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My wife Mandi has just smashed her challenge to walk one mile! 

Ok, I can already hear your comments –

I do that just walking the kids to the school, or going to the shops  – thats nothing!

So lets put this into some form of perspective.

My wife suffers from Fybromyalgia, which is a medical condition characterised by chronic widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure. Other symptoms include tiredness to a degree that normal activities are affected, sleep problems and troubles with memory. Some also report restless legs syndrome, bowel or bladder problems, numbness and tingling and sensitivity to noise, lights or temperature.  Other types of chronic pain are also frequently present.

It is also well summed up here!

The outcome of this condition is that Mandi cannot walk very far.  In fact, the 300m walk to the Doctors will put her out of action for the rest of the week.  She will spend 95% of her life inside our bungalow and only able to go out when I am home from work.

Anything we do plan, always has to be subject to change due to sudden, unexpected flare-ups.  There is no point planning anything with an early start as it can take Mandi anything up to 3 hours to get up, showered, dressed and ready to go out.  This is due to having to battle constantly through chronic pain, fatigue and cognitive impairment or ‘Fibro Fog’.

In addition to all of this, she also suffers from Polyarthritis, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), Cervical Spondylosis, and Osteoarthritis!

Oh – and by the way she is also drug intolerant, so cannot take any pain killers!!

So why the challenge?

About two years ago she joined an online fitness and health group called Trinity Transformation in an attempt to get a little healthier and fitter.  She found that she could adapt their training schedule to suit her particular requirements, though their lack of knowledge of the condition made this very restrictive.

However, one thing they did do for Mandi was to ask her what she would like to achieve, what was her goal, in order to give herself a focus.  Her answer was simple –

I want to walk one mile

The problem was that whilst she had a target to work towards, this can prove counter-intuitive.  The thought of having to fulfill her challenge could be enough to stop her even attempting it.  I am very proud of my wife, because she is a fighter and rarely complains about her condition.  But I knew I would have to work hard to get her to complete the walk.

We had planned a weeks holiday in the Yorkshire Dales and I was looking for things that we could both do, within the limits of Mandi’s condition.  I had always wanted to show her Malham Cove and I knew that there was a very good footpath to the cove from the village.  To my surprise she agreed, probably because I ‘fudged’ over the distance element, just focusing on the ease of assess.

So, the day came and we set off from the Yorkshire Dales National Park car park for a leisurely stroll up through the village.  As we walked through the village we spotted a beautiful cafe which did hot chocolate, her favourite, and this became the focus for our post walk refreshment.

As we left the village the ground started to rise and I thought Mandi would struggle, but no, she set a pace that I had a problem to keep up with.  This is a common issue with Fibromyalgia sufferers, in that they tend to over do things when they have a little energy.  And sure enough, by the time we reached the cross country footpath, she was really struggling.

I did offer to return and fetch the car, but you could see that she was not going to be beaten.  Come hell or high water she was going to see Malham Cove.  Remember, she was not aware that this was her challenge, she was doing it because she wanted to do it, rather than feeling obliged to do it.

As you reach the summit of the footpath, you get the most fantastic view of the cove.  This was the sight that she came to see.  So it was out with the cameras and photo time.


Photo call complete, we started the gentle walk back to the car park.  This was going to be downhill all the way, which for Mandi is the worse.  Because the bones in her feet have virtually collapsed, each step felt like her leg bones were pushing through her feet.  I could see the pain in her eyes but still she refused the offer of me getting the car.

Eventually after an hours walking we were back in the village and the walk was complete.  Time for a well earned hot chocolate and time to reveil to Mandi just exactly how far she had walked – one and a half miles!  It was a beautiful moment to experience, the sheer joy and euphoria at having acheived what she had never felt possible, it was overwhelming.

Remember earlier I mentioned that a 300m walk to the Doctors would knock her out of the rest of the week.  It was now going to be interesting to see how she faired for the rest of the holiday.  Fortunately I had planned a driving sightseeing holiday so she would not have to leave the car if she was in too much pain.

Well, would you believe it, just 2 days later she is doing a very painful and slow walk around Brimham Rocks for another one mile walk.  However, I think I have sussed what drives her, because half way round this walk there is another cafe selling hot chocolate!

