The Ultimate Night Hiking Guide

01/18/2017

The Ultimate Night Hiking Guide

The first two weeks of 2017 have been a flurry of firsts. My first (and longest) challenge 25 mile hike also was my first night hiking experience, my first big hike in England, and the first hike I’ve done with someone I’ve never met. And let me tell you, it was exhilarating.

It all started with overly enthusiastic me, scrolling through Facebook and stumbling upon an invite from Mark from Hill Explorer to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge at night. I immediately took this as an opportunity for an adventure. I’ve done the West Highland Way, so it should be similar right? So, of course, I replied back. Besides, Yorkshire isn’t THAT far from Macclesfield, right? Weeks later, I received a message from Mark, asking if I was still interested and dates I was available. Again, not thinking, I replied back with a generic “yeah anytime is fine” answer. Mark wasn’t going to let this adventure slide. Around Christmas, after a few replies, Mark set a date and time for night hiking the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.

I was fully committed, without even realising it.

To be honest, I knew nothing about the Three Peaks Challenge, where it was, how long it was or really what it was. After some searching, I realised I had put myself up for a hefty event. The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a walk through three peaks in the Yorkshire Dales: Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The route is 24-miles long and includes 5,200 ft (1,585m) of ascent, and you need to do it within 12 hours. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Now, get this. Add in possible snow, definite ice and complete darkness. Then you have Mark and I’s challenge.

I have never done night hiking before, let alone night hiking for 24 miles. I wish I had read a night hiking guide or two before I left, to be prepared. Luckily for me, Mark and I managed to get by without too many problems. So, to keep you all informed and prepared, I made the Ultimate Night Hiking Guide. That way, you can kick start those 2017 resolutions and get your walking on!

The Ultimate Night Hiking Guide

WHy do it:

Because you’re a badass hiker. Night hiking isn’t for the weak nor the novice hiker. You’re going to want to have some orienteering skills, because you’ll definitely need it. Mark and I passed many sheep fields and many forks in the road with no signage, so we spent a ton of time looking at his viewfinder map on his phone.

Because you don’t like crowds. I guarantee you that there will be less people when you’re night hiking than during day hiking. The Yorkshire Dales peaks are usually littered with people. Mark and I passed by a grand total of 4 people between 6pm and 6am. Now I call that a massive difference. It’s much quieter and much more serene.

Because you become one with nature. You have to know where you are, the elements, the trail and your surroundings really well. It requires a lot more thinking, but you’re also much more in touch with everything you pass by.

How to prepare:

Check the weather. Mark and I decided to hike the Three Peaks Challenge on the dryest night in January, where we wouldn’t have to worry about the rain. He chose the day well. Although it was icy and a bit damp, we didn’t have to deal with being soaked. Trust me, planning your hikes around inclement weather makes the whole world of difference.

Bring your friends. The more the merrier, and the more heads to keep you all going the right direction (mostly). Someone is bound to know which way to go. For example, the last peak Mark and I summitted had a huge plateau, and while trying to find the trick point, we got a bit lost finding our way back down. Luckily, my slight fear of getting lost on top of a mountain kicked in and I knew which way we had come from; so instead of going in the completely opposite direction, we made our way back down the path safely.

Do a little trail research. Mark had done the Three Peaks Challenge during the day before, so I entrusted him to do the path finding. He recognised areas of the trail that could have been a struggle to figure out otherwise, and I was so thankful for that. Do a bit of research on the trail, read the reviews and read what other hikers have done to get a sense of what you’re going up against.

What to bring:

What you will be using all the time: 

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Headtorch/headlight
  • An extra flashlight/handtorch and extra batteries
  • Phone (with GPS) or GPS
  • Knife
  • Lots of food
  • Lots of water

In case of emergency: 

  • Emergency blanket/bivvy bag
  • First Aid Kit
  • Emergency GPS Alarm thingy

What to wear:

Layers, layers layers. Just like day hiking, night hiking requires lots of layers, if not more. It’s much colder without sun, even during the summer, so make sure to come prepared for anything. Check the weather forecast the day of the hike, and bring what’s necessary and more. Since I went the first week of January, I wore a long base layer, my Patagonia Women’s Down Jacket, my Trespass Waterproof Jacket, UnderArmour winter running leggings, and waterproof trousers to keep my legs warm. I also had a new hat Angus’ mum bought me as a Christmas gift, my trusty Salomon Speedcross Trail Running Shoes and warm ski gloves.

Ultimate Night Hiking Guide, at the top
All the layers (except for the waterproof trousers)! Photo credit to Mark Barrett of Hill Explorer

Lastly… just do it.

After reading about a million other night hiking guide blogs and tips and tricks, I decided that I was glad I hadn’t read anything about night hiking beforehand. I’m not saying this is necessarily the best thing, and it is dependent on where you go and the animals you may encounter. However, some of the articles’ posts made me feel like I shouldn’t have gone, because I wasn’t good enough, or I wasn’t a strong enough hiker, or I didn’t know enough advanced navigation techniques. It would have made my trip much more daunting, and instead of being excited, I would have been nervous. So, I’m here to say to just do it. Be prepared for everything I said above, but whatever your hiking level and ability, just get out there and do it. You’re going to have the time of your life and even if it seems a bit miserable halfway through, you’re going to wake up the next morning and be glad you still did it, despite the odds.

Is there anything else I should add to the night hiking guide? Comment below, I want to hear about all your experiences! Curious to learn more about amazing and scenic walks? Follow my friend Mark, on Hill Explorer to learn all about hill walking, hiking and scrambling routes in the UK! 

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4 Comments
    1. Having read your blog for a while when you were based in Scotland, I’ve just realised you’ve decamped to my home town of Macclesfield – if you need any advice on walking in the area let me know – I’ve pretty much walked everywhere!

      Love this post on night hiking, I’d love to give this ago, although I need some navigation lessons having got lost in the fog on Friday, up a Munro – in the daylight!

      1. Aw wow such a small world, it’s like we’ve switched places (although you’ve been in Scotland far longer than I have, but Angus has been there his whole life till now)! We love walking around Macc forest & Tegg’s Nose since it’s SOO close to us, what’s some of your favourite places? I’m glad you like the post, Scottish fog is so similar to hiking at night though,you can’t see anything! -Vivian

        1. Ooh Teggs Nose! It is an even small world – I was up there just after Christmas, we can walk up it from my parent’s house as I am actually from Langley, the village at the foot of it. Next time you are there, pop into the St Dunstan Inn, the landlord is Scottish and will make you feel at home!

          My favourite walks are around Macc are
          – the Three Shires Head (http://www.lovefromscotland.co.uk/three-shires-head/)
          – Standing Stone to Wildboarclough via Shutlingsloe – http://www.macclesfield-outdoors.co.uk/walking/walk15.html

          A bit further afield – Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill are stunning

          Enjoy the area, I love it, so beautiful.

          1. OoO we will have to try St Dunstan Inn, we are always looking for more pubs to go to :). Thanks for the advice! We’ll definitely give those places a go 🙂

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