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Still trying to walk up that great big hill

by on March 2, 2014

Yes, it’s lyric: Anyone guess which song? Never mind if you can’t, because this week’s blog isn’t really about music or writing.* It’s more about life in general, or at least about a part of my life at present. I realised last year that I was becoming unhealthily desk bound, and decided to do something about it. I remember that my first wife actually accused me once of being an adrenaline junkie, and I was even more confused at the random comment than normal. But reflecting much later, i came to the conclusion she might have been right, and a bit of excitement was needed in my life.

How to fill it? I could get a motorsports driving license and drive at speed around a proper track instead of the roads round here? Too costly. Powerboat racing? The sea is a bit chilly in West Wales for that. I could get a new, racy, exciting girlfriend? Too time consuming. Bungee jumping is out because of the damage to my back from crashing a hang glider years ago. Solo rock climbing the same… so I hit on solo hill walking as the answer. With the added bonus that i could take some photos whilst engaged in the sport, which you can’t really do whilst driving the powerboat, racing car or racy girlfriend. At least, not without unintended consequences. But there’s a huge pleasure in being alone on top of a big hill, miles from anywhere, with no one to disturb your thoughts.

cat bells

That’s Cat Bells, in the Lake District. Suitable even for grandmothers, says the great Alfred Wainwright.
Of course, it doesn’t always work in Wales. Sometimes the Rugby isn’t on the TV.

2014-02-17 16.33.28

And even climbing 3000 feet up a hill on a cold day in the middle of wales isn’t enough to find you a bit of peace and quiet.

But when you can pick and your camera, and press the shutter ( yes I still use a proper camera, not one of these fancy digital things) and get this

2014-02-24 10.42.40

Then sometimes it all makes sense.

I was quite lucky to have benefitted from a classical education. Amongst the things I learnt in Latin (besides how to ignore the stupid spellcheck) was the latin tag; ‘Solvitur ambulanbo’. It was true then, and it’s still true now. For getting a sense of perspective, and for working out abtruse quadratic equations, and more pertinently for resolving difficult plot points in the next book, there’s nothing to beat walking a long distance alone on a big, big, hill. I recommend it to you all. Just don’t choose the next hill I want to climb, all right? otherwise you might end up as a victim in my next horror book…

*OK, I lied about the writing. Bite me.


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  1. Well, I’m glad you got your mojo back, honey. I must say, those piccies almost tempt me to dust off my walking boots…ahem…alright, trainers! Beautiful landscapes always have a similar effect on me, a way of humbling you and putting all your problems into perspective and opening you up to the beauty of life! Lovely blog Will. 😀

  2. There’s nothing like walking on your own to help hammer out plot points 🙂

  3. Rebecca Douglass permalink

    It’s why I love backpacking and hiking (US style backpacking; I think you call it tramping over there?). Put on a pack, head up the trail, and let the mind go where it will while the incredible scenery unfolds. I go with my family, but as age has created discrepancies in pace (okay, the boys turned into teens and I can’t keep up on my best day) so I get to hike alone a lot, which I like (and still get to camp with the family, which I also like).

    Keep walking up hills, Will! And if you run out of them in Wales, come out here to California and I’ll show you up some REAL hills 😀

    And Sophie? Trainers are fine, at least as long as it’s not two feet of slushy snow! My boys have been spending a week at a time on the trail in trainers since they were tiny.

  4. Thanks, Rebecca. Next up is Mount Snowden, highest point in Wales. Look out for photos in a few weeks, if it ever stops raining!

  5. Mwahahahahahargh. Wainright’s granny was either very spry or not very old. I think, after all the exercises, the phisio and the gym I probably could walk up that hill but I suspect I’d have trouble getting down again. You’re right though. Few things solve problems like a long walk on the hills apart from a walk on a deserted beach. Both of which you have. Keep on trekking.



  6. Funnily enough, coming down is often the hardest part of any walk. One famous guide once said of Mount Everest: With the right kit any moderately fit person can get up this mountain. It’s getting down alive that’s the tricky bit.

    • Rebecca Douglass permalink

      Well, on Everest there are other considerations, but it know my body yells a lot louder after a few thousand feet of descending than it does after the climb. I always prefer to come down things with lots of snow so I can glissade 🙂

  7. Is glissade a technical term for ‘sliding down a steep slope on your bum whilst screaming’?

    • Rebecca Douglass permalink


      Though I like to add in an ice-axe for control. Though to be honest, I haven’t done that kind of climbing in over 20 years. I probably would find now that I’m going downhill fast enough without adding in snow and ice.

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