CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (OF THE HERD KIND)
Properly equipped, you should by now be capable of tackling the freedom of the open footpath. However, the problem with the right to roam and the desire to tramp the hills without hindrance is that, once you remove the restrictions, it is not only hikers who can roam. Sheep can do it, too. To stop them straying too far, farmers build fences and walls and dig deep ditches. A hike thus becomes a full-blown obstacle course.
Very few hikers can negotiate a stile gracefully, so don’t even bother trying.
Traditional stiles are constructed from wood in a fence shape, with a plank supported on both sides to be used as a step. Sometimes tall stiles have two planks, offering two steps on either side. Never let the sight of more than one step lull you into a false sense of security, particularly if you’re male. The genital-preserving technique that all hardened hikers use is to ensure that the distance between the top of the highest step and the top of the stile is less than their inside leg measurement. Failure to do so could result in one singing ‘The Happy Wanderer’ several octaves higher at the end of the walk than at the beginning.
Adirondack Hiking Map Photo Gallery
Ladder stiles are used to negotiate taller boundaries, such as deer fencing or tall stone walls, and require the hiker to climb up to 3m (10ft) off the ground. This frequently sends hikers into a fearful tizzy because:
• Despite the fact that they enjoy climbing mountains of over 914m (3,000ft), climbing above the third rung of a ladder can still set off a chronic bout of vertigo.
• The top of a ladder stile is often exposed, meaning hikers with large rucksacks are prone to being blown to the other side of the valley by a rogue gust of wind.
• They often lead to arguments about how to descend the other side: by turning around and facing the ladder, or walking down the rungs as if they were a set of stairs. Experienced hikers always turn around and face the ladder for a secure descent. Those who treat them like stairs frequently slip, falling face-first into the inevitably waiting cowpat. Admittedly, this can be hugely entertaining.
Those of you with a technical bent will remember to add an extra allowance when calculating the total ascent and descent of a walk to take into account the number of ladder stiles encountered en route.
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