Will Climb For Food

This Week In Hillwalking News: I've bagged my first Munro!

From the Wikipedia: "A Munro is a Scottish mountain with a height over 3,000 feet (914.4 metres). They are named after Sir Hugh Munro (1856–1919), who produced the first attempt at an exhaustive catalogue of such hills, known as Munro's Tables, in 1891."

There are 284 Munros in Scotland and freakishly fit people like to scuttle up as many as possible, obsessively ticking them off the list in a practice known as "Munro bagging". I can't imagine ever being that dedicated to the cause. I think I reached my peak of obsessiveness in Greece when I was madly compelled to try as many varieties of Total Greek Yogurt as possible ("yogurt bagging").

Anyway, after my tentative forays into hillwalking Gareth reckoned it was high time I graduated to a Munro. So off we went to Ben Lomond (3195ft/974m), which funnily enough looms over the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. It's like the Disneyland of munros, wildly popular and crowded especially in the summertime. But since there's a path all the way to the top and not considered particularly difficult, it seemed like a good Virgin Munro.

Some statistics from the day:

Walking time – 5 hours 55 minutes (including Whinge Breaks)
Whinge Breaks – 27 (approx.)

You know how Jillian Michaels said you should do the sort of exercise that you like to do? I don't think I like hillwalking very much. This is what I told Gareth about five minutes into the walk. Specifically, "This SUCKS. And so do YOU for making me do this."

Normally my bad attitude doesn't kick in for about 500 metres but it suddenly hit me that this was going to be a long day. Weeks ago when Gareth suggested the walk I wasn't really paying attention, "Sure, big hill, yeah, no worries". When the day came I just ate my porridge and laced my boots in a la-di-da fashion as if I was off for a casual stroll to the shops. It wasn't until I got on the hill and noticed the endless path stretching ahead of me, up up up, that my heart sank and the surliness began.

Tissues Used – 56

My nose didn't help my mood. What the hell is going on with the pollen this year? My hay fever will not let up. After a few minutes amongst the heather it felt like there was a brick inside my brain. My sinuses throbbed and I was continually blowing my snoz which really slowed down my walking pace and delivery of bitchy comments.

Pathetic Declarations of Defeat – lost count

  • I can't do this.
  • I don't want to do this.
  • I'm going back to the car.
  • You just go ahead, you athletic bastard. I'll wait on this rock.
  • I never even wanted to do hillwalking in the first place. I only did it so we'd have something in common!

Gareth captured this moment of tantrum about 3/4 of the way up (you can see my tongue poking out in the larger version). I was full of murderous rage by this stage and wanted to stab him with my walking sticks as he was barely breaking a sweat.


Masochist Level – Extreme

By the time the top of the hill was in sight I was suffering. My legs were trembling, my head was fuzzy and I almost cried when a wiry bloke RAN past us. I yearned to trip him up with my stick, but I could barely muster the energy for a snailish stagger by that point. This was despite that giant bowl of breakfast porridge and a calorific yet nutritious Nakd bar scoffed halfway up. I swear I felt the precise moment the last drop of energy drained out my toes. But on some grimly determined level I enjoyed the sensation.

"Do you want to stop for a sandwich?" asked Gareth.
"No!" I hissed.
"Why not?"

Munros Weakly Ascended – 1
PB&J Sandwiches Devoured – 2

Finally after 2 hours and 50 excruciating minutes I'd shuffled to the top.

"How does it feel Marsho?" said Gareth, "Your first Munro!"
"Bah! Sandwich!"

I slumped on the grass, closed my eyes and wished really hard for a funicular railway to appear. No such luck, but the view was wonderful, despite the crowds and some wanker yapping on his mobile phone.


Thanks to the restorative powers of my sandwiches and two cups of flask-tea-that-sort-of-tastes-like-coffee I stopped being such a grumpy git and posed for a windswept half-triumphant, half-sarcastic photo.


Falls on Arse – 1

A fascinating aspect of hillwalking is how it brings out the very best and the very worst of your character.

There are two ways to descend Ben Lomond. The quickest and easiest is back down the tourist path, the way other is steeper and involves a wee bit of scurrying over rocks. Gareth asked me which way did I want to go?

"The quick and easy way, of course."

And Ms Cranky was back.

What I hate most about hillwalking – just when you get over the thigh-screaming hell of the ascent you and enjoy the view, you have to come back down… which just means your body hurts from different angles.

In hindsight it wasn't that difficult; three hours of descent featured all of ten minutes of rocky bits. But with the mist rolling in as I shuffled down on my hands and knees and arse, I was seething with venom and fear and resentment and once again decided it was Gareth's fault.

"You're a PRICK. I TOLD you I didn't want to come down this way!"
"I thought you said you liked challenges?"
"Only when the challenges are over!"

About an hour later I tripped on an innocent rock and landed comically on my arse. Gareth watched my face for signs of tantrum but by then I'd started to enjoy myself and found it rather hilarious. Here's a picture of mud on my butt.


Crushed Toes – 10

The last hour was hell. My body started to betray me – aching calves, knees, back. My pollen-brain was pulsing with pain. And either my boots are too small or I'm a total wimp, because my toes were smashing against the front. It was so excruciating I wanted to bite them off. But there's just no respite because the ground is continually so bloody steep. I tried walking backwards for awhile out of desperation.

But it was tolerable, because the end was in sight and the views were grand and glorious. Here's Gareth amongst the ferns, looking infuriatingly energetic.


