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So, I’m proposing that Hiking sucks. I’m sure the members of the long-socked community will be up in arms about this article… But as they are probably in a field somewhere with no access to the internet, who cares! For the rest of us, comfortably enjoying the wonders of technology, let me expand on why hiking is the target of my rage.
Before I get started, I should qualify something. I’m talking about real hiking, in the wilderness. Not just grabbing a bottle of water and following a man made walkway around a small section of woodland near your house. I don’t mind a casual stroll through the countryside. In fact, there is nothing like a cold beer after a bit of a walk. Wilderness hiking, however, is a whole different ball game.
Here are 8 common ways hikers justify their insane pastime and my reasons why they are wrong because, hiking sucks.
1. Getting back to nature?
Mankind has spent thousands of years inventing ways to get us further away from nature and now hikers want to go back? I love a good landscape, but why would I want to develop blisters in order to see one when there are plenty available by road.
In fact, our last trip to Mongolia proved that their popular transport option, the Russian military van, can negotiate any terrain. The only people hiking there for “fun” were foreigners. Mongolian tourists drive to see things, or take a horse.
2. It’s a bonding experience?
Being bonded in misery and hardship is not the sort of bonding experience I’d recommend. There are plenty of bonding opportunities available at the pub, a place where they have chairs that won’t make the seat of your pants soggy when you sit down.
3. It’s all about the journey?
Hikers talk about the journey, the adventure, getting somewhere amazing using only the power of their two feet. Lets face it, unless you hike naked, catch all your own food and light your campfire with 2 sticks you are, to some extent, using technology to aid you in your noble quest. Why not take full advantage and drive? Stay in a warm hostel rather than a tent. Shower in water that is more than 2 degrees above freezing.
There are plenty of journeys through this world that, thanks to modern transportation, don’t involve hiking. Try the trans-Siberian railway instead.
4. The sense of freedom in isolation?
Being the only person, or persons, alone in an empty wilderness can be quite a liberating experience. For a start, you can go to the bathroom wherever you like… And then someone else turns up and ruins it. You can walk to the ends of the earth and there will almost certainly be some Germans already there and they will have reserved the available sun loungers/comfortable rocks.
5. The reward of overcoming challenges?
As one hiking friend informed me, “I almost died on a mountain hike once”. As Nietzsche said, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. What people fail to learn from this is the antithesis: “Whatever DOES kill me, makes me dead”. There are plenty of challenges in life that are rewarding which don’t significantly increase your chances of mortality, such as winning at air hockey.
6. Being the first person to visit somewhere on foot?
Scott of the Antarctic died trying to reach the south pole. It seems to me if he’d waited a few years until they invented the skidoo, he’d probably have been a little more successful and could have retired gracefully from the exploring business and made a fortune on the lecture circuit.
Exploration has been a cornerstone of human progress throughout the ages but the most successful explorers made use of the best technology available to achieve their goals. Columbus had his ship. Jaques Cousteau had his diving gear. Even Tin-Tin used a variety of motorised transport.
What is the big deal about walking to places?
7. To bask in the glory of my achievement?
How rewarding it must feel to purposefully put yourself through hours of cold, wet misery in order to see a couple of sheep by some lake that most people don’t bother visiting because its bloody miles away from the nearest pub.
You can brag to all your mates about the blisters, not being able to wash for days and about just how glorious that sheep really was.
More importantly, whilst they were watching re-runs of Friends on TV, you were trying to use your numbly cold hands to get some wet firewood to light so that you could heat up a tin of baked beans. Yes, well done, you have led a more successful life.
8. For the rewards at the end of the trail?
We accidentally found ourselves on a 9 hour hike on our last trip to Mongolia. Basically, as foreigners, allegedly, we were not allowed to drive to the glacier in the Tavan Bogd national park.
As we walked we were passed by van loads of Mongolian tourists waving and laughing at us, warm inside their 4×4’s. It turned out there was no pub in the Mongolian wilderness, only potential hypothermia and endless grassland hills for 9 hours with just one sightseeing spot. I’m not saying the glacier wasn’t a spectacular site, just that I was in no mood to truly enjoy the majesty of the view.
You can hike to Everest base camp in Nepal, it takes days and the trail is rammed with tourists. Alternatively you can go to Tibet and drive most of the way to the other side of Everest where you not only get clearer views but are disturbed by less tourists.
My point is, why hike? If your reason is to see amazing things and avoid the crowds, there are plenty of options out there that don’t involve ruining your shoes.
Here is a picture of somewhere awesome that I got to on public transport:
Here is a photo of the glacier that almost led to frostbitten feet. Aside from a few wild flowers and a yak we didn’t see anything else noteworthy for the whole 9 hour hike.
There will always be hiking fans and there may even always be places only accessible by foot that are, for some reason, so much more important to tick off the bucket list than those with easier access. Regardless, the hikers can keep their cold mountain trails, I’m off for a beer because hiking sucks!
What’s your opinion on hiking? Leave me a comment – I dare you!