Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

What I know about mountaineering you could write on the front of a postage stamp.

But I'm willing to bet Sir Edmund Hillary did not have bright pink, ergonomic insoles in his boots called 'Superfeet'.

I have. I was sold them along with vast amounts of other gear I'm fairly sure must be extraneous by the people at the intrepid outdoorsy store where I went to kit myself out for Kilimanjaro.

I'm afraid of intrepid outdoorsy stores.

They are full of long-haired, weather-beaten extreme para-snow boarders called Brad who look as if they would quite happily lop a finger off if it was frostbitten or just for a laugh to pass an idle hour if the apres-ski wasn't exciting enough. I am not intrepid. I don't know why I agreed to trudge up Kilimanjaro, or Kili as everyone intrepid seems to call it.

By the time you read this I will hopefully be halfway up. I say hopefully, not entirely because I want to climb a mountain, or because I don't want to embarrass myself too much now so many people have kindly sponsored me, or because I would like to raise a bit of money for the street children.

I have to admit it, my motives are not completely altruistic now. One of my main incentives is wanting to use all the gadgets I've been sold. It really isn't my fault. I blame Brad. I had no idea that 'mountaineering' - I put that in inverted commas because I'm telling myself it's really just a long walk, slightly uphill - involved quite so many bits and bobs.

It turns out that there are so many expensive, complicated gadgets you need to take with you to get up a mountain you can't possibly get them all up the mountain, even if you buy the biggest rucksack, with all the latest gadgetry for carrying gadgets. This is the Catch-22 of mountaineering. If you buy all the kit you are apparently supposed to have to prevent yourself perishing, you cannot possibly walk anywhere without perishing.

Weirdly, absolutely everything cost £100.

The specially designed, 'hydration compatible' day pack was £100, the collapsible walking poles were £100, the waterproof trousers were £100. Everything was £100: the ski glasses, the fleece, the trekking trousers, the trekking anorak, the Gortex mittens, the special pair of fleecy, thermal, waterproof slip-on shoes whose only but vital purpose appears to be to get you from your tent to your toilet arrangement in the night without having to put your boots on. …

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