Looking after your body – I wish someone had told me that? 50 years of wear and tear on the hills!

Wish someone had told me that? 50 years of wear and tear on the hills!

As my body falls apart at 62 I have had some time after 3 recent operations (though these are not mountain related) to pass on a few tips on how to keep the body going! By looking after it!

Feet – how little we look after them, they get battered after years of misuse especially in winter crampons and bad fitting boots and socks over the years took their toll. Make sure you have a pair of boots that fit and good insoles are important.

simple gear the famous Curlies.

simple gear the famous Curlies. My boots for about 10 years !!!!

For years I wore rubbish socks RAF issue and they were huge causing blisters and all kinds of snags. Get the best socks you can afford and if you like them stick with them. Boots make sure they fit and can be used in most conditions. If you find a pair that suits and are a great fit buy another pair as a spare as by next season they may not be made. Dry the feet and wash regularly change socks daily and look after them and they will look after you. I would advise to use trainers for long approaches “light is right” in the correct conditions.  Try whenever possible to let your feet air and dry properly look after blisters and other foot issues. Is it worth thinking do you really need extremely tight rock boots for that route – they can wreck your feet? Is it worth thinking that if you climb E4 tight rock boots are the thing but for that 500 foot mountain severe? Get a comfortable rock shoe for the classic routes!

When selecting gear, spare no expense when it comes to footwear. You’ll rely more heavily on your feet when climbing than on any other part of your body, and blistered feet can ruin a long trip. Climbers renting plastic boots or adjusting to a new pair of g boots should give themselves plenty of time to break them in. Before going on any long walks, get your feet used to the added wear and tear by taking shorter hikes earlier in the season on all sorts of terrain. Experiment with sock layering. Some climbers swear that wearing only 1 pair of socks works for them; others say 2 ultra-thin liners and a pair of mid-weight wool socks do it for them. I’ve even heard of people placing corn pads, moleskin, or duct tape on heels or balls of feet before they start because they know those areas are trouble! Finally, if you feel a “hot spot” developing on your feet, stop and take care of the new blisters so they don’t get worse.

The best tip on feet is to visit a Chiropodist regularly as this gives the feet a service and a bit of pampering. Keep your toenails short as after a day of front pointing/ kicking steps in the mountains they will be in a state!

Simple kit

1972 Simple kit

Ankles/ Knees – If you find your ankles or knees are your weak area, you might try some of the following tips: 1) make sure you have sturdy hiking boots that provide ankle support; 2) use trekking poles to assist you on climbs or descents; 3) learn leg-saving techniques such as glissading, plunge-stepping, and the proper way to go up and down talus, scree, and boulder fields from someone who looks like a graceful stage–learn from the experts; and 4) strengthen legs and ankles, particularly the quadriceps  Carry as little as possible when you can. For years the wear and tear on the knees is crazy, use Trekking poles as they will protect the knees and though they take a bit of getting used to. I used to run down the hills with a heavy bag and the damage was wild. I have had 3 operations on my knees and been using poles since the mid-80s and without a doubt they have saved me from future operations taking a lot of the weight and pounding of my knees.  I damaged my knees on my first big walk  North to South Of Scotland in 1976 and how I continued for 3 weeks I will never knowledge  It was my cartilage that went and still causes problems to this day.  Poles reduce the impact on your legs, knees, ankles, and feet. This is especially true when going downhill. A 1999 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine found that trekking poles can reduce compressive force on the knees by up to 25 percent. Trekking poles help to alleviate some of the weight you carry. For example, if you have a heavy pack on, and you take a short break, leaning on the poles will make you more comfortable.

Poles take a huge weight of your body!

Poles take a huge weight of your body!

Descending – running down hills is great feeling and when fit you are at one with the mountains look where you are going and concentrate all the time?

