Hiking Solo?

Hiking Solo?

Last week a friend asked me if I hike alone. I replied that I never do, I always take the dog. She went on to explain that she meant hiking without other people. Oh, well in that case, yes, I do all the time.

About 60% of the walks I do are just with dog. Sometimes it's because I have a more flexible work schedule than the people around me but most of the time, it's because I want to. I want the flexibility to grab the dog and just set off. Climb a few mountains, roam across hillsides and see what the weather does.

“Do you ever get scared walking alone?” is the next question I'm asked.

There are two ways to answer this; firstly, by addressing any practical concerns of hiking alone and secondly, what people really mean when they ask this question, if you’re scared of a scenario straight out of a horror movie.

Tackling the horror movie scenario first; what happens if you meet some crazed psychopath on the side of a mountain?

In response to this, I roll my eyes and explain how unlikely this would be and how much safer the middle of nowhere is compared to a city.

However, I'd be lying if the thought hadn’t occasionally crossed my mind. Of course I’ve imagined a worse case scenario. Being that one in a billon. Being that unlucky.


hiking solo walking solo

In the last 6 months, I've walked just under 3,500km (thanks Fitbit). At least 2,000km of this was probably solo, well just me and the dog. I've only had one moment where I've panicked. And spoiler alert, there was no reason to have panicked.

I was hiking in a very remote part of mid-Wales and had walked for 3-4 hours with seeing anyone. After climbing above a tree line, I crossed an open, boggy moorland and headed towards the final summit.

As I reached the cairn, I saw a middle-aged man approaching from the opposite direction. He was about 20ft away, dressed head-to-toe in camo gear and had a shotgun over his shoulder. My heart froze.

The guy lifted an arm, waved and in a lush, sing-song Welsh accent told me he was hunting birds.

Admittedly, I still walked away pretty quickly but reminded myself that any concern about stumbling across a psychopath while hiking is pretty absurd!

hiking solo walking solo

In terms of the more practical concerns about hiking solo, I think I’m often putting myself at less risk when I’m hiking alone. When I hike solo, I'm far more aware of my surroundings; I pay more attention to the weather for signs of a storm, I take more care on steep ascents, I check the map and GPS more regularly to ensure that I don’t get lost and I know the escape routes from higher climbs in case the weather turns.

I do all of these things when I’m hiking with other people but to a much lesser extent. Because they're checking too right? Well, the answer to that is ‘no’ in most cases. Unless, as a group, you decide who is leading the hike, everyone assumes everyone else is taking charge. I've got lost significantly more times when I'm with other people than hiking on my own.

That being said, a few extra steps do need to be taken when you're hiking solo in case you have a bad fall or get lost.

  • Always let someone know exactly where you're going, including which route options you might take if the weather changes.
  • If you're driving to the start of a walk, leave a note visible in your car, including the time and date you started the walk, your route and what time you expect to be back.
  • Don't push yourself too much; if you're not great at navigation, don't choose a high route in poor visibility.

Obviously, there’s a risk with everything but I set off on a walk well aware of my limits and knowing that there’s a higher risk when I cross a busy city street.

Oh and would I hike completely solo, without the dog? Well yes, but perhaps slightly less often. Part of why I like hiking alone is because I can hangout with the dog. And everyone plays hide and seek and chases their dog up and down mountains when no one else is watching, right?

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