Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A retrospective

Time flies when you're not up hills. It's been a long time! I wrote bits of this a while ago, others more recently:


It's crazy to think a full *year* has elapsed since the start of my summer. I've not been short of stuff going on, but nothing thankfully as frantic as the summer of 2013. Following Ben Hope, the first thing I did was to get up the next day, and climb Ben Klibreck with Uncle Steve.

It was nice to climb a mountain instead of just going home immediately, but it struck me that things weren't quite the same. Without the ambition forcing me on, would it matter if I just stopped and turned around? I was climbing a mountain without so much purpose. A unique concept.

But following Klibreck, I did indeed jump in the car, and go home. There was plenty to go home to, but the future was also a bit of a blank canvas (filled now!) The Scottish mountains really had become a bit like 'home', but that's not surprising.

Arriving at Bonar Bridge was a culture shock, emerging back to civilisation and the associated busyness. Just a few days home, my good pal Dave suggested I was sounding a bit of a recluse; hmmm! I never felt the isolation was the reason, though. My summer on the Munros was hectic and rammed with things happening, but I think I tapped into a peace of those mountains. In the final days, I was sad to realise that the Highlands would no longer be normality. Trips would be justified by whether I could afford the petrol, and the north-west, which I'd come to know so well, would once again be a far-off land. Many months later; and that is indeed the case!

But when Lurg Mhor and A' Mhaighdean, two of the most remote Munros, become just a nice walk away, I think I've done pretty well for myself.

Time spent in the Highlands bred familiarity, and familiarity brought me to really feel at home in the places I was in. Enough time has now passed since Ben Hope that I've forgotten the struggles, stress, endless fatigue, worry, etc. You name it. It's the pleasure you remember, the hard stuff is mostly forgotten.

Other cool bits - Running down from the Inverlael/Ullapool hills in the sun, some 20 miles into my day and only a week from the end. Discovering the real Cairngorms (only took a few years). Being on the Cuillin crest in perfect weather. Crashing out at James' in Fort William and getting pizza, before rising to yet-another bleary-eyed, feeling-wasted morning. Soaking up the endless blue skies and seeing ranges come and go as one week melted into another.

And what for future ideas? Last summer I put myself up against things I've never had to before. And out of nowhere I'd find the solution, break a mental barrier and the subsequent days would flow by with an increased fluidity. The Munro Round forced the breaking of those barriers; the subsequent lightness is the reward. Three summers ago, I chucked the Southern Upland Way five days in, and at half-way, because the hard work and tedium was too much for an objective that I quickly realised didn't get me fired up. Surely it's worth finding that thing that really fires off the inspiration like no other, because that'll provide the stimulus to take things to the next level?


Everyone who I did hills with, in no other order than chronological: Dougie Blyth, Liam Dickson, Neil Allan, Lucas, Andy Brown, Uncle Steve, Peter Dorrington, Struan Mills, Andy Gray, Steve bro, my mum and dad who helped so much, Karl Markham, James Steele, Ian Rooney, Colin Lamont, Michael Kerrigan, James Seaman, Ailsa Macnab, Jo-lynne, Gerald (at Strathfarrar), Craig Pounder, Pete Swales, Sam Munro and David.

Everyone who joined me up Ben Hope: Struan, George, Ali, Michael K, Kev, Hazel, Rory, Liam, Neil, Abi, Barry, Julija, Andrei, Dougie, Karl, Alan, Steve (brother), Steve (Uncle), James S, Ian.

Loads of places kept food stashes for me too: The Rumblie in Laggan, the Kinlochewe campsite, Gerry's Hostel at Craig, Kintail Lodge Hotel, Cluanie Inn, Kinlochhourn tearoom + B&B, Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

Graeme Willgress for first showing me that the long journey and chill-out were compatible.
Keith Melton at Glencoe Independent Hostel for putting me up at the start, and just generally being brilliant.
Jen (and Steve) for that Kingshouse pizza double whammy
Ron, Pauline and Mark for that nice Killin meal. It made my day!
Anne Butler for the howff info
Jac Johnson for putting me up while I did the Angus glens
Fiona and George for Balblair
James for being allowing me to stay over; and
Ailsa for the note-on-the-car + sweets
Jenny at Corran for the waffles and tea on that stormy night. I must have looked knackered.
Lorraine McColl for meal, map and much inspiration. And the cup of tea on the way home after Ben Hope.
Neil Allan and Liam Dickson assisting so much in filming the action.
Barry Reid for "Off Up North"
Mum, dad and Steve for everything.


It took ages to work these out, but I finally got there. My total distance was 1948.8km, an estimated 120kms of those were on bike. Total ascent was 141,025m.

I spent 98 days all in all - 9 of those were rest days, and two days I went out and was turned back by weather/ground conditions (Bidean nam Bian and Seana Bhraigh). One day I did the walk into Barrisdale from Kinlochhourn but didn't climb anything. Thus 86 days were spent on the summits.

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