Heading off for the summer

Back in late May, our thoughts start to turn to getting the cows and calves out of the hill enclosure, so they can spend the summer months free-ranging on the mountains, getting peace and quiet and the best of the grazing, and the cows can teach their calves the lie of the land too. In recent years, we tend to take them out in two batches, allowing each batch to spend a couple of weeks in the main section of the hill enclosure first. This has two-fold benefits – it helps to strengthen the calves as they move around more than they do in the smaller ‘nursery’ area, but most importantly it exposes the calves to visitors. This makes our job in the autumn easier when the female reindeer return to the hill enclosure, as the calves are much more relaxed in amongst people than they otherwise would be – even though they’ve barely laid eyes on a human in the interim.

Setting off up through the top part of the hill enclosure

Prior to leaving the enclosure, the cows and calves are all checked over, and given Spot-on to help ward off ticks. We then halter up all the adult females, as it’s a far less stressful process to just lead the reindeer out of the enclosure rather than to try and herd them. We do this in an evening rather than during the day too, as it lessens the risk of us bumping into hill-walkers, who may have dogs in tow. Any young females of a year old who are tagging along with their mums and new siblings aren’t haltered, as they will just follow anyway.

There’s a lot of grunting to start with, as everyone establishes where their calf is, and the calves wonder why there are so many human legs in their herd suddenly!
Out through the gate at the top of the enclosure
Everyone has settled down and is enjoying the evening wander!

We take the group about a mile or so from the top gate of the enclosure, although the spot we leave them in is only actually a couple of hundred metres from the fence and the far end of the enclosure.

A good year for the cotton-grass this year!
I ran ahead ahead to get some photos, meaning I could sit and relax in the sunshine once I’d got into position!
Progress isn’t particularly fast with so many reindeer on halters, so there was plenty of time to chat along the way!

Some years in the past the cows have taken off at speed into the distance as soon as they’ve got the chance, but this batch were more than happy just to graze and chill out once we’d taken halters off and released them. This little chap (above) was born a bit prematurely, so had to be bottle-fed for a while whilst mum’s milk got going, so he’s very tame!

The face of a Lotti who’s just realised that two birthday cakes and a birthday present have been carried the whole way out as a surprise!
Birthday cake all round!
And in classic unpredictable Sheena-fashion – a watermelon! ‘What is the heaviest and most unexpected snack I could possibly bring?!’
Some time to chill out for us too (although the sun had sadly disappeared behind the hill by this point).
At this time of year the reindeer have started moulting around their eyes, their darker summer coat showing through and giving them all ‘panda eyes’.
Time to go, for us and them.
Heading home! How could I not finish with this photo?

Through the summer months we see very little of the female reindeer and their calves, leaving them to graze in peace after spending around 6 weeks in the hill enclosure. We will head out to look for them occasionally though, when time and weather allow, but the next time we have proper contact with them again is from August onwards, as they start to return to the hill enclosure in dribs and drabs. It’s like catching up with old friends again!

Hen

Fly Obituary

Fly aged 16 in October 2023 – looking great for an old girl!

We have written much in the past about one of our wonderful female reindeer, Fly. She has been one of the more iconic females in our herd over the years and as she was so dominant (and greedy) this meant she was a good leader during the winter months when we were fetching the herd. Over the years she has had some enormous calves who, like her, have lovely natures. Friendly, greedy but come with an independent steak and aren’t too pushy. Definitely a quality from their mother.

I myself had a soft spot for Fly and over the years grew rather fond of her. Her mum Fiddle was always quite a timid reindeer. You’d tend to see her tail disappearing over the next ridge rather than her following you nicely. Often taking the rest of the herd with her… Thanks Fiddle! Us herders wouldn’t necessarily describe Fly as super tame. She wasn’t pushy for hand feed, would often remain on the outskirts of the herd keeping herself to herself but there was something about her independent nature which I really liked. When you won her over it was so rewarding. She didn’t do things because we wanted her to, she did them cos she wanted to. Inevitably she was a very sweet reindeer in her older years and I don’t think any reindeer knew the hills better than her.

