In the spirit of personal responsibility on the hill – or perhaps just in keeping with standard DP practice – it seems incumbent upon me to share one or two top tips to avoiding schoolboy errors on the Scottish Hills, drawing upon my recent experiences in and around Glen Nevis:
1. Think twice before straight-lining it through a spruce forest, however short the distance may appear on the map; whilst heather will slow you down, Scottish pine is pretty much certain to bring you to a complete cursing halt sooner rather than later (particularly when wearing a large pack with ice axe);
2. When departing a munro summit in clag, should your compass indicate you are travelling in diametrically the wrong direction, do not simply assume that you have once again set your compass due south instead of due north and correct for this by turning the housing through 180 degrees without reference to the map; descending for half a mile down the wrong flank of the wrong ridge in the Mamores cannot be compared with travelling half a mile in the wrong direction on Kinder; it will almost certainly result in a complete change of plan for the day;
3. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you’ll just hang on until the rain stops before halting to get some food out of your pack; this will most likely lead to a bonk before the skies even begin to consider clearing;
4. Still not recognising after the umpteenth time on your arse that steep, green and a bit damp looking probably means darn slippy to boot is, well, a wee bit silly; and
5. If you have to take your mobile phone out of its waterproof cover in order to make a phone call, don’t then replace it, uncovered, into the Gortex pocket of your high quality Patagonia waterproof if said pocket has been unzipped for a period of time; the pool of water it has collected in the interim will wreck your phone, rendering you incapable of reporting the whole sorry story via facebook in real time.
On a more positive note, I cannot recommend highly enough the benefits of hostelling with the Paxmans in the Rucksack Club hut – steak, garlic potatoes and rhubarb crumble on night one, and lamb dhansak on night two, all washed down with respectable helpings of alcohol. So if you fancy joining Jim on his upcoming attempt at the Ramsay Round, well what are you waiting for? More details here.