What Mandi did was quite remarkable and took a lot of courage and no shortage of pain, but if you want something that much then anything is possible.  Never feel because you have this illness or that condition, that you cannot acheive your goals and ambitions.  With the right will and determination you can do whatever you want.

and remember

Every Walk Starts With Just One Footstep

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Guest Blogger – Roddie Grant, Rugby, Warwickshire

Throughout my walking life I have used the facilities provided by the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) many times.  In the early years I found they ranged from dire to acceptable, but these days their image has changed and some are more like hotels.  There is even a YHA in a castle in Scotland.

When I heard that Roddie was staying at a YHA for the first time, as an older Gentleman, I thought this was an ideal opportunity to get an unbiased opinion of the modern day YHA for the older traveller.  What Roddie has come up with is a ‘no holds barred’ narrative on his first experience at a YHA.

For all sorts of reasons I was not an outdoor child; the idea of going youth hostelling would have appalled me. Fast forward 50 years and not only have I changed but so have youth hostels.

In recent time I’ve discovered the pleasures of being outdoors, especially walking, and I am keen to explore more of this country. The snag is that for anything outside the Midlands that means an overnight stay, with associated expense. My wife and I have stayed in several Airbnbs but even they can be expensive, and while all were adequate for a night or two, they all had some shortcomings. Then recently it dawned on me that my daughter had been using youth hostels (including Lisbon in Portugal) finding them to be largely OK, and they might be economical places for me to stay.

I checked out the YHA website and discovered how much hostels had changed. While rooms are mostly shared occupancy, there are sometimes private rooms, some en suite, and meals can be bought in the hostels.

So I booked a night at Hathersage YHA. The main purpose of the expedition was to try out a youth hostel, and it was a resounding success, with the additional benefit of getting two excellent walks in the Peak District. I booked easily on the website, including joining the YHA as this was my first booking (£15/year). Booking through the website provided a 10% discount on accommodation and meals. I was able to book a room for one person, along with dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch, and a day or so later the manager of the hostel emailed me to acknowledge my request for vegetarian meals. The total cost for the room and meals was £46.92.

I arrived at the hostel (after a good walk round part of Ladybower Reservoir) shortly after it opened at 5pm and, being a Friday, it was quiet. However, it got much busier as people arrived later in the evening. Having dealt with my registration (don’t forget to take some photo ID like a driving licence!), Nick the duty manager spent some time talking with me about possible routes to Stanage Edge for the next day. Local knowledge was a great help and I had a much more pleasant walk on Saturday than if I’d followed my original planned route.

The room I had was small – just long enough for the bed and basin (the door wouldn’t open fully) and about 15 inches wider than the bed. This was not a problem; I had a daysack for when walking and a small sports bag for overnight stuff so these were manageable in the space and there was room under the bed for storage. A larger rucksack or a suitcase might have been trickier to handle, but for my purposes the room was fine and well cleaned. The only very minor snag with the tight space was lack of room to put out my Pilates mat to do some stretches after the walk, but if they had been really essential I could have used the (deserted) lounge downstairs. Bedding was provided, but my daughter had warned me you only get one pillow so, as I was travelling by car, I brought my own pillows from home. The one provided would not have been enough on its own – I would have had to find something to put under it.

I set out expecting basic facilities but the website had provided reassurance about what was available. The toilets and showers were adequate and clean, and, in addition to the self-catering kitchen and dining room, there was a lounge downstairs where I sat for a while listening to a podcast.

Youth Hostels provide evening meals in the setting of a Supper Club, where you have the opportunity to eat and chat with other residents. As it happened, I was the only person booked that day so I ate on my own. From a family at another table I learnt about the options for self catering (as they were) and in future that’s what I’d do. The three meals (dinner, breakfast and packed lunch) were fine but a little expensive for what was provided. However I knew the cost when I booked and it was my choice not to have the cooked breakfast.

Hathersage YHA has parking but in two rows so three cars are blocked in by another three. I was in the blocked-in row and would have appreciated some easy means of identifying the owner of the front car on Saturday morning so I could be reassured they hadn’t already left for a day-long walk. Of course I could have asked at reception, but the staff were busy serving breakfast. In the end, the car left a few minutes before I was ready to leave.

