Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Scared To Death By Marilyn - Or Was it Matt?

Day Five of our Scotland adventure arrived with the morning light. Today we were walking - we didn't know where, but we knew we would be walking. Leigh wanted another shot at the peak we first attempted on Sunday. Ben had mentioned taking the ferry over to the Isle Eigg and then doing a walk there. I was itching.

Sorry -  I was itching to test out my new waterproof trousers, and new rucksack so wasn't too fussed where we walked. After a brief discussion (where no decision was made), we decided to re-attempt the peak that had eluded us days earlier.

As we left, spirits were high. The weather was good, our clothing was good, the packed lunches were good, and even Jack - Jim and Leigh's dog - was good. We set off down the track just after 10:30am.
Soon we found the place to turn off the track, and ......erm, turned off the track. The ground was boggy and strewn with heather, which reminded us of a swamp filled with Gypsies. Shortly, we came across our first obstacle - a small river. The water flowed rapidly over the smooth rocks, and we all knew that the slightest slip could result in not only severe dampness, but injury too.
I was sent on to find a suitable place to cross (the words "Mug" and "Guinea Pig" spring to mind), and did so with know trouble at all. My friends, demonstrated their faith in my choice of crossing place by choosing a totally different place to cross. The gits.

Once across the river, we started our ascent up the side of the mountain. It was hard going - the slope was steep, the ground was wet and slippery, and we were hot. By the time we had gone only a little further, Ben and Jim decided that it would be better to take off the waterproof coats, and proceed in T-shirts for the time being. I decided to keep my waterproof coat on. They didn't like my river crossing place, so stuff 'em.

Boggy, and Lots of Heather
 We had to negotiate a few fences en-route in order to keep heading in our direction of choice. Usually this meant clambering over the wire fence - but at one fence there was also a little wooden step over that you could use. The rest of the team decided to use this step over, but I didn't want to. It's just not my style.
The slope got progressively steeper. We were looking for signs of a more walkable path, but so far without success. Typically, the sun had gone behind a cloud, so it was now feeling colder. The damp heather was making our walking boots wet and our hands wet when we had to scramble for a bit (I had to scramble - I'm old).

The View From Petrified Point
We continued upwards for a bit, and then had a bit of luck - we found a path that wound it's way up the mountain side. Grateful for this firmer footing, we followed it eagerly. We made good progress, and climbed at a good rate of speed. There was a particularly nasty narrow bit to negotiate just before we stopped for a bite to eat.
The place where we stopped is called Petrified Point - mainly because it was at this point that my fear of heights became unbearable, and I felt petrified. It was the fact that where we were sat was so close to the edge that I didn't like. Every time I looked down at the town of Ballaculish far below, I got the feeling that I was being pulled over the edge. I felt light headed, and my legs were shaking. I was not comfortable. I told the others that I would not be going any higher - and to be fair to them they were very good about it. They only made chicken noises for about 10 minutes. Seriously though, they were very understanding.

And then Cain, Ben's son had to bloody ruin it all by going a little higher and finding a new, easier path to follow. So we all got up (some of us more carefully and slowly than the others), and walked a little higher. True enough, the path that Cain had said existed was there, so we carried on. I was still not totally happy, but was feeling better.

Of course, there was one massive bonus to the ever increasing heights we were scaling: the views were getting more and more spectacular. Loch Leven sprawled out below us like a bluey - green shimmering puddle of .....erm, bluey - greenness. Ballaculish looked like a model village, and the peaks of the surrounding mountains stood majestic amongst the sunshine and the clouds. I felt like I was at the top of the world.

The path continued upwards, still steep in places but much easier than before. We eventually reached the peak and spent a good 10 minutes surveying the world around us. I didn't go right to the peak myself, but stood a few feet below. I will admit I felt embarrassed about not reaching the peak, but I am glad that I carried on up, rather than turning back and going down. The views from the top were definitely worth the effort, and the fear involved in getting up there.

The descent was much faster and easier than the ascent - although both Jim and Leigh slipped over on on slippery rocks on the way down - Jim at the return crossing of the river, and Leigh just before the last gate we had to climb over. Ouch!!

Incidentally, the peak we reached today is classed as a Munro, and not a mountain. In order to be classed as a Munro, a peak must be over 3000ft high - so you now know how high I have been today.

And you also now understand my seemingly cryptic title to this post.

Unless you are too young to get it. In which case, ask your parents or grandparents.

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