Normally, when I’m out in the hills, I don’t worry too much about what the ground beneath my feet feels like. The earth I stand on is just sort of there, it’s usually pretty dependable and I take it for granted I can rely on it.
Right now, however, the one thing my mind is focussed on is what that ground is going to feel like. How jagged will the rocks be? How thick is the grass? The reason for my sudden interest is that I am likely to hit that ground, fairly hard, in a moment or two.
I spent last night, dreaming in front of the fire, at Uags bothy, on the coast a few miles south of the tiny Highland community of Applecross. Uags is a lovely little bothy, nestling in a small shingle cove. Just across the gently rolling green sea is the Isle of Skye, its skyline dominated by the dark jagged Cuillin hills. The place is quiet and tranquil; what could possibly go wrong?
I emerge from the bothy in the still, early morning air, my mind still fogged by sleep and lulled by the fumes of last night’s whisky. This, it transpires, is the moment gravity has been waiting for, it’s been stalking me for months and now it’s watching me like a lion in the long grass with its eyes fixed on an antelope on the Serengeti.
As I plod toward the small stream, to fill my kettle for my breakfast tea, I forget I’m not wearing my boots, in fact I’m still in my bothy slippers. I step on to the steep grassy bank beside the river, my slippers slip, and gravity breaks cover and pounces.
I’m in mid-air and horizontal long enough to be able to watch, with mild curiosity, as my kettle is flies upwards and somersaults toward the stream. Sadly, my flight is brief and I land beside the stream with a heavy, bone crunching, thud. On impact I notice my rib cage distort in an odd shape for a moment as the breath is driven out of me. My kettle bounces noisily off the rocks nearby.
Fortunately, the only thing that’s been dented in the fall, apart from my kettle, is my dignity. I am alone, as usual. I prefer to wander in wild places on my own, somehow it makes the relationship I have with the places I visit more profound, personal and intimate. I’m also a profoundly anti-social git. Getting stiffly back on to my feet I realise that this is first time I’ve fallen in a long time. There have been slips and trips a plenty, but I always had my boots on and my walking poles are great for arresting potential falls.
A broken bone here would not have been that serious as it is one of a few bothies situated in a place where there is a phone signal, something common in coastal bothies but rare higher in the hills. I realise I was careless, I bumbled right in to possible catastrophe. The solo traveller can’t let his guard down and I did. It has been a good lesson and one that will make me more careful on future lone bothy trips.
I don’t do gear reviews as a rule but I thought I might try one now, let me know if you find it helpful. One of the best pieces of outdoor kit I’ve purchased in recent years is my Paramo Cascada trousers. I heartily recommend them. They are incredibly comfortable even though at first glance you would think they are over trousers.
I hate wearing over trousers, they are always hot, uncomfortable heavy and restrictive. The Cascada pants couldn’t be more different. They are waterproof yet so comfortable you can wear them most of the time. The only disadvantage I find is that, when it rains, you have to stop and wait while your mates put on their over trousers. In Cascada pants you can just keep walking.
I’ve added a pair of SAS military grade braces to mine, the sort that will keep your trousers up during artillery fire, and I find that means that the pants move with you and don’t get pushed down when you are wearing a heavy rucksack.
The only problems with them I’ve found is that during rainstorms of biblical proportions my (Errr) ‘gentleman’s area’ can get wet. This has only happened once and I was wearing non-wicking cotton underpants at the time. I’ve now bought Paramo underwear and it’s not happened since. The only other problem has occurred under similar conditions when I tuck the trousers inside my gaiters water tends to run down the trousers, into the gaiters and end up in my boots.
Most of the time, these pants are windproof and waterproof with ventilation zips down the legs that are also very handy for the odd scratch or two. One other note is that I managed to get a small tear in the trousers. I contacted Paramo and they sent me material to fix the damage free the very next day. Great service!
Check the pants out here http://www.paramo-clothing.com/en-gb/explore-range/product/?pk=86D49755-A4C2-415B-9C34-B357C3FD6878
Just a tip if you want to go to Uags, make sure you get to the place in day light. In places the path is very hard to follow even during the day and it’s hidden by a small wood that would make it a nightmare to locate in the dark. I walked out of Uags with no problem but the following day the bruising in my ribs took hold and I couldn’t laugh for three days.
Then again that wasn’t too much of a problem as it hurt so much I couldn’t find anything funny enough to laugh at.