Overall, my stay was a very positive experience, and I will certainly be using Youth Hostels again the future. I was delighted to discover that you don’t have to be chronologically young to stay in them – at breakfast the majority of people were middle aged and older. However, the main lesson for any future visits is to go self-catering as it would be more economical and offer greater flexibility. Youth Hostels are definitely a way of exploring without breaking the bank.

For more information and to book a Youth Hostel visit their website

Roddie Grant – My initial career was as a journalist on a local paper but I’ve since spent many years sitting at a desk working on magazine production and school governance. Semi-retirement in 2018, with the prospect of full retirement at the end of 2019, has produced the desire and opportunity for new adventures. I’ve been married to Janet for 30 years, and our daughter and son are young adults.

Follow his Blog

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Oh no, I can hear you cry, has Glyn finally lost it and gone stark raving mad?  Or are we discussing bodily features that develop as we grow older? No we are talking about the plethora of categories or lists created to define hills and mountains.

I was recently questioned why I called my blog Hill-Walking For The Over 60’s, when a lot of over 60’s can’t climb great hills.  Simple – a hill is as high as you want it to be.  In fact there is a series of categorisations or lists relating to the heights of hill and their prominence.

We will look at the different categories and then you will be able to decide which hills you wish to pursue.  But firstly, we need to look at the two elements that define a hill – the elevation and the prominence.

Elevation – this is the absolute height normally measured from the mean sea level or, in the UK, a fixed datum.

Prominence – this is the height above the surrounding ground also referred to as the relative height, or drop, or re-ascent, between neighbouring peaks.  The lowest minimum prominence is 15 metres (49.21 ft) however most definitions do not consider prominences below 30 metres (98.43 ft).

The original list was probably the Munros, compiled by Sir Hugh Munro this was a list of all the Scottish mountains over 3000 feet (914m).  The original list has been modified several times and there are currently 282 Munros.  This list spurned a plethora of lists within each country and across GB.

But it is not this end of the height spectrum we wish to be looking at.  We need to be looking at the smaller hills and for this we turn to the HuMPs and TuMPs.

HuMPsHundred and upwards Metre Prominence, which reduces the prominence requirement to 100 m (330 ft). The list was compiled by Mark Jackson from a number of sources and published online in 2010 in More Relative Hills of Britain. There are 2,986 HuMPs in the British Isles: 2,168 in Scotland, 833 in Ireland, 444 in England, 366 in Wales and 11 in the Channel Islands.

TuMPsThirty and upwards Metre Prominence, in 2010, Mark Jackson further expanded the HuMPS and compiled the TuMPs, a list of all hills in Britain having a prominence above 30 m (98 ft).  There are 17,044 TuMPs and since 2012 the list has been published and maintained by the editors of The Database of British and Irish Hills.

For further information on all of the hill and mountains across the British Isles, then pay a visit to:

Register with Hill bagging and you can then track the hills you complete.  They are easily divided into categories or lists, and then by region or county.  This makes it very easy to find the hills close to you.  If you want to start low then select the TuMPs and click on your local area.

You may find that as you ‘bag’ more smaller hills, your fitness levels will start to improve and you can then progress to HuMPs and upwards.  Oh, and the BuMPs in the title – there are no hills on this list, it just made the title sound better.

So get out there and bag some hills


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Global recommendations on physical activity for health 65 years and above

I have been researching for a while into recommended physical activity levels for over 60’s.  In the process I have come across many different recommendations from various organisations.  Some pertained to be medicaL and others were quite obviously not! 

I therefore decided that the only recommendation that I would put to print is that issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).  Rather than rewrite what WHO have recommended in my own words, it made more sense to republish the original recommendation.

