I walked out of my front door for the first time, age 14, with 75-litres’ worth of kit on my back and made a bee line for Exmoor carrying a change of jeans, a clutch of Pot Noodle and four spare litres of water (“just in case”). Our mileage as a group was low but the distance I travelled as an individual was significant.
I walked on to the highlands, up Ben Nevis for the first time and along the West Highland Way, fighting my way against moor and midges. Winter arrived and to Dartmoor I went – “Will you be warm enough?” my mum prudently asked, “Yes!” I petulantly replied though, of course, a more accurate answer would have been “No”. But shivering through the night prepared me in its own way for the next step.
Into a crevasse.
I extricated myself from the chasm of my alpine training trip and continued my walking in Kyrgyzstan, up the Inylchek valley, hauling ropes, axes and crampons, as well as food, in the dry heat of the day, waist deep through glacial melt and crevasse hopping over the moraine.
I pressed onwards to the Sultanate of Oman where the ground beneath my feet turned from snow to sand and I set my compass east across the unrelenting dunes of the desert, climbing and falling with the regularity of breaking waves until sand gave way to gravel and gravel gave way to tarmac.
The road led me next to Patagonia and my feet picked up again where the hitching ended at the Pacific coast, and I marched to the beat of a deadline in the heat and dust and wind, ceaseless in its efforts to remove any sense of tranquility that my surroundings might otherwise have inspired at the time and only now manage to do with the benefit of hindsight.
It has been long journey from the teenager lugging an oversized pack across Exmoor to the adult twice his age lugging an oversized pack across Patagonia but I have enjoyed every step of the way, even if I didn’t realise it at the time.
I am looking forward to where that next step takes me.
A version of this article originally appeared at UKHillWalking.com.