Getting old in the mountains a few tips? The secret is do not give up.

I was on a wee hill yesterday when a pal said at time’s I get sad that I may not be able to get big days on the hills anymore. As you get older the body does show signs and mine has done well. The years of big hill days Callouts soaking crazy weather have taken there toll. Yet it’s wonderful to go out and though I struggle up the hill see the power of nature.

A young Bairn before the ageing started! Ben Hope 1973

The clouds just now are majestic-the light unique even in heavy rain showers and the stags roaring is a special time. The first blasts of winter the cold hands and the wind blasted face make all the effort so worthwhile. Seeing the great hills again remembering a thousand stories meeting old pals is so good. Meeting new folk with the same love of wild places makes my heart glow. You feel alive despite the coughing on the way up or the stops. This is the result of many days out over now over 50 years on the hills. Often in weather training or call outs averaging 150 days a year fir at least 35 of them. The abuse the body has taken its amazing how it’s still going. Carrying stretchers, ropes and all night Call outs take there toll. Yet what fun?

We all talk about “mental well being” but the best cure for me is out in the wild places. It makes up for the pain and effort at time’s and the great feeling of getting on your first brew on a summit or sheltered spot is unique.

Just now the world frightens me we are in a real mess and I see few leaders about. Yet on the hill this rubbish is left behind! You concentrate on the day see things differently.

So no matter how you feel my days of huge mountain days are gone but I can still slowly get up there and see the day the world in another light. From the rivers in full flow, the forest changing colours and the Stags roaring it’s wonderful to be about snd see folk again. It’s great to see others a lot older than me still powerful on the hill maybe they looked after their bodies a lot better or started later on life?

I felt tired yesterday but happy my body even after a short day hurts but my heart is still full of the joys of the wild places. It’s easy not to go out but so worth the effort when that rain and wind batters your face. Invigorating or not?

Slowly slowly !

So a few tips : one plan your day do not think your 20 again and if going out alone tell someone.

I find that if I slip I am not so agile so take things a bit slower on steep or broken ground.

I wore specs all my life but now got lazer surgery due to Cataracts. Many now in there later years wear glasses. So carry them use them on the hill to read a map. In lots of accidents this I am sure is the cause?

Nowadays on a steep scramble I may use a rope at times as I feel my balance and skills seem to fade it’s no big deal to me.

Pass on your skills to others it’s great to see young mountaineers learn from the “old and once bold”

Driving – your not as young as you were so I think it’s worth sharing the driving to an from the hill. Spending a night in a Bothy or in your car is better than crashing due to fatigue.

Health – tell your companions if you have health issues very important as they may have medicine they may need with them.

Off the hill – I change when I get back to the car dry tip socks too etc nothing better than staying warm on the way home. I also rehydrate with fluid on the way home and as I get cramp a bit take bananas and crisps ( the salt helps ? ) I still get out the car like the kids say a “tin man” and have a walk and an anti inflammatory to help a bit . It works for me.

Gear – I forgot that but my wee mate reminded me. Sadly it does take £ but worth it – buy light gear. Mark Hartree sums it up well.

Hev’s, great piece.


I would add ‘lighten your bag’. I don’t mean being an unsafe renegade but think what is the minimum you can take, appropriate for the day you are planning and the forecast. Also, there is some excellent lighter weight kit about. It doesn’t have to be expensive. As X MRT folk, we are used to big bags full of stuff you never/rarely use. OK, be safe for an emergency (hat, head torch, whistle, foil survival bag, warm top), but try eliminating stuff you have hardly ever used. You will go up and down easier, move further and travel quicker, and recover faster.
If I can get away with a bum bag – that’s what I’ll take!
Cheers, 2ba

All these tips will help ensure you have a great day out safely. Many may think it’s not for them as there’s so many older folk out on the hill now it’s so good to see.

As many say why do you still go out? To me it’s the feeling of being out in mountains as the winter approaches, seeing Beinn Wyvis yesterday with a snow topping and the trees changing. The ptarmigan changing colour snd the streams in full spate crashing down the hills. Meeting kindred hearts on the hill and of course the memories.

At the back now ! Yet still there. Oct 2021 on Am Bachach Kintail.

Stay safe, get our there!

Comments welcome as always !

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Health, medical, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Getting old in the mountains a few tips? The secret is do not give up.

  1. Alan says:

    Unfortunately I know exactly how you feel! I used to run marathons at around six minute mile speed whereas I now struggle to run for the bus!! Great advice as always but spare a thought for those selfish people like me who drive and walk on their own. It’s my choice so I try not to complain too much. Keep on truckin and keep on enjoying the hills. I wish you well this winter. Might see you sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Charlie says:

    A great post Heavy,
    The time will come as it did for me when you can no longer trod the hills. It’s then that such reminiscences and photos of friends and old mates recalling their exploits lift ones spirits and calm the restless soul. Keep posting folks👌

    Like

  3. Derrol Taylor says:

    Hi Heavy I am 67 and 6 months on from a total knee replacement after years of struggling on the hill. Last month I spent a week up in Poolewe with my son. We walked into Corrie Mhic Fhearchair and wandered over to pay our respects at the crash site. I had a heavy heart feeling despondent that I was not going to be able to slog up the gully up onto the summit ridge and drop down into Glen Torridon. But a couple of hours wandering around in the corrie and listening to the sounds around me I suddenly realised its not about reaching summits anymore for me but it is about understanding I can still get out into the wild and to appreciate how lucky that makes me. Back home in Lancashire after that week in the Highlands with walks into Carnmore Lodge and Craig Bothy from Redpoint also under my belt (or knee) as well, I have come to accept that the big days in the hills are gone now but I no longer feel despondent because the memories are still fresh and the tales can still be told to the same mates over and over again, and more importantly I can still get out on the hill and I can still enjoy a v diff in a scruffy Lancashire quarry of an evening Apologies for this rambling post.

    Like

  4. Calum Munro says:

    Thank you! Just what I needed to head as I aged disgracefully. I am determined to keep going sensibly.

    Enjoy the hill you deserve all its blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pete Kay says:

    Age is just a number Hev’s, think old, that’s where you will end up. Don’t stop training for where you want to be and do.That’s no different for any age.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. GeoffC says:

    Good piece Hev’s.
    This has been a major part of our backpacking planning for a while, we are in our 70s now. We can still get up hills and modest mountains, it just takes longer with shorter daily distances, and our kit is very lightweight.
    As others have said, summits are not really important, it’s being out there. In fact one of our favourite backpacks of all time was around the Ben Alder mountains, and we didn’t climb to the top of any one of them.
    All the best.

    Like

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