In my minds eye I am a rugged backpacker effortlessly eating up the miles and powering up mountains to reach my distant destination. In reality I am that slightly tired bloke sitting on a rock thinking that I really should get going and walk those miles. In the distance I can see the mountain that I planned to climb but it looks much much bigger and steeper than I imagined it would have done from reading the map.
Reading up on other peoples backpacking exploits I have started to feel that maybe I am just a little lazy. I read of all of those 15 mile days people do, when I often find that after about 8 miles I fancy my dinner and a bit of a snooze. I decided not to apply for the TGO challenge this year because of the chunk of time it would take out of my holiday entitlement. I have a deep sneaky suspicion at the back of my mind that it is also because I am just a little lazy. What happens on day 4 of the challenge when you decide you really can’t be bothered with all that walking business and just want to burn wood on the bothy fire? What happens when you feel like that a couple of days later as well?!
I have often read that the main reason for lightening your backpacking load is so that you can walk further and quicker. I have to admit to lightening my load simply because it is lighter! A lighter pack means that I fall over less.
Being in the hills and the wild places for me is one of my favourite things, its just that what I plan to do and actually end up doing are often very different. I can remember a trip I did to the Monadhliath a few years ago that turned into a real slackpacking trip. At the planning stage I was looking at all those empty miles and devised a long route across the hills. In reality I got off of the train at Newtonmore and walked up Glen Banchor, when only a few miles up the valley I found a rather lovely bothy. Ok it was still early but was a splendid place to spend the night and I was looking forward to reading my book. The next day I managed my shortest backpacking day ever, a mammoth 2 miles to the high col above Dudh loch. I had not planned to camp so early or at that location, it was just that it was such a cracking spot and I really fancied laying down to read my book…………….The next day I managed 5 miles and spotted another bothy, you get the picture!
In a weeks time I will be on Islay and then Jura. I have a 3 day 30 mile backpack planned on Jura over some of the toughest remotest terrain available in the UK. No paths, no people, just tussocks, boulders, cliffs and probably a screaming gale. The first night will be spent at a really remote coastal bothy with the second night wild camping on a beach 10 miles away. Well that is the plan. Will reality see me spending day 2 looking for driftwood and shuffling around the bothy or will I be striding purposely across the tussocky moors. Will I be a backpacker or a slackpacker?
How would you define yourself?