Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Long legs or little feet?


Steve has the long legs and I have the little feet and I've often wondered which is best for fell walking.  He's 6ft 4ins and, unbelievably, the shortest of his three brothers.  Imagine that, 6ft 4ins and the runt of the litter.  But those long legs do come in handy when striding over fells, for a start he can go twice as fast as me and I am often to be seen scampering along behind him trying to keep up, and they're undeniably useful when scrambling over some of the more challenging routes such as Sharp Edge,  BUT those lovely long legs come at a price; attached to them are 2 very big size 12 feet, and they're not always quite so versatile.
Th long and the short of it.

I, on the other hand, despite being a non-too-shabby-for-a-girl 5ft 10ins, have irritatingly short legs and freakishly small feet for my height.  I'm only a size 5 1/2 - 6 but that does have its benefits.  For a start my walking boots are way cheaper than his, and although I can't quite stretch as far as he can when stepping across streams and climbing slidey hills, I can wedge my feet into tiny little nooks and crannies and find grippy spots he'd be lucky to fit his big toe into.

So what is the best build for the fells?  Well for a start you don't want to be too skinny.  Not only will you get blown away by the first decent gust of wind but you will also fail to bounce.  The fells are not all glorious green curves and well made paths, no siree.  Many of them are slippy boggy booby traps whilst others, like Scafell Pike, lack any discernible path and require you to rock hop your way to the summit.  You will, inevitably, fall over at some point, and when that happens it's best if you don't have a scrawny skinny backside else you'll probably break something important.  The well upholstered posterior will, on the other hand, provide you with a rather more comfortable bouncing experience and leave you with nothing more serious than a few well hidden bruises.  But you don't want to overdo the cushioning effect.  Some of the sheep proof stiles can be a little on the narrow side and many's the time I've squashed my baps trying to squeeze through, and who wants a squashed egg mayo bap for lunch?

4 Points of Contact
And is taller really better?  Well the shorter you are the lower your centre of gravity so the less likely you are to fall over in the first place, at least that's the theory.  Despite being a full 6 inches shorter than Steve I have almost no sense of balance, even when completely gin free.  He will hop, skip and jump his way across streams whereas I'm forced to resort to the "4 points of contact" approach. (Please see embarrassing photo.)  And when it comes to descents, well I can whiz down any "bum plummet" faster than he can, even if it's not always intentional.

So what am I saying?  Well, for maximum efficiency on the fells you need to be no taller than 5ft with 4ft long legs and size 3 feet. You'll also need J.Lo's backside and The Great Blondin's sense of balance.  Of course if you look like that you'll be far more likely to be making your living in a circus than hiking the fells but if Peter Jackson's still on the lookout for Hobbits you might just be in luck.