Welcome to the world of hill walking, a recreational activity that can be both challenging and exhilarating in equal measure. The words “hill walking”, often refer to walks that cover both hills and mountains, and often involve conquering the summits. In the UK our varied terrain offers some great and contrasting experiences for hill walkers. You could be taking a walk on low lying hills or moorland, or conquering some remote ridges or steep mountain ranges.
Some of the best hill walking opportunities can be found in the UK’s National Parks, with Snowdonia, the Lake District, the Cairngorms, Exmoor, and the Brecon Beacons, all attracting large numbers of visitors throughout the year. There are walks to suit all levels of walkers, from complete beginners to intermediate walkers looking for something more challenging. Aside from the unpredictable nature of the weather, the seasons present some challenges too, with different weather conditions, hazards, and other issues to consider.
Previous experience isn’t necessary, but a good level of fitness, and the right skills, will ensure you can enjoy the hills and mountains you’re visiting safely and responsibly. One of the best ways to pick up all the necessary skills and knowledge, is to enrol on a hill walking and mountain skills course. These courses are available throughout the UK, and are run by fully qualified instructors.
You could enrol on a program that offers guided walks, and will help you conquer some of the hills and mountains in the area in which the company is based, or take a specific navigation course. There are also general hill walking and mountain skills courses, which combine different walks with practical teaching. You’ll learn all about conservation and the countryside code, the wildlife and history of the area your course is based in, and about right of access to the countryside. You’ll also learn navigation skills using a map and compass, how to read the weather, all about hazards you might face, and what to do in an emergency. There may also be a chance to pick up handy hints about equipment, first aid, and in some cases, camping in the hills.
Courses should be led by a fully qualified and insured instructor. Your instructor may have a qualification from the Association Of Mountaineering Instructors, such as a mountaineering instructor award. This award covers non winter instruction, while there’s also a qualification covering mountain walking in winter. The highest qualification on offer from this award scheme, is the Mountain Leader Instructor Certificate, which covers summer and winter walking. Also in the UK, the Mountain Leader Training Association, such as Walking Group Leader Award, which covers summer walking in different terrain.
Throughout the rest of the site, there are profiles of various companies offering hill walking courses in different parts of the UK, while you can also look up the British Mountaineering Council or the Mountaineering Council Of Scotland. These are two organisations that promote the interests of Hill Walkers in the UK, and both are useful sources of further information.