/ Walking at night

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Glyno - on 29 Aug 2014
Does anyone do this? I'm particularly referring to people who regularly venture into the hills at night maybe to watch or photograph that brilliant sunset before descending in the dark, or even setting out in the middle of the night in order to witness the sunrise.
Obviously, some people do, I suppose I'm really fishing for tips or advise as it's something that I'm planning on doing sometime soon.
As I'm familiar with, and quite local to Snowdonia, I guess the more defined paths on Snowdon itself would be a good place to start?

Thanks in advance, Glyn
Sir Chasm - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno: It'll be dark, take a torch.
Dave Perry - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

Take a torch with a red filter so you don't loose your night vision.
Carolyn - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

A decent torch makes the world of difference. You might well not want a bright torch on all the time, but if you become, erm, displaced, then being able to pick out features a fair distance away makes it a whole lot easier to refind yourself.

Starting on defined paths you know reasonably well seems sensible. And starting very early morning to watch the sunrise has the advantage you won't have too wait too long for daylight if it's harder than you think ;-)
drmarten on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

I did an overnight Mamores traverse recently, it was too warm for me to walk during the day. It was one of my best walks ever in the hills. I carried but didn't need a headtorch, it was June and night vision was sufficient for the limited dark hours. I tend to memorise routes before I go and had been over the ground before. Sunset was magnificent, sunrise even more so, with a cloud inversion below it will be a while before I beat it.
Glyno - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Sir Chasm:

ah yes, I did assume a (head)torch would be handy :)
Kevin Woods - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

I always found red torches too dim for some reason, probably because they're an add on to an existing (white light) head torch. A quality red one would be good.

There's usually light coming from somewhere, it's more rare that its pitch black. In these instances the level of nav needed is comparable to walking in daylight in the mist.
wilkesley - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

Don't do it regularly. However, I like camping on summits and often go for a wander around when its dark. In the summer months, you can get by most of the time without using a torch. Last year I dropped my son off at the start of his DofE exped. and drove round to Tanygrisiau. Parked just as the sun was dropping below the horizon. Walked over Moelwyn Bach and arrived at summit of Moelwyn Mawr around midnight. Only got the torch out after I had pitched the tent.

However, as has been said take a decent torch. In poor light e.g. when there is lots of cloud cover, or in the winter months being able to pick out features some distance away is a big advantage.
Joak - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

Worth bearing in mind in winter there is no need to venture into the hills in the middle of the night to capture (if you're lucky) spectacular sunrises and sunsets. A very civilised 0830 and 1600'ish allow for a leisurely breakfast and some afternoon tea. I'd like to add that my winter night time excursions have been of the unplanned variety!! :)
hokkyokusei - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

I've done it a few times. On clear moonlit nights, it's a fantastic experience. In overcast, foggy conditions it's pretty miserable.

As other's have said, take a good torch. Unless you are very familiar with the route, take a map and a compass. And try to keep using them all of the time, it's not too bad keeping up with where you are, but in the dark and the fog it can be very hard to re establish your position, once lost!
The Lemming - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:
I'd suggest for a first time out at night that you choose somewhere that you are familiar with and go during clear sky and full-moon. That way if your torch isn't up to scratch then you will have plenty of light to navigate by.

If you can add in a target like a bothy then all the better otherwise make camp during daylight and wander around at night.

And for that really spooky sh1tscary extreme version choose a night with a new moon and heavy hill fog to play in on unfamiliar ground. This is as close to a whiteout as you will ever get. :-)

Personally I love coming off the hill on a crisp winter's night with ice or snow crunching under foot and the Milky-way above my head. Torch turned off. :-)
Post edited at 11:15
Flinticus - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

3D / depth perspective suffers, especially as using a head torch the light source is coming from your head and casting shadows forward: in daylight the light source is more vertical and provides better illumination of the features.

It can be hard to distinguish clouds from land on the horizon and water features may not be visible (depedns on amonut of moonlight etc). Better trying first in summer.
abseil on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Kevin Woods:

> There's usually light coming from somewhere...

