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As I write, the news has just broken that the body of TV presenter Dr Michael Mosley was recovered on the Greek island of Symi. It’s tragic, but unfortunately not a surprise. When it was first reported that he was missing, my initial reaction was, ‘Why the hell did he set off hiking at 13.30 when there was an excessive heat warning in place?’ It made no sense, especially for a man of science whose career was built around a commitment to taking care of our bodies. As various pieces of information came to light in the days following his disappearance, the story became more bewildering.

But why write about it? Isn’t it just a case of jumping on a bandwagon?

Jack hiking on Corfu

Hiking on the Greek island of Corfu in April a few years ago, and it was borderline too hot then.

Having a healthy respect for the weather is something Andy and I have been banging on about for years. Not just when it’s stormy, the wind is howling and the rain lashing down, but also when it’s hot – something people, and even some walking companies, overlook. Writing hiking advice is something we do for our own guides and websites as well as for others. Advice about the weather in specific locations is a standard part of the guides we write for various countries around Europe. Here’s an example of an extract taken from one relating to a part of Spain.

There are four types of weather alerts: green, yellow, orange and red. If AEMET is showing a yellow alert for high temperatures, rain or high winds you should take extra care when walking at altitude and keep a wary eye on how the weather is shaping up. If there is an orange or red alert it is NOT advisable to go walking.

Andy, Peneda Geres, Portugal

Hiking in the north of Portugal in July. But we only walked in the morning and for short distances in the late afternoon.

Having lived in the Canary Islands and Portugal, we have years of first-hand experienced of what it’s like to hike in a hot climate. There are certain times of the year you just don’t do it. It’s madness. But people still do. Unfortunately, Dr Michael Mosley isn’t the first person to discover this in the most extreme way, and he won’t be the last. Without specifically looking for them, in recent days I’ve seen a handful of reports about hikers in various locations encountering problems caused by extremes of weather. In one case it was low temperatures, in the others it was high. People die needlessly. What you don’t do is set off on a hike in the afternoon when temperatures that are already 34C+ are reaching their peak.

Coincidentally, barely a couple of weeks ago, someone remarked to me that the Brits were a bit namby-pamby when it came to hiking when it was hot. I said nothing as it was a comment made in passing, but I mentally filed it away to discuss at a later date if the opportunity arose as it was from someone who advised visitors to the area they lived about hiking there. You can’t be namby-pamby enough when it’s hot, especially if there is no shade.

Andy on Symi - hiking in the midday sun

Climbing out of Symi on the way to Pedi. Even though we were considerably younger than we are now, regular shade stops were required.

Andy and I have walked the route from Symi Town to St Nicholas Beach via Pedi. It’s a steep climb out of Symi and over a hill before descending to Pedi. But it’s not really a hike as there are buildings much of the way, and occasional tavernas to take refuge in. It’s not a long or difficult walk from Pedi to St Nicholas Beach. Even so, under a Greek sun it can be draining as it is completely exposed. When the initial news came that this was the path Michael Mosley had taken, I couldn’t understand how he could still be missing. None of the route is too far from civilisation. When the updated news came that he had continued through Pedi to climb the hill on the northern side of the bay when there was a weather warning for extreme heat, the outcome seemed inevitable. It’s a barren, unforgiving landscape with no shade.

So, the question that remains is, why do it?

Path to a Symi beach

The rocky, exposed route to one of Symi’s beaches.

Ignorance? Naivety? Stupidity? Bad judgement? It could be any of these. To me it seems a crazy thing to do, almost suicidal. And yet, it happens again and again. People head into the hills completely unprepared. Sometimes that refers to what they carry or, more importantly, don’t (e.g. water, protection from the sun, phone, map). Sometimes it involves not taking the conditions (terrain, weather) into account.

On this occasion it was a famous personality who paid the price. That makes people sit up and take notice. Most of the time these incidents involve people who aren’t famous, and they slip by almost below the radar.

The saddest thing about this tragic affair is, it was completely avoidable.

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Jack Montgomery

Jack is an author, travel writer, photographer, and a Slow Travel consultant who has been writing professionally for twenty years. Follow Jack on Facebook for information about his writing, travel tips, photographs, and tales of life in a tiny rural village in Somerset.

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Some of the items on this site won’t be to everyone’s liking, I get that. Basically this is my place, my wee studio to mess around in – experimenting with words and thoughts. I’ll be chuffed if you enjoy it, but if you don’t, c’est la vie. As a friend used to tell me “it would be a boring life if we all thought the same.”

Jack Montgomery
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