Guidelines

These guidelines are relevant to all healthy adults aged 65 years and above, unless specific medical conditions indicate to the contrary, irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or income level. They are also relevant to individuals in this age range with chronic NCD conditions or with disabilities. Individuals with specific health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, may need to take extra precautions and seek medical advice before trying to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity for older adults. Strong evidence demonstrates that compared to less active men and women, older adults who are physically active have:

  • Lower rates of coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, a higher level of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness.
  • Healthier body mass and composition and enhanced bone health.
  • Higher levels of functional health, a lower risk of falling, and better cognitive function.
Recommendations

In older adults of the 65 years and above age group, physical activity includes leisure time physical activity, transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational (if the individual is still engaged in work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities.

The recommendations in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and functional health, reduce the risk of NCDs, depression and cognitive decline are:

  1. Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  2. Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
  3. For additional health benefits, older adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate-and vigorous-intensity activity.
  4. Older adults, with poor mobility, should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week.
  5. Muscle-strengthening activities, involving major muscle groups, should be done on 2 or more days a week.
  6. When older adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow

Inactive people should start with small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase duration, frequency and intensity over time. Inactive adults and those with disease limitations will have added health benefits when they become more active.


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Map Reading & Navigation – Training Resources

I could write an entire book on how to read a map and use a compass.  I could use the best pictures with clear and concise explanations on how to navigate.  But at the end of the day there is nothing better than real hands on training.

Now there are two different ways to learn.  The first is by, what I call, osmosis, and the second is to attend a recognised course.

The osmosis method is the way that I learnt initially.  It is done by watching others navigate, asking questions and copying.  You absorb information and the continual use develops a skill base.  The down side to this method is that it is best started when you are 5 or 6 years old and can take many years.  This is how I learnt from my father and his colleagues.

The easier way, and the way that most people tend to use is by attending a recognised course.  When I was a kid, you either learnt by joining the Scouts or Duke of Edinburgh’s Scheme.  These days it is slightly easier, in that a search of Google (other search engines are available) will bring up a host of courses, all over the country, designed for all levels of ability.

A good place to start is the National Navigation Award Scheme website nnas.org.uk . The National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS) was launched in 1994 at the Royal Institute of Navigation in London, and since then over 50,000 people of all ages have gained awards.

This is a great resource as it explains their Award progression, where the various courses are, and who teaches these courses.  You can select by region or country, so you can customise their search to suit your requirements.

Another way is to go to a training school based on ‘word of mouth’.  One of these has been used by numerous friends of mine and that is the Ultimate Navigation School ultimatenavigationschool.co.uk .  They run Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced courses, courses dealing with GPS and Night Navigation.  They also have specialist courses for MRT, Police, Fire & Rescue, Special Forces etc.

The Ultimate Navigation School was founded to provide the highest level of Navigation training in a clear, easy to understand, friendly way. When people enjoy learning they retain more and reach a higher level of ability.  All their Net Profits goes to Charities who repair and maintain the Outdoors

I must make it clear that I have not used this company and there are other very good companies available.

So there you have it.  I have given you the basics and some idea of how to progress.  It is now up to you to take this as far as you want.  If you choose to go all of the way, you are opening up a world of adventure and exploration.  I will leave you with my thoughts, taken from the National Map Reading Week 2016.

In Map Reading & Navigation – Part 10, I will cover any questions that you have for me.  So if there is something that you want to know please leave feedback.


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As we approach Mothers Day in the UK, my thoughts naturally move towards my own Mother.  She will be 84 this year and 5 years ago she underwent surgery for a replacement hip.  My Mother has always been a fit and healthy person, she tends a very big garden, and walks most places, but I was  concerned that the operation would restrict her life style.

Well I need not have worried.  Five years later she is as active as she has ever been and her mind is as sharp as a razor.  She refers to her ‘old folk’ that she looks after, as a volunteer at a local home, many of whom are 10-15 years younger than her.

Then I look at other elder people of a similar or even younger age and I see many different states of health.  It is very evident that all people do not age in the same way, and that some will need assistance long before others.  But should we ‘write someone off’ because they have ailments in their latter years?

What we should be doing is creating environments and opportunities that allow everyone to be able to do what they value throughout their lives.  Being free of illness or infirmity is not a requirement for a good life.  Many older people have at least one health condition that, with medication and care, can have little influence on their wellbeing.

This is referred to as Healthy Aging.

