Walking up hills can be a testing time for any friendship especially when things don’t go to plan. So having the right Hillwalking Companion can be vital to your enjoyment of this fine pastime. I first met my hill buddy at University in 1979, just 2 years later he introduced me to hillwalking when we headed to wonderful Wasdale in the Lakes & struggled up Great Gable. Since then we’ve done many hills, sharing many memorable moments, in many varying conditions. Let’s call my companion Alan, for that’s his name!
So what makes a good hillwalking companion and how does Alan fare? Here’s some of my basic requirements;
- Good company
- Ability to read a map
- Be supportive at critical times
- Deal calmly with slight emergencies
- A sense of humour
- Not too grumpy when tired
- Shave occasionally
- Ideally not fart downwind after a curry
Alan ticks many of these boxes letting himself down badly towards the end….oh and he could really do with shaving more often too. The supportive side can be a bit lacking as he’s a naturally negative bugger who prefers to have something to worry about. With Alan there’s always something to worry about, in fact if he had nothing to worry about then he’d become excessively worried. He’s obsessed with timings too, always checking his watch. Here’s a few classic ‘Alanisms’;-
- Several days before any trip;- “I’ve seen the BBC Weather, it’s not looking good”
- The night before any trip;- “There’s a front coming in”
- After agreeing any route the night before;- “So you’re sure you fancy that one then?”
- At the start of any drive to the hills;- “Hmm 10 minutes late”
- During any drive to the hills;- “So you still fancy that route then?”
- Whilst lacing boots up;- “So are you sure you want to do this one?”
- Leaving the car on any walk;- “Hmm 10 minutes late”
- 1/2 mile into any walk;- “Still sure you want to do this one?”
- Looking uphill during any ascent;- “Hmm we should have been up there”
- On reaching any summit;- “Hmm 12 minutes late”
- At any summit cairn;- “There’s a front coming in”
As for motivation he has a habit of lobbing in devastating motivation cripplers at key moments which instantly sap your strength. Here’s some classic Alan ‘Unmotivationals’;-
- Just when you’re tiring Alan offers a quick;- “it’s miles to the top you know”
- During long steep ascents;- “aye this one’s relentless”
- During any ascent;- “we’re not even halfway you know”
- Looking up after a long approach;- “that’s not the top ahead you know”
- At any time;- “course by the time we get up there the cloud will be down”
Another annoying thing is he’s fitter & faster than me (I blame his longer legs), he eats utter rubbish and yet still has amazing stamina on the hill; I hate that! He’s also always irritatingly ready before me, walking around the car anxiously checking his watch whilst I’m still lacing up my boots.
However on the PLUS side he does have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Lake District & Scottish hills, indeed when confronted by any Lakeland panorama he can rhyme the mountains off one by one, the accuracy of this varies greatly but it’s still impressive. Alan has an extensive collection of maps, in fact one of his bedroom walls is a giant montage of the Northern Highlands made up of all the relevant OS maps stuck together. All of this is particularly useful if the battery on my GPS dies.
Alan also has a unique ability to fart at every 1,000ft of height gain, which can be extremely useful in mist, plus Alan’s backside never runs out of batteries (not that anyone would want to change them). Maybe we could patent him as an ‘Alanometer’ available in all good Mountain shops! (ps, this talent is getting more unreliable with age so order now!)
Alan loves checking routes beforehand, so much so that we now joke about him concentrating on the routes whilst I’m responsible for sourcing accommodation and choosing the pub for the evening meal. This leaves him only needing to worry about what he will be ordering to eat that evening – something he worries about for most of the afternoon.
Crucially though we share the same deadpan dry sense of humour which has probably got us through some of those awkward moments on the hill, we’ve never been lost but on occasions have become slightly mislaid. Perhaps his biggest advantage is that he’s somehow managed to put up with me for the past 30yrs, so much so that we now often finish each others sentences. We manage to prattle on endlessly to each other about total rubbish but it keeps us happy and things are rarely boring.
Despite occasionally wanting to insert my walking pole where the sun don’t shine, all things considered I wouldn’t swap him for anyone, absolutely no one…….except maybe a cute fit female with a much more positive outlook, please apply by email 🙂
PS Alan often mentions he’d be quite happy to die on a mountain – which seeing as I spend so much time with him on mountains just isn’t very comforting:-) Thanks for reading.
PPS Read all about that first Mountain trip with Alan over 30yrs ago click here