Sligo Mountaineering Club welcomes new members to the club. Those new to mountaineering often have questions and in this article, we hope to answer some of them. Please also look at the other pages on this site to get a flavour of what the club is all about.
Novices to mountaineering often wonder about what makes a mountaineer. Simply put a mountaineer is a person who takes part in mountaineering. There are many definitions of mountaineering and from our point of view it is a pastime where we take pleasure in trying to get to the highest points in mountainous areas. It is about enjoyment and recreation in a rich and varied landscape.
To enjoy the mountainous landscape safely requires a lot of thought and consideration. Lack of preparedness can turn a wonderful adventure in to one of misadventure. One must be cognisant of the physical and mental challenges encountered at elevation and be prepared for them. For example, weather conditions can and often do disimprove in an instant and the track, if there is one, disappears or becomes impassable. This is where learning mountain-craft skills and gaining experience from being part of an experienced group is important. Collectively looking out for one another is the cornerstone of what it is to be a member of the Sligo Mountaineering Club (SMC).
SMC mitigates against the dangers of being unprepared by introducing the novice to our graded walks system. Those new to mountaineering are encouraged to whet their appetite with ‘C’ grade walks to start with, building their mental and physical stamina before taking on the more challenging hikes classified as ‘B’ and ‘A’ grade hikes On all these hikes you get to meet with likeminded people and get to chat with members that have loads of knowledge and that are willing to pass it on. In the early stages of club membership all novices learn from other more experienced members and develop the skills to become competent follower. Later, as you become more confident, and perhaps seek out more knowledge and develop skills to make your sojourns to the hills even more pleasurable. We will support you on your learning journey. Our training officers’ deliver mountain skills and navigation training in the Springtime of every year, and we encourage all members to avail of this training – and, further, to put the skills learned into practice. When you have grasped your new navigational skills, you should experiment with the different variety and scales of maps available from various cartographers, because as you will become to realise, your skills will be easily transferrable.
Each member must maintain a level of fitness suitable to the grade of walk undertaken and it will involve regular outings on the hills. New members should build up their mountaineering fitness and resilience to maximise their enjoyment of the hikes and be ambitious to partake in the hikes the calendar committee has scheduled, to some of the most wonderful locations this region and island of Ireland has to offer.
What we wear is important and that is why the Safety Committee have drawn up an equipment and clothing list that members must have on their person while on the mountain. Inappropriate footwear could lead to a twisted ankle or worse. Therefore, we recommend that one wears stout leather hiking boots that offer good ankle coverage, stiff midsoles, and good foot support. Constant glare from the sun can cause permanent damage to eyes, and one should equip themselves with sunglasses that give adequate ultraviolet protection and suitable sun cream to protect areas of exposed skin.
Our bodies need sustenance and hydration. So, we must bring enough food and water to sustain us for the duration of the hike. Some hikes like the Glencoaghan horseshoe, in Connemara has no access to fresh running water, so one must carry the 4-litres of water (approximately) needed for the hike. Additionally, all club members should have spare snacks in their rucksack for emergencies.
Respect for the environment is very important to us. We encourage carpooling when it is safe to do so. We park up our vehicles neatly, so other road users can pass freely. We never leave anything on the mountains and take only pictures. Rubbish, disturbance of vegetation, wildlife, and livestock are all indicators of the need to continually develop a club ethic that protects our natural environment. We are guided by the principles set out by https://www.leavenotraceireland.org who promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research, and partnerships. We respect the landowners and show this respect by closing gates after us. If a gate cannot be opened, climb over at the hinged end, as this is the strongest part of the gate. We move out of the way if cattle or sheep are being herded and oblique and heed landowner’s requests.
Sligo Mountaineering Club is open to all regardless of experience. If you are looking to clear you head in the rugged Irish landscape, then SMC is for you.