What lessons can be learned from hill walking?*1

Recently some friends and I completed the last leg of the coast-to-coast walk. The other three had completed all stages. Due to work commitments, I had missed two walks.

Due to our differing schedules, we had been walking Wainwright’s Coast to Coast over the last 18 months, we could only do this in short bursts of 1, 2 to 3 days. We had committed to completing the walk by Christmas 2016. As time was against us, it was important that we found for days in which to complete the walk.

This was agreed in August *2. Normally we would not have chosen December in which to walk. One of the major reason for doing these walks was the views. Despite this, and knowing that we could not legislate for the weather, we committed to walking for a period of four days.

On our journey North, we encountered a very bad storm; thunder, lightening, lashing rains and howling gale force winds. Whilst we still had time to postpone – we didn’t *3. Due to the technology and protection offered by the car we were safe and fully informed of the weather, outside temperature and traffic hazards whilst remaining immune to the effects of the storm whilst travelling.

This quickly changed when we stopped. As I got out of the car, it became apparent to me that I was unprepared (despite being “aware” *4) of the situation.

I immediately recognised some parallels here. The rain was now hitting my personal windscreen, my glasses. Despite taking a very short step, I was now feeling the full force of the wind and rain *5. This is different from being inside the car.

Being outside gave me a better opportunity to assess the environment in which I was in, rather than plan for the one that I was going to be in. *6

The weather for the four days walking can be characterised as follows; day one atrocious, day two slightly better but foggy. Days three and four were glorious, very cold bitter and wintry as was expected, but the views were stunning allowing us to complete the walk and celebrate our achievement.*7

On reflection, lessons were learnt during the walk as well *8. Having taken the time to reflect, I felt better and wiser for the effort. ****9, 10, 11, 12

Although completion “in time and on budget” was an achievement, the biggest lesson learned was about understanding and respecting the environment and the situation that I place myself in.

In insulated environment of the motorcar where technology protected me, I was completely unaware there of the effects of what was going on around me. Once in that environment it was about being prepared and resilient enough to being able to appreciate and assess and cope with whatever was happening.

1. Defined as “move at a regular pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once.”

2. The necessity of examining all options. Was it necessary to complete at that time of year?

3. Did the desire for an early completion overcome the reason for walking – the views?

4. With the benefit of hindsight, we did not examine the full implications of pressing. we succeeded by trusting our collective instincts

5. Be prepared – resilient enough – to deal with things that transpire because of decisions made based on information alone.

6.The situation can change very quickly – in this case, the time it took be to get out of the car.

7. “Once we landed, the plans we made for D Day were useless, but the planning was invaluable” General Eisenhower

8. The consensus (after day 2) was to power through despite uncertain weather predictions. Again, instinct and determination were key factors in the group decision.

9. Reflection is a powerful way to earn lessons from the past.

10. Being surrounded by nature in all its fine glory and immense fury is a great way to clear the mind of the mental baggage often a feature of busy people.

11. Walking occasionally in Indian fashion, (one behind the other) was always not easy. I still had to make my own journey.

12. Sometimes choosing my own path can also present hazards.

All Change:

Rob Knowles

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All Change:

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