Too right and just as well. Many moons ago I walked up a large mountain, clutching a torch, reaching the top at sunset. Then I sat down till pitch dark... for fun. Then I switched on the torch to go down and the bulb immediately failed... an interesting moment. There was no moon but starlight was just enough to get me all the way down, with no trouble.
climbwhenready - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

Take a powerful torch/headtorch, spare batteries (oh, it switched on in your rucksack?) and a map, even if it's somewhere you know. If you own a hiking GPS that gives grid references it's useful, as it can be quite easy to go wrong and be convinced you're right.

If you're somewhere that has paths, it gets easier, of course.
Carolyn - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to abseil:

Yup. My husband had a similar experience - nipped up Red Pike after work in the winter, and as he headed off from the summit along Lingcombe Edge, the wind blew his head torch off, and he couldn't find it again with only the light from a mobile phone. However, moonlight, plus the odd use of light from phone, got him down. Just as well, as calling out the rescue team would have lead to more than a bit of ribbing.....

I retrieved the torch a couple of days later - given he'd paced off the summit on a bearing, it was easy enough to find in daylight!
Carolyn - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to climbwhenready:

TBH, in these days of lightweight LED head torches, I'd tend to take a spare torch rather than (or occasionally in addition to) spare batteries. Covers a wider range of failures (see above ;-) )
needvert on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Flinticus:

> 3D / depth perspective suffers, especially as using a head torch the light source is coming from your head and casting shadows forward: in daylight the light source is more vertical and provides better illumination of the features.

I find this too, someone else walking behind with a headlamp too seems to help a bit.

Walking alone at night is interesting. I've at times opted to keep walking rather than sleep on hikes. When the weathers bad and you're working in cloud or mist, its a bit surreal. My most memorable hikes have been at night alone.

When I was a in high school I used to do a walk up the local mountain (more of an overgrown hill), being but a kid I'd get paranoid walking through the bush in the dark - often the steps in the mud made it sound like there was someone walking in step just behind you. Back then I had mixed feelings about lighting, it let you see everything, but also allowed everything within a few kilometers to see you. Once I was saw a man in a field and shouted out to him, on further inspection it was a tree. It was curious how ever horror movie I'd ever seen, whilst implausible in the comfort of my home, seemed a lot more believable when alone in a forest in the middle of the night.

Nowadays I get spooked less often walking at night, but every now and again the heart rate kicks up when I see a figure in the shadows, or hear something in the bushes.

abseil on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Carolyn:

> ...My husband had a similar experience... the wind blew his head torch off, and he couldn't find it again...

Good story, thanks for that. I know EXACTLY how he felt when it happened... errr not happy...
Carolyn - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to abseil:

> Good story, thanks for that.

He might not thank me - I'm not sure the rest of the rescue team knew. Until now ;-)
blackcat - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:Nowt better than decending mountains in the dark after a days climbing,winters the best cos the snow illuminates everything.Always take a torch plus a spare though and let someone know your plan,enjoy.

abseil on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Carolyn:

> Good story, thanks for that.

> He might not thank me - I'm not sure the rest of the rescue team knew. Until now ;-)

Errrr the parallels are growing between his story and mine - come to think of it I may have neglected to tell the full details of my mishap to Mrs. Abseil afterwards... I know what she would have said to me but I shall refrain from writing it here on such a polite thread errrrr...
spearing05 - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

The new powerful led torches are great but I find they bounce back a lot in rain and especially mist, a yellow filter helps a lot.

Also in mist, take your head torch off and carry it low pointed at the ground, the brighter the torch the more it will dazzle you in even a very light mIst/drizzle when worn on your head.

Walking and climbing at night are really no different to in the day with heavy mist/fog, the visibility is roughly the same, the rest is psychological. A few comments above talk about the feelings of spookiness and that is a individual thing, alone at night you need good confidence in yourself and your abilities, any shelf doubts you may experience in daylight about being lost, overly committed etc will be magnified at night so starting out on ground you are confident on if not familiar with is a good idea till you're used to the feelings.

