As regular readers will know, I’m currently supposed to be walking the West Highland Way, as of yesterday.
As is becoming the norm for me, things haven’t gone to plan. About 3 miles before reaching Drymen, I started to get the now familiar twinge of pain in my hip area. The further I walked, the worse it got. When I reached the tarmac section for the last two miles walking in to Drymen, it was pretty excruciating.
In the end, I had to give in, so phoned for a lift out. I’m now writing this blog on my tablet, at home, while feeling a little bit despondent – particularly as the pain has subsided, as is normally the case with this.
Fixing the problem
I’m currently waiting on the healthcare people to call me back and confirm my appointment with the physiotherapist. Hopefully he’ll have some ideas and suggestions. However, I’ve had physiotherapy before, and while it does seem to work for a couple of months, the pain does seem to return in the long term.
As the pain only seems to occur when carrying loads or when doing sustained uphill or downhill (but the latter is also intermittent… It doesn’t always happen on a hill walk), the solution may be to lighten up further. Not that easy, without giving up on comfort while on the trail. I also don’t want to spend my whole life in the glens, and never risking going up the hills.
If there was one specific cause, it’d be easy to deal with, but it happens when wearing boots or shoes, with a variety of different packs, over short (5-6 miles) or long distances, it happens whether I’m using poles or not. It simply isn’t that easy a problem to fix.
I refuse to give up on backpacking completely. I simply won’t let that happen. I’d be lost without my escapes to the countryside… They’re probably the thing that keeps me sane. I’ve said several times to Janie that hiking and backpacking isn’t so much a want as a need for me. It helps me clear my head, get rid of any stresses, etc. Both my physical and mental health depend on it.
So what can I do?
Assuming this is going to be a problem for the foreseeable future, and that it isn’t going to be cured (you never know, it might!), there are a few options open to me.
1. Lighten up.
I could reduce the actual backpacking to overnighters, in glens, in the warmer months of the year. That way I could significantly reduce the pack weight.
As an example, let’s assume an Osprey Exos 34 pack (something I’ve been wanting to look into for overnighters. Still trying to find a place I can try one, though!), 1kg weight (size large)
Sleeping bag, 650g, mat, 397g, stove + fuel 700g, food, 400g, waterproofs, 620g, torch, 121g, first aid kit, 300g, Scarp 1, 1.5kg, approx.
That’d be a total pack weight of about 6-6.5kg (with water added)
I’m reasonably confident that I’d be able to cope with that on an overnighter. It would mean I’d still be able to enjoy some of the best walking about… Walks such as Corrour – Dalwhinnie, Fort William – Corrour, Kinlochleven – Corrour, the Minigaig pass, etc will all still be options for me.
2. Have a base camp
I’ve just obtained a new 5 man tent, which I can stand up in, for campsite camping. I could use this as a base, and just go for day hikes from there. There are several campsites in the UK which will give me local access to hills, whilst maintaining a base. It also means that if I do suffer pain, it’ll be easier, and more comfortable to have days off and arrange other plans while I recover.
3. Day hikes
Clearly, this is linked to the base camp idea, but also, standalone day hikes will still get me out and about and into the countryside, without having to be as heavily burdened
4. Hostels, Bunkhouses & B&Bs
A lot of walks (admittedly, not in the most remote areas) can be planned so that stopping points can be at hostels or the like. By doing this, I’d be able to do multi day hikes, without excessive weight, as no need to carry tent, stove, etc. The obvious drawback to this, as a plan, is the expense. It’s definitely not going to be a cheap way to travel!
5. Courier services
This is something I considered switching to yesterday, but didn’t have any sort of day pack with me. Basically, a lot of the more commercial and popular hiking trails offer baggage transfer options, where they’ll courier your gear to your next stopping point. This would mean the West Highland Way, Great Glen Way, Cateran Trail and the like would still be options… And it would work out cheaper than the hostel/bunkhouse route, too.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’ve done a fair amount of thinking since I got home yesterday. Yes, I’m still pissed that I’m at home, but I know that this thing isn’t going to get the best of me. It’s not going to stop me getting out on the hills or out on long distance trails. There are options available to me. Yes, in some cases, they are more expensive, and as a poor guy, that makes the opportunities to partake of them more limited, but that just means they’ll be more of an event when I do them!