Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What walks books say and what they really mean.

I spent part of last week in North Wales - with its mountains and waterfalls and beaches, it seemed like a good place to spend a few days when the sun was actually shining.

And I thought I'd go walking. I walk a lot in Wiltshire - I'm used to her Downs and her forests, so surely a mountain is like that, only more so? I consulted a trusty walks book, found a route - it was long, but I'd be fine, if I gave myself plenty of time.

I must be clear - I'm no spring chicken. I'm sure the young and muscled would bound up and down this path without noticing its little challenges. In fact I know they did - the bounded past me, many times. Some even asking if I was all right, in a kindly, patronising way.

My problem, you see, was that my walks book was written for the young and muscled, who know all about mountains, and not for passing wrinklies who feel pleased if they make it to the top of Oare Hill. So here, for anyone who might be tempted to follow me, is a translation of the walks book for anyone who might not be used to mountains:

'Long, steady climb' - means long, steep, plod up a winding path with occasional steps.  If you take it slowly, and don't try to talk, you can feel reasonably smug getting up it.

'Steep, zig-zagged path, with a little light scrambling' - means the path has disappeared under a landslip and you have to clamber, crawl, other wise manipulate yourself up scree that feels vertical. Do not believe the young man who tells you the top is less than fifteen away - this final 200 metres takes an hour and a half. (Why not give up? Because you believe the plonkers who come past tell you that the top is round the next corner. Plus there is a cup of tea at the top.)

Coming down, of course, should be easier. But 'winding, rocky and a little difficult in places' - means coming down a ridge, much of it on your bottom as it is the only way to negotiate the boulders. Never be deceived by the twenty feet where you can stand upright - for soon there is another precipice, the path ten feet below and nothing but rocks or sticky-out bits in the way. (Why not go down the other way? What - down that scree?)

'Join the original path, and from there it is a short walk back to the car park' - means that the distance on the ground might be the same as before but this time it takes three times as long, as your legs feel like they belong to someone else.

(Snowdon, up the Watkin path and down the South ridge, for anyone who is curious.)

Why did I do it? Because very soon I have to take my knees to the bone man, and I'm afraid he might tell me to stop doing things like that. Which is a very stupid reason. There must be a better one, surely?


  1. Ha ha, I recognised Snowdon from your descriptions! We visited a castle not too far from us a couple of years ago and you pay down at the farm before climbing up the hill. A 'meandering stroll' they said...20 minutes of strenuous uphill walking later (with small children) and we only just had enough energy to explore the castle and hang onto the kids, who had plenty of unspent energy!

  2. Lisa - I'm so glad it's not just me taken in by these misleading descriptions.

  3. I'm very sorry but I don't understand!!!. Wasn't the train running that day?!?

  4. Ros - you are such a loyal follower! Which is wonderful, when there must be many times you think I am totally bonkers!