10 things... that defy explanation

1 The logistics of trig points

Who carried them up there? Did they mix the cement in the wind and the rain and make them on the spot? Or did someone go to all the trouble and expense of chartering a helicopter to dump them up on top of the peak?


2 Magnetic variation

A great example of something made ‘easy’ by a pretty lil’ ditty that, when you think about it, rhymes both ways in about 60 different combinations. Which is just what you need in a stressful, life-or-death situation, isn’t it? ‘Grid from mag, add, mag from grid, get rid.’ Or is it ‘Mag to grid, add, grid to mag, get rid’… Or is it ‘Grid to mag, get rid, mag from grid, add.’ Or is it…”


3 Reinhold Messner’s hair (pictured)

Fair enough, the bloke’s been around a bit. All right, he’s so much of a legend he’s got three museums named after him. He’ll probably never be matched in his gritty mastery of single-handed mountain assassination. And he deserves everyone’s fawning affection, forever. But crikey, man – what is going on up there? 


4 The letters in grid references

Okay, so the Ns are in the north, and the Ss in the south. But hang on…there are some Hs up there. Ah, but that could mean the Hebrides. But what’s with the Ts in the east? Well, they could be…erm…well, it’s around Norfolk, so it could mean Tractors… and then there’s those second letters… well, if we start with X and move east…actually, no – don’t bother. In the end this is one of those great cataloguing systems that almost follows logical order, but includes just enough anti-logic to render it as outwardly impenetrable as backwards Thai.


5 Breathable fabric

Right: sweat can get out, but rain can’t get in? How does that work? No, put your little diagram away. How does it work? Does it know? Does it say to itself: “Okay, sweat. You can go. But make sure you don’t let that nasty rain in on your way out, you little scamp…”

> On the next page: the next 5 things, including waterfalls, climbing grades and kissing gates...

6 Waterfalls

We may be alone here, but don’t you think it’s extraordinary that even in hot weather, waterfalls just keep going? And going? And going? It can’t all be rain. We know there’s water in the ground ’n’ all, but still…


7 The stress capacity of tent poles

Never, ever let anyone under 7 stone try to put a DAK pole into the flysheet eyes of a Terra Nova Quasar. If it goes wrong and something slips, NASA will be monitoring a small, briefly oscillating new object in orbit.   


8 Kissing gates

Some things are just cruel. Did nature have to make lambs cute and delicious? Did the person who appointed the word ‘lisp’ deliberately tailor it so a sufferer couldn’t say it with dignity? And did whoever designed the kissing gate actually decide that what a walker really needs in the most spirit-crushing, emotionally fragile and physically crippled stage of a walk is to decipher a small logic puzzle in order to get home?


9 British climbing grades

We could have had a number scale like everyone else, wherein 1 = easy, 10 = instant death. But nooooo: instead we have the most peculiar, higgledy-piggledy collection of dramatic, nonsensical synonyms for ‘tricky’ that could be put in any order and still make grammatical sense to the casual observer. But it’s British. Which means it’s not daft. It’s eccentric. Or very daft /stupid (VD/S) to climbers. 


10 Hill-walking

“You climb hills? What, like, for no reason? Even steep ones? Dangerous ones? Not even to get some place? In the rain? And wind? All that way? Wearing a pack? Er, why?’ Well, yes. Because…um… ah, to hell with it. The world’s a twisted place – let’s just leave it at that…

More: 10 things...

...that demand respect
...that are extremely distressing
...that define a walker's winter
...that defy explanation
...every adventurer needs
...to always remember