The Angry Corrie 10: Dec 1992-Jan 1993

Sassenach woman hits the hills

I moved up to Scotland three years ago after fourteen years of dirt and noise in London. I warned my husband then that I wanted to do regular hill walking. If he didn't want to accompany me I would seek other walking companions. So that's what I did. I asked friends who usually went as a couple or with others whether I could join them, then got into a routine of walking at weekends.

Since then I have paired up with another female friend and we often go together or, with a third member, an all women threesome. We all enjoy this very much, not only the walking, which is wonderful, but the absence, for a change, of bearded companions. A bearded friend once said: "Why is it that the women always walk 50 paces behind the men?" to which I replied: "It's because the men walk 50 paces ahead of the women". Our pace is more relaxed with lots of time for admiring the view, speculating over wildflowers - they never look the same in the wildflower book do they - and birds, most prevalent of which is the ISB, or indistinguishable Scottish bird.

Navigation is a problem for a lot of women, and may put you off getting out on the hills. This is because in any navigation situation - in the car or on the hill - there is always a guy that has been a boy scout or knows how to do it more efficiently / quickly than you.

There are various courses you can do. Shops selling the gear usually have details, so check it out. You can always buy a book. There are often group guided walks available too if you don't want to go out on your own. And don't let the guys do all the work on navigation! Buy your own maps and get used to using them. Learn how to use a compass and insist on using it - preferably in good weather at first to build up your confidence.

A couple of months ago my two women friends and I did Beinn Luibhean and Beinn Ime. There was snow over about 2,000 feet and thick mist with snow showers. We slogged up Beinn Luibhean. In the ice and snow this required all fours near the craggy summit. Then we had to take a compass bearing - Oh God, do we trust our navigational skills? Happily we were fine - we took the correct route down to the col then up Beinn Ime across some very intrepid snowy bits (the path was not visible in these conditions). At the end of the day we felt pleased with ourselves - we had trusted the compass and succeeded.

After reading Muriel Gray's The First Fifty, I was inspired to try a walk by myself. I chose Ptarmigan Ridge on a sunny January day and had a wonderful time. The pace was mine, no hurrying to catch up or slowing to match others' pace and a rest whenever I wanted it. I know Ptarmigan is not one of the most taxing of hills, but I had to negotiate icy bits and choose my route down. I got a real buzz out of walking alone. Sure, you miss the blether but on a fine Sunday there are lots of people to chat to if desired and a real sense of personal achievement.

So, ladies, don't let your couch potato husband / partner stop you from enjoying the hills - get out there!

words & pic - Donna McShiel

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