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What Are The Unwritten Rules Of Mountain Hiking?

Mountain hiking is a sociable activity, as even if you venture out alone you are likely to encounter fellow hikers along the way, unless you are in the very remotest of areas. Sometimes popular routes can become busy in peak seasons, and this has led to an unwritten etiquette developing for the sake of harmony in the hills.


There are specific written countryside codes to follow as well, which are designed to protect the landscape and wildlife as well as keep people safe. Some of the unwritten rules reiterate or go into more detail about the official code of conduct. However there are some extra useful points it’s worth knowing about, and a refresher of the rules is always helpful.


On crowded paths

On popular mountains such as Ben Nevis, the paths can become busy during the peak of the tourist season. To avoid congestion, there are a few basic rules we can all follow. If you are walking in a group, don’t fan out across the whole path so that anyone who wants to pass is either held up or forced off the trail. Leave space to allow others to pass you.


The same applies if you want to stop for a drink or to take a photo; make sure that you and your companions don’t just stop in the middle of the path, but stand to one side. When you restart, look both ways rather than just wander out in front of someone.


If you notice a faster walker coming up behind you, give way to them, especially if you are going uphill. In general, it is good practice to give way to people going uphill because it takes more effort to break the momentum and get going again.


Dogs

If you have a dog and let it off the lead, make sure that it is well trained and does not run and jump up at passers by, even if you think it is just being friendly. Not everyone appreciates having dog slobber and muddy paw prints on their clothing, and some people are genuinely afraid of dogs.


If there is grazing livestock around, you should never leave your dog off the lead, even if you feel certain they would never disturb them. No one can predict how an animal will react, and in fact it may be considered a criminal offence to let your dog run loose among sheep.


Always carry a poo bag to clean up after your dog and dispose of it responsibly. If your dog is on an extendable lead and you are walking in a group, take care that your fellow walkers are not in danger of tripping over it.


Choose quieter times if you can

If you are in the fortunate position of being able to go hill walking whenever you want, avoid weekends and bank holidays in popular locations. This will lessen the congestion in the area and also mean that you will be able to enjoy a more peaceful walk.


Keep an eye out for sponsored walks or competitions in the area so that you aren’t unexpectedly bombarded by hordes of endless runners or walkers.


Use earbuds or headphones if you want to listen to music

Do not inflict your musical taste on others; always listen via earphones. However be sure to keep them programmed for ambient sound rather than noise cancelling mode, because otherwise you may miss important signals such as the sound of a mountain bike approaching behind you.


Take your rubbish home

This is actually a written code rather than an unwritten one, but there are a few grey areas. For example, some people think it is fine to leave banana skins and orange peel lying on the ground, because they assume it will eventually rot into the earth. However, tropical fruit skins will not biodegrade in the British climate and should not be dropped.


It goes without saying that you should never leave any trace behind you. Take a good look around when you move on after a break to make sure you have packed up your sit mat, flask, map and so on, and not left any litter.


Avoid clogging up honeypot features

If there is a monument, ruin, trig point, viewing area, or some other point of interest, take a look and move on so that others can view it as well, rather than using it as your picnic spot.


Be pleasant

Finally, be polite and say hello to passers by, notice if anyone seems to be lost or struggling, and offer help where you can.


If you are interested in a Skye Munros course, please get in touch with us today.


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