Today I write with great care. Of late I've found myself researching the concept and definition of libel, hence my caution. I have sought legal advice before publishing this. I'll stick to facts and try not to let my emotions get the better of me. Those close to us will know much of what follows but I feel the need to share it with you all.
Stephanie Hakin seems to prefer to be known, for some reason, as Rucksack Rose. I don't like referring to folk by pseudonyms. I'll stick with what I assume to be her real name.
Chrissie and I met Stephanie back in 2014. She had publicly asked for help, on her blog, with wild camping. Chrissie is the very epitome of kindness where requests like this are concerned, so she volunteered her help. I'll not retell the whole tale again here. Many know it already. You can find it on Stephanie's Rucksack Rose blog, under "Camps", following the link to "Wideopen Hill", told in Stephanie's words. Though please be aware, by the time you go to read it, it may well have been edited or deleted (see para.5 below).
Stephanie maintains Chrissie abandoned her on a wild camp, when they were in a field, on the lower slopes of Wideopen Hill on St.Cuthbert's Way. In fact, Chrissie did refuse Stephanie's request to call for mountain rescue. Chrissie was convinced, with significant mountain rescue casualty-care experience (being trained to paramedic standard) Stephanie was suffering from a panic attack. She was worrying about her father being on his own, worrying she had no mobile signal, worrying she may develop a migraine in the night and even, at one stage, admitting to the fact that she was panicking. Stephanie later changed this to a self-diagnosis of "sunstroke" (cured by a cup of tea and a bed, in a pub) in her retelling of the story.
Stephanie, from that day to this, seems to have held Chrissie and me responsible for many ills which have subsequently befallen her. This has led to many unpleasant comments being published, not only on her Rucksack Rose blog and Twitter account but also on another blog and Twitter account using her proper name. For reasons best known to herself, Stephanie frequently deletes things on Twitter and regularly "edits" blog posts having reconsidered her retelling of events.
To my great surprise Stephanie applied for the TGO Challenge in October last year and was accepted. For reasons I am not fully privy to she subsequently withdrew. Between applying and withdrawing I admit, along with others, to publicly stating my surprise at her actions in applying for the event. Thus it was that Chrissie and I were vilified by Stephanie for preventing her from entering the Challenge, (her interpretation, not mine).
We are both sensitive souls, but Chrissie especially so. Since that unfortunate night in 2014, Chrissie has searched her soul for reasons why it went wrong. Could she have handled Stephanie's fears better? Was she at fault? She has tortured herself with questions like these every time Stephanie sticks her head above the parapet. At best, this has led to sleepless nights and self-torment. At worst it's seen the two of us arguing. It threw a cloud over Chrissie's recent TGOC crossing, but her indomitable spirit saw her through. Chrissie really doesn't deserve this as a reward for responding to a plea for help, but there it is.
Through her blog, Stephanie portrays herself as a hillwalker (a status I remain unsure of) and would-be backpacker. She offers advice to readers of her blog on various subjects around hillwalking and backpacking. Being a newcomer, a learner, is fine, but as such, in my opinion, offering advice and claiming eligibility for the TGO Challenge is strange.
In recent weeks Stephanie admitted she recently called mountain rescue when she had a minor navigational problem on the Speyside Way. She found herself on the receiving end of many comments questioning and criticising her actions. She justified herself by claiming to be honest in admitting to this.
We and others are accused of being "trolls"...of abuse and unfounded negativity. It seems to me the words "troll" and "abuse" are much overused on the internet nowadays. And it's fair to say that Chrissie, I and others could equally claim to have been trolled and abused by Stephanie. Stephanie appears to secretly watch the Twitter accounts of Chrissie and I and the ever-expanding cohort of people she has now "blocked", reacting quickly on her own account to anything posted about her. We also watch her accounts, following legal advice to do so, lest she strays over the boundary into libel. Over the past months she often asked for advice online. All too often, she dislikes the advice and refuses offers of help. She threatens and accuses those who would help, then often blocks them.
Why am I raking this up? You may well ask. I and Chrissie would like nothing more than to never have any contact with Stephanie again. A number of friends have suggested we should refrain from reacting to her online. We've tried but it's difficult. Chrissie responds, rarely, out of frustration at being so badly misrepresented. I respond out of anger at my beloved's level of upset and hurt at the hands of this individual.
An evening early this week was lively on Twitter. A couple of folk expressed sympathy for Stephanie who, in the opinion of us and many others, seems a troubled soul. They are right to be sympathetic...but, revisiting Chrissie's reactions to all this over a long time, I find it hard to empathise. But I must, for the sake of mine and Chrissie's health and sanity, hence my writing this piece.
I write for two reasons. First, I needed to get some things off my chest. Clear the dust. Second, I have a plea. I now see the sense in not responding anymore. To quote a good friend, "...if there's a void of unresponsiveness to the bile, it leaves the bile pointless". So, I'm gonna let go and I'm making a sincere request for you to do the same. Many out there in Twitter land have been exceptionally kind in your support of us around this subject and we thank you for that. Often folk alert us to Stephanie's latest outburst. That, I'm sure, has been done in a spirit of support for us too and, again, we thank you. But, enough is enough and we desperately wish to be done with this now. So, hard though it may be, we're gonna follow his (and other friends') advice and ask you to consider doing the same.
I have no desire to defame Stephanie's character and wish her no further ill. I seek only to draw a line under this sorry affair.
Give it some thought please. It's not for me or Chrissie to tell, or even ask, you how to respond to any future comments, but do consider my friend's words. He's a wise man. I think he's right.
Bless all those of you we think of as friends and thanks for taking the time to read this.