
The general plan was to hike for 3 days to see some of the famous Lake District views. We originally planned to climb Scarfell Pike but unfortunately due to health conditions of a few team members we could not, so we settled instead for the Striders Edge on Helvellyn... a dangerous metre wide path on a ridge with a good 600ft drop on both sides. Eek! We also did a few of the lower mountains at around 900 metres above sea level.
I used my trusty walking equipment with the introduction of my Alt-Berg Jungle boots (highly recommended) as well as my waterproof coat and trousers which kept me nice and dry. I had never been to the Lake District before so did not know what to expect but packed for all types of weather. A few members of the group were a bit daunted when we started heading into the cloud line where visibility dropped to about 20 metres but we kept an eye on each other to make sure we didn't have any accidents, I love being in 'white outs' and the challenges it gives, certainly a feeling of anticipation and adrenaline.
The more hiking and 'advanced' mountains I do I'm finding that I want to do more challenging things. My advice to others wanting to do some of the tougher mountains in this area is go with a guide or someone who has experience as some of the ridges such as Striders Edge can be very dangerous. Definitely stick to your comfort and physical abilities or you will have to turn back as some of our group did.
A very well known place for it's harsh and steep mountain peaks but also it's lush green valleys, the Brecon Beacons was a fantastic experience. We spent 3 months planning a route through the mountains and choosing where to camp and what to eat, as well as a training weekend in which we learned advanced compass work and map reading skills.
When we finally got out there, we had a wonderful exercise where we had to navigate a km round route in pitch black - needless to say lots of stumbling and falling over occurred. Before the 5 day expedition we we really excited and full of anticipation, but the amount of energy it took just to walk up the mountains was staggering and we were a little apprehensive about doing it all over again the next day with 15kg expedition rucksacks on our backs.
I'll never forget our first day there because we inadvertently chose to climb over 5 of the highest mountains in the Beacons area. My advice from what IA have learned from this is to pack for the occasion and check weather forecasts. I took a lot of wet weather gear and didn't take heed of the weather forecast, but if I had I would have definitely brought some suncream.
The Black Mountains make up the second half of the Brecon Beacons National Park. On the first day of the hike, myself and two others trekked through one of the largest mountains in the area and saw some stunning views up top - it was solid snow for 2/3 of the walk up and down that mountain! I brought all my own kit but this time invested in a new thermal layer of clothing, which due to the snow I am glad I did!
We knew about icy conditions on steep gradients as well as cornices and 'false' shelves so we were well prepared for the weather and terrain. I must admit, I was a touch nervous and cautious with what I was doing as it's so easy to slip over or get in to trouble, but it was very valuable experience. My advice to those wanting to do harsh weather climbing is to invest in some VERY good waterproof clothing, softshell coats work fantastically at blocking the wind (which for us hit around 15-20 mph) and again, start small and in your comfort range, never go too far without the correct safety gear.
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