Healthy Aging is defined by the World Health Organisation as:

the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age

They further define Functional Ability as:

having the capabilities that enable all people to be and do what they have reason to value. This includes a person’s ability to:- meet their basic needs; to learn, grow and make decisions; to be mobile; to build and maintain relationships; and to contribute to society.

So with this in mind, never think that because you, or someone you know has an illness or disability that they cannot take an active role in society.  I always remember the old saying

“With Age Comes Wisdom”

We must not let this wisdom go to waste.  It is important that you involve everyone in what you are doing.  Even if you are planning a local walk but have some members of your community who cannot walk very far, if at all.  Invite them to join the committee and get involved by organising tea and cakes at the end of the walk, or fund-raisers.

Everyone needs a purpose for life (see my previous blog) and each and every one of us has a responsibility to help facilitate this.  A few years ago, a  good friend of mine, who was wheelchair bound, used to assist me on my map reading courses.  He would do the bulk of the classroom training, whilst I dealt with the outdoor practical sessions.  We both had abilities and used them to achieve our goal.

Remember you do not have to be active to be involved in an outdoor pursuit.  Many events require organisers, marshalls, time keepers or medal hander-outers.  Everyone can be involved in a physical pursuit just not necessarily all in the same way.

So as we approach Mothers Day, don’t just give her a card and some daffodils, give her a purpose for life regardless of her health and abilities.

Now all I have to do is try and keep pace with her!


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Throughout this series of blogs covering Map Reading and Navigation we have dealt purely with the map and compass.  The reason for this is very clear, if you cannot use a map and compass you should never go into the hills, even in the most popular areas.

The clear, sunny day can turn bad very quickly and the ill trained and ill prepared will suffer, become lost, get injured or hypothermic, or worse – walk off of the edge resulting in a catastrophic fall.  This is not panic or rumour mongering – this is fact!

However, in the 21st Century, there are electronic devices which can help and assist us.  Note my choice of words, they do not replace the map and compass, they are used in conjunction with the same.  All of the devices I will discuss here use the Global Positioning Satellite systems or GPS.

At the moment there are two global positioning systems – NAVSTAR which is owned and administered by the USA (referred to as GPS), and the Russian GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System).  At the time of writing (2019) the European system, Galileo, is undergoing testing and evaluation as was the Chinese system BeiDou.

What I am going to discuss now is one device and two smart phone Apps.  These are not the only ones available, but are the ones that I personally use.  I will look at the handheld GPS device (in my case a Garmin Map64) and the Ordnance Survey’s smart phone App’s OS Maps and OS Locate.  Other brands are available for purchase or download.

GPS Device

A GPS device is a stand alone handheld SatNav, it allows us to navigate using downloaded routes and positional information from the GPS Satellite clusters.  To calculate position and track movement, a GPS receiver must be receiving information from at least 3 satellites. Altitude can be calculated if 4 or more satellites are in view, Generally, a GPS will track 8 or more satellites.

A GPS is capable of giving you your speed, heading, track, trip distance, plus distance to next waypoint or final destination.  It can have a typical accuracy of 10 metres

Routes can be planned using commercially available software, such as Memory Maps or the Ordnance Survey OS Maps.  Once complete these route can be transferred as a GPX file to your GPS device and superimposed on whichever map standard you have purchased for the device.

In general GPS devices come with open source mapping software which is usable in most environments.  Alternatively you can purchase mapping licences from the Ordnance Survey giving you access to their extensive range of 1:50k or 1:25k maps.

Once all loaded up, the device can be used to give you a bearing and distance to your next way point, as well as an estimated lapse time.  However, always check and ensure that the bearing is not taking you into a dangerous situation, such as across a steep-sided gully!

Selection of Garmin Map64 Pages

Over the years, I have found my Garmin MAP64 to be very accurate and has allowed me to navigate safely in poor visibility.  However, every move is always taken with reference to a paper map.  Accuracy of a GPS can be degraded when walking in dense woods or a narrow steep-sided valley where access to the satellites is restricted.

OS Maps App

Imagine having access to every single 1:25k, 1:50k, 1:250K and 1:1M map produced by the Ordnance Survey (OS) on your PC, tablet, Android or I Phone.  Well that is exactly what you get with the OS Maps App.