Once your are used to it you'll wonder what the fuss was about. Two of my very best climbing experiences were at night, Central gulley on Pen y Fan (intentionally in the dark after work) and the final few pitches on Tower Ridge. This was unintentional, several hour long waits earlier in the day followed by watching the sun set over the shoulder of the Ben sat on the Great Tower waiting for the teams ahead left us in pitch black for getting it of the gap. Sat on belay, torch off watching 3 satellites criss cross the starry back drop of the milky way.
fmck - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:
Walking up or off mountains at night is pretty much the norm in mountaineering.

Intentionally going walking in the hills through the night isn't that much different. I completed most of the Donald peaks during the night mid week after work in the winter. They were mostly round about an hour from the construction site I was working on. Incidentally there was a mountain biker working there who was cycling up at nights mountains such as the cobbler, Ben Lomond, Tinto etc in really naff weather. He did have outrageously powerful lights.

Winter nights that have a good moon and a dusting of snow on ground give the most memorable nights. No 1 though was the biggest sun solar flares in 50 years coming across Mayor n Driesh at night. I ended up lying in the heather for ages before remembering I had work in the morning. Must be near on ten year ago that.
Carolyn - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to spearing05:

> The new powerful led torches are great but I find they bounce back a lot in rain and especially mist, a yellow filter helps a lot.

> Also in mist, take your head torch off and carry it low pointed at the ground, the brighter the torch the more it will dazzle you in even a very light mIst/drizzle when worn on your head.

I'd agree with all of that - the approach we take in the rescue team is to have reasonable head torches (Petzl Myo at the moment) and a much brighter handheld LED light (attached to a sling so that it can be hung at waist level). With 20 of those on the hill, it's easy to forget it's dark!

It's not an issue if you're walking alone, but a really bright head torch is also a fine way to dazzle your companions!

TBH, apart from rescues/practices, the only time I've used the bright light is teaching micro nav at night, to pick out more distant features when folk have got themselves a bit confused. I don't think I've ever used more than the normal head torch if I'm just walking by myself.
Nicholas Livesey on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:
I haven't read the thread yet but I am out at night on the hills in Snowdonia several times a week and have found that when the sun slips past the horizon there is a good hour of useable light before the torch is needed. This is more than enough time for me to get down from most summits and I haven't used my head torch this year in the evenings.

Early mornings are more problematic as you start in the dark so I tend to only do dawns from mountains I know well...it's surprising how much longer it can take to get up even a familiar hill in the dark, but I would think a lot of that is down to being knackered.

The majority of my hill-going is alone in the quiet times and I would really recommend it as the hills feel very different when there is no one else around. It's also very rewarding to see the wonderful light at sunrise and sunset...it gets very addictive!

Go for it!
Post edited at 17:16
Glyno - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Nicholas Livesey:

Nicholas, I don't mind admitting that looking at some of your photos have been partly responsible for my hankering to get out late/early.
I've noticed some photos from summits whereby the sun is right on the horizon and it's interesting to know you still get down before 'properly' dark.

If I can wangle it I might take a trip up somewhere on Sunday night, Snowdon is favourite at the moment.
Wulfrunian - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:
Wotcha Glyn

Done a few night walks on familiar terrain and needed nothing more than a head torch.

Walked up the Pyg track at around 1am and it was great. Silent, devoid of numpties (apart from us) and teeming with frogs and mice! Enjoyed sunrise from the top them ambled down to Llanberis, via the rollercoaster for a chip butty breakfast at Pete's Eats.

Other times were under winter conditions - coming down from Y Garn and Moel Siabod after sunset. As mentioned above, plenty of light to walk by for a while after the sun goes down (helps if the ground is white I suppose). Got properly dark towards the bottom and it really helped to know roughly where we were supposed to be going. Didn't have GPS back them and we managed OK.

JC
Post edited at 17:55
Ron Rees Davies - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

Snowdon's a good option to start. Obvious footpaths so the navigation's easy in the dark. Just limited places to camp/bivvy on the summit itself (the café doorway at the opposite end to the station is the prime spot) and in the midsummer period there are often a few groups of 3000'ers sleeping up there.

Cadair Idris is another alternative - usually quieter but still with well defined (and in places ridiculously cairned) routes and with a nice little hut to sleep in on the summit so less of a worry about carrying/erecting a tent. As it happens I was up there last night - windy and foggy but still a straightforward walk.

