Whilst hiking in the UK, the rules of the mountain become pretty clear, pretty quickly. I’m not talking about the don’t litter, stick to the footpaths, respect the wildlife stuff, although that is super important and you should always respect those rules. I’m talking about the more unspoken code amongst those that like to venture in the great outdoors – and now that I’ve managed to venture to hikes beyond my own back yard, I have come to realise that the same rules apply wherever you go.
- Always say hello.
It doesn’t matter what language you use, it doesn’t matter if it’s simply a head nod or an exhausted smile, always greet the people you pass on the mountain. Any well rehearsed walker will be aware of this – not only is it polite, but who knows if you’ll need their help a little later.
- Whether or not you’re about to pass out from exhaustion, always maintain the ‘I do this every day and it’s no trouble at all’ facade if you happen to pass a fellow walker.
Nobody can ever know that you’re dying inside.
- If someone asks you how much further it is – lie.
I’m sure the majority of us have been in a position where, for whatever reason you’ve lost a little faith in yourself or you’re just damn tired, or you’ve at least met somebody who is going through this on their quest up a mountain. If someone asks you how much further it is, and they are in fact a way off the top, I find it best to bend the truth a little, or at least give vague responses. Choose from the following: ‘oh not long’ /’twenty minutes or so’ /’Je ne comprends pas’.
- If you decide that you can walk quicker than the people in front of you, you must maintain the pace until you can no longer see them.
If you want to show off that you’re a little fitter than them, at least have the decency to not rub it in their face for too long. Maintain your speed until you are well out of their sight/ pass out behind a rock further up the hill.
- It’s never the top when you think it is.
Why is this the same in every country I wonder? Just when you think you’ve plateaued, another huge mound appears and it definitely wasn’t there ten seconds ago. I know mountains are constantly growing, but seriously they need to slow down on the protein shakes if they’re going to keep growing at such a speed when I’m trying really hard to get to the top.
- There’s no such thing as the wrong weather, but there is a such thing as the wrong clothing.
If, like myself, you’re prone to living with a body temperature a couple of degrees lower than everyone else, aka, you’re still wearing a coat when the rest of the world has cracked out their shorts and t-shirts, you’ll know this one better than anyone. Hiking can be miserable if you’re cold and wet because you didn’t put on the right clothes – but just because it’s cold and wet out, doesn’t actually mean you have to be too. My worst experience of this was at the top of Mount Rinjani in Indonesia, where, for whatever reason, I forgot to bring my gloves to the top of a 3726m mountain (really unwise). Now, that summit view and that sunrise are beautiful, but as soon as it was done, I was down off the top within seconds for genuine fear that I wasn’t going to feel my fingers again. Queue a few months later when I went to the top of Kinabalu, did I bring gloves? Yes, I did. And whilst everyone else was eager to get off the top and back to warmth, I was happy with my warm hands, just taking in the view.
- There’s isn’t a such thing as carrying too much water.
Sure, maybe your back will be a little sore the following day, but there is absolutely nothing worse than being under the hot sun and realising you’ve run out of water despite having another hour or so of walking to go. This is true in every country, but here in Asia, when the humidity gets up, it’s more important than ever. The last time I did this, and the only time to be fair, was in Hong Kong, on a ridge walk in 100% humidity on one of the sunniest days of the year. Now, I brought a lot of water, but I didn’t bring enough. So it occurred that on the way back down, feeling a little lightheaded, I fell over on a rock and hobbled around for the following three months and had an argument with a Cantonese doctor about whether I had broken my leg, as well as suffered from the most terrible dose of sunstroke anyone has ever experienced (I’m not being dramatic). It makes for a good story, but it’s not worth it.
- Everything tastes better on the side of a mountain.
Why is it that a squashed sandwich on the side of a hill tastes so much better than a squashed sandwich anywhere else? It’s a universal truth that the further you hike for your lunch, the better it tastes. The same thing goes for a pint at the end of a hike in the UK, it just tastes so much better. (NB: a pub after a hike is probably the thing I miss most about life in the UK).
Anymore for anymore?