Picked up just after 4am with very little sleep we were now off on this crazy mission with a 4hr drive up north to the start point of this epic hike! Nervously excited, tired but determined in my mind that I’d accomplish the task ahead. I had read the reports, downloaded the route, printed off a map, all that remained now was the endurance of this testing estimated average 11hr walk, braving & scrambling some slightly exposed ridges and getting the 9K back along the road to the van at the start point!
The weather was changeable on the drive up but began to clear more as we got closer to our destination and just as we arrived the hills were framed by a gorgeous rainbow, always a good sight to me, there’s just something mystical and awesome about them and in my mind a sign that the day was going to turn out well.
Rucksacks on the backs packed with the needs and necessities we headed off to hit the first Munro, meeting one other couple along the way who were going an “off piste” route up the mountain, we chose to stick to the path more trodden. It was quite a climb to the first summit as we traversed back and forth winding up the rocky grassy path. From there the next summit was not far and without too much descent in between, so we carried on to Munro No.2. before we stopped for a short re-fuelling break.
Somewhere after this was where I had to scramble over a reasonably short exposed ridge section. I’m not totally afraid of heights, however, from previous experiences of looking down from these kinda heights at pretty scary looking drops and that sinking fearsome feeling I get in my belly, I have found the best solution for me is to only focus on where my feet/hands are going, put my blinkers on and keep going! Lol!
I made it, phew, now more trudging as we continued along to the next peaks and troughs, the last 3 had quite large incline/declines in between and there was another ridge section, which I again employed the same “don’t look down” strategy and got happily down the other side of that where we met another 3 walkers and stopped for a bit of hill banter before continuing on this mission.
We reached Munro 6 and for a moment thought that it was 7, so the map confirmation that we still had one more to go was a bit of a blow to the mind more than the body as now it had to be re-calibrated to factor in further endurance than was thought for just a moment.
After that we kicked up the pace a bit pushing just to get to the last one, which was a hugely welcomed sight I’ll tell you! But, the walk was far from over, the decent back to the road was quite looking like quite a trek still on ViewRanger, and in order to get on that route there was a quite vertical few meter looking scramble ahead first much to my dismay!
At this same junction there was, what appeared to be, another kind of path and possible route back down the valley that looked like a somewhat tempting option from where we were standing and it looked to cut off some walking time. So we made the decision to head down it! Very rubbly and not very pleasant walking at all, as well as pretty steep at first, it still seemed do-able though, but then as I was looking ahead at the terrain and where we were aiming for something was telling me this was not going to end well. It was getting later, now early evening and the sun was going down, we were tired, I was getting edgy and so said to my hiking companion that I felt we should try to head back up the mountain and over to try and find a way back to the official route off. He felt we could still make it but my gut feeling was that, although more ascent was far from ideal at this stage in the walk, it was going to be the best option!
So we crossed up and over and could finally see the actual path in the distance near the stream, still quite a way to go though. At this stage in the walk it was really all about just plodding on and getting off the mountain with a slight urgency as light would be fading faster soon, a bit gruelling now but the mind was just on getting back to the van! Which was still parked another 9K along the road once we were back at the gate! Ooooft!
Battling through boggy grassy midge filled sections and a couple of streams crossings, the second of which I did a lovely little slip and dip into as I attempted to step across the awkward stones. I laughed, wet but just really really happy to be off the mountain by this point, still not home and dry yet though by any means!
Once through the gate onto the road we passed a campervan parked and began trudging along the road back to where the van was parked, trying to thumb a lift from passing cars but to no avail until finally that same campervan we saw just as we came off the mountain came along the road and stopped for us!
Oh the sheer relief and joy, Simon and his van were like angels to me by this point, saving the last 5K of the walk, which very soon would have been in the dark! All Gods at this point were thanked in earnest, especially as we drove along the road and saw how much distance we still had to go! Ahhh…at last, the van, dry socks, trainers, warmth, a seat…but still a 4hr drive home and it was now 11pm!
Even though I was not driving and could have nodded off for a rest I felt a duty to my driver and hiking buddy to stay awake just as he had to complete this mission. Anything else would be a cop out, plus I wanted to try keep talking to break up the monotony of the long dark drive through the winding country roads, especially with deer often on or around the roadside to watch out for too.
3am and we were back in town, 24 hours since I’d got up to prepare for this epic expedition, and that it sure had been. A huge test of endurance of body and mind, the faith to keep going, thankful for the instinct that guided me to call to head back to the path on that last section on hindsight especially now after chatting to other hikers and reading reports of how folks got into dodgy troublesome descents by continuing to follow the valley route back. Phew!
That’s 7 Munro’s bagged bringing my total to 23 and that little bundle is not one I’m in any rush to repeat and do again any time soon! Still, goal set and goal met, no cuts or bruises and a great sense of accomplishment along with no feeling of great urgency to see another mountain for a while! Lol!