Surprising amount of wildlife too - Although all the Meadow pipits seem to hide away, the Wheatears are confused by torchlight and almost hover on the edge of the beam. Just need to keep reminding yourself that all the eyes glowing in the darkness are just sheep. Unless they are green ..... glowing green eyes are vampires ....
Glyno - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Wulfrunian:

Hi JC! have emailed you.
Glyno - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

Ron, Snowdon is looking favourite. I'd planned to park at Pen-y-pas, walk up the Pyg track, loiter on the summit awhile then down into Llanberis, Pete's Eats then the Sherpa back up the pass.
Just need a fine night to coincide with a day off work.
nutme - on 29 Aug 2014

I would recommend to take not just spare batteries, but a second spare flash light. Make it cheap light one for the beginning. But last thing you want is to find yourself with a broken torch. Even the best ones can fail.

If you will get hooked to it soon you'll end up with many lights, it's addictive! And a provides a lot of entertainment. Nowadays you can get light (~300g) flash light for under £100 which will shoot a narrow beam for 400 meters. In night in the mountains it's a lot of joy just to use it!

Often I like to go for a night hike after day in the office. I would just catch a train somewhere and come back on a morning train back to work.

Orientation at night is a bit more complicated with map and compass. Having GPS with preloaded track makes a huge difference.
Post edited at 20:56
Jack B on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

Plenty of people go walking at night. If you want to get a decent day's walking or climbing in Scotland in winter, you have to do a bit, on the way in, or on the way out, or both. I quite like it, especially if I have a moon and some snow. To add to the tips given above:

I don't like red lens torches. For starters, they wash out the contour lines on the map. I'm not convinced they make that much difference to night vision anyway.

Take a torch which is adjustable down to a very dim light. That way you can read a map without blinding yourself. A slightly brighter setting helps you find your footing, but don't go too bright, try to conserve your night vision.

A very bright setting is only rarely useful, but when it is it is very, very useful. I use and like a petzl myo 5 (long since discontinued) as it has all of the above features.

Carry spare batteries, the night is long. Better yet, carry a spare torch. Your main torch should be a headtorch, it just saves so much faff, but you can use a really cheap fake maglite as #2.

If you can navigate in thick mist, you can navigate in the dark. In fact I reckon it's easier. If you're new to it, avoid both at once.

Plan and expect to move slower than daylight, how much depends on terrain. On path, I reckon 4/5 normal speed, off path 1/2 normal speed. Avoid things like peat hags, they can cut your speed drastically if you can't see far. working your way through unknown/unpathed crags is also incredibly slow, and can be rather risky, so much so that if I found myself on such terrain by accident I might just wait for daylight.

Take extra warm clothes. It will be colder at night, obviously, but also you'll probably be moving about a little slower and thus generating less heat. Also, if you have enough warm clothes to just sit and wait for dawn then it gives you a comfortable safety net. It removes pressure to get down which might lead to doing something silly like entering dangerous terrain. Not always possible in proper winter though.

In fact, if you're worried about it, go out early morning rather than late night. That way dawn will come soon if you have trouble.

Poles can be handy. I use them during the day anyway, but at night they can be extra useful in crossing streams etc, as it's not always possible to see the water surface in torchlight. Taking the torch off your head and holding it to one side can help with this (it can also help with the reflections you get in thick mist).

Stay on the ball with the navigation. Even if you know the area fairly well. You lose some of your reference points at night, including the ability to just look around and estimate how far you've walked since you last thought about navigation. A GPS in the bottom of your bag can help with that, but is by no means necessary.

