11 things that are extremely distressing

1 Getting lost on Dartmoor

Like meeting a small, non-threatening shark while snorkelling, getting lost in England’s Biggest Wilderness™ is the ideal situation to experience then blow out of all proportion when you are modestly chuckling the story back to your mates. But both you and the ‘moor know what really happened out there. You cried, didn’t you?


2 Hearing a sheep at night

There is nothing – nothing – that has the potential for making the hairs on the back of your neck try desperately to uproot themselves and flee than the haunting bleat of Britain’s most frightening creature of the night. Which, when you think about it, is a bit pathetic.


3 Crossing a stream

Oh, sure – on the map it’s an innocuous wrinkle of blue, but stand next to it in the murk of an April spate and it’s a tumultuous hellhole that sounds like the universe exploding. And you may as well ignore the easy-as-Lionel Richie-sounding ‘stepping stones’: in reality, they’re slick, angled lumps of slippery horror that make you flail around after every step as if you’re being attacked by an invisible boxer. But wasn’t it funny when Roy fell in?


4 Going on a ridge when it’s a ‘bit blowy.’

“You know, we probably shouldn’t be up here in this sort of weather…” If matters get to the point where you have to say that, you’re probably right. Cue another fine mess you’ve gone and gotten yourself into.


5 Leaving your tent for a wee in the middle of the night

This is it. You can’t hold it. Every alternative means of relief has been considered, and discounted. Estimated in-out time window: four minutes. Four long minutes of either getting wet, cold, muddy, sighed irritably at for waking up Roy or so ridiculously creeped out that – for a minute – ‘going’ in your sleeping bag might even have been worth it.  

6 Losing your car keys in the middle of a walk 

On a normal walk, this is a calamity. On a linear walk, it’s a disaster comparable only to 1.) arriving at the airport without your passport, and 2.) global Armageddon. Don’t even try to think about retracing your steps over the 100 square kilometres of roughage you’ve just squiggled across. Instead, do what comes naturally: open your eyes to saucer-size, then smack your hands all over your body as if trying to put out a stray flame until you whack something knobbly. Aaaaand breathe…


7 Being looked at ‘all funny’ by a cow

So long as you’re not bothering it, if the thing has udders you’re probably all right. But there’s just something about receiving an askance eyeball by the living equivalent of a Sherman tank that makes you go into Jurassic Park mode as you hiss: “Don’t move, Roy – it can’t see us we don’t move…”


8 Forgetting the toilet paper

Reaching for a plump roll of Quilted Velvet after curling one out is a ritual you can take too much for granted – and it isn’t available in the wild. Hence a horrible moment of wide-eyed panic, frantic rummaging in ankle-heaped trouser pockets, and the subsequent defiling of a disintegrating, week-old Kleenex. Followed by a Tesco receipt.


9 Getting separated from your mate in the middle of a whiteout 

“Hey, Roy…Roy? Roy! ROY! ROYYYYYYYY! OH, MY G….ROYYYYYYYYYYYY! Oh, there you are. For a minute there I almost panicked…”


10 Realising you’ve forgotten the tent poles

That shrill cry of horror as you rummage increasingly frantically through your floppy tent bag won’t save you now. Either your campsite is located next to a convenient bamboo copse, or you’re in for a lonnnng night.


11 That really steep bit near the top

Hill-walking is like getting drunk in reverse – pain, followed by pleasure. Both, however, are worth it.

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