Electronic Design
What’s All This Solo Hiking Stuff, Anyhow? (Part 2)

What’s All This Solo Hiking Stuff, Anyhow? (Part 2)

\\[ Editor’s Note: While Bob Pease passed away on June 18, he was working on the drafts of several additional columns before he died. We will continue to share his work with you, since there’s always one more story.\\]

There are some places I really don’t want to hike solo. I like to minimize it in the winter, or in treacherous territory, or in a cave. Yet there are some places where you have to hike solo.

If you’re hiking in a duo, and one person gets hurt, the other person will usually go for help. But what if it’s nearly dark, and the good hiker has no confidence he can get help? He might stay and help light a fire, etc., and go in the morning.

If you’re hiking in a group of three, and someone gets hurt or disabled, one person can stay with the hurt person, and the third person will usually go for help, subject to the limitations above. I usually like the feeling of hiking solo, though, except in the cases noted above. I may not like it, but I can do it.

I have hiked in duos in the winter, with my wife or another friend. It’s a risk I’ll consider, even three or four miles from roads. I prefer hiking in a duo when the countryside is really rough and obscure. The walking is challenging enough, so even sharing the concerns with another person, it can be risky!

Wild Welsh Weather

One time I was hiking with Nancy with HF Holidays in Wales, about 2004. She went on an easy hike and I took the tougher hike, up Carnedd Davydd (dd is pronounced th in Welsh), about 10 miles east of Snowdon. It was off the A5, southwest of Conwy Wales by about 17 miles. It was going to be an easy ridge-top loop.

The first mile was easy on a lane, and then up to a quarry. A bit of clambering, steep, and then up onto a ridge. The wind picked up. A lot. Soon, we were staggering in the high wind. I had a hiking stick, and it was still shaky. The women, being lighter, were in a worse problem, and we held their hands. The wind got worse. The clouds were whipping past.

It was well above 50 or 60 mph. It could have been up to 70 or 80 or more. There was no way to judge. We finally found a small “corrie” where a sheep-herder had gathered a small ring of stones for him and his sheep to be protected from just such blows. We hunkered down.

After a half hour, the wind was not abating. We ate a snack. How could we get out? We didn’t like the way we’d come up. Could we bail over the edge to the north? We checked the map and ran some small experiments—yeah, we could.

We held hands and eased down. The winds were still high. After we got down 100 feet, the wind was slacking off. Lower, the wind became minor. We hiked down to the road, and the leader went to get our van. What a heck of a windy day! Nancy said the “easier” hike by the sea was very windy, too.

Seeing More Of Wales Solo

Eight days later, I went back up there, solo. I started up the same trail, and it went fine but there was no wind! It was warm and very cloudy/foggy, and as I came up by the corrie, the wind picked up to 1 mph. Since I was moving about 1 mph, I got quite warm, and my shirt was utterly, completely soaked from the sweat and the fog. But I could live with that.

Up on the ridge, I met a good bloke who knew the area and gave me some advice, and we walked a ways up to the top of the ridge, to the first hill, Carnedd Davydd, and then to the second, Carnedd Lewellyn. He continued south.

I wanted to walk east to a nearby third (unnamed) hill I had been hiking on, the other day, barely a half mile over. These trails and hills were not signed. But I had my GPS with me and it was working well, so I marked a waypoint there on the GPS. The view was perfectly socked in. Couldn’t see 80 feet.

I walked off to the east, down a shallow slant, where the trail was not well indicated. Hell, the trail petered out! I walked in the heavy mist and fog. It was a shallow saddle, not like a horse’s neck, but like an elephant’s broad back. I got to the third hill and then over to the stone hut where I had rested a week before. So I really did know exactly where I was. Then after a snack and a short rest, I started back.

When I came up to the third hill, I had made good mental notes on the lay of the land, and the lines of stones, so I thought I could find my way back to the second hill without any wear or tear on the GPS. I started back and soon got suspicious that I was not going the right way.

I turned on my GPS, which indicated that I was going off on a side angle, badly. The longer I walked, the crazier the angle to that waypoint became. I think that third hill went off onto four or five different shallow saddles. Would I trust the GPS?

I damn well did trust the GPS, and I went off in the direction it recommended, and the angle back to the second hill stayed steady. (My GPS does not show a compass setting, but if I am moving in a direction, it will indicate what that direction is.)

Every time I walked 100 feet in the right direction, the distance to the waypoint at the second hill decreased by “0.02 mile.” I finally snuck up on that second hill, and after a short rest, headed south, down and out. I came down out of the cloud and eventually got back to my car. Good tough day! Time to take my soaked shirt home to my cottage near Conwy.

If I’d gotten lost up there, or stuck in that hut, nobody knew where I was. If the wind had come up, or significant rain, while I was not on course, I had enough clothes to keep me warm, just barely. But nobody was going to come looking for me for a day or two. So I really had to be careful. That’s the consideration when hiking solo.

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