Wednesday, 11 March 2015

14 Things Hiking can learn from Gaming

I went out hiking all on my own yesterday - not a problem in itself, but it gave me too much time to think.  I put that time to good use though and by the end of the day had a whole list of improvements to hiking which could be made if only it were a computer game...

1.  First up there'd be achievements - "Achievement Unlocked - Climbing Blencathra" or "Achievement Unlocked - you remembered the flasks"  that sort of thing.
2.  At the drop of a hat you'd be able to change into any clothes to suit any conditions - and ALL of them would be way more impressive than your current set of waterproofs.

3.  Never mind geocaching, the hills would be full of hidden health packs and whatever illness, fatigue or injury has befallen you, wolf one of these babies down and you'll be just fine.

4.  Whenever you spot a monument, building or feature you were previously unaware of, a large white arrow and helpful text box would pop up next to it telling you all you need to know.

5.  You would NEVER get lost again because the route would light up ahead of you just like it does in Fable 2.

6.   At all times there would be a proximity detector available on your phone to tell you if there are other people in your general vicinity.  This would be useful for changes of clothes, toilet visits and arguments.

7.  Invisibility cloaks would allow you to sneak past sheep without disturbing them and creep up on any other wildlife you've been trying for years to get a photograph of.

8.  When you reach an uncrossable river or bog, any surrounding objects such as fence posts, drinking troughs or old farm machinery would bounce up and down Lego style, allowing you to assemble them into a bridge, boat or raft.  (This will, of course, unlock another achievement)

9.  Light bridges - there'd be hand held light bridges which could be deployed with the flick of a wrist and allow you to cross from, say, Scafell Pike to Sca Fell without going all the way down and back up again,

10.  Magic maps would allow you to select your destination and zoom right there.  Not to cheat when getting to the top of the fells (where's the fun in that?), but to help when you're soaked through and still 5 miles from the pub.

11.  You'd be able to carry an ENORMOUS quantity of stuff before you became over encumbered.

12.  Your regenerating shields would protect you from midges and cleggs.  Especially cleggs.

13.  When required, absolutely any wire could be used as a zipwire, all you'd need to do is jump on and assume a stylish pose.

14.  Cortana would replace your GPRS - not the voice on your windows phone, the original Cortana from Halo - because, let's face it, she rocks and is a WAY better idea than having HAL in your head "I can't let you go that way Dave"

And just to prove I really did get out on the fells yesterday - here's a few pics of my jolly up Black Combe.

Achievement unlocked - Black Combe

The fabled town of Bootle

Black Combe with zipwires...  ;-)

Beautiful beach at Silecroft

View from the transporter home.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

How big is your comfort zone?

When I was a kid we didn't have central heating  which wasn't a problem in itself but could make bath-times interesting.  I can clearly remember the luxury of sinking down into a nice hot bath with clouds of steam rising upward fogging the windows and the mirror.  I could have stayed there forever with my little rubber duck, but the problem was the bathwater inevitably got cooler, as did the room, and my exit had to be finely judged; too soon and I wasted good hot bathwater, too late and I'd have gotten myself just that little bit too cold.  Perfection was a flawlessly timed leap from the hot bath, through the cold bathroom, to warm dry clothes and a mug of hot chocolate in front of the fire downstairs.

"It's a sign..."
Comfort zones come in all shapes and sizes - when I was a kid mine was clearly bath-sized, but it's grown a little as I've gotten older.  Take moving up here for example - a pretty big leap by anyone's standards, and now things are more settled it's easy to remember things as being less tough than they actually were.

I have one of those "Time-Hop" apps and yesterday in popped a picture I remember only too well. I took it as I walked from the campsite we were staying in at the time to the train station and it looks like a nice enough photo - but that day was the day we'd reached rock bottom and genuinely thought we'd have to pack everything up an give up on our dream.  We'd been knocked down so many times my knees were getting sore and I took the photo to strengthen my resolve and remind me why it was so important for us to keep on fighting.  That's the thing about leaping outside your comfort zone, by definition, it's going to be uncomfortable.

But comfort zones come in all shapes and sizes and it's no good feeling inadequate by comparing your own comfort zone to someone else's.  I have long had a love of mountaineers and early explorers - especially those who pushed the boundaries and forged new routes.  Last night we attended an excellent lecture by Doug Scott who, together with Chris Bonington, Joe Tasker, Pete Boardman, Don Whillans, Dougal Haston etc. took many of the world's major peaks by storm.  As he described the epic bivouac at just shy of 29,000feet on Everest, it occurred to me that his comfort zone was somewhat larger than mine...

And then there are folks like Danny Macaskill - he of the "The Ridge" fame.  (And if you think the film is impressive take a look at the "Making of the Inaccessible Ridge" clip) - I genuinely don't believe this man has ever even come across the concept of the comfort zone.

You don't have to be outside dangling upside down by one boot from the nearest cliff face to be outside your comfort zone - I have spent the past few months way outside of mine by sitting indoors writing a book.  I've been determined to get all 10 chapters rough drafted before the weather picks up and although I've succeeded I'm now beginning to drive myself, and those around me (mainly Steve), slightly mad.  That's why there haven't been any big blogs about bonkers adventures recently - a shot of me sat at my laptop, in my PJs with yet another cup of cold decaff next to me just doesn't compare to a jaw dropping panorama of the fells.

Far more interesting than me in my PJs
I guess the point of all this is that whatever the size of your comfort zone, don't wait to be pushed before you step outside of it.  Though we battled long and hard to forge a new life, we only did it when life turned sour and forced us to do something drastic - what we've both realised since is that there was absolutely nothing to stop us making the move years ago.

Perhaps we stayed in the nice hot bath a bit too long because we were scared how cold it would be if we got out - turns out it wasn't that bad afterall.  Now brace yourselves 'cos I'm back out on the fells this week and I've got a lot of energy to burn off!