She has outlived most of her family, but still has her son Anster and nieces and nephews, Butter, Beanie and Rocket.

Fly and her newborn son Anster in May 2013.
Anster as an older boy in September 2023, aged 10.
Beanie, Fly’s niece, is now a breeding female. Keeping the family line going.

This next paragraph will explain losing Fly so don’t read it if you think you’ll find it upsetting. Just before Christmas while out on the free range Fly was spotted lying away from the herd, not bothered about staying with them when we took them up the hill for a feed. When we approached her afterwards she just seemed a bit down in the mouth. We lead her to a quiet spot where we knew she wouldn’t be bothered by people or dogs and gave her a good pile of food. She wasn’t running a temperature and she wasn’t injured either, just didn’t seem herself. A day or two later it became apparent that Fly was indeed on her way out as we found her passed away peacefully not far from where we left her. I know a lot of people may find this upsetting to read and don’t think we aren’t upset dealing with her like this, however, she was 16.5 years old and that is a great age for a reindeer. She had a fantastic life and I will speak about her with a smile on my face.

Fly leading the herd in March 2023 – even without antlers we could recognise her shape from afar.
Fly closest to camera, leading the herd again.
Reliably at the front of the herd! What a lovely girl she was.

What I will miss is heading to the hills in the winter to go and collect the herd and seeing her face as the first face approaching you. We can spot her a mile off, even when she had no antlers and I would always give her sneaky handfuls of feed while her and I were at the front leading the group in.

Cheers Fly, you’ve been great! Find previous blogs about her here and here.

Fly in 2018 with her usual big antlers.

Fiona

Photo Blog: June 2024

Scruffy reindeer month! Not their most photogenic season but a wonderful time of year nonetheless. The cows and calves left the enclosure to free range in the mountains and the males in our enclosure are looking super with lovely velvet antlers.

3rd of June: Putting out the first batch of cows and calves of 2024.
4th of June: The remaining cows and calves in the enclosure are now old enough to mingle with visitors on our Hill Trips.
6th of June: The two palest calves of 2024.
7th of June: This lad is already very friendly and bold!
10th of June: Yangtze saying hello!
13th of June: Isla is back for the summer, hoorah! Here she is spoiling Sherlock! Just for reference Isla is 6ft so Sherlock’s antlers really are that tall!
13th of June: The lovely Zoom.
16th of June: Gorgeous Winnie on a very soggy day.
17th of June: The first harness training session of 2024.
17th of June: Druid LOVES feeding out of a white bag but the exact same food offered in a hand , no thank you!
18th of June: Ärta looking handsome!
19th of June: A trip out to see the free rangers. Found a wonderful bunch all looking very happy and healthy!
21st of June: Busby posing beautifully on a rock!
23rd of June: Lotti and Amy feeding the herd their breakfast.
26th of June: Cameron and the waiting herd.
27th of June: Lupin!

Ruth

An Old Glenmore Book

Manouk popped into Reindeer House a wee while ago and had picked up this book from a charity shop in Aviemore. It is the Forestry Commission guidebook for ‘Glen More Forest Park’ and has no date on it but was published sometime in the 70s. It has a section about the Cairngorm Reindeer. I had a flick through it and thought others might enjoy the prints and information about the reindeer which was written by Dr Ethel Lindgren (who along with Mikel Utsi, reintroduced the reindeer herd in 1952).

Things have changed a lot in the last 50 years or so. You may read that back in the day some of the reindeer born in the Cairngorms were sold elsewhere and some of them even used for meat. You’ll all be pleased to hear that for a long time now, all of the reindeer born in our herd have been able to live out their natural lifespan (roughly 12-14 years) here in the Cairngorms. Nowadays, we keep our numbers at roughly 150 by controlling how many females we run with a bull during the rut and therefore how many calves we hope will be born each spring time. Below is the article, some photos of the reindeer, as well as some beautiful prints of the Cairngorms. Enjoy!

