Blairgowrie and District Next Steps

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Fitness Note

These notes apply to the advanced walks on days other than Wednesday. 


It should be noted that all Moderate and Advanced routes will require participants to be able to maintain a good comfortable level ground pace of around 4kph (app 2.5mph).  (Military marching for example is based on 5kph or 3mph).


Apart from the Wednesday Easy walks our walks vary in difficulty from Moderate grade to Strenuous though some are graded Very or even Extremely Strenuous.  These definitions are a bit arbitrary and therefore some of the walks may however be easier than others.  The amount of ascent indicated on the walk schedule is the total amount of height climbed over the whole route.  It does not necessarily indicate the height above sea level of the highest point.  Walks on a Tuesday are usually Moderate to Strenuous, while on a Thursday are Easy to Moderate.  Very or Extremely Strenuous walks are undertaken on a specially planned basis.  Walks are subject to amendment before or during the event, however no walk will end up a higher grade than previously advertised, unless all participants agree at the time.


Comparison with Ramblers grades:

Wednesday walks span E, D, C,

Thursday walks span C+ to B+,

Tuesday walks span B+ to A+ and occasionally beyond.


Because all of our walks are guided, we do not leave a struggling or ill walker to make their own way back to the minibus, so in this eventuality all participants will return as a group.  For this reason we ask that people build up a suitable level of fitness by taking part in the more moderate walks before embarking on a challenging or strenuous walk for the first time.


The distances, ascents and difficulty are for guidance only, if you have any queries about the walks or indeed any other matter please contact the organisers.  Where appropriate we have tried to grade the walks to give you a good guide to the conditions and hence level of effort required for each walk.  They have been based on a modified form of Naismith's rule, and the descriptions are not absolute.  

Easy indicates a walk on good ground for up to 3 or 4 hours,  or distances up to 15km/9 miles with little ascent involved.

Moderate indicates distances up to 13km/8miles ascending a total of approx 400m or 1200ft across good ground or tracks, with a duration of between 2 to 3 or occasionally 4 hours.  There may be some limited crossing of varied ground.

Strenuous indicates distances up to 16km/10miles, ascending approx 400m/1200ft across varied ground, with a duration of approx 3 to 5 or occasionally 6 hours.

Very or Extremely Strenuous indicates distances over 16km/10miles ascending to Corbett or Munro level and higher across rough ground, with a duration of over 5 hours.  These will also probably involve ascending more than 1000m over the trip.

Varied ground may include some heather, peat hags, bogs, boulder fields, scree and/or river crossing (though not necessarily all).  Rough ground will include significant distances in these conditions.  Anyone wishing to take part on Very or Extremely Strenuous walks will be expected to cope comfortably with anything the terrain can offer.  Therefore a good sense of balance, adaptability  and competence coupled with good stamina on steep ground are essential prerequisites.  In fairness to all the other group members Very and Extremely Strenuous walks are not training grounds to see if someone can do it.  Working up through the grades is a good way of getting prepared for these very serious walks.  The opportunities for an accessible or easy escape route are limited if non-existent on these walks and participants can expect some hardship, especially in the event of an unforeseen occurrence or incident.


A further idea to help judge the degree of difficulty is to multiply the overall ascent by 7 and add it to the distance.  This will give a Level Ground Equivalence, indicating what the exertion will be similar to.  Therefore someone used to walking say 8km (5miles) on flat ground, will do the equivalent of 9.4km (almost 6miles) if that includes a 200m overall ascent.  With 400m of ascent this is then equivalent to 10.8km, nearly 7 miles.  And, a 1,300m ascent will make this route equivalent to 17.1km, more than doubling the horizontal distance!  This is particularly relevant for the higher walks.  These adjustments are based on the time it takes to ascend compared with being on level ground.  It can take approximately 7 to 8 times to climb a given distance than walk it on the flat.


In addition to the normal Naismith calculations, there is a modified version using corrections devised by a man called Tranter.  His amendments take into account the level of fitness, by adding additional time based on how quickly a person can climb 300m.  In his terms someone doing so in 15 minutes is very fit, 30 minutes is average and 40 or even 50 minutes is very unfit.  It also adds another factor based on duration.  So a longer walk will take additional time beyond Naismith's basic method.  His chart suggests that for a walk that Naismith calculates as taking say 8 hours someone who is a 40minutes/300m climber will need a further 2 or even 3 hours added to the planned duration, with yet more allowances for complex ground or heavy packs.  While it is probably feasible for that person to do that walk the knock on effect on others in the group is demoralising and uncomfortable.  Such a walk is therefore beyond the limit of advisability for that relatively unfit person (fitness in this context refers to the time taken to climb 300m over an 800m horizontal distance).  The key factor in this is the amount of significant ascent and descent overall.  Attempts to take those less fit on such walks need to be planned and manned specifically, invariably with a group of people to a similar standard.  Many of the Extreme walks on the schedule are harder and longer than Ben Nevis, and a very long relatively level walk such as Lairig Ghru (20 miles end to end) is a poor indicator of climbing ability.  We recognize that not everybody can do every walk, hence the varied schedule. 

In addition to the basic fitness requirements hydration and food are major factors.  Adequate drinks must be taken.  Availability of drinkable mountain burn water is not guaranteed.  You need to plan on drinking up to ½litre of liquid per hour during hard and sustained ascents.  Isotonic 'Sports' drinks are recommended as they replace vital salts and sugars as well as liquid water.  During warm weather this drink rate can be even higher.  It should also be borne in mind that it is possible to become de-hydrated in winter!  Adequate hydration and salt replacement is vital for human body function and is extremely rapidly assimilated.  Unlike more solid foods most of which take some time to digest and in many cases need an overnight pause to refuel your muscles.  Remember that we can survive many weeks without food but only a few days without liquid.

Meals are important.  We will generally have a snack approx every 1½ to 2 hours or so.  Therefore sufficient for 2 snack stops is recommended.  You may also wish to take some nuts or chocolate/snack bars or similar to nibble along the way.

Hill walking can consume up to 500kcals per hour.  This is fairly extreme and it is unlikely that Next Steps will require more than 200 to 300kcals per hour.  But while exercise is good for burning calories off, insufficient or the wrong food will result in low blood sugar level and early fatigue/cramps and so on.  This can exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition.

All hill walkers breathe heavily when going uphill.  This is not necessarily a symptom of being unable to do it.  The need to oxygenate the blood is a natural consequence of exercise and other exertion.  Remember that climbing Mount Blair does more good than a half hour step lesson, and is far more scenic and interesting!

If at any time you feel unwell please advise the leaders.  While they are not medical personnel they are first aid qualified and are familiar with the above issues.

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