Something cray happened over the summer. I discovered a love for climbing Scotland’s hills.
That’s right, this lying down loving, non thrill seeking person now gets her kicks from days spent at 3000 feet and above.
Forget nights out getting pissed, my absolute favourite way to spend a Saturday is packing a tuna pasta lunch box, crisps ( obviously), can of coke and a flask of something hot. Then consuming it half way up a mountain as my fingers freeze. The official term for this, by the way, is ‘lunch fingers.’
There’s a few things I’ve learned since my first tester hill, a little mound in Killin that took under 2 hours to climb up and down. On that mild day in Spring I discovered that it could be Club Tropicana bikini weather in the car park, but at the top there might be swirling Siberian winds.
Wear layers and a shell
I had considered not taking my jacket, “but it’s so warm,” I told my sister. Luckily she has more knowledge of the outdoors than me and said that was mental. Right up there with climbing Ben Nevis in flip flops and a bin bag ( which people have done.)
Right enough it was freezing at the top and I was very pleased to have a jacket. Shell jackets aren’t just for rain, they keep out wind too. Who knew?
During our last Munro climb, the wind at the top was so powerful that it was blowing up our noses. We got all giddy from the oxygen flooding our systems but it was sore so we’d have been bloody freezing without hats and heaps of layers.
On our way back down we passed a couple on their way up and the woman was wearing a vest top and a cardigan. We didn’t tell her how cold it was at the top as we didn’t want to seem patronising. Ugh, we’re so British. On reflection though, we should absolutely have said something.
It didn’t matter in this case though as they obviously turned around sharpish and ended up following us back down.
Moral of the tale – wear sensible clothes, layers and a hat. Shit gets real on the mountain.
Wear decent boots and socks
Without the influence of sensible people in my life I would have made all of the classic Munro mistakes that end with being winched off a mountain.
We had plans to climb Ben Lawers ( it was called off by bad weather) and I suggested that I wear trainers or wellies. I was promptly laughed at and told to put my hand in my pocket and buy some actual walking boots.
Once again, I’m so glad I did. Not only that, the guy in Mountain Warehouse flogged me an £11 pair of socks. “The socks are more important than the boots,” he said.
I felt silly as I left the shop, suckered into a pair of socks that could buy me a two course meal and bottle of wine in M&S. But he was right. Or I think he was. I love my socks and my Munro guru has a pair, so they must be good.
Don’t be a dick
It’s only when you’re up high on a wind battered Munro, tripping over awkward bits of rock, that you realise things could go very wrong very fast.
Be aware that what you’re doing is actually quite dangerous and the lovely people at Mountain Rescue will be pretty pissed if you do what any of these fools did.
I mainly go up Munros with proper people. People that have maps and GPS things and mats to put under their bums when they eat lunch. On the last Munro we did, it was just me and my sister.
As a concession to not being able to use a compass I downloaded an app called Grid, that uses GPS to give you a grid reference. I didn’t have a map but I thought that if we needed to call Mountain Rescue at least I could tell them where we were.
Having almost got lost 3 times on this walk I now see that we should totally have had a map. Luckily there were people about to ask when we weren’t sure where to go. Even they were confused at one point.
On the way down we got to chatting and had to stop and regroup as we’d wondered off the best route down. This happened twice.
Even with a well trodden path, you need your wits about you. I know of experienced walkers who’ve got lost and wondered around for up to 6 hours, getting increasingly worried and dehydrated, trying to find the way back to their car. That would take the edge off a beautiful day on the hills.
Dear Santa can I have a compass and map reading course for Christmas please?
Be at one with nature
People come from all over the world to climb Scotland’s Munros. To think that for 31 years I thought they were shit. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to (a) holiday in Scotland and (b) spend hours outside walking up something.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but I totally get it now. For those few hours, it’s just you, your companions and a big mother of a mountain.
Suddenly trifles at work, crazy presidential elections and Twitter feeds don’t seem important at all. You don’t even think about them.
The internet is brilliant in many ways but knowing what Justin Bieber burped up after his breakfast can make the world seem small. Things can feel amplified.
Out in the vast rolling hills, an enormous blue (hopefully) sky in front of you, the world feels big again and we can put things into perspective.
Apart from when you’re taking pictures at the top for Instagram.
Hot bath and beer
You’ve made it. You probably stink, have weird big fat hands and look pretty rough. But you did it and it feels SO GOOD. The bath, the beer and the food that you’ll enjoy thoroughly, will be well deserved.
You’ll be in bed by 9pm.
Happy (and safe) Munro climbing bitches x