As it says in the book “Arrangements can usually be made at Reindeer House, a stone-faced lodge east of the Glen More campsite” this is true even today but not for much longer! By the end of 2024 we hope to be operating from the new Reindeer Centre, right next door. Photo from 1962.
Outside Reindeer House in 1963 with reindeer Nikka, Per, and hand-reared calf Boko.
A herd of reindeer behind Reindeer House in 1963 – this is where our new building will be.

Lotti

An Update on our New Reindeer Centre

In January 2021 we embarked upon a project of a lifetime here at The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. For many, many years we have operated out of Reindeer House, with a modest shop/reception area and to say the least a cramped office.

Visitors arriving would sometimes come in and say ‘where’s The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre’, slightly incredulous that our place, with such a grand name was so small and homespun. But equally many of our visitors and supporters have loved the way it is and I suspect are slightly worried that any change may be for the worse.

We hope the new Centre will bring as much joy as this to everyone who visits the new Exhibition and Paddocks! Photo by Joanne Weston, taken in October 2023. Thanks for sharing it with us!

But please be rest assured that the reindeer, the herders and the passion for our unique herd of reindeer will be no less than it already is and our new facility will tick lots of boxes for everyone, whether able or unable to make it out onto the hill to see the free-ranging herd. It will also be a game changer for our dedicated reindeer herders who will be able to work out of a purpose built work place where they can ‘come in from the cold’, dry their clothes and work in a comfortable spacious office with a dedicated area to have a break.

Taking down the old Exhibition in January 2024 – the end of an era!
A tractor was recruited from the farm to help with the clearing of the old Exhibition.
The clearing continues.

The site for the new building is in our reindeer Paddocks, which is quite a steep bank, so there was an initial dig out to provide a flat surface at the same level as Reindeer House on which to place the foundations. That started in mid February and without a doubt the snowless winter worked in our favour. Since than the foundations have been laid, the concrete floor poured in and then in a flash a very large crane arrived, the site was buzzing with tradesmen and a lorry came with prefabricated panels. The crane lifted the panels on to the site and the internal walls and roof of the building went up in double quick time.

A great big hole!
The gabion baskets go in behind where the new building will be – March 2024.
The freshly poured concrete floor.

Right from the start, after we received an extremely generous donation from a long term supporter the process of finding an architect, doing a feasibility study, drawing up plans and finally going for planning permission has been seamless. Much credit needs to go to our architect Catriona Hill, from Oberlanders, who has been our guiding light/guardian angel throughout the process. And here we are now more than half way through the construction and a completion date pencilled in for the end of October.  

By the middle of May we could really see what space we will have for our shop, exhibition, reception area, toilet, office, plant room and staff room. We are limited for space because we still need as much room as possible for the reindeer Paddocks, but we are extending their range into the wood to provide them with shelter from the hot sun and rain (they of course won’t need shelter from the snow!).

And just like that, within a few days the building went up and the roof went on.
The new Exhibition space.
Huge window in the Exhibition!

So, when we are all finished and everything is open as normal visitors will arrive and come into the new Centre before making their way through the new exhibition and on to the reindeer out in the Paddocks. With the incredibly successful crowd funding we will be kitting out the inside of the Centre and the Paddocks with all our fascinating facts about reindeer, the history of the herd and the amazing world of reindeer herding. We also intend to have some immersive film of our reindeer in the different seasons. In particular to be able to show visitors, who are unable to walk out onto the mountainside just how friendly and well adapted our reindeer are to their mountain environment.

Tilly

Photo Blog: May 2024

Who takes a holiday at the beginning of May? Yep, three full-time reindeer herders! Myself, Fiona, and Lotti got back on the 8th of May to 13 calves already romping around on the hill. What a treat to see them all and catch up properly on all the news from home.