The main difference between this software and something like Memory Maps software, is that this is web side based rather than device side based.  What this means is that everything is stored on the OS servers so once you have planned a route on your PC at home, you can then access from any other device.

For me the biggest advantage is that the maps are constantly being updated by the OS, so I have access to the latest maps.  I have the use of in excess of a million routes produced by others.  It allows me to use the route and the relevant section of OS map on my smart phone in the same way as I would use my GPS device.

I can download the route and the relevant section of map into my phone in case no network is available.  Before leaving home I am also able to print out an A4 or A3 section of the OS map with the associated route and route card.  If I use water proof paper, then I have an indestructible map.

image courtesy of OS Leisure

Other elements I have access to, include aerial photographs of the terrain over which I am walking, and all of the UK’s green spaces. On the PC and Tablet it allows me to do a 3D fly through of the route using actual aerial photographs laid over the 3D mapping matrix.

3D Fly-Through with Augmented Reality selected

More recently Augmented Reality has been added.  This allows me to hold phone up to the horizon and the names of surrounding hills and mountains are highlighted on the screen.  The other great advantage is that as technology allows, more facilities are being added to the App and made available to all subscribers.

OS Locate App

The final application I am going to discuss is OS Locate.  This is not an App that you would expect to use all of the time, but one that could prove to be very useful.

On opening up you have a page which gives you information directly from the GPS satellites.  The most important of these is your position in National Grid Reference or Latitude & Longitude.  In addition you also have an electronic compass and an altimeter.

Why is this important?  Simple, it does not require your smart-phone to be connected to a network to give you your position.  If you have got lost and need to relocate then this will put you within 100m of your actual position (error of a 6-figure grid reference).

This App’s importance is so well established that Mountain Rescue Teams have asked lost callers to download the app and give them their position.  you can also share this position via text message, to the emergency services, 999/911, (providing you have registered your mobile number with them in advance).

Warning

As I highlighted at the beginning, these are not an alternative to a map and compass.  They are to be used in conjunction with traditional techniques.  They will make navigation easier, of that there is not doubt, but they are also dangerous.

Never rely solely on them.  Their batteries have a short life, especially the one in your smart phone.  The OS Map app plus all of the other apps you will have running such as social media and a fitness app, will drain the battery very quickly.

If you are using a GPS device, always take extra batteries with you and if you are using your smart phone then please invest in a power Pack.  This is a spare smart phone battery that you can tap into when the power is getting low.

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I have recently paid a visit to my Doctors for the results of a blood test.  A couple of weeks earlier I had been sent for X-Rays for suspected OsteoArthritis of the left hip and the blood test was a routine follow-up to this.

Well, I was in for a surprise.  The suspected hip problem that I thought I had, did not exist.  So thankfully there would be no pending hip replacement operation in the near future. What I did have was a critically low Calcium and Vitamin D reading.

Now, knowing that the main source of vitamin D is sunlight, I was very surprised.  As I explained to the Doctor I spend a lot of time outdoors, walking or partaking in some outdoor activity most weekends.  I admit that during the week I spend all day in a windowless office sat in front of a PC.  His response was just as surprising.

He suggested that there was a vitamin D pandemic and that it was getting worse.  Whilst some of this could be attributed to lack of sunlight he suggested a more plausible cause – the genetic (DNA) of most Brits is not British!

With the coming of the Roman invasion 2000 years ago, he believed that a large proportion of our DNA makeup was Mediterranean.  As a result we do not have the ability to absorb enough sunshine in the North Latitudes.  Scandinavians do a better job because of their fair skin and blonde hair.  Whilst Afro-Asians suffer the worse due to the darker pigment in their skin.

He also added that he believed age was a major contributory factor.

So what does vitamin D do?  It plays a central role in such basic cell functions as multiplication, differentiation, and metabolism. Vitamin D helps to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. Both are needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.  Hence his concern over the critically low calcium and vitamin D reading.

When he looked back through my case notes he commented on the tiredness. lethargy, aching limbs, increased incident of arthritic pain and finally this hip-joint episode.  All of these complaints are directly attributed to a lack of Vitamin D.  However, it is easily reversed by the administration of high dosage vitamin D tablets for 3 months followed by a permanent maintenance programme.

