Marhofn 196.11 - May 2009

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Teenage kicks

Rachael Metcalf

Who wants to toil through mud and ice, thorns and tussocks, rain and cold? Who wants to be lost and hungry in the middle of nowhere? Me for one, because the good parts of walking usually outweigh the bad ones. Some say that walking is an obsession. Well it can completely occupy my mind sometimes, but it isn't usually unhealthy, and any unpleasantness is short-lived compared to the good memories. It doesn't disrupt my life but rather gives contrast to the controlling routines of school and home, and gives something to look forward to when life is dragging. It isn't my only interest, or even my main one, and I have no difficulty switching to other things. It seems more rational to me than following bands or football teams, clothes trends or the latest movie, which many of my friends concentrate on. I do most of these as well of course, except for following football teams. For me, football is boring.

Hills give me a simple sense of freedom from the world, and some quiet time for thinking, without the hubbub of humanity. I love the peaceful feeling that surrounds you while hillwalking, if you allow it to. I would never have expected examples of such beauty in the simple things around me, nor did I expect to enjoy hillwalking as much as I do now. I used to hate walking and would scream and cry whenever my dad dragged me up a hill. Over time it has got under my skin. Now I sing instead of screaming, while he's the one nearly crying on the steep stuff!

Some of my best memories are of thrills and adrenalin rushes on hills. One of my favourites is An Teallach because of its scrambling, gorgeous looks, and of course its amazing sunbathing spots. My whole body hurt the day after, but I would not trade that day for anything. Some of my not-so-great memories are also from hills, for example falling on wet quartzite in the rain on Canisp. Even then the view of Suilven through a break in the clouds, the weird spherical cairn and the sense of achievement were all pretty special.

Canisp and ptarmigan (photo: Bert Barnett)

Canisp and ptarmigan (photo: Bert Barnett)

Then there are the huts, some of which are cosy places to relax after a day in the hills. Others however are small, cramped, freezing and smelly, with paper-thin walls that are no defence against my dad's snoring. Luckily I become impervious to this when tired enough. I've met some brilliant hill people through clubs and my dad. There are also the perks of hillwalking, like the time afterwards when you sit and just talk, or the events (meals, discos, dances, Baggershambles etc). I love DJ-ing for my hillwalking club's annual dinner. I think of it as my old people's decent music outreach service!

I don't always know where I am or the name of the hill I'm climbing or which direction I should be going, a trait I'm sure I've inherited from my dad. When climbing Corse Hill with Alison and my dad, he assumed that it would be an easy hill and that we wouldn't need the GPS. On reaching what we thought was the top we couldn't find the trig point so we assumed we'd found the highest point instead. On further research we found we'd entirely missed the top. But those are the situations you look back on and laugh at.

I enjoy walking, but given the option of doing a second hill that is not part of the same walk I'll generally say no. You can spoil walking by doing too much. 'Planet Teenage' is also a major factor, particularly on a Sunday, as I'd often much rather sleep in. In some cases this has resulted in bribery to get me up, for example a promise of coffee on the way home. My dad may think he's the negotiator in our family, but I'm not so sure.

Hills haven't become ticks to me, nor is any list something I have to complete before I die. Hills are freedom, inspiration and a place to think and be alone (no matter how many others you're with). So, maybe I can't read a map well yet and I'm not the fastest, but I love the sense of peace and undisturbed beauty (unless there is a wind farm that is) and I wouldn't give up hillwalking without a fight. To take hills from me would be like taking away the odd glimmers of sun on a claggy day.

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