A Mountain Too High
As many of you know, I’m trying to get myself fit again after my unplanned heart attack last year as I climbed Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers. Last week I was feeling on top of the world with my successful climb up Ben Ledi and I was starting to believe I’ll be fit and well enough to do a return climb up Ben Lawers in a couple of weeks or so before the winter weather makes the single track road up Glen Lyon too scary for the likes of me and my little car. Mr M might be slightly less excited at this prospect!
Following my hike up Ben Ledi, I made sure I did lots of resting, lots of work on the computer, did some baking and even managed a couple of shifts at the local care home. During my chats with Mr M I managed to sneak in the idea that I’d be climbing up the Cobbler in the Arrochar Alps on Monday this week (Ben Arthur to give the mountain it’s full name). Those of you who know Mr M will also know how often our discussions cause a raised eyebrow from him. Well his eyebrows were nearly over the back of his when I mentioned this. To give Mr M his due though, he’s never once said he doesn’t want me going up the hills alone ever again but simply sighed and asked if I’d be taking Beatrix with me. Of course I’d be taking Beatrix. Climbing up the hills without Beatrix would be like having Christmas Cake without Wensleydale Cheese.
For the whole of last week, Scotland was bathed in Autumn sunshine and photos flooded social media sites with fantastic views of Scotland’s countryside at its best – including photos from around Arrochar.
Sunday night Beatrix planned the route with me, telling me that I was not to go up Ben Nairnen but to save that for the middle of winter when we’d get the most amazing views over loch Long. Instead, we’d to go up the Cobbler and look across to Ben Nairnen in anticipation of longer walks.
Now I’ve been spoiled with my hikes in Scotland across all four of the seasons. Ok, across the two seasons we have in Scotland, Summer and Winter. I’ve walked in glorious sunshine, basked in the heat on the hills, climbed in virgin snow and had views where I swear I could see as far as the end of the earth and beyond. I even think that if I’d made more of an effort to look out of the window of the helicopter as they transported me off the mountain to hospital I would’ve had fantastic views over the whole of Perthshire and surrounding mountains.
Then I woke up on Monday morning. No sunshine. No heat. No blue sky!
Not to worry I thought. As Billy Connolly says, there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. So, I packed all my gortex gear, an extra layer for the top of the mountain and even dug out my gloves. Yep, gloves in September! Mr M made my packed lunch and the essential flask of tea and waved Beatrix and myself off from Kirkintilloch at 7.30 am.
By 8.30 ish we had arrived at Succoth just past Arrochar. Donning all my waterproofs, I looked up the mountains in front of me. Ok, I looked up at the clouds in front of me. At least I know the way well I thought. Beatrix wasn’t bothered of course, she just needed me to get her across the busy A83 so that she could be free from the lead and able to go stick and stone hunting.
The walk up the Cobbler starts with a long zig-zaggy track up the hillside. I took my time, reminding myself that I’d to come all the way back down the long zig-zaggy track later that day with tired legs and feet. The rain eased a little, though the clouds still hung heavily so views were practically non-existent.
As you leave the shelter of the trees and the forestry track you’re normally rewarded with your first view of the Cobbler. Today I was rewarded with more clouds so I was forced to have some Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Despite the lack of views, the hills open out and you feel a sense of total freedom. The track levels a little, making the walking easier and gives you chance to get your breath back for a while.
Today though my confidence took a bit of a nosedive. My thoughts drifted back to last August. What if the same thing happens? What if I need to be rescued again? What if Beatrix has to be left on the hill again. What if. What if. What if! Soon with all the negative thoughts, my legs felt heavy, my rucksack felt heavy and my waterproofs even started to let in the rain! What was I to do? Did I feel strong enough to go up the hill? Yes, of course I do. Are you sure? Well, I think so. What if? Walking by myself the doubts were able to grow and grow until soon they were screaming at me. You can’t do it. You can’t do it.
As I walked, I chatted to various people coming the other way who informed me that the weather didn’t get any better further up and actually got worse at the top of the hills amidst the mist and wind. With this in mind, I decided that to avoid any potential mishaps and to deal with my sudden and unexpected lack of confidence, I would just climb to a point further up the hill where the path splits to either climb the final ascent up the Cobbler or go up the Munro on your right of Ben Nairnan.
At my chosen turning point, I could feel disappointment building in me and even Beatrix stood looking up the hill with sad eyes at not getting any further.
Walking back down the track, I stopped at a large rock which forms a natural shelter from the weather and sat myself down for a well-deserved lunch break. Sitting there I began to feel disappointed in myself, even feeling a bit off a failure for not reaching the summit. But as I was sitting there, the tea warmed me and I thought about the last year. How I’d felt so ill and weak for most of the last year but also thought about the support that so many people had given me. I thought about the progress I’d made and gradually the thoughts of disappointment eased and I was able to see some positives about the day. I’d had quite a busy week, including a couple of shifts at the care centre but I’d still been able to get myself on the hills. I’d climbed a considerable height in miserable weather and been able to feel the freedom of the hills. I’d chatted to lovely like-minded people during the walk and watched as Beatrix enjoyed roaming the mountains once again. She never doubted me.
We made our way slowly back down the track and down the zig-zaggy path. Halfway down there’s a welcome bench to rest your tired legs and feet as you look out across Loch Long over to Arrochar. By the time I got back down to the bench I could indeed see the fantastic views opening up in front of me. I could see Ben Lomond starting to appear out of the clouds. By the time I’d reached the car, the sun was shining brightly and the clouds had all but disappeared.
As I drove around the end of Loch Long towards Tarbet, I glanced back at the Arrochar Alps and there, basking in the sunshine and clear blue sky was the Cobbler waving goodbye to me. Until next time Debra.
And the song to accompany this week’s blog?
“I can see clearly now the rain has gone” by Jonny Nash.