I was a very lucky man last weekend. My partner took me to Scotland for my 40th birthday. We went to the Inversnaid Hotel on the ‘bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond’.
We had a fantastic slow drive up there (5 hours from Newcastle with a few coffee stops) and when we arrived the sun was shining over the Loch and by this time all my thoughts of work and home had drifted away. We spent the evening with Lesley the Head House Keeper and her husband David, the Ferryman. It was a great evening of cold beer, great conversation and belly laughs in the bunk house.
This was a converted church approximately 1km up the road from the hotel which is a perfect haven for the tired walkers braving the West Highland Way. We had a perfect view from the bunk house at the foot of a magnificent Scottish mountain and it was here where we gained our inspiration for the next day’s activities. I woke up refreshed, had a hearty breakfast, pulled on my walking boots and headed for the mountain full of good intention and toast.
My first steps were tentative, especially when my other half suggested jumping over a fence so we could go straight up the mountain and you can just imagine my face as both feet landed in the heather. Not the lucky type you see for sale.. the type that’s growing at the foot of a mountain which is soaked through with all the water running down the mountain through it and also straight through my water proof TK Maxx special walking boots. Well, my city dweller inner voice kicked in straight away… ‘This is going to be a nightmare’, ‘you are going to get trench foot and they’ll have to amputate’, ‘you’ll never train again’, ‘there’s no way you’re going to get up that mountain’ and ultimately ‘you’re going to die!!!!’ I had the full range of voices in my head singing like a choir and none of it was supportive in any way.
Naturally this was an internal conversation as my sucking a lemon lips, bottom lip quivering and total look of disdain couldn’t possibly give away the fact that I was already wishing for my comfy chair and a slideshow of the views!
Then I heard myself, I looked at myself and saw exactly what I was allowing myself to do. I looked at the top of the mountain and saw the point that I knew I would reach at some point that day. I then looked in front of me and chose a point to walk towards and reach as the first stage in my journey. When I reached that stage I then looked around and ahead to pick the next point that I would walk towards and reach. Some of the points I reached had a great big blooming vertical climb in front of them which when I got to the bottom of I told myself ‘that’s it.. can’t go on’… until I looked around, looked forward and chose a path that knew I could reach.
There was a few false horizons…. you know what I mean, when you think that you’ve reached your goal only to find at the top of one point there was another hiding behind it so your journey isn’t quite complete. When I reached these points and thought that I couldn’t go on I allowed myself permission to feel sorry for myself for a few seconds and whist I caught my breath I allowed myself to look back at the path that I’d walked and celebrated the journey and achievements I’d achieved so far. My elation could be heard as I stood at the top of MY mountain (as it was then!) and really appreciated the natural beauty and the significance of everything that makes up this world, to the right there was Loch Arklet which is Glasgow’s water supply and to the left we had one of Scotland’s biggest lochs, Loch Lomond.
I was truly gob smacked to realise that my mountain had only taken one hour to climb.. One hour ago I stood tripping over my lip looking for a St Bernard and just about to tweet Prince William to warm up the chopper as I was sure I’d need rescuing but here I was… I’d made it, phew!!!! When it came to the next part, getting back down, I applied the same principal as getting up. I knew where I was going, I knew where I was going to end up… instead of contemplating the whole journey I chose to walk in stages, walking from one point to the next and before you knew it we were back at the bunkhouse (the little white speck on the photo). I was sat full of pride, glancing up to my mountain with a fantastic sense that I had done it..
I had overcome something that I told myself I couldn’t do. I had conquered me.. I was great….. then Lesley came in and asked us how our walk had been. I pointed up to the top of MY mountain with a beaming smile and she said… ‘Och, you’ve been to the top of the hill then!’