We got straight in to the thick of it and the calves kept on coming. Hill Trips were fully booked during the bank holidays and Whitsun Week. We had some shorts and t-shirt weather and some FULL waterproofs and warm hat kinda weather. We’ve also been busy in the office running our Crowdfunder campaign which is going incredibly well (please check it out here if you haven’t seen it yet: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/a-reindeer-experience-for-all). Adoptions are still flying out the office and the June newsletter is being written. Oh, and the brand-new Reindeer Centre went up before our eyes in around 3 days in the middle of the month! An action-packed month!

Just a reminder – we won’t reveal the names of the new mothers until after we’ve let our adopters know in the June newsletter so I’ve tried to be deliberately vague. Enjoy… !

8th of May: On my first day back to work I have the pleasure of being the first person to lay eyes on this tiny lass. Ignore her blue toes – we always spray their navel with an antiseptic spray and I accidently got her foot!
10th of May: As I fed the cows and calves this little dude comes to say hello.
11th of May: The father to around half of this year’s calves!! Sherlock looking very proud of himself.
15th of May: Little and Large. Big bull Spartan walks past a mum and her new calf!
16th of May: Zambezi is no longer a calf! She’s now classed as a yearling, but is still just a beautiful!
17th of May: Calf peek-a-boo! This wee one is still not brave enough to come say hello.
17th of May: Calves come in a variety of colours from pale to dark.
17th of May: Merida and her seven year old son Dr Seuss sharing a moment together!
20th of May: Another cutie with distinctive dark eyebrows.
22nd of May: Aztec on a very ‘atmospheric’ Hill Trip! His favourite time of the day is the hand feeding session, this is him recovering.
26th of May: Four-day-old calf, he’s small but doing very well!
27th of May: This is where we found Ochil this morning! She’d managed to break-in to the lichen store and was having the time of her life.
29th of May: A gaggle of chilled out calves on our Hill Trip.
30th of May: Dr Seuss again, this time with his younger bro Ärta.

Ruth

Reindeer Lookalikes

In January 2023 I wrote a blog about reindeer looking like their close relatives: https://www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk/2023/01/20/mini-me-reindeer/

As we are now in calving season, I have recently heard myself saying “she looks just like her big sister when she was a calf” or fellow reindeer herder Lotti saying “she looks exactly like her mum as a new born”.

So, it got me thinking, perhaps it’s time for another blog about family resemblances.

Emmental’s boys!

Emmental in 2020, with her pale coat and white nose.

Emmental is a beautiful, mature breeding female, now aged 11 years old. She is rather pale in colour with a white muzzle. Over the years she has been a successful mother and has three surviving sons named Olmec, Iskrem and Ob. Yes, we chose names all beginning with vowels. But that’s not their only similarity. They also all have white noses, just like mum! Looking back through photos of them all as calves it’s easy to confuse who is who.

Emmental herself aged four months old, in 2013.
Olmec as a four month old calf in 2016.
Olmec as an adult with very similar face markings to his mum!
Iskrem also at four months old with the same beautiful colouring.
Emmental with her calf six-month-old calf Ob who also has the white nose (November 2023).

Pony’s girls!

Pony was a rather notorious reindeer in our herd with serious amounts of attitude! She was born in 2011 and sadly passed away a couple of years ago aged 11, which is a fair age for a reindeer. She left us with four surviving offspring – two males Poirot and Cowboy, and two females called Suebi and Turtle. It’s the girls who can sometimes make me confused! Their both normal-coloured, their antler shapes are similar, and they have also both inherited some of Pony’s attitude! We have nicknamed Turtle, “Snapping Turtle” as she often waves her head and smacks her lips at us if we can walk past her too closely.

Pony in 2016 aged 5. Pony herself was very easy to recognise as she was missing the tips of her ears, but look at the shape of her antlers compared to her daughters Suebi and Turtle…
Suebi in 2019 aged 3.
Turtle in September 2023, also aged 3.
Just for good measure, here’s Pony as a three year old too! Note lack of ear tips so very easy to identify.

