For the first few days of our hiking tour in the Scottish highlands we were treated to the delightful debris of Hurricane Katia, she was past her worst by the time we started out, but according to the news her winds were still at Hurricane strength as she trailed her tail across Ireland and the United Kingdom.
After three months of sunshine and two weeks of fairly mild weather in England I admit to standing miserably at the summit of Ben A'an on the first day. The climb itself was no problem, but once the momentum of moving uphill ceased I struggled to enjoy having gained the summit because I was positively freezing to death. While we ate a hasty lunch, and peered out at the misty 'views' the catch-phrase that would stay with us for the next few days was formed- 'Just imagine what this must look like when it is clear', we said to each other again and again.
There was plenty of mud going up and down, powerful wind gusts to greet us at the top and power outages on the ground. And yet after a pub meal, a whisky, and a warm nights sleep we picked up our damp shoes and our not so fresh socks and did it all over again; and again and again.
There are things that help with achieving impossible tasks:
Tip 1. Knowing very little about the challenges ahead of you helps, not knowing the weather report is essential, I took to scowling at people who tried to tell me about wind speeds and rain predictions.
Tip 2. Reminding yourself that it is no use sitting in a puddle half way down a mountain when you could be sitting in the pub is a very good motivator.
Tip 3. As long as you start in ignorance of the conditions ahead it is quite possible to finish the challenge despite all indicators that what you are doing is positively bonkers.
Tip 4. If you are being laughed at by your B&B hosts as you head out the door for a days local walking slam the door in their faces and run outside into the rain, the fierce wind will give your door slamming great theatrical impact.
Tip 5. Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing la la la also helps with all sorts of impossibly tricky situations.
Luckily my physical stamina now that I am in a cooler climate is actually quite good- so on the second (very rainy) day despite having a cold, permanently running nose, no hanky, no waterproof pants, sodden boots and a rather damp raincoat the steep assent did not tax me that much. In fact I found myself happily munching my sandwich as I climbed, still managing upward momentum and breathing! Although some of my more lightweight companions found themselves almost blown off the rock I was able to hold my ground.
We could not reach the actual summit on our second day- due to the aforementioned hurricane- but a brave few made it up the steep rocky steps and managed to gain the saddle - where we were treated to more views that would have been great if only we could see them.
The return journey that day- with swollen rivers to cross, paths that were no longer paths but streams, water oozing out of my boots and every bit of me sodden through was a long slog; especially once we got back to sea level and made our way around the swollen Loch which spewed salty debris and tricked me into believing I was closer to home than I really was.
Tip 5. Giggling hysterically helps- preferably with a fellow walker.
Tip 6. Waterproof pants are ugly but they are your friend. In my under prepared walking kit I got drenched through for the first two days until a kind soul lent me her spare waterproof pants.
And then somehow not just the hurricane, but two whole weeks had passed and the impossible was ticked off our to do list. We had walked up to the mist cloaked summit of Ben Nevis, hopped across bogs to the windy Rau Reidh Lighthouse, clambered up to glacial lakes, dipped our toes in the ocean, warmed our bellies with Cullen Skink, clambered up many hills, seen more rainbows than we could tolerate, walked through the never ending beauty of the Isle of Skye, seen lush fairytale green hills sitting high in the clouds and smiled all the way.
|at the misty summit of Ben Nevis|
|sun on the way back home- down Ben Nevis|
Tip 7. Remember the why:
For me the why is the fact that seeing what is over the next horizon can make my heart sing; and once the idea of that unknown horizon is in your head you cant not put your boots on and head out there- even if it is into the driving rain. After all, some days the sun does come out, the mist does clear and there it is that view you have been searching for. And it is glorious.
Big love to Walkabout Scotland and all my fellow impossible adventurers who know what it is to climb a mountain in a hurricane and live to tell the tale.