16 December 2010

When Darkness Falls

Becoming caught on the hills in darkness can be a minor issue; or it can be a major problem resulting in injury or mountain rescue.
The difference between it being a minor or major issue mainly comes down to preparation, knowledge and experience.

It goes without saying to have a well equipped back pack, with all your usual spare gear and safety gear.

Really think about this spare gear though – if you’re becoming cold and damp as night falls and the temperature is dropping even more; is the one lightweight fleece at the bottom of your bag really enough to rewarm you and keep you warm?

Emergency food should not just be a couple of extra chocolate bars, but rather high energy, slow release food; like extra sandwiches, a container of pasta or nuts and fruit.

Ideally have a head torch per person, but failing that certainly have some type of torch per person. Don’t use wind-up torches; they’re useless for night navigation! Also, very importantly, carry spare torch batteries.

Once you realise that hurrying won’t help and you will be caught in dusk; don't get stressed. Stop and take ten/fifteen mins to assess your current location, decide on a safe escape route including navigation points along the way; stock up on food and drink even if you’re not hungry and thirsty as you need your energy and concentration levels kept high.

What can happen is that you find yourself rushing, splitting your group of hikers and making silly mistakes in an effort to get down off the hills as quickly as possible. Instead accept that you are going to be down later than planned and to have the confidence that you can deal with navigating in dusk and darkness.

Map Reading Skills, Compass Bearings, Timing and Pacing are essential skills for navigating safely off the hills in darkness. Doing an Outdoors Ireland Mountain Skills Course in Kerry or Wicklow is an ideal way to develop or recap/improve your knowledge.

Check out this blog post about finding yourself if you do become misplaced.

As part of Mountain Skills 2 you spend time on the hills at nighttime, practicing night navigation.

This is something you can practice yourself as well, somewhere near to a road with no cliffs nearby!

Half the battle of dealing with benightment, is having experienced it previously and knowing that you can deal with it and have the skills to get yourself out.

Any other tips or advice? Please do leave a comment...

1 comment:

  1. Comment Emailed From Richard:
    Night navigation is no different to white-out or thick mist navigation. You just need to be experienced and accurate in your time-distance-direction and map skills. If there\'s any background light it\'s often better not to use white light at all. Also, better to conserve energy by carrying the lightest load possible. Glucose tablets are light and give instant energy boost. Worked great when soloing the Cullins.