Suebi and Turtle are both breeding females. Suebi has the lovely Scoop, a two year old male, and also is the mother of the twins Elbe and Alba. Turtle has Amur, who has just turned one and is proving to be a very sweet-natured lad. Time will tell whether they produce any lookalike females!

I’ll leave it there for now but who knows, perhaps I can write a third installment in the future as there are lots of other examples within the herd.

Ruth

Tongues out for the camera

When we came off the hill today, I was having a flick through the photos I had taken in order to find a couple to post on social media. I found that two of the reindeer today had stuck their tongues out to me. They must have been unimpressed at having their photos taken. I thought that our blog readers might appreciate seeing some rather silly photos taken over the past couple of months.

Mangetout trying to lick the last bit of food off her nose.
It clearly runs in the family as here is Mangetout’s auntie Morven.
Olympic sticking his tongue out at a Primary school class who we visited.
Peanut, usually one of the most photogenic reindeer in the herd…
Bordeaux is also attempting to get the last bit of feed off her snout.
The tip of Torch’s tongue (there’s a tongue twister to be found in their somewhere).

It would be impossible to write a blog of tongue out photos without featuring the lovely Dug, king of the lolling tongue! Dug is one of the Reindeer House dogs and due to a combination of an unusually long tongue, and a slight overbite, he spends 99% of the time with his tongue stuck out. This causes great amusement to everyone who sees Dug, and we frequently look out our office window to passersby sticking their tongues out back to Dug. Thanks for making us all laugh Dug!!

Dug and his tongue catching the breeze!
Dug and Tiree.
Dug enjoying some afternoon sunshine!

Lotti

Photo Blog: April 2024

April has flown by. The first half of the month busy with the Easter holidays. We’ve had some wonderful Hill Trips both out on the free range and also in our hill enclosure here on Cairngorm. Although not much spring weather it has to be said.

The second half of the month was busy with moving reindeer around getting them in the right places for the fast-approaching calving season. Most pregnant females have been brought into our hill enclosure now and the “single ladies” (the old girls, young girls, or ones having a year off motherhood) were put back out to free range. We’ve also brought the first males back into the enclosure after their winter free ranging at our second site. Lovely to see some of the boys back.

The office has also been busy as always – my jobs have included newsletter preparation, working on adoption packs, preparing the 2025 reindeer calendar (wahoo – it’s just gone to print), trying to up our social media game, sorting emails, drinking tea…

It’s been a fun month watching antlers casting and growing, and bellies widen on our pregnant females. Bring on the first calf of 2024!

2nd of April: Moving the herd with Lisette at the back doing a wonderful job as ‘sheep dog’!
3rd of April: Danube with her tongue out!
5th of April: Juniper and Sundae in a blizzard!
6th of April: Fern and Okapi soon to be 17 and 16 years old respectively are the first over at the feed bag!
8th of April: Sunshine!! A rare sight this month. Moving the herd into position for our Hill Trip.
15th of April: Dr Seuss is back in the enclosure after a winter free ranging in the hills. He’s clearly feeling snoozy after the Hill Trip. He takes his role as chief hand-feeder incredibly seriously!
17th of April: Sunny (our hand-reared calf from 2022) was back in the hill enclosure for a short while and followed me back to the gate just like he used to as a young calf!
16th of April: These 11-month-old calves get to feed out of the bag for another month before they turn into “yearlings”. Orinoco is the cutie closest to camera.
18th of April: Mushy, Spy, Dante, Ladybird, Sambar and Sunny.
22nd of April: Sherlock looking handsome with those big velvet antlers.
23rd of April: A lovely morning with Tilly on the hill.
24th of April: I headed over to the farm to help Tilly with a farm tour. Lovely to see some of the boys I haven’t seen much of this winter, like Druid here!
24th of April: The lovely Hemp!

Ruth

Reindeer herder pet peeves!