So why am I mentioning all of this here?

Simple, we are all getting older and a large proportion of us may have the same DNA background as I have.  Therefore it is important, next time you complain of joint pain, to get your calcium and vitamin D levels tested.  Do not allow your Doctor to fob you off with “it’s an age thing” insist that they take action.

Our health is important to all of us and so that we can continue to enjoy the outdoors and help to improve our physical and mental wellbeing, we must ensure that our Doctors make informed decisions.


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One of the main problems with navigating at night or in poor visibility is that errors can occur and this may result in the inability to locate a particular waypoint.  This can occur for a number of reason which we will discuss and look at ways to resolve those errors.

The most important thing to remember, is that no matter how good or experienced a navigator you are, errors will always creep in.  This is not down to poor navigation, this is a consequence human verses terrain!

Errors

If we accept that an error of 10% can occur is distance measuring due to pacing difficulties i.e constantly changing terrain, prevailing weather, or any number of natural issues.  Add to this an error of approximately plus or minus 4 degrees in your heading accuracy, it is easy to see how problems in poor visibility can occur.

Put all of this together, and you come up with the fact that as distance increases from 1km to 2km then 3km, the errors will accumulate until at the 3km point, your Area Of Probability (AOP) is no longer a point on the map, but an area of approximately 1 hectare or 100m x 100m (larger than a football pitch).

Further errors can occur if you are navigating to a grid reference point rather than a feature.  Remember that a 6 figure grid reference denotes a 100m x 100m box and a 8-figure grid reference a 10m x 10m box.

With all of these built-in errors it is easy to see why you can miss a waypoint in poor visibility.  Therefore, we need a system which will allow us to locate our waypoint once we are within the estimated Area Of Probability (AOP).  To facilitate this we use search patterns to methodically search an AOP and locate the waypoints.

Search Patterns Sweep Search:

This is the ideal pattern if you have a largish party, and can be instigated as you approach the AOP.  This search is best started approximately 100 – 300 metres before the estimated position of the waypoint.  The distance is dependant on the length of the leg so the 10% error of a 1km leg is 100m and 300m for a 3km leg.

Courtesy of Mountaincraft & leadership – Eric Langmuir

With the leader maintaining the position of the original track, each member of the party moves out to the left to form a line at 90 degrees to the track.  The spacing is dictated by the visibility and each person must maintain visible contact with the person each side of them.

The party moves forward scanning the ground either side of themselves but no further than the adjacent person.  Once you have passed a distance twice that of the starting distance (i.e. for 100m walk 200m).  The party stops and the leaders maintains their position.  The rest of the group spreads out in a similar manner on the other side and then reverse their walk.

Expanding Spiral Search:

This search pattern can be under taken by a single individual and starts from the point at which the pacing and compass bearing end (estimated waypoint position).  The search is carried out with the aid of a compass on the cardinal bearings.

Courtesy of Mountaincraft & Leadership – Eric Langmuir

The search starts by walking the distance of visibility on magnetic north.  Turn right 90 degrees and walk east for twice the distance of visibility.  A further turn right 90 onto south then walk 3 times the distance of visibility.  This is continued with 90 degree turns and adding an extra distance of visibility each time.

As you walk, you are looking side to side in a sweeping visual search out the limit of visibility.  With each leg the search area expands until the waypoint is located.

Emergencies & Calling for Help

Always keep in mind that a situation might arise where you are genuinely lost for whatever reason.  This could lead to the deterioration of the physical well-being of your party.  They may be getting tired and a lot of standing around, whilst you try to work out where you are, could lead to the onset of hypothermia.

You should also consider the possibility that you are tired and cold and that the reason you are unable to re-locate yourself is due to your own onset of hypothermia.  Either way you have to react quickly are resolve the situation.

Find somewhere sheltered, if possible, and get hot food and drinks prepared and consumed.  Get anyone in wet clothing into something drier and do whatever you can to keep everyone warm.

Take this opportunity to try one more time to work out where you are.  Use every technique available to you to either relocate your self or come up with a plan of escape.  Once all of this has been exhausted, consider the possibility that you may now be in an emergency situation and it is time to call the Mountain Rescue Team (MRT).

