My apologies for holding back on this one.
I've been thinking about this day for a long, long time. As you can imagine, it sometimes seemed unbelievably out of reach, the idea of Ben Hope a distant dream. In the last few weeks of the Munro Round, I suddenly realised it was close and I was going to make it. In the last few days, it was of course, just around the corner. Talk about stuff creeping up...
The hills were desolate the morning of Ben Hope, the air drizzly, still, midgy. It was surreal to arrive at the bottom of Ben Hope and find the car park rammed with cars - whoa. It turned out that a fair few folk had turned out despite the fact my chosen last Munro was right at the top of Scotland! Everyone who came, expected and unexpected; I appreciate it much.
It was a sizable crowd who started off up Ben Hope. Rain at first; the midges were everywhere; but it eased and the skies lightened. Exactly what I wanted for my final Munro. We got up the first steep bit, and on the long gradual climb to the top.
Ben Hope was to be one of the easier Munros of my trip and this seemed fitting for my last one. As much as anything it was Munro everyone could do.The experience was a little surreal: I was well aware that I'd thought about this day pretty much every day for the last two years. Now that I was here, that huge passage of time didn't register in my head beyond rational understanding.
Even in the last days of the Round, I didn't have a sense of the aftermath, it just felt like I'd keep walking and walking. I didn't have a sense of disappointment that the end had come, I only felt that things had run their course, the goal had been achieved and it would be good to focus on something else for a while.
The mist came down and a bit of rain started, but it was all harmless stuff. There almost wasn't a breath of wind. Then, the trig point came into view not far ahead; 100m or so. I stood and waited as folk gathered at the top, waiting for those who were behind. I wouldn't want them to miss the moment, having come so far. When everyone was up, I walked over, then jogged up to the trig and gave it a very satisfying smack on top.
282 Munros in 98 days - finally done.
|Top of Ben Hope. Me with the silly hat! (See blog post #1)|
PHOTO CREDIT: Kev McKeown
So the time came to head off, I bounded off down my last hill, wondering where things will go next for me, thinking about how this really is the end of my trip. Then what...? It's a question I'm still mulling over several days later.
We all got back to Altnaharra - I stopped by the B&B then headed off to the Inn to see everyone. Thanks everyone who came up. It was great to see so many folk at the very north of Scotland for a summit which means so much to me.
In the beginning, this trip was naturally a gamble: I had no experience of something this big. I knew I wanted to do it, but didn't know if I really wanted the baggage that went along with that. With everything now complete, I can honestly say I've enjoyed it enough to think about doing something in a similar vein in the future. That isn't just in retrospect, I've had it in my head for a while. This trip was a taste of the long haul, the big push, and I enjoyed it a lot. Without a doubt it was seriously challenging, but I learned to deal with pressing issues, gained control over stray emotion through self-awareness and positive introspection. I greatly enjoyed the focus, which I now realise made mountain climbing easier than it'd otherwise be by taking away the temptation to take the easier option (thus fail). My estimations would say it was a 10% physical, 90% mental challenge by the end.
Naturally, I'm left thinking; "where next?". I've learnt so much about myself that I can place myself doing things that weren't on the radar before; but I couldn't say too much about that now. I have thoughts!
In the next post; some thanks (probably quite a lot), some meaty stats no doubt, and more Munros...