1 Gnarly hands
The strong, calloused digits of habitual crag-scratchers, each with about as much crushing force as one of your mere mortal’s thighs, offer a far more impressive giveaway to growly capability than, say, a ballet dancer’s bunions might. And don’t try to win the ‘I can squeeze harder’ handshake contest. You just can’t, all right?
2 The Ordnance Survey
Do you realise the Antwerp diamond-cutter detail with which a GPS-backpack wearing, surveying-stick wielding OS ground trooper has to examine the orientation, contour strike and lateral proliferation of a drystone wall before it merits a thin black line on one of their map sheets? And all just so we can stub a digit at it and grunt “Uh – there’s a wall there.”
3 A Munro Compleater certificate
If you are enough of a legend to actually get one of these revered items, then display it next to a jaggedy picture of the Black Cuillin. This will give all who look at it an idea what a huge, huge body of experience those 284 mountains have now soldered onto your soul. And it will also distract from the fact that – to those who weren’t born in 1856 – the crowning achievement of your hill-walking career has a vital word spelt wrong.
4 Eric Jones
We’re sorry, but a geezer who once soloed the north face of The Eiger, claimed several first ascents in Patagonia, took up base jumping in his fifties, and is now dedicating much of his time to cheerfully donning a pinny and serving fine bacon butties to outdoor enthusiasts in deepest Snowdonia deserves an effing throne. Mr Jones – sir – you’re our hero. Hey, hey – easy on the brown sauce, there…
5 Buying the first round
Your walk is over. You’re knackered. You sway into the pub, sweat vapour filling your nostrils, your feet are about to give way, your wallet is somewhere at the bottom of your ‘sack, drenched – then someone makes your day with one simple syllable: “Pint?”
6 A really busted-up Sigg bottle
Like yellowing teeth or crow’s feet, your Sigg bottle bears lasting testament to the life you have led. Yes, the water that drips from it may look like it’s drained from a rooftop sump, and anything that goes in comes out tasting mystifyingly of meths – but feel the vintage…
7 A talent for downplay
There’s something about being on the hill in the dark – having lost your map, broken your leg and run out of food in a frigid wind stiff enough to reset Michael Jackson’s face – with someone who breezily considers the situation “a bit crap, aye” that makes you feel safe. They’ve been in worse. And survived. This is nothing. No worries. By tomorrow, you’ll both have a cooked brekkie inside of you. Of course, when said stoic hero grits their teeth and proclaims things “grim”, you’re really stuffed…
8 A scar
Yeah, it’s obvious and a bit immature. But there’s just something about a proper ‘story’ scar that makes us wish we had a horrible disfigurement of equivalent anecdotal prestige. If for nothing else, then to bolster your futile attempt at comparison when you reveal the raggedly-healed incision from ‘98 when some kid on a bike… oh, it’s gone. Must have ‘tanned over’ while you were in Tenerife…
9 A mapless knowledge of the Lakeland road system
“Yep, I’ve been here more times than I can remember. Know these roads better than my bathroom, I do. Oh, there’s old Larry on his bike. Wave to Larry! Where are we going again? Eskdale? Ah, don’t worry about the map – I know a short cut…”
10 A recommendation for a Kathmandu dentist
It doesn’t even have to be a good dentist. He could be the most sinister, hacksaw-happy drillsman east of Afghanistan, but purely by knowing he’s there at all, you’ve suddenly proven you not only have an effortlessly casual familiarity with trekking’s capital, but probably an anecdote-heavy history of backstreet health emporia, and a chequered dental history that suggests hard living in high places. That, and you’ve suddenly become the one who ‘knows things.’ You’re a legend.
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