Remember, the members of each MRT will know their area like the back of their hands.  So, a conversation with them over the mobile phone (signal permitting) may be all that is required for them to assess your current position and start to talk you to an identifiable location.

If you can make mobile phone contact, the MRT may have access to SARLOC which can use your phone signal to pin-point your position.  If they can get this information, they will then be able to talk you down to a safe location.  However, if there are any members in the team whose wellbeing is under threat then the MRT will need to come to you to facilitate a rescue.

Signalling

If you are in an emergency situation, it is important that you alert anyone within earshot or sight of you.  Therefore it is important that you know the signalling procedures when using a whistle and a torch.  Parties already on the hill may be able to reach you quicker than the MRT and offer assistance or even a means to safety.

Whistle:

Call for help – 6 blasts in quick succession repeated every minute.

Response from rescuers – 3 blasts in quick succession every minute.

Torch:

Call for help – 6 flashes in quick succession repeated every minute.

Response from rescuers – 3 flashes in quick succession every minute.

Remember, if you hear the 3 blasts or see the 3 flashes in response to your call DO NOT STOP – keep repeating the call until the rescuers have made visual contact with you.

Always use the Mountain Rescue as a final option not the go-to first option.  Do not call them unless it is absolutely necessary.  However, do not delay calling them when you really are in trouble.

In Map Reading & Navigation – Part 8, we will be looking at electronic gadgets related to navigation.  When and how to use them and the related issues to be aware of.


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Review: Stance Nepal & Uncommon Arnot Trek Socks

In the words of Stance –

We have turned socks into one of the world’s most exciting accessories in less than five years. Our founders saw a category that had been ignored, taken for granted, looked over, and dismissed. By creating life into something that had been overlooked, we ignited a movement of art and self-expression that has drawn athletes, performers, and iconic cultural influencers to the brand–a group we call the Punks & Poets. By underpinning our creative roots with a relentless focus on technical innovation, we’ve ensured that Stance socks are now found in over 40 countries on the feet of those who dare to be different.

I was given two different pairs of socks, but the one I am trialing is the Nepal Trek:-

Features
  • Natural Wool Fusion Blend With Deathless Thread For Extreme Durability
  • Advanced Moisture Management
  • Breathable Performance Mesh
  • Anatomical Cushioning
  • Reinforced Toe And Heel
  • Seamless Toe Closure
  • FEEL360 Technology

Stance Feel360 Technology. Designed to keep you outside, on the mountain, in the gym, or on the trail, for longer and in comfort.

  • Premium twisted yarns increase resilience to wear and tear.
  • Reactive fibers regulate temperature and radically accelerate wicking.
  • Silver ions reduce 99.95% of odour-causing bacteria.
Assessment

One of my biggest issues with sock manufacturers, is that of seams!  Now I appreciate that there have to be seams in socks, but why are they always where I do not want them.  Perhaps its me, maybe I have strangely developed feet!

Anyway, I decided to take the Stance socks for a walk over the South Downs.  I wore no liner/inner socks, just a pair of Stance Nepal Trek.  The first thing I noticed was that they are left and right foot specific.  This is because of the way that they have built the support into the socks and are easily identified by the L & R on the toes.

The route I took involved steep climbs and descents and a mixture of different terrains.  Throughout the walk my feet felt well supported and there was no sign or feel of any rub or friction.  Any sweat that was generated was quickly wicked away, giving my feet a warm, dry and comfortable feel throughout.

I particularly liked the extra padding afforded to the heel and toes providing cushioning where it was needed most.

Verdict

This is highly competitive market, with several big names in the UK sock industry already vying for top position.  However, whilst not primarily targeted at the walker, these socks are very good. Once you read through the American ‘hype’ and drill down to the technical specification, you find a sock that is suited for walking and back packing.

I always wear socks produced by one of the UK’s largest adventure sock manufacturers, and whilst Stance will have a long way to go to offer the adventure range that they do.  The Trek range are well worth a try out and I will certainly be looking out for their products in the future.

Disclaimer: I was given a couple of pairs of Stance Trek Socks which I used for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

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