Frequently asked questions

Are there any mountains in Britain?

Most of Northern Britain is in some parts hilly and mountainous with deep dales and glens. We don't have the longest river or the highest mountain or the great planes on this small island, but we've got a bit of everything! Our highest mountain (Ben Nevis at 1,345m / 4,411ft) isn't Alpine but is partially snow-covered all year round most years. We have the Gulf stream hitting us straight off the Atlantic. That means we regularly have all four seasons in one day in the hills. White-out blizzards on the summer solstice are not unheard of. We typically lose a degree celsius every 100m vertically up and despite the lack of glaciers characteristic of the great mountain ranges - some of the best narrow knife edge ridges, scrambles, and big face rock/ice climbing anywhere. The North Face of Ben Nevis is on any serious mountaineer's tick list for winter climbs.

I can plot routes on my phone/watch/GPS. Why do I need a guide?

The rise in GPS technology has been phenomenal. However batteries run out (especially when cold), tracking Apps chew up power, and smartphones don't mix well with rain. Every year mountain rescue services across Britain are called out because people are ill equipped for the conditions, the phone has died and they have no back-up navigation to fall back on when the mist comes in. Mountain Leaders, Instructors and Guides will use GPS technologies but generally only as a last resort or to confirm a location in an especially complex terrain where going wrong could lead to serious consequences. Nothing beats a map, compass and confidence using them. In the Highlands of Scotland, many mountains are so remote there are few if any tracks on them and it can be a gruelling slog through bogs and steep heather to get anywhere and wilderness camp-craft is an art in itself - especially working with the environment to minimise impact. The relative accessibility makes some areas extremely popular - such as the 'tourist track' on Ben Nevis, built for donkeys to take Victorian ladies up to the observatory at the top. However visitors on this route miss absolutely anything of the mountain except a grassy slope and human traffic jams as a result. Mountain Leaders can take you off the beaten track to see some of the most stunning views and places, reduce the collective impact on a particular route, point out interesting features, and help pass on some of the skills needed to experience the mountains more independently.

How do you grade walks?

This is a rough guide to how difficult or challenging a walk is. It cannot take into account your own personal level of fitness but along with the description given in each of the activities, should provide a snapshot of the likely terrain. If you are still unsure but interested, please get in touch Level 1 - Short, easy hill walks. These are either quite short routes and/or following good paths and tracks on approach, ascent and decent. There may be short steeper sections but on path. Moderate level of fitness is required. Level 2 - Longer, easy hill walks. Approach on tracks or good paths, May include grassy ascents and descents. Decent level of fitness with moderate level of stamina required for the day. Level 3 - Moderate mountain day. Approaches and terrain not necessarily on paths. Some steep ascents or descents, may include occasional boulderfield or scree and some ridge-walking. You will want to have undertaken some previous walks in the mountains (e.g. Ben Nevis Tourist Track, Llanberis Path up Snowdon, Scafell Pike from Wasdale). Good level of fitness and stamina required. Level 4 - Challenging & long mountain day(s). Long approach which may be over rough terrain. Several steep ascents or descents, some rough terrain (boulderfield, scree, bogs or deep heather). Possible and occasional easy ungraded rock-scrambling which will be highlighted in the route description. You will need to be a fairly regular hill walker in different weather conditions and have a good level of fitness and stamina. Taster wilderness trips will come into this category. Level 5 - Challenging & long wilderness mountain days. These will be similar to a red level walk except that we will be wilderness backpacking - therefore carrying our camping kit and food for several days. The additional weight and bulk can add to the difficulty on even quite easy terrain. You will need to be a fairly regular hill walker in different weather conditions and have a good level of fitness and stamina.

We're doing a charity challenge. Can't you help us for free?

However much I'd love to say yes - to everyone who asks, this is my day (and night) job and it's how I pay the bills. I cannot offer special discounts for charity events no matter how great the cause or how much I might support it.

What is a Munro?

A Munro is a mountain in Scotland which is over 3,000ft high (or rather less romantically, 914.4 metres). There are currently 282 Munros listed by the Scottish Mountaineering Council. Just to add to this there are another whole host of mountain categories - the other most popular lists being the 222 Corbetts (Mountains in Scotland between 2,500ft and 2,999ft), 214 Wainwrights in England's Lake District, and the 14/15 Welsh 3,000's (depending on which ones you include...).

What if there is a medical emergency

All Mountain Leaders are required to hold a wilderness first aid certificate to deal with medical emergencies. We are also registered with the police to access 999 in remote areas to call for Mountain Rescue if required. Alerting us to any medical conditions is therefore vital so that we can look out for signs that something may be happening. All such information is kept in strictest confidence and only shared with the leader.

Can I bring my dog(s)?

Well behaved dogs are welcome. However if you are wanting to go on a wilderness trek it will be your responsibility to bring the supplies your dog will need. Your dog will need to be housed in your tent and you will need to clear up dog mess and dispose of it responsibly once out of the wilderness. Dogs must be kept under control on a lead in particular areas and at particular times of year and you must agree not to let your dog off the lead unless the Leader tells you it's OK. Some routes will be unsuitable for dogs and could pose a risk for their humans too. In such cases we'll let you know. If you want to come on a pre-scheduled event and would feel uncomfortable with others bringing dogs (for whatever reason) then please let us know at the onset of getting in touch with us.

Can I bring my kid(s)?

