Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Rambling Ramblings: Hiking Partners

Nearly 2 weeks ago, I introduced you to my awesome hiking partner: The Yeti. Today, I'm thinking about my hiking buddies to date, and asking: 
What makes a good hiking buddy? 
(especially when you're a hillwalking newbie like me)


So here are a few traits (four explained in detail) that I reckon the ideal hiking buddy (especially of the novice rambler) would have...
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Trait One: Fitness

Now this is a double-edged sword, especially for someone like me who isn't going to win awards any time soon for speed or endurance (though I'm not too bad with the latter). Basically, not fit enough, the group/pair end up proceeding at a less-than-ideal pace, while a particularly high a level of fitness can result in the buddy getting frustrated at a lack of speed. I'm wording this a little awkwardly, and it's incredibly rare to find a hiking partner who matches your fitness (though I like to level the playing field by over-filling the Yeti's day bag...), but if you have to go one way or the other, I'd advise someone fitter than yourself: it gives you an extra kick up the arse, and it'll help improve your fitness in the long run. That said, if you do end up with someone fitter than yourself, then (as my own experience has taught me the hard way) you probably need that person to posses trait two...


Trait Two: Patience

Let's open with an illustration:

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My hiking partner throughout 2012 was not a patient man. I feel that this photo indicates this well. Now it's not entirely his fault: he's extremely fit, very quick, and... well... is pretty impatient by his very nature anyway. To be fair to the fella, he accepts this is a thing and so did take the time to wait for me and to help me over any alarming obstacles (I can't fucking handle streams), so I have to give him a lot of credit for that. But scenes like the one above were not exactly uncommon. So when your partner's fitness and/or expertise far outstrips your own, then for them to have a little patience is beyond helpful.


Trait Three: Expertise (including Navigational Skills)

I've already explained that I'm not allowed to navigate during adventures. I must be an armchair navigator (namely I can come up with routes and pore over maps all I like, but this stuff can't go unchecked by the Yeti, and he has the final call on the day). But general skills with a map are not the only thing: some people can work out exactly where they are in relation to the map (and to where you need to be) even on a big flat moor, and some know how to find north without a compass. Some people know the right technique for dealing with steep descents (as my first hiking buddy taught me), and others know the correct way to shift your weight as you scramble (thank you, ghyll scrambling instructor!). Whether it's navigation, nature, technique, or a combination thereof - if your hiking partner has expertise in these areas -and is willing to help you hone your own skills in these fields - then you're on to a winner.

«"Yep. That's definitely a hill."

Trait Four: Good Company

I've been lucky: everyone I've ever hiked with has been phenomenally good company. My hiking partner throughout 2012 is someone with whom I can still drink away an afternoon without getting bored. My current hiking partner is my boyfriend, so if I didn't like his company I'd be buggered. And the only other people who have been hiking buddies have been two of my closest friends from home. If your hiking buddy is a person of few words or someone who you don't have a massive amount in common with, then that's not necessarily a deal-breaker. But considering you'll be spending anything up to a day or so with this person, it pays to makes sure it's someone you can talk to, who you can have a laugh with, and who will make the experience even more enjoyable. 

«Vicki and Dave are particularly worth having around on Back Tor, for instance.

Other handy traits: 
  • Good photographer (well someone needs to take your heroic trig photo!),
  • Good packhorse (I can carry my own stuff. I just prefer not to...)
  • Driver (not as important if you yourself can drive. But as someone who has yet to learn, I can confirm it's nicer to fall asleep in the car coming home from a day hike than it is to do so on the train/bus. And if you're not on the passenger side: please don't fall asleep at the wheel).


Luckily, I have someone that ticks almost all these boxes (we're working on the photography) as my current hiking partner, but it's worth making a note of these things. If I've missed anything out, be sure to let me know.

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