I went out for a hike yesterday, to prepare for a hike next week when I am taking a group out on this particular route. Basically, a recce as such. Nothing new with that, standard practice when I lead a hike, to check the route beforehand.
Now, I had been in this area before and even on three of the peaks, of which there were four, on the route. However, I had never done this exact route, so I wanted to check it out. In terms of distance, it is nothing too crazy coming in at about 10 miles with a height gain of 700 meters all told.
I of course, went through the usual routine before heading out on the hike in the morning before I left. So, preparing gear, getting my rain jacket, rain pants, hiking boots, etc. ready as well as food and water. I also made sure I had my safety kit, first aid kit, bothy bag, etc. with me, just in case of an emergency.
One of the standard things I of course check, is the weather. Long story short, to set some context, the weather has been pretty bad the last week with lot’s of heavy rain and generally very unsettled conditions.
So, first off I had to factor that into my thinking, The place I was going to is boggy and with all that rain, it would make the going harder underfoot, much more slippy and so the potential of turning on an ankle or slipping onto my keister, which did actually happen once, was something to really think about.
The next thing, was the weather on the day. It was the same as the week previous,and was to be very unsettled. Blasts of sunshine, heavy rain, high wind with plenty of cloud cover at times too. Basically, four seasons in one day!
Now, I need to emphasize the rain and wind, as the wind was to have pretty high gusts at times and the rain was to be very heavy it short blasts. The place I was hiking in was also particularly exposed i.e. ideal for winds to build up from pretty much any direction.
On the Day!
Anyway, I started out and I was actually wearing my sunglasses as the sun was beating out of the sky. Within about twenty minutes, the clouds came over and the wind started to pick up. By the time I got to the first peak, dark clouds had formed covering all the sky above.
As I made my way to the second peak, the fun really began! The skies opened up and the rain pummeled me for about 20 minutes. I had my rain gear on so I was well protected.
Now, the ground on the way to the second peak was really wet and boggy and there were really large pools of rainwater left from all the previous week’s rain. It was very difficult to see where was reasonable to walk to be sure the footing was good.The raindrops bouncing into the massive puddles didn’t help matters either!
By the time I got to the top of the second peak, see the image below, the rain had stopped but the winds had really got up, so much so that it was making my eyes water heavily.
I had already put my sunglasses away, as they made it too dark to see the ground in terms of footing, so I had no protection on them. The wind was that strong, I decided taking anything out of my day pack there wasn’t a good idea, so I figured I’d wait till I went into shelter a bit as I headed down into a saddle before heading for the third peak.
That was all fine but, as soon as I got a bit, and I mean only a little bit, out of the wind, the heavens opened up again, twice as heavy as the last downpour. After about a 15 minute battering of heavy rain, it stopped and the sun came out! With all my rain gear on it actually started to get very warm, to the point I took my jacket off. I could see clouds looming in the distance so I didn’t bother taking my rain pants off. Twenty minutes later, baddabing, the sun was covered in dark clouds and the skies opened up again.
As I made my way up to the third peak, the wind got up even more as the peak is very exposed in the surrounding area. I took a beeline to the next peak which involved a steep decline from there down over what was practically a water slide at that point. Then over a river (which had lots of run off in it after all the rain) which I needed to be careful with and back up to the final peak.
All the while, the same pattern played out i.e. torrential rain for twenty minutes, high gusts of wind with crescendos that would nearly lift you off your feet, topped off with a blast of beautiful sunshine and heat!
It was a bizarre day in terms of weather for sure, and in truth, I wouldn’t have went out, except for the fact it was my only opportunity to check the route out before next weekend!
The Take Away
So, what point am I driving at with all this? Well, a couple of years back I did a post on how quickly and easily mountain weather can change, especially if you are hiking in typically meteorologic-ally temperamental areas, if you will. This really reminded me of that fact.
Even with all the best planning in advance, on the day of your hike, so many things can be thrown in your face to challenge you. The weather is a typical example of this and one that most every hiker will have come across at some point.
If you look at the outward facts of this hike I was taking on … it is June, it is Summertime, the temperatures are pleasant and although the weather has been erratic, the sun was making an appearance a fair bit. All sounds reasonable enough!
Even factoring in the fact that the forecast was accurate, and it was challenging on the day as predicted, you can never underestimate the weather when you are heading out on the trail. It can turn on a sixpence and bring all sorts of challenges, just like that.
The hike I was doing, was a relatively tame one, nothing too strenuous for the group I am taking out next week. However, in conditions like I did my recce in, a whole new dimension of difficulty is added.
In conclusion, the message here is simple. Always do the right planning when it comes to the weather. Check the forecast and think what the weather has been doing in the run up to your hike e.g. if there has been lot’s of rain, rivers will be more swollen and there may be more run off which can add a whole new set of hazards.
Never take anything for granted and always be prepared with the right gear and equipment. If you’re prepared and the sky turns on you, with the right gear, you should be fine, and nearly always, hiking in bad weather just adds an extra challenge factor to proceedings. Although often nothing more than a pain, it can also turn out to just be a whole lot of fun on your hike.
If on the other hand, you are not adequately prepared, well, that can be a whole different story and that extra challenge could develop into a serious problem quite easily.
Anyway, this was fresh in my mind after getting battered by the wind and rain yesterday lol 🙂 so I figured I’d add up a few thoughts on it.