Children under 18 are welcome so long as they are accompanied by their legal guardian or parent. There are certain activities which will be unsuitable for children (e.g. long wilderness treks). But climbing and learning to navigate would be great for kids. I have an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) Certificate and any other guide who works with me will also hold the relevant qualifications, first aid certificates and DBS Certificate.

​What food should I bring for a day activity?

Firstly and most importantly, ensure that you've had a good breakfast. This is perhaps the most important aspect of a day walk and your leader will want to ensure everyone has eaten before we set off. If the weather is spectacular (it does happen in Britain) we will stop for a short lunch break for a sandwich. But even on a hot day it is alarming how quickly we can get cold if we stop, and it can make getting going again harder. In winter we won't stop for more than a few minutes unless it's exceptional. You will need to have food you can easily eat, stuffed in pockets or easily accessible in your rucksack. Your leaders will generally have an assortment of Snickers, Mars Bars, Tracker Bars, All day Cereal bars, peanuts and a sandwich. Bananas are good for energy (but easily squished). Some ready-made supermarket sandwiches, pies or pasties are good too. Between 1-2L water can be drunk depending on the nature of the walk and the weather. But these are rough guides. Clearly if it's a baking hot day you'll need more water. Ultimately you will want food that you can easily and quickly eat if we stop for a short period, that's high in energy, and that you like!

​What if I need the toilet when we're out in the mountains?

This shouldn't be a problem on day walks. If you need to pee you can usually find a discreet spot. Please avoid having a pee near obvious places where others may sit for a break such as view points, summits and near paths and streams. And definitely not near dwellings and farms. Climbing crags can become busy so it's important that you go somewhere discrete and away from the crag. We do carry a small trowel, some loo role and some sanitising hand gel if you need a poo on wilderness treks. We will advise on where to go and where not to go to protect the environment (and dignity!) - this is especially important when there is a group of us. But wilderness treks tend to be in really quite remote locations and it's actually rare to encounter another person for several days!

​What food should I bring for a wilderness trek?

There are numerous blogs about food when out backpacking written by some long distance experts. Please note that we'll be out for 1-2 nights. It is always a good idea to bring some spare/emergency food. It's better to have more than you need. In the highlands we tend to refill water from higher streams. Your leader will have some chlorine tablets should you want them but this is not usually necessary. I can provide advice about expedition food - just ask! I can also provide Wayfayrer foods for you in advance (and depending on availability). If you are needing me to get you some then please ask me and tell me what your choices are (and a back up choice). You can pay me in cash at the start of the event. Each item is (currently) £5.50. For the selection of Wayfayrer foods please see here

What equipment should I bring?

If you're new to the hills and mountains, just bring clothes that you are comfortable in and that are NOT cotton (such as jeans). You will need good walking boots - and ones that fit you is the most important aspect of selection. You will need a rucksack to carry it all in. You can view (and download) the gear list for various activities here and if there are things that you are missing just get in touch and I'll see if I can muster something up. If you are a beginner then I can talk about different equipment with you - there is no point spending a fortune on gear. For the more experienced, please bring as much of your own kit as you have. It will make whatever course or event more meaningful for you if you are using your own gear.

Do I need insurance?

That's up to you. But the British Mountaineering Council are worth googling as they provide insurance for those going out on treks. Normal holiday insurance will cover you if you need to cancel. I have my own liability insurance that covers me for the activities I provide as does any additional guide who joins us.

What risks are there?

The British Mountaineering Council Participation Statement is a standard piece of information activity providers ask you to read and accept and this will be in the booking form. "The BMC recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own involvement. By booking a course you are aware and accept these risks and will be responsible for your own actions and involvement." Your guide is trained to manage these, but can never completely remove them.

What's with the minimum and maximum numbers?

The minimum numbers are to enable the events to go ahead. At the end of the day, I've still got bills to pay! For courses they are also there because part of the experience is to learn from others and share experience. This is absolutely crucial to the courses. I can run these on a 1:1 basis but it can often be a bit intense and you won't get as much from the course. One of the missions of AFS Mountaineering is to provide quality training to enable you to go and start planning and having your own adventures safely. The learning environment and a working number of people is vital. The maximum numbers are to enable me to manage a group safely. I can take more than the advertised number but that adds a cost as I need to bring in another guide. For NNAS courses the maximum numbers are stipulated by NNAS.

What's included?

You are getting an experienced guide who is also a trainer and scientist. My courses are run to give you the maximum benefit and experience in the time we have and provide a friendly environment where everyone can contribute. There is no such thing as a stupid question! For other trips, you are getting out to places you may not have ever felt confident to go to alone, also in the knowledge that the route planning, continual risk assessment, navigation and guiding is taken care of leaving you to enjoy the trip, chat and take photos. I can hire out pieces of kit with advance notice and I can also get expedition meals for you: £5: Tent £15: Sleeping bag and roll mat £8: Camping fuel and stove £5.50: Per item - pre-purchased expedition foods For indoor climbing courses, the entrance fee and equipment hire is included in the course cost. For outdoor climbing you will need to have had some indoor experience and it is expected that you will have your own harness, climbing shoes and belay device by the time you are wanting to try actual rock climbing. It is advisable that you get your own climbing helmet but I can provide these. I don't have a warehouse of ice axes, crampons, boots of every size, ski goggles etc. You will need to hire these out separately either locally to you or from gear shops near where we are going - and I'll provide links to these stores. It is your responsibility to ensure you have been fitted appropriately before the start of the event. I will teach you how to use the equipment on the trek/course!


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