Saturday, 13 August 2011

Beth -v- The Boots

I've been fighting a battle over the past few weeks and at the moment I'm not entirely convinced I'm winning.  Our love of hiking means it's essential we're properly equipped and perhaps the most important items are our walking boots.  Last summer my faithful old Land Rover leather boots sadly died.  Initially surprised that Land Rover made walking boots I'd picked them up at a motor show in Silverstone for £60 and they'd given me over 12 years of faithful service.  No rubbing, no leaking, just miles of comfortable walking.  Sadly the back of the boots wore through and a new pair was called for.

Haweswater from Prison Band
Initially I succumbed to a pair of fairly cheap boots, available even cheaper in a "once in a lifetime, never to be repeated, you'll tell your grandkids about this" sale.  Cheap though they were, they were very comfortable and as they were boldly titled "100 Peaks" I thought they sounded like a safe bet.  Wrong.  They managed one peak before the stitching came undone causing me to question whether there was a little stitching missing in the name of the boot and they should, in fact, be called "1.00 Peaks."  Having returned them to the shop I took the opportunity to upgrade to a better pair and invested in a pair of lightweight boots that promised to keep me warm dry and comfortable and able to climb substantially more than one peak before they gave up the ghost.  To be fair they did manage 5 major hikes before the stitching on the toe wore out, the insoles began roaming around the inside of the shoe and they leaked like a seive.  Back to the drawing board.

This time I was taking no chances.  I got a full refund for the cheap and nasty boots and headed for Ambleside determined to come away with a pair of 'proper' boots that would last me a good few years.  This time I invested around £130 in a pair of lightweight leather walking boots that felt like a dream.  Only 2 seams and made by Brasher so a fine pair of boots with an excellent pedigree.  They were prooperly fitted in the shop and felt wonderful - and so light too for leather boots.  My feet, however, have taken a disliking to them, and in particular my heels.  The boots are rubbing my heels up the wrong way and each time I go for a decent hike I return with enormous blisters on each foot - blisters so big that even the "large" sized blister plasters don't cover them.  I tried breaking them in gently and on short walks my heels behaved impeccably, but as soon as we're 5 miles or so away from the car embroilled in a 10 - 15 mile hiking extravaganza, the trouble starts.  I'm determined to kick my heels into shape one way or another as the boots are wonderful in every other way.  My mission this weekend is to try and track down a pair of high level hiking socks with padded heels to see if that helps any.  Not that I can do any hiking this weekend as my heels are still suffering from last weeks 12.5 mile marathon around the Kentmere Horseshoe.  (Edit - socks were indeed the problem, not the boots - it's all here.

Not that my sore heels are the only thing annoying me on long walks.  We're now in the middle of tourist season up here and the place is choc full of the once a year outdoor types that we used to be.  Nothing wrong with that particularly, this stunning scenery should be seen and enjoyed by as many people as possible.  My annoyance comes from the lack of respect many people have for the area which shows itself in many ways.

Litter left near Haweswater
Take the litter for a start.  On every walk we've taken recently we've come across litter left lying around on the fells.  You'd think that the types of people that hike around these places would be the type to take their litter home with them but you'd be wrong.  Many responsible walkers do, but we regularly come across emply plastic water bottles, crisp packets and tissues; dozens and dozens of tissues.  I'm not beyond picking up some of the litter to bring it home with me, but I'm naturally not wild about collecting other people's germ ridden tissues unless I'm properly equipped.

So who are these people?  Well, there's a new breed of hiker that has emerged over recent years and they're the type who think they can climb any mountain armed only with a pair of trainers, a lightweight mac and an iphone.  I've even seen people on the top of Helvellyn in flipflops!  On some of the popular routes up the main fells on a fine day, you could probably get away with that.  There are enough people around so you don't get lost and the paths are clear enough to follow should the mist come down.  But these 'hikers' are not content with that, no, they are heading up the more remote fells and finding that the mobile phone signal up here is sporadic at best and that batteries don't last all day.  Then the mist falls and the calls to mountain rescue rise.  Thankfully the majority of the people involved are found safely and return home in one piece, but that's at a cost to the mountain rescue teams.  Personally I think anyone who ventures up onto the fells without the proper equipment and who then needs to call mountain rescue, should get a bill for their services.

So what is the proper equipment for hiking in the fells?  Map, compass, the ability to use them, waterproof map cover, spare clothing, food, drink, a waterproof rucksack, common sense and enough respect for your environment that you treat it with caution and take your litter home with you.  And of course a decent pair of walking boots.  Preferably ones that leave your heels in tact at the end of the day.