Monday, 17 December 2012

Learning to play nicely.

Let's face it, I've not made any secret of the fact that we can be pretty anti-social hikers, so meeting up with all the lovely Twitter folks was always going to scare me a little.  Not only was this the first time we'd managed to come along on one of the Twitter walks but it was the first group walk I'd ever been on.  Ever, ever, ever.  I'm sure others from the group will tell all about the route (a challenging but fun hop up Skiddaw from Latrigg then down via Bakestall to the Cumbria Way and back to Latrigg via Skiddaw House) so I'll leave that part to them and instead concentrate on what I learned from my first ever group hike.
Memorial on the initial climb from Latrigg.

  • Walking in groups requires you to remember names.  Lots of names.  When we first arrived in the car park everyone was wonderfully friendly & welcoming and came up to introduce themselves using not only their real name but their Twitter name too.  My addled little brain did the best it could but for the first half of the walk the 3 dogs names were the only thing I was really sure of.  (Lassie, Holly & Tilly and very gorgeous they were too!)
  • Walking in groups can be expensive.  Don't worry, no-one charges a fee for attending these events, but as we made our way around we got chatting about each others kit; the gloves, the spikes, the jackets, the poles etc.  By the end of the day I'dd added a few things onto my list for Santa...
  • Walking in groups exposes your hiking habits.  When you hike alone you get into certain routines regarding such things as food, drink, snot rockets and toilet stops.  I wonder what Debretts has to say regarding the appropriate time frame between being introduced to new people and blowing snot rockets?  The increased number of "innocent civilians" and the high winds on the summit meant great care needed to be taken to avoid "friendly fire" incidents.
Summit conditions were less than ideal.
  • Walking in groups makes you realise how little you've actually done.  We've been up here 2 years now and it's hard to think of a weekend when we didn't go out and do or see something different, but half an hour or so of chatting to the lovely Ray made us realise that we've barely scratched the surface.  He has a truly encyclopaedic knowledge of the area and listed dozens fells, falls and hikes most of which we'd never done and many of which we'd never even heard of.  They're now all on our list.  Thanks Ray!
  • Walking in groups means you don't have to navigate.  Well it did for us anyway as everything was organised by the fabulous Gina and there was a plethora of folks with GPS, maps and compasses, meaning my map could stay safely in the rucksack and I could concentrate on staying upright.  Mind you, in some ways it wasn't quite the same without a bit of a bicker about which path to take in the mist and a panicky scramble over a drystone wall.
  • Walking in groups makes you walk faster.  Or slower, depending on your usual pace.  We are graduates from the Wainwright school of plodding and found the pace a little more brisk than what we're used to, though I know others in the group found it a little slow.  Thing is I'm not just a plodder, I'm plain nosey and want to know all about where I'm walking and what I'm seeing.  For example, as we made our way along the Cumbria Way towards Skiddaw House I noticed differently coloured strips of heather on the lower slopes of the fell; why are they there?  Does someone somehow farm the heather?  Or is it maybe for bees & honey production?  Answers on a postcard please! (Or a comment at the bottom).  Many thanks to Ray again for patiently answering many of my other questions.
The route to England's most remote house.
  • Walking in groups means you meet new people and make new friends.  To be honest this was probably the best part.  I spent the day chatting to lots of different and interesting people, finding common interests and swapping hiking (and other) stories.  We laughed a lot, we shivered a fair bit, some of us fell over occasionally and we all got wet, but later on in the warmth of the pub with a pint in hand it was nice to look around and see a bunch of friendly, if weather worn, faces.  A massive thanks to Gina for organising the walks and for baking spectacular quantities of delightfully gooey chocolate brownies  Here's to 2013; a year filled with new friends and lots of new places to visit!
All my lovely new friends disappearing into the mist as
I slither along at the back trying to keep up.  :-)