#THISISMYADVENTURE - James Forrest, the Mountain Man on All Things Hiking and Rain
Are mountains still fun in the rain?
No. The end.
I’m only joking. As much as I’d love to get away with the world’s shortest blog post, it would be an over-simplification to say mountains are dull, boring and firmly to-be- avoided when it’s raining. They do, in fact, have some redeeming features when it’s wet and I’ll expand on that later on in the article. But first – to the (more obvious) downsides of rain.
Let me paint you a picture. This evening I arrived back to my car looking like a drowned rat, after enduring eight solid hours of heavy rain, howling winds and sleet storms climbing the Munros of the Grey Corries near to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. My feet were soaked, my hair was dripping wet and my clothing decidedly soggy. I was less wet when I did the ice bucket challenge. It was a horrid, wretched feeling that many of you will know all too well, I imagine. And what’s worse I’d checked the forecast the day before, but still consciously chose to head out to tackle Stob Ban, Stob Coire Claurigh, Stob Coire an Laoigh, and Sgurr Choinnich Mor in these adverse conditions.
Now that I’m sat in my warm, dry hostel for the night I’m contemplating whether I made the right decision. Well, in a way, yes I did. Mainly because I’m attempting to climb all 282 Munros in just six months this spring and summer with my girlfriend Nic (@adventurer.nic), so I was super happy to see our numbers of peaks ‘bagged’ increase despite the apocalyptic weather.
Don’t get me wrong. The weather was atrocious and it was mostly miserable out on the trails. After all, there is nothing pleasant about horizontal hail driving into your face like a thousand tiny daggers. Or ice-cold, boggy water seeping through your boots to your bare skin. Or extensive hill fog transforming beautiful vistas into a whiteout. There are, however, a few redeeming features to wet weather in the mountains. And - as evidenced I hope by my tongue-in-cheek Instagram hashtag #jmflovesrain – I like to always be as positive as possible. It’s better to see the glass half full, rather than half empty, right? You could act grumpy and depressed about the rain, or you could act like a big kid and go jumping in the puddles – which option will you pick? So, here we go...below are some reasons why rain is a good thing and why mountains are still fun in the rain.
Mountains can seem more dramatic and atmospheric in the rain. Streams and waterfalls swell and rage, taking on a more awe-inspiring appearance, for example, while brief moments when the sunlight breaks through the cloud or the mist lifts to reveal a glorious view can deliver a heightened wow effect. You might also see an epic rainbow encircling the mountains – and what could be more beautiful than that? Other possibilities include: seeing wildlife that only comes out in the rain (in the Swiss Alps recently I got to see rare Alpine Salamanders when it started to rain, which was pretty cool); or getting the trails all to yourself, as rain keeps most people away, meaning you get a true sense of escapism and tranquillity.
A Bigger Challenge
One of the many reasons I love mountains is the physical and mental challenge they pose. In gnarly weather conditions this is amplified - navigation is more difficult, progress is slower and keeping your spirits high is tricky. Even breaks become functional - wolfing down a sandwich before it gets too soggy - rather than a pleasure. Yet all of this only acts to make the sense of achievement greater. When I finished my 22km walk with over 1,500m of ascent in the Grey Corries I felt truly fantastic. Fantastic because I’d faced adversity, gone outside my comfort zone and taken on the worst Mother Nature could throw at me - and still achieved my goals. Staying fit and healthy It’s a weekend and you have a choice: stay at home, veg out in front of the TV, and waste away your precious time off work. Or you could grab your hiking boots, throw on your waterproofs and head out into the rainy hills. The latter option might seem painful and unpalatable at first, but when you’re out you’ll feel great. You’ll be exercising, increasing your cardiovascular fitness, toning your muscles, and giving yourself a dose of happiness-inducing endorphins. It’s great for your physical and mental health. And far more fun than the gym.
Obviously, it’s best to be prepared when you head out into the rain. And the better prepared you are, the more likely you are to enjoy the benefits above. So here’s a few top tips:
1. Always take a fully waterproof hardshell jacket and trousers
2. Wear leather or Gore-Tex boots that will keep your feet dry
3. Use a waterproof case for your phone
4. Use a waterproof pack cover for your backpack
5. Place all of your items in dry bags and zip-lock bags inside your backpack
6. Leave a towel and some spare clothes in your car so you can dry off post-walk
7. Go with some friends who can keep your spirits high
8. Stay positive and embrace the rain
So to conclude...yes, in my opinion, mountains are still fun in the rain. Granted it’s a perverse sort of pleasure - but if that means I’m a mountain pervert, I’m happy with that.
Adventurer / Author / Hiker
You can also keep up to date with him as he nears the end of his Munro challenge using the links below: