New To The Hills?

Information for New Starts

Some clubs exclude beginners - or insist on a probationary period for aspiring members to show they 'have what it takes' to be allowed join. We are not like that! All we need is your membership subscription (currently £24.00 pa).

But obviously you'll want to see what it's like first, and the best way is to come on a bus trip. Be sure to tell the Bus Convenor that you are a beginner and he/she will ask you a few questions and arrange for you to join a suitable party. You will learn much from the experienced club members however none of us is a professional guide (although some of us have mountain leadership certificates at various levels, but we can't accept any liability for you on the hill). You will be able to come on two bus trips before you have to join, and meanwhile you will have third party insurance cover.

Am I Fit enough?

You do not have to be superfit to hillwalk. It’s worth noting though that walking up and also walking down steeper terrain, rough or not, requires significantly more effort from your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) than walking on the flat. It will also use different muscle groups. So if you are not used to hills, then you may be surprised at how tiring it seems at first. Hillwalking is certainly not as easy as a walk over Gleniffer Braes Country Park, for example.

The good news is that these muscles and your ability to breathe can all be trained to become more efficient through use. So what is needed most is a bit of determination, and a commitment to come out several times before you decide it’s too hard. After this it will get easier, helped along by the fresh air, the stunning landscapes and we hope the company of other club members.

Start small and build up. Some suggestions of small hills to try prior to tackling a Munro or Corbett or a full day out with us are:

  • Conic Hill at Balmaha, Loch Lomond (GR 433924;OS Sheet 56;350m of ascent).
  • Tinto Hill, Clyde Valley (GR 953344;OS Sheet 72;460m ascent).
  • Dumgoyne, Campsie Fells (GR 542827;OS Sheet 64;390m ascent). For steepness of terrain, this is a very short but very steep ascent. Extend to Earl’s Seat if you want more exercise.

Do I have the right skills  or Can I learn them?

Whilst at the outset a fairly good fitness level and some determination are sufficient, we will stress to you the benefit of developing your own hill skills as you venture out more often. The ethos of the club is one of self-reliance in the hills, whether or not you are with others. Ultimately you must be prepared to recognise and accept the inherent risks involved in being in remote places – and a degree of self-sufficiency in your skill levels and in the equipment you carry will help you manage those risks. 

But don’t be put off! Learning new skills is usually fun and very rewarding when you start to do it for yourself. Some skills will just come with knowledge and practice in this environment, others like navigation require more dedicated practice. All the while you will be building the confidence to go out there and do it yourself, which is what it is all about. The hillwalker’s key skill is Navigation. See also our pages on Skills and Safety  and Winter Skills

Useful starter publication: Safety on Mountains, British Mountaineering Council

You can also gem up on your land access rights and responsibilities here.

What kit do I need?

If you are totally new to hillwalking, Suggested Equipment and Clothing suggests the basic kit you are likely to need. The list indicates the contents of a typical Club member’s rucksack and is for guidance only. Please feel free to ask advice prior to joining us on a walk.

In addition to your rucksack contents, it is definitely worth taking a full change of dry clothes (and a towel) in the bus or car with you – it makes the journey back home so much more warm and comfortable!

Also note that reliable gear is not cheap! If you need to buy clothing, boots, camping or climbing equipment, you can save your membership fee several times over by taking advantage of our discount arrangements. But get some tried and tested advice from club members before putting yourself in front of the outdoor gear salesman! On occasion members will also sell items of equipment or boots through our member web pages.

Further information and tips can be picked up at Tuesday evening events some of which we specifically target for beginners.

We issue newssheets which update our annual programme and these will keep you informed of professionally run courses. We also periodically run our own 'beginners weekends' to pass on skills of map-reading, route-planning and route-finding. The committee will find volunteers to organise these if there is the demand - and it's much cheaper than the professionally-run courses. (See Navigation section for more information on courses).