Thursday 13 November 2014

One Day There Will Be Silence

Over Ullswater to Blencathra this October

I have never been one for a macho approach to hill walking. By ‘macho approach’, which might be the wrong terminology, I’m thinking of a very long day's walk, over difficult terrain, striving for many summits, possibly in poor weather. That being said, I have done many tough hikes and these have often been memorable.  But I am also very happy doing shorter days, when I probably appreciate my surroundings more, without the pressure to move on, or to hit a target, or to complete a pre-determined route. For many years I have been fortunate enough to live within an easy distance of the hills, both in Cumbria and Wales. Thus, I can be more choosy about my walking than those who have to make a special effort and travel long distances to get their fix. And shorter days suit me as I get older. I’ve ticked my lists, and still do so, but I am also more than happy to return over and over again to old favourites for short days in the hills.

Looking to Helvellyn from the path to Arthur's Pike, October 2014

Coming down the Old Corpse Road to Haweswater, June 2014

A water survey post between Branstree and Selside Pike, June 2014
The joys of being able to seek out the less spectacular and easier hills have been evident in a few walks recently. I have followed broad grassy ridges, often alone for most of the day, save Hyperdog Moss, no other walkers in sight. Relatively easy walking, lovely views, that invigorating feeling of the wind on your face, and the silence. Not the silence as defined by the dictionary, but the silence of the hills –  the wind, the occasional call of a bird or a sheep, the sound of my breathing as I labour uphill. For me this is the silence of peace, the silence that allows you to empty your mind of thoughts and by default allow the senses to roll in and out of your mind. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. The views, the birds, the bracken, the water from a stream, the contrast between rock and grass under your trail shoe or boot.

I do not know if there is an afterlife, but if there is I hope I spend mine walking a grassy fell, watching the summer sun above me competing with transient white clouds. And below me will be a lake such as Ullswater, with the Raven and the Lady of the Lake making their way along the water, carrying unseen crowds of smiling, relaxed holidaymakers.  The gentle breeze will make my face glow, and my two boys and my lovely wife will wander with me until the end of time. And then I will no longer have to dream or try to forget. At last I truly will be a free man on the hills.

Looking to Moel Sych and Cadair Berwyn, November 2014

My hillwalking mate in the Berwyns, November 2014

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Talking Crap

I have noticed that American bloggers are far less reticent when it comes to talking crap in posts about wild camping. But with the growth in understanding about the importance of the ‘leave no trace’ philosophy I thought I would pose a question about a subject that would be guaranteed to start any decent school boy sniggering.

Now we all know that bears shit in the woods. And backpackers shit on the hill. So what is the appropriate way to deal with the doings? Many years ago I was taught to dig a hole, the deeper the better, commit the deed, produce a lighter and burn the paper, refill the hole, making sure you didn’t set fire to the peat or surrounding vegetation.  And that’s what I have done until this day. However, I am worried that this might not be adequate, but hope it is!  Many US bloggers now appear to be discussing the best sorts of methods of carrying out the used paper in a hygienic manner. Here's an example, with (discreet) photos included.  And now I read that in some places eg in Yosemite (I think) it is a requirement to carry out the whole caboodle, doggy poo bag style. I have to say I don’t fancy that. Even worse, it might lead to the backpacking equivalent of those dog owners who seem to think it is ok to scoop then hang the bag on the nearest branch or chuck it over a garden wall.

So it’s not a very delicate subject but what is the appropriate way to deal with this in the hills in this day and age?