It’s Not About Reaching the Top, its the Corn Beef Sandwiches on the Way Up

Sometimes one reflects on past events, on various traumatic episodes in life that have affected ones attitude, and then for the sake of keeping sanity intact, endeavours to conclude that the pain or angst involved, somehow has been a learning curve, or from that sense of negativity, positivity can be born, or in the face of adversity, one survives to live another day, and all that jazz.

Sometimes, probably even more than sometimes, lets say many times, life gives beautiful rewarding moments and, the experience can awaken us, enlighten us, bring us into the here and now and appreciate more, what is on offer.

Then time moves on, and that experience and the wonder of it, can diminish.
Usually, due to the fact that, on any given day, I find myself in a new episode of my melodramatic soap opera plot, and then, rising from a mumble, I scream, that ‘I am getting a oNe Way TiCKet OUTTa THIS GODDAM SHITHOLE OF A TOWN!!’ or similar Eastenders speak.
So today, bringing it right up to the here and now, its important I record the wonderful experiences that do come my way, too. Yesterday was such an experience.

It has also been said, that if you want to know a country, walk through it, and yesterday I walked through another wee bit of Scotland that I was quite unfamiliar with, the long path up Bein Eighe, with my lovely friend, Maryann.

It was only the second day of 2010, that has had warm sunshine, although there is still plenty of snow lying up at 3000ft, and given my recent experience on Ben Lomond with my son Lewis, I duly brought my ice-axe, crampons and etc. These are the kinds of accoutrements that bring out the hunter-gatherer in me, making it more of an expedition than a Munro bag.

Back in 2000, I signed up for a winterskills course, under the instruction from a well-known mountaineer from Fort William.
It was a week-long course, covering, compass and map-reading, avalanche assessing, snowhole survival, whiteout survival and ice axe arrest. There was five of us and I now have a framed certificate stating that I have those skills, those skills of a mountaineer, but in reality, the Scottish mountains do not recognise such paperwork and in many cases, Mother Nature offers up her own test, which can be quite difficult to pass.

So the sun was to be shining, and I had put out an APB, last week, to my fellow walkers, but it was looking very much like all had prior engagements, and it looked very much that Billy- no- mates was going with no mates (at least I am not a sheep!!), until I was delighted to hear Maryann was up for it.

I started tackling Munro’s back in 1991, my first venture into the ‘Bagging’ was a charity funding team effort with some Glasgow lawyers, Glasgow Police and Glasgow Construction Companies, an amalgamation, that would make the Cosa Nostra look like greetin faced boy scouts.

It was a four-day event covering a total of 13 Munros.
I managed 3 on the first day then stayed drunk in the bar for the remaining 3 days, but raised the most money, an achievement, that was lost, due to the fact that I had to banjo a joiner for invalidating my admirable stoic ability, of having stayed in the bar, and besides, he was sniffing about a nice wee police lassie, that I had bought a double nougat ice cream wafer for, during a chance encounter, in the park two weeks previously.
The bastard.

It was around 1996 that I started tackling them seriously and grew to love it, no, not love.
Same thing is it not?

My inexperience was sometimes obvious, when I would arrive at the base of whatever remote Munro I had chosen on the day and just walked upwards. Just upwards, no sense of their being a path or a trail and then emerge at the top out of nowhere, to be greeted with the frowny faces of the experienced pathfinders, not knowing then, that pathfinding was relatively easy, or even that the term ‘frowny face’ would become an iconic means of indicating, through electronic communications, a sense of extreme disappointment, but removing the need for that said disappointment to have any impact on the facial muscles of the owner of that disappointment.
I now, do consider myself an experienced mountain walker, and I am very keen to pursue many challenges.

Coire Mhic Fhearchair, our destination, is reckoned to be the most impressive corrie in Scotland. I would agree with that. The sandstone tiers of the Triple Buttress reflected on the sun-kissed serene, still, lochan below.
The awesome arena of the prehistoric angular formations, protecting the sweet sweet waters of life, and once the excited breathing diminishes, in the quietness, you could the hear a trickling, growing louder and then softly, mimicking the nearby waterfalls, but it was not water.
It was the trickling of the shifting quartzite scree.

Whispering, then Singing.
Whispering then Singing.

That is what is on offer in this beautiful country of mine.
All of the time.
It’s wonderful to be in amongst it.
Some of the time.


One thought on “It’s Not About Reaching the Top, its the Corn Beef Sandwiches on the Way Up

  1. Magical writing too John. Comical and profound at the same time. The picture of the assorted Glasgow hard men going mountaineering made me laugh and the reference to frowny faces too. I wish I had been there though- Maryann keeps speaking about it – but there’s summer walking to look forward to and I definitely plan to go to Torridon. As you said, life-affirming.

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