A Moan ....
For anyone who has spent any time hiking with the intention of reaching a hill or mountain summit, the following scenario will no doubt be familiar. Having laboured uphill, sometimes for many hours, you approach the top with a sense of anticipation, eagerly awaiting that magical moment when the forward view suddenly opens out to reveal a breathtaking panorama of distant peaks & plunging valleys. Your camera is at the ready and the weather is perfect. You finally get your first glimpse of the top and …..... suddenly you are confronted by a group of people sat smugly on the summit. They glance over at you with a ‘yep, we were here first’ expression and continue eating their lunch.
Having clearly established their ‘squatters rights’, you now have the problem of trying to get to the highest point without disturbing their picnic. All chances of an unimpeded photo have evaporated and that much anticipated image of the summit cairn in the foreground of a pristine backdrop now contains a barrage of brightly dressed folk and their kit. Overall it’s a most unsatisfactory conclusion to a long day’s hike.
For many people, the objective of a walk in the fells is to attain the highest point, to take the obligatory summit photo and then head back with a sense of rightful achievement. It’s a simple
pleasure but the highlight of the walk is the summit and a few hours of hard
labour are often spent in pursuit of those precious few moments at the top. How irritating therefore to find yourself facing the previous scenario.
Sometimes its lone walkers or couples but the most common offenders are the large groups who occupy summits while eating their lunch and with their gear strewn all over the place as if staging some sort of dirty protest. This is just thoughtless and inconsiderate behaviour. After all, we all want to get to the top, not ‘nearly the top’, but the actual top. We also all want a photograph to remember the day and the views. We don’t want our pictures to be collage of people in fluorescent Gore-Tex.
It needn’t be this way though. It is usually not difficult to find a quiet area just away from the true summit, out of sight and out of camera view. There is usually that nice flat spot just off to the side & sheltered from the wind. That is where to sit, to rest & to eat. Don’t perch stubbornly on the apex like an obnoxious child playing ‘king of the castle’. By all means enjoy a mountain top and linger there to your hearts content but when someone else turns up to stand happily on ‘their’ hard earned summit, don’t deny them the simple pleasure that you have just enjoyed. Please be a considerate hiker. Move Off. Don’t be a Summit Slug.
Perhaps I'm just being naive, grumpy or idealistic. It's almost certainly an unrealistic proposition to expect such etiqutte on the most popular UK summits (Scafell Pike, Coniston Old Man, Snowdon!) but for the majority of fell & mountain tops I think a little 'summit courtesy' would go a long way. Thanks for reading.
Comments and contrary opinions welcome.
Thanks for reading
I wrote a poem about this in May 2020. It called 'an ode to the summit slug' and you can read it here