Hillwalking in Poor Weather

Here in Sligo, we live in a part of the world where we don’t always get the clear weather we want to enjoy all that beautiful scenery. And the weather, even when you set out and it’s fine, can change pretty quickly, especially at this time of year. We do have a series of safety videos you should take a look at if you’re heading out for a ramble. It’s also worth remembering the following advice on hike preparation and what to do if the weather turns bad and you find yourself lost or struggling on poor ground.

The Horseshoe Trail in Sligo – photo SligoWalks.ie

Preparation is key.

Before you head out, check the weather forecast and pack your backpack accordingly. Even in settled weather, you should bring clothing that will help in case the weather takes a sudden turn. Several lighter layers rather than one heavy layer is always better and there’s loads of clothing available that is rainproof, breathable and some have a reflective inner layer which helps you retain heat.

The Queen Maeve Trail on Knocknarea – photo SligoWalks.ie

Check the Route.

Don’t try a route you’ve not done before if you know that the weather isn’t going to be in your favour. Also, just because things are relatively settled where you are, at higher elevation it’s more likely that the wind will get up or that the terrain will become trickier and that you’ll become more exposed to the elements. So we recommend that if you decide to do a walk during unsettled weather, err on the side of caution, do a trail you are familiar with and that won’t pose many unexpected challenges.

Union Wood forest trail in Sligo – photo SligoWalks.ie

Safety Equipment.

At a minimum a fully charged phone, a head torch and a whistle are useful implements to have in your back pack. A first aid kit is also recommended. And remember to tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to get back at. Make sure that they have your mobile number and take into account that just because your phone is fully charged, coverage might be patchy on the mountain.

Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team on Ben Bulben – photo SLMRT

Bring snacks.

At this point you might think you need a sherpa to bring everything, but this isn’t so. All of the things we have listed should only take up a small amount of space. Healthy snacks like cereal bars, fruit like bananas and nuts give you a boost, water is needed to stay hydrated and a thermos flask with a hot drink will complete the job. Usually a good backpack will have extra pockets for these.

Deerpark Forest
Deerpark forest trail – good terrain for walking – photo SligoWalks.ie

Know your Limits.

We’ve already mentioned it, but there’s absolutely no reason to take risks. Allow plenty of time to get home, especially with the short daylight hours at this time of year. Buddy up with someone and don’t overestimate your capabilities. If you get into trouble, get injured or lost, try if possible to retrace your steps. Our video section has some very good advice on how to identify landmarks when you have to backtrack and what to do if you get injured.

Always remember that the Emergency Services are only a phone call away on 999 or 112. So if you really do need help, don’t hesitate to call. The Mountain Rescue service will try to track your location and may enable you to self-guide down the mountain. Or they may set out to help you down, that all depends on the circumstances.

Walking at any time of year is good for the body and for the head, so we recommend you stay active as much as possible even at this time of year. Just don’t bite off more than you can chew and hopefully you’ll get to enjoy many of the great walks of Sligo and elsewhere as the weather improves and the days get longer over the coming months.