I thought I’d write a bit about some of our biggest reindeer pet peeves this week – and undeniably, there are quite a few… Pet peeves 1-4 are tongue-in-cheek, so don’t take offence if you’ve made one of these slips in the past – no doubt some of us did too before becoming reindeer herders! But peeves 5 and 6 are serious, and a cause us a constant headache – please don’t be *that* visitor…

Number 1: ‘Reindeers’

The biggest pet peeve of all is most definitely… ‘reindeers’. The plural of reindeer is reindeer, with no ‘s’, and whilst I’ve never heard anyone say ‘sheeps’, ‘reindeers’ is a very common mistake. It’s only a little thing and it’s hardly going to change the world if you say it right or say it wrong, but it’s just something that grates so much. You will see a tiny shudder of horror pass over any one of us if you see us talking to someone who uses the word ‘reindeers’. Not to mention my roar of disgust earlier this year to open our local paper – who really should know better – to find that they had used ‘reindeers’ (in very large font) in the title of their article about us. Face plant.

One REINDEER…
…multiple REINDEER.

Number 2: ‘Horns’

I guess there’s really no reason for people to know or understand the difference between antlers or horns, unless they have background knowledge in biology. But still, when reindeer’s antlers are referred to as horns, it’s something that makes my eye twitch – the word just sounds so wrong. To educate anyone that doesn’t know (every day’s a school day), animals that grow horns, such as cows, sheep and antelope, only grow one set in their lifetime and the horn is made of keratin, the protein that your hair and fingernails are made from. In contrast, antlers are made of bone and are grown by members of the deer family only, and they are grown annually, falling off each year. Technically therefore, they are classed as ‘deciduous’ – not a word normally used other than in relation to trees.

Reindeer have antlers.
Whilst sheep have horns. Photo: Alex Smith

Number 3: Reindeer imagery at Christmas

Oh god… where to start? I think 99% of ‘reindeer’ imagery used on Christmas cards, decorations etc, are not actually reindeer at all.

Where to start?! Santa’s sleigh pulled by… fluffy white Wapiti? They certainly ain’t no reindeer….
Don’t get me started on the fact that reindeer and penguins are found in different hemispheres. They live at opposite ends of the planet, and always have (other than the introduced population of reindeer on South Georgia who lived there for around 100 years before being eradicated about 10 years back, but I doubt that this Christmas card designer was aiming to represent the fauna of a South Atlantic island). In fact, don’t get me started on the (lack of) connection between penguins and Christmas at all…
Granted, it is a reindeer. But with a set of… red deer antlers on it’s head. Backwards on it’s head. I don’t even know where to go with this. The worst thing is it is an advert for a reindeer parade where the providers of the reindeer were – us. We send the organisers of all events we take part in a link to a load of beautiful press photos for them to use for promotion purposes, which, funnily enough, does not include the photo abomination above.

Number 4: Carrots

If you happen to have a child who still believes in Father Christmas and are reading this aloud to them… stop. I don’t want to be responsible for breaking hearts. If you’re an adult however, and think that reindeer love to chow down on a carrot or two – prepare yourself for a shock. Reindeer DO NOT eat carrots. It is a myth. I’m sorry, but there it is.

Santa will eat the mince pie and he’ll no doubt enjoy the dram, but if the carrot vanishes overnight, it’s not Rudolph. Perhaps Santa’s just making sure he can see in the dark? Photo: Scotsman website

Once again, let’s shoe-horn in some education. Reindeer are ruminants, meaning they have four stomachs, like cows and sheep. They have similar dentition too, having tiny teeth at the front of the bottom jaw, and a flat, bony palate at the front of the top jaw (plus molars top and bottom at the back). This means they nip away at the vegetation with the small front teeth, swallow it into the first stomach – the ‘rumen’ – and then bring it back up to chew again with the molars before it progresses through all four stomachs. Tiny front teeth can’t easily much up a carrot, and nor do carrots grow naturally anywhere that reindeer live, so they do not form part of their diet. I am actually aware of reindeer in permanent captivity in some places being fed carrots – but any reindeer that actually eats, or tries to eat, carrots is doing so out of desperation because they are not being fed a sufficient diet.

