After sitting for some time scratching my head and contemplating 15 years of baldness, I came to the conclusion, I have absolutely no idea where to start. It has taken me a while to become comfortable when talking to the camera for our vlogs, but typing words and reading it back seems to present its own difficulties. Like constantly correcting or re-wording. So I apologise now for any errors or lack of humour.
The question is this, What possible rock solid advice could I possibly offer to anyone looking to take up hiking, or for that matter anyone who is already a committed hiker. Well I can only talk from my own experience, and this can be somewhat limited. However, I feel I have made some huge leaps forwards, and learnt some valuable lessons in the 18 months of Summit or Nothing. Some of this has been on my own, some with Trev, sometimes it is just seeing an issue and doing some interweb based research. Youtube is an amazing resource, there are so many channels and videos of people facing the same or similar issues you may be trying to conquer. I have watched hours of kit reviews, opinions and techniques and advice. Sometimes I may tailor specific ideas to better suit my own needs, but I get closer to where I want to be.
Why go Hiking?
I live in a small town in Cornwall, England. The size of the town is somewhat irrelevant, it is full of buildings, some are old and can be pleasant enough to look at, but you can’t get away from the supermarkets, the tarmac, traffic and all the noise and pollution that is generated from any built-up area. These are all things that we cannot change, they are part of modern life. You could go weeks or even months without leaving your home town or city, and I firmly believe this will start to have an effect on you mentally. What we can do, is we can escape! Even if only for a few days or an afternoon. Without much expense, and without planning two weeks in an all inclusive, tourist orientated resort in another country. With a minimum of kit, it is possible to leave your city, town or village even if only for the afternoon. Find a path, route or even a lake, find some GREEN! I promise that if you let it, the great outdoors will reward you.
I always come home from a hike tired, but it is always over shadowed by the inspiring confidence, positivity and optimisum gained from meandering past some of the most beautiful sites that our country has on offer. If you have watched any of our videos on our YouTube channel, you may have noticed I have a tendency to fall asleep, a lot, or at least try if Trev will let me. This is in no small part due to having no chores or obligations, I have no washing pile to work through, no emails to respond to, DIY tasks that cause me to feel guilty for trying to relax when I’m not at work. By going out for a hike, or overnight camp, you or I have made the decision to put all of these tasks on hold. As silly as that may sound, to me its like a mini holiday for my mind and it enables me to totally relax.
You have made the decision to go, your bag is packed and you are out on the trail, after hiking for a while, you may want to choose a point where you can sit and admire a view for a while, enjoy a hot cup of tea or a snack. Once you sit and start to admire your surroundings, the peace and the quiet and fresh air, all of a sudden the effort of packing a lunch, driving or catching the bus or train to the country, and the effort of hiking up that hill will all start to make sense.
I have lived near the sea for all of my life, as I get older it is easy to take this for granted. I don’t go to the beach as often as perhaps I should. It’s an enjoyable place all year round, with ever changing scenery. If you are of a slightly grumpy disposition such as myself, you may even find the harsh winds and rains of winter a better time to enjoy these places due to the lack of tourists, but this is my personal preference. But my point is this, I think we are all guilty of getting stuck in our ways and forgetting to go and appreciate natures beauty where ever we live in the world. Different countries may present different hazards in the way of terrain, poisonous animals, extreme temperatures, but for the best part, the world is a beautiful place, and I urge you to get out and explore it under your own steam on foot. If you have ever thought about it, then I promise you won’t be disappointed once you get the hang of it.
Get yourself a Camera
In this day and age, we all have access to a camera! Most phones have passable cameras on them these days, and documenting your walks and adventures will help to give you a sense and feeling of purpose to your new found love of rambling. The summit or Nothing Channel serves as a wonderful way of looking back over our adventures, but even if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own channel, pictures will still help to preserve the memories, and I feel they help to motivate you to go again. But please don’t be fooled, in my experience it is very rare that a picture can come even close to the feeling of being stood up on a mountain looking down at the world.
Get Up High
For the best part we have all been walking for most of our lives. That said there have been evenings and weekends, and even some Monday mornings where crawling has seemed the better option. I have been walking around national trust properties, beaches and gardens since I was able to walk, admittedly I haven’t always seen the point, but as I get older, I get It. I grew up on a farm in Devon, so I have always been surrounded by nature, free to roam around fields from a young age. Living 7 miles from the coast, and having turned my hand to surfing (well I tried at least) sea fishing and even Kayaking at one point. I made the most of the cost throughout my younger years. However, nothing I had seen had prepared me for the view from my first true mountain. The view from on top of Snowdon on a clear day took my breath away.
Couple together the view with the sense of achievement from scaling our first true summit of a mountain on foot, and you are left with a sensation I would fail to put into words. Even the over populated summit couldn’t take away the overall feeling of accomplishment. I don’t know why, but regardless if you are on top of a modest tor on Dartmoor, or the tallest mountain in Wales, looking down over the world will give you a humbling sense of perspective. However, if you are not afraid of heights, the exilleration to be experienced from atop a mountain can’t be matched. Maybe I am slightly odd in my preferences, but I always find slightly more adverse weather will only add to the thrill. But for now I will have to draw the line at actual rock climbing. (for now)…….
Get In Shape
If you have been following Summit or Nothing from the beginning you will have seen me and Trev both huffing and puffing from our very first accent of Sourton Tor. The truth is, the short hike from the car park is the worst I have felt since we began. We are both reformed smokers, however Trev still has the occasional cigarette and I have a Vape that I carry everywhere with me. However, that day we made a choice to go out and have a look around on Dartmoor, and since that day we have noted a steady improvement in our physical fitness. From humble hills to manly mountains in a few short months, if we can do it, anyone can.
It doesn’t matter where your level of fitness is when you start, or at any point. As long as you choose sensible routes for your ability, and allow a safe amount of time to complete your walk, you will be fine. Your legs are going to get stronger, you heart will get stronger, your lungs will get a serious clear and a work out of their own. You are going to burn calories! This is an important point. I have spent many evenings in gyms, hitting tread mills, lifting weights, road running, cycling, gig rowing. But at the end of it all its routine, the same place, the same people, the same views. Walking, hiking, camping, they all offer you a way to steadily improve your fitness and strength and lose weight, but you can do it while taking in an ever changing view, beautiful scenes of rolling hills, mountain mist, mirror still lakes and more. And the benefits don’t stop there.
When you are out on the trail, you are the only person you are competing with. You can take no breaks, or you can take twenty, the choice is yours. But as you progress, you get stronger, the chore becomes the challenge. As you begin to push yourself you will develop a new found mental strength. Repeatedly telling yourself “I can do this”, “I don’t need to stop yet”, “I can get there before lunch”. Couple this mental toughness with the overwhelming sense of achievement you get when you’re done, and all of a sudden you can feel this fire burning inside you to go again. The addiction starts to form.
To summarise all of the above, normal people do this every day. If you are reading this, then you are either really bored, or you have a real interest in becoming more intimate with natures beauty. It’s easy for me to sit here trying to romanticise the idea of quiet country walks on a Sunday afternoon, but there is some real graft involved if you want to take it up a notch. I am passionate about hiking, but for you to see why, you will have to pull on your boots and get out there for yourself.
Whatever your interest, get out there. If you don’t like it, then simply don’t go again. (but I’m betting you do)