Thursday, October 31, 2013

In Praise of Hill Walking

(One of these days I’ll get back to blogging about Pensions & Investments)

It probably started with a pointed comment from my daughter about being a “couch potato”. And possibly living in an area surrounded by three ranges of mountains. I had the boots. Bought a few years prior with the intention of ‘doing something’ with them, but never had.   
15 Months Later

I haven’t stopped walking since. I’m no sooner finished one walk than I’m planning the next. I’m fit; fitter than I’ve ever been. Why? What’s it all about?

The bug just bit me. The early walks were low level and I just kept cranking them up, to improve. I joined a club (I’m now in three) to get familiar with the open mountain by being led by more experienced walkers. Plus, if you’re hill walking by yourself you can’t really gauge if you’re any good at it, other than put yourself on the clock. I’m competitive, so that’s not much good.  

You hear stories on the hills about so-and-so being a strong walker and about long distance walks with certain height-gains. If you wanted to improve as a walker you had to set your sights on these ‘Challenges’, the hill walkers personal achievement championships. So, I did a few of them and did okay. I even made up a few of my own.

Along the way, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people. People that don’t suffer from adhesive mattress syndrome, have no issue with atrocious weather conditions, don’t mind getting stuck in when their help is needed and willing to impart acquired knowledge to help you along the way.

When you want to talk, you can talk. When you want to have some ‘me’ time, no one bothers you. It’s an unwritten rule, there are many. It’s different being out on the hills: for me it has a calming influence in a stress free environment. So many beautiful places on my doorstep that I’d never have seen but for the fortune of putting on a pair of boots. The place names, the local history, the wildlife and vegetation; all discovered and learnt about by accident.

It’s not all serene though. The craic, banter, slagging that goes on is mighty. There are those that would say that telling someone, who is struggling on a walk, that “We’re about halfway” when they ask “Is there far more to go?” might be mental torture, especially when 90% of the walk is done. But, it’s part of the ‘rise’ and you have to have a sense of humour at this game. Another favourite of a fellow walker is feigning snoring while directly behind someone that is struggling on the climbs. We laugh, and the misfortunate that’s at the receiving end does too; in time.

I struggled to find my pace for a long time. I suppose we do this in life’s pace also. Going off too fast and then feeling the pressure on the climbs. The food was important, the amount of water was important, the boots, the gear, the poles, what was in the rucksack (and what wasn’t); it all mattered in the quest for improvement. But it didn’t matter, in a way, because you’d get it right next time. There’s no All Ireland or Olympics to aim for. You walk and learn.    

I’ve learned how to read a map and use a compass. I have an app on my phone that can tell me where I am, if I go astray. If you’re fit enough you’ll stay calm. This gives me the confidence to walk alone on the three local ranges, because if the mood hits I have to go out.  

The walks have now progressed to be of a more strenuous nature. As another walker said at the weekend “We’re in training. But for what?” We don’t know, but we enjoy it so much there doesn’t have to be a target in sight.

This stuff just makes us happy!!