Back – So important and so easy to damage, in Moun A downhill walk with a heavy backpack is definitely a strenuous task for the knees. Its because anecdotal studies say that while descending with each step that you take, the amount of force exerted on you knees is roughly thrice the normal body weight.

As light as possible

As light as possible

The moment you find your knees hurting on a descend, try and keep a steady and a calm pace, need not to rush downhill, if you are carrying excess weight, make sure that the load is distributed in a well manner and see if your fellows can help you with the heavy backpack. Drink adequate water.

In Mountain Rescue it was part of the job and carrying a stretcher at night is never easy. Be aware what you carry keep your bag as light as possible and look after it.  Buy the gear as light as you can afford “£ spent in the gear can save £’s in the back”.

It is never easy when carrying a load !

It is never easy when carrying a load !

Head, face and eyes – always use sun screen for years I did not and have to watch as especially after over 40 expeditions the skin damage can be a big problem for future years.   It is advisable to carry sun screen at all times and to have sun glasses for the hills.

Use sun screen and glacier gogles

Use sun screen and glacier gogles

Fingers / Hands – watch out for over-training it is easy to over train and damage joints much more is known about this nowadays so there is no excuse.


Drinking / eating properly –  Simple but so important we know a lot more about this now fluid input and correct eating is so important and can make you days in the mountains so much more enjoyable. Ensure you rehydrate after a day out, I always carry a lot of water in the car and rehydrate on the way home so important.

Always drink a lot

Always drink a lot

Muscle pain – A very common complaint indeed, and something nearly everyone experiences at one time or another. However, if you experience severe muscle soreness each spring when you start your climbing season, you may want to pay extra attention NOW to getting in shape, especially training your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and hips (including glutes) and core (abdominals and lower back). Every bit of preparation you do now means more enjoyment on early climbs.

Stretching – Few of us do this – drive to the hills , rush out the car and straight on the hill ?

Keep the weight down and save the knees and back!

Keep the weight down and save the knees and back!

Any ideas for simple stretchers for the hills?

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, medical, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Looking after your body – I wish someone had told me that? 50 years of wear and tear on the hills!

  1. Peter Kay says:

    I did try to warn you guys, lugging those heavy hill bags round filled with 2 ton of First Aid used once in a blue moon. Hope your mending OK wee man. 🙂

    Best Regards


    Liked by 1 person

  2. ptsd17 says:

    Don’t want to think about stretchers when I’m on the hills 😊
    Seen an article the other day, (wish I can remember where) but on asking lots of 80 year old what would they change if they could go back to their 20’s. The majority mentioned looking after their feet better. Most body ailments can be traced back to your feet, from back pain to joint problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great stuff Heavy I was just telling our new trainees that they will have at least 50 years ahead of them in the industry before they can retire. This is a serious issue for those entering the outdoor sector for a career. It would cost around £20k to redo my quals today. A 3 year degree in England £27k and no guarantee of NGB awards to get you a job. Most current outdoor educators not much on the hill over 55 yrs of age. The first professional outdoor educators have all now retired and many are not a pretty sight. Great life experiences and travels though. Hope you are managing to keep everything working to remain active though.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Roscoe says:

    Good article Heavs, packed full of what Jim used to call ‘snippets.’ I like the fact that you referenced from a peer reviewed journal. The compressive forces described can be alleviated by hanging from a bar whilst keeping a neutral spine as it decompresses the vertebral disc/vertebrae complex. Ideas for stretching? Look at T Nation website and Cressey Performance also anything by Dean Somerset. Pete was bang on about hill-bags and inevitable damage due to over-loading; coming from an engineering background he’ll be familiar with Wolff’s law. I could give you a whole treatise on this subject but one of the joys of learning is research. Give my love to Nicola S 😉


  5. Peter Kay says:

    As usual Rosco, informative and educational and straight to the point. Hope your keeping well, I’ve looking at full suspension MBT’s, just a tadge conscious of the fact it may be a case of “all the gear no idea” 🙂


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