My main point is this though: Do not fear the darkness. It's no big thing. Have fun!
Toerag - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

My experiences - it takes about 8 minutes to get decent night vision after using lights. If it's clear on Midsummer night you shouldn't need a torch if you're in the UK on familiar ground. Deep valleys will be properly dark unless there's a moon shining in. Sound travels further at night as it's quieter in general. European gorges are great places at night, all sorts of creepy-crawlies come out to hunt. It's great to arrive somewhere new at night, then see it in the daylight afterwards - I'll never forget arriving at the 5 mile campground at Redrocks at dusk only being able to see the horizon, then waking up the next day and seeing the whole canyon glowing in the dawn light.
IainRUK - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Glyno:

I used to run all the time at night around snowdonia.. just take a torch, have good nav, no real difference to walking in poor vis really..
gilliesp on 14 Sep 2014
In reply to Glyno:

I don't do it as often these days but recently have been setting of into Scottish hills at teatime and bivying in the dark under a summit, ready for a big walk over the tops starting early next morning. However when I did more single trips from home, when I set off up the hill at 2am, the experience was a rich one and more so in winter - catching stunning inversions and sunrises. Once, at 3am, I was ascending Beinn Narnain in winter and it was a calm, cold, frosty night. As I made my way up through the pine plantation I was aware that parallel to me at about 20 feet away something was moving in tandem, cracking dry twigs as it went. I stopped, it stopped but perhaps a second or two later. This went on all the way to the forest top and the start of the snow covered hillside. Now, I am a rational being but at the time and even now just thinking about it makes my hairs stand on end!
Glyno - on 14 Sep 2014
Last night I camped at Llyn Bochlwyd just under Tryfan's western face and watched in astonishment at someone ascending Bristly Ridge in pitch darkness by headtorch! The person then continued over the Glyder Fach and along the rim above Cwm Bochlwyd before disappearing from view.

Walking in darkness is one thing but this is surely a bit extreme?
Bob_the_Builder - on 14 Sep 2014
In reply to Glyno:
In California I did a fair few night hikes to get a summit sunrise. Mainly it was to avoid the heat or just a big one-day push.

If its a full moon try without turning on a torch. Once it is on it'll be hard to turn it off again. If you have a variable brightness torch then always use the lowest setting you can get by with, you'll find its less than you think! Saves batteries and also your night vision. TAKE SPARE BATTERIES.

Pictures mostly will be crap without a tripod. If you're trying to go light get one of those wee pocket tripods to put on a rock or something. I think night hikes for me aren't about photos, just personal time. On the flip side of that I sometimes feel incredibly lonely, especially in the really early hours, say 4AMish. In that vein, obviously it is easier to hike on a trail, or to a distinct point with no serious hazards to pass on the way. But another reason you should probably should start on an established trail if you're going alone is that it certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea and you don't want to realise you feel miserable and alone when you're also worrying about nav and technical difficulties.

If you aren't accustomed to being up at that time you'll feel fuzzier. I also always start colder and take a lot longer to warm up at night, so might be worth taking an extra layer.

Edit: I also like to walk up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh in winter at midnight. No tourists, snow, and with high clouds the light pollution means you don't need any light. Its quite cool.
Post edited at 16:12
Mike Peacock on 15 Sep 2014
In reply to Glyno:

> Last night I camped at Llyn Bochlwyd just under Tryfan's western face and watched in astonishment at someone ascending Bristly Ridge in pitch darkness by headtorch! The person then continued over the Glyder Fach and along the rim above Cwm Bochlwyd before disappearing from view.

> Walking in darkness is one thing but this is surely a bit extreme?

Mot really. I did Tryfan's North Ridge by headtorch years ago, which was great. I've plenty of friends who have done Bristly at night. If you know the route well it isn't much harder in the dark.

highclimber - on 15 Sep 2014
In reply to Glyno:

You can't pass judgement on people's stupidity without knowing more than they were climbing up a mountain with head torches
Carolyn - on 15 Sep 2014
In reply to Glyno:

Sounds reasonable to me - one of my most memorable outings in the hills is a trip across Sharp Edge after work, moonlight sparkling off the snow. Magical :-)

Equally memorable, although for different reasons, is a trip up Lorton Gully in the dark and rain, with plenty of water pouring down it. When we arrived at the Kirkstile afterwards the landlord said "I saw your lights, but I didn't call the team out as I knew it'd only be you silly b****** who'd be out there anyway".
Glyno - on 15 Sep 2014
In reply to highclimber:

> You can't pass judgement on people's stupidity without knowing more than they were climbing up a mountain with head torches

I wasn't passing judgement, nor was I suggesting anyone was being stupid.
I was very impressed actually.

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