How it all began..
24 May 2008 was a good day. At 3pm or thereabouts, me and my husband were standing on the summit of Beinn Ime, our first Munro, together with his father who was tackling his first Munro in 30 years. We were all undoubtedly knackered, but happy.
I had realised about half of the way up that it was exactly four years since 24 May 2004. Sounds obvious but on that particular day, I was undergoing surgery on my back to fix a compression fracture of one of my lumbar vertebrae. I had fallen off a horse and landed awkwardly, and although I had been lucky enough not to suffer any spinal cord damage I needed to have two titanium plates and four screws fitted into my back to stabilise it. I also needed 3 months in a back brace, physiotherapy and 6 months off work. I’m fine now (most of the time – my back does play up now and again) but it seemed rather fitting that 4 years on to the day from the op, I had climbed a mountain. 😀
Anyway, on to the walk. It was cloudy on the Saturday morning but forecast to brighten up later on; we’d got started rather later than we had hoped due to a foul-up over car hire arrangements, but were at Succoth and kitted up by 11 or thereabouts.
I have to say that I didn’t much like the start of this route – perhaps it was lack of sleep as our flight was so late getting to Glasgow on Friday night we’d only had about four hours (and thereby setting the scene for an ongoing theme of transportation foul ups which has continued throughout our walking career to date). 😦 Anyway the first 400 metres or so were tough, going up the zigzags to the weir. I was relieved when we got past the weir and (1) the gradient had eased noticeably and (2) there wasn’t much wind, it wasn’t raining and nothing seemed so far to have gone wrong! We pressed on up the Alt a’Bhalachain, getting great views of the Cobbler (and the string of walkers going up it) as we climbed.
There were a lot of walkers about, probably not surprising as it was a good day for it. The excellent state of the path helped us all get into a rhythm and by the time we were getting towards the Cobbler I was feeling as though I wasn’t about to expire and that this just might be achievable. I do a lot of swimming, but couldn’t help feeling the only really effective way of preparing to walk up big hills would be to walk up slightly less big hills! Still seems the case six years on, which is a bit of a problem when you live in Kent..
We hit the Bealach a’Mhaim at about 1.30, and looked up at our target. The summit still looked a fair way off, but it looked do-able. We started up, then pit-stopped for lunch at a convenient rock about 50 metres up.
I’m sure I’d read somewhere that there was an obvious path up the ridge, but all three of us failed miserably to find it and flailed around in various bits of bog as we ploughed up the hill, trying not to sink into the marshland. 😯 Finally the hill seemed to dry out a bit as we got closer to the summit, and grins broke out as we realised we were almost there (helped along by me asking someone coming down, ‘are we nearly there yet?’ in the manner of a small child). Even better, the cloud had lifted and we were in glorious sunshine. We were ‘nearly there’ and practically made a charge for the summit – it was cue celebrations all round.
The views from the summit were absolutely stunning. I’ve tried to work out which mountains were which, the obvious ones we could see were Narnain, Ben Lomond and Beinn an Lochain but the views extended in every direction – we could even see Ben Nevis a long way off in the distance.
The trip back down took quite a bit longer than it should have, partly because I forgot to lengthen my walking poles with the result that my legs started to cramp up – going bog-hopping again didn’t help, although the path down was a lot more obvious in descent. But the thought of a well earned pint kept us all going steadily downhill and once we had got back to the car we headed to the Village Inn on Loch Long for one. Still glorious sunshine and a nice view up to where we had been.
All in all a brilliant day. Now it was off to Killin to do a couple more… 😀