A reindeer’s teeth. Not designed for eating carrots!

Working here taught me to quickly work out when to lie to people – if an adult brings us carrots for the reindeer then I will tell them the truth. If a small child gives me a carrot at a Christmas event, to give to the reindeer? Then perhaps they do eat carrots after all, but only on Christmas Eve. Not right now. Makes ‘em fly, you see.

Number 5: Visitors who don’t read any information when booking their tickets

I hesitated to include these last two pet peeves… but my fingers have just kept typing, and realistically, they the ones that actually cause us herders problems, rather than just annoy us. Visiting the reindeer here at the Centre is wonderful, and we do our utmost to make sure everyone has a lovely time. But you need to know what you are getting yourself in for, and you need to know what clothing and footwear you need to bring, in order to visit the reindeer safely and with maximum enjoyment. The people who book tickets, tick all the required boxes to say they will have the right footwear etc; they understand they need to use their own car; they realise they have to walk to the reindeer, etc etc etc – and then turn up having not actually read ANY of this info, make us want to cry. Hill Trips change throughout the year, starting from different car-parks and using different routes, so having visited before doesn’t mean you know what to expect.

We have all been shouted at by angry people over the years when it’s entirely their fault and not ours that they’ve (delete as appropriate) missed the trip/have the wrong footwear/are completely unsuitably prepared. Please. Just. Read. It. All. First. Please.

Number 6: ‘That’s not actually waterproof…

Peeve number 6 is linked to number 5. We ask visitors to bring a waterproof jacket with them for the Hill Trip at all times, and in the winter season (Oct – Apr) we ask them to bring waterproof over-trousers too. Obviously we can’t predict the weather and whilst waterproofs might not be needed on the day, at times they really are essential, and it is for people’s own safety that we have to insist they are wearing full waterproof clothing. Hypothermia becomes a risk quickly in winter conditions, and much more so if someone is wet to their skin.

Please understand we don’t want to turn people away, nor force them to purchase waterproofs they may not wear again, but as a company we also REALLY don’t want to be responsible for cases of hypothermia either. Safety in the mountain environment has to be foremost so you MUST come prepared for the worst weather, and just be grateful if you are lucky to get nice weather on the day. It’s also a matter of your own enjoyment – we want you to have the best time possible and you have more chance of doing so if you are not soaked through and frozen.

A wild day on the hill. Note the snow plastered down Eve, from her head to her feet, and on the reindeer too. This weather can occur anytime in the winter season of Oct – Apr. Photo: Getty Images

However, it seems the problem is deep-rooted in that a surprisingly large percentage of people seem to have no understanding as to what the word ‘waterproof’ actually means. It’s really not hard – it means… ‘waterproof’. Water can’t get through. Wet one side, dry the other. Not ‘water-resistant’, not ‘shower-proof’ – ‘WATERPROOF’. No, your ‘hiking trousers’ aren’t waterproof. Nope, nor your puffer jacket. Nor your ‘yoga pants’ (I kid you not – I have had this conversation with someone in our shop).

Cameron suitably dressed for the mountains in winter – hiking boots, waterproof jacket and waterproof over-trousers. Lots of layers underneath too. And look how warm and happy he is!

We’re rather at a loss as to how to get it across to people? We’ve tried everything. I’ve resorted lately to literally asking people if they would remain dry if I chucked a bucket of water at them. No? Then your clothes ARE NOT WATERPROOF.

As I write this today (in late March) 6 of the 26 people booked on the Hill Trip had to buy waterproof trousers in our shop (we have some ’emergency’ pairs for sale) before we would let them take part – despite knowing perfectly well upon booking that they needed to bring them, and being told so in three separate emails. March is not necessarily spring here – today it was full on blizzard conditions on the hill.

I can go into all sorts of other pet peeves, but I’m starting to feel a bit frazzled just thinking about it all, and I notice my use of capitals is increasing throughout this blog as I feel more and more shouty, so it’s probably time to stop here.

Hen

Book Now