Leave no Trace
Principles of Outdoor Ethics
The Leave no Trace programme is the Mountaineering Council of Ireland's official guideline as to how we should conduct ourselves when we are on the hills and mountains of Ireland. As MCI is our governing body we in turn must adopt and practise these principles.
Most are just common sense principles, but we sometimes get a little complacent and take our day on the hills for granted. We should remember that in most instances we are on people's private property, where they are striving to earn a living.
The Leave no Trace programme is designed to help outdoor activists understand their impact on the environment and to help us make decisions that will minimise that impact, while still enjoying our activities with freedom.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Before you go, check where possible, if access is allowed and your activity is permitted in the area you wish to visit
- Respect any signs, regulations, policies and special concerns for the area that you wish to visit. Permits may sometimes be needed for activities on public lands. Respect "No Trespass" signs.
- Where possible travel by public transport or share cars; consider the availability of parking.
- Ensure you have the skills and equipment needed for your activity and to cope with emergencies that could arise.
- Check the weather forecast and always be prepared for changing weather conditions.
- For environmental and safety reasons, and to minimise your impact on other users, keep group numbers small; split larger parties into smaller groups.
Be Considerate of Others
- Respect the people who live and work in the countryside.
- Park appropriately - avoid blocking gateways, forest entrances or narrow roads. 3.Remember that farm machinery, local residents and the emergency services may need access at all times.
- Take care not to damage property, especially walls, fences and crops.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience, yield to all.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Keep noise to a minimum.
Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife
- Dogs should be kept under close control and should only be brought onto hills or farmland with the landowner's permission. Some clubs forbid dogs on walks.
- Observe wild animals and birds from a distance. Avoid disturbing them, particularly at sensitive times: mating, nesting and raising young (mostly between spring and early summer).
- Keep wildlife wild, don't feed wild animals or birds - our foods damage their health and leave them vulnerable to predators.
- Farm animals are not pets; remain at a safe distance.
Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
Durable ground includes established tracks and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing tracks and campsites.
- To avoid further erosion, travel in single file in the middle of the track even when wet or muddy.
In more remote areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of new tracks and campsites.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning to show.
- Protect water quality by camping at least 30m from lakes and streams.
- Keep campsites small and discreet.
- Aim to leave your campsite as you found it, or better.
Leave It as You Find It
- Respect property. For example, farming or forestry machinery, fences, stone walls etc,do not disturb the equipment of farmers,anglers,beekeepers and others who derive their living from the land.
- Leave gates as you find them (open or closed).
- Preserve the past: examine - without damaging - archaeological structures, old walls and heritage artefacts e.g. holy wells, mine workings, monuments.
- Conserve the present: leave rocks, flowers, plants, animals and all natural habitats as you find them.
- Fallen trees are a valuable wildlife habitat; do not remove or use for firewood.
- Avoid introducing non-native plants and animals e.g. zebra mussels in rivers and lakes.
- Do not build rock cairns, structures or shelters.
Dispose of waste properly
- "If You Bring It In, Take It Out" - take home all litter(yours and others too) and left over food (including tea bags, fruit peels and other biodegradable foods).
- To dispose of solid human waste, dig a hole 10-12cms deep and at least 30m from water, campsites and tracks. Cover and disguise the hole when finished.
- Bring home toilet paper and hygiene products.
- Wash yourself or your dishes 30m away from streams or lakes and if necessary use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Bring home any solids and scatter strained dishwater.
- For more information on sanitation in the outdoors read "Where to go in the outdoors" leaflet.
Minimise the impact of fire
Fires can cause lasting impacts and be devastating to forests, natural habitats and farmland. Therefore when camping use a lightweight stove for cooking.
Where fires are permitted:
- Use established fire rings, barbecues or create a mound fire.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Do not use growing vegetation for use as firewood.
- Avoid burning plastics or other substances: which emit toxic fumes.
- Burn all fires to ash, put out fires completely, and then scatter cool ashes.
Reduce the pressure on the mountain
With so many people hill walking we are seeing increased erosion òf our mountains and access routes. Please follow these simple guidelines to reduce the impact on the landscape.
- Spread the load by not using the same mountains repeatedly.
- Where there is a path, or any evidence of a trampled line, walk in the centre of it to prevent widening of the damaged area.
- If walking with a group in an area where there is no path spread out to avoid creating a path.
- Try to zig-zag rather than walking straight up or down the slope or "fall line" as it creates a depression for water to erode.
- Choose hard ground where you can, it’s less susceptible to damage than peat.
- Avoid walking in large groups (keep to less than 10 people if at all possible. It is more difficult to contain the impact of larger groups).
- When the weather has been wet and ground conditions are likely to be soft, choose the most durable route you can, even if that means changing your plans.
- Discourage people from jumping off peat hags, climb down gently.
- Vary your route choice by going to points other than summits (you’ll probably discover some interesting areas).