GRETA GARBO never had this problem. When she said she wanted to be alone, no one ever suggested it was because she had no mates.
So let’s get this straight - the reason I go out in the hills so often on my own is because I want to.
Nothing wrong with venturing out in a group every once in a while. But every time I go out in company I find myself pining for my next solo jaunt.
Nothing to do with being anti-social. It’s just that after so many years of heading out on my own at night and enjoying breakfast with the dawn rising as the only human for miles it feels strange hearing other voices. Apart from the ones in my head, at least.
There are many people who regard hill walking as a social gathering and many who feel safer being part of a group. I think it’s a great way to meet like-minded souls, and I would never suggest that we should all just go our own way.
But I’ve always maintained there’s a big difference between being alone and being lonely. So when it comes to the Scottish hills, just call me Greta Gabbro.
I am a member of six clubs or organisations and it’s good to get out there and catch up every once in a while. I also have friends I can team up with for a day’s outing.
But most of the time, when my friends are unable to get out, I am free to come and go as I please. And I do. If I had restricted myself to hill days when someone else was available I would have done less than one third of my tally.
Going out with others almost always involves some sort of compromise, and I’m afraid many years of just going my own way has made me a little selfish.
I always turn up on time and I am always ready to get going. I don’t expect to turn up at the allotted time and then have someone suggest we all go for a nice leisurely breakfast. That’s wasted time, another hour of the day lost.
My car is always packed and ready for a quick getaway. Shifting gear from car to car, driving out of the way to pick up passengers, toilet stops and coffee breaks - it all adds unnecessary angst to what should be a pleasurable activity.
I once waited for more than an hour in a car park for a walking partner. By the time they showed I had been about to leave. It was sunny when I got there but now it was raining. I seethed over that lost hour of good weather the rest of the day. Just as well we weren’t on a narrow ridge, no temptation.
When you are on the hill, democracy takes over. And the problem with democracy, as we all know, is that it gives everyone a vote. Even the most precisely planned expedition can go wrong when large numbers are involved. The famous Everest and K2 disasters are cases in point. The more people involved, the greater the risk of snafus.
Now I’m not of those people who strides off at his own pace leaving others to a fate unknown, even though, at times, it can be tempting. When you are out with anyone else, as a group or even just as a pair, you stick together.
But it can be faff a minute stuff; constant stopping to change layers of clothing, staggered toilet breaks and the seemingly never-ending eating fest.
Listen, when 90mph winds are driving freezing rain horizontally into every part of my body, I don’t want to stop for a sandwich.
I don’t want a vote on whether I would like to turn back. If I wish to turn back, I will.
I don’t anyone else to decide my start and stop times. If I wish to go off and do other hills I will and if I to come down in the dark that’s up to me. Basically, I want to make all my own decisions.
And I certainly don’t want a bloody sandwich during a monsoon, thank you.