Post-Walk Sexiness Rating – ZERO!

Finally we hit level ground again. We were done. Gareth was cheering kindly, "Woohoo! You did it Marsho! One Munro down, 283 to go!" But I was too knackered to feel any triumph whatsoever. I had never been so utterly shattered in my life. There was not a single ounce of energy left in my body.

Below is the worst, most hilariously unflattering photo of me I've seen in a long time. I was reluctant to post it but in some ways it's the best photo of all time. I barely recognise myself with the red nose and tired eyes and greasy limp hair and the smile so strained and pathetic because lifting my face any higher was just tooooo much effort πŸ™‚

But that crazy moment of exhaustion is preserved forever. Two days later, with legs so sore and stiff I'm walking like a zombie, I like that I don't recognise myself in the photo; the face or the person I've become. It makes me wonder what other surprises I could find up my sleeve. I've never been so proud of a bad hair day.


46 thoughts on “Will Climb For Food

  1. I just want to hug you in that last picture, you look so exhausted. Yay you for making it through!

    “You’re a PRICK. I TOLD you I didn’t want to come down this way!”

    Sometimes, I swear to God, I think we have the same marriage on two different continents. Occasionally when it’s springtime and gorgeous out and my Hub gets the urge to see if we can walk all the way home from work, I have this exact reaction. Constantly. From the very moment it occurs to me that he’s not just taking the long way to our El stop. BASTARD.

    ::hugs you::

  2. Oh Shauna – you DO look absolutely stuffed in that last pic! Good on you, girl! πŸ˜€ I love this entry – the whole tale of perserverence and unashamedness at the difficulty towards beautiful views and a successful end. Though I do wonder at people and their mobile phones! πŸ˜€ XXX

  3. Congratulations! It looks beautiful up there.

    About toes and hiking – you might already know this, but when hiking downhill, you can lace the top part of the boot extra-tight to hold your foot into the heel and keep it from sliding down and destroying your toes. There is even a special lacing technique (I haven’t tried this exact one myself): http://www.hitthetrail.com/boot_lacing.php

    DG Sayz – Oooh thanks for that Erica! Dr G made me stop and make sure they were laced tight enough, and they seemed to be – but this lacing technique looks like the way to go! Only problem it means I’ll have to do another hill to test it πŸ˜›

  4. Hey Shauna, You are so brave. What an accomplishment! But I couldn’t help wondering what in the world would you do if you had to um… poo? That’s a lot of exercise which usually gets things moving if you know what I mean. Are there facilities along the path to relieve yourself? If not,I think I’d be so worried the whole time!
    Wish I lived in the mountains. You’re lucky!


    DG Sayz – There’s no facilities in the great outdoors so you have to try and remember to go beforehand (which I didn’t) or will yourself not to think about it for six hours if you don’t (miraculously worked :P). Otherwise I think you’re meant to take a little trowel and dig a hole. Yikes!

  5. Wowie, wow, wow, wow. And totally awesome, too! Heh. My fave of all the pics is the half-triumphant, half-sarcastic shot. Congratulations!

  6. 5 hours and 55 minutes!! You are CRAZY, girl! I can’t believe that photo of you, only 3/4 of the way up, with that path stretching out and out and out behind you, and it looks like you’ve climbed to the top of the world and pretty soon your head’s going to be up God’s skirt. But what a beautiful view, I think it was worth it.

  7. “Yogurt bagging” almost made me fall out of my chair πŸ™‚ Thank you.

    A few weeks ago I was on vacation in Maine and drove by Mt Katahdin (at the end of the Appalachian Trail). I remembered an insane promise that I made myself years ago, in a fit of megalomania, that if I ever got in shape I would climb it. The memory made me chuckle.

    Now, if being a crazy alpiner is half as fun as you make it sound, I think I might climb that mountain one day after all!

  8. Good for you…even if you felt like dying most of the time. Here in the States, the thing to do in Colorado (where I lived for several years) is to summit all the “fourteeners”…as in, mountains that are over 14,000ft tall. Um, yeah… I’ve never done even one. (And as husbands go – in Taormina, Sicily, the train comes in at the water level, at the bottom of a very long, steep hill. You can take a taxi up to the town, or you can walk up the godforsaken hill. And I’m telling you, this is one tough hill to climb. My loving husband decided we should walk, in 90+ degrees, blazing sun…and then he wouldn’t actually walk with me. He was so far ahead of me that at times I couldn’t even see him. Many tears were shed and obscenities said that day!)

    DG Sayz – OMG FOURTEENERS?! That’s half an Everest! How do people do that?! And I dunno how you managed to not throw a rock at your hubby’s head that day… mwahhaah πŸ˜‰

  9. Oh Man! Hiking with hayfever attack, NO FUN.

    I think Dr G would get along with my man, we can send them off up a hill while we wander around the base to meet them at the other side. My Dad just climbed Mt Whitney, 7.5 hours up, 6.5 hours down, most of it all rocky paths with no trees, and he LOVED it, Matt is now determined to go too. Save me!

  10. You never cease to amaze! You should be extremely proud of yourself! The photos were great and you have love that face you made on the way up The last one though (and I mean no offense) reminded me of Wallace and Gromit (specifically the smile Wallace makes) found a link to a photo that shows what I am going on about: http://ben-ward.co.uk/media/wallace_gromit.jpg

    Hope you get a better range of motion soon, never fun feeling like a zombie (though there is something good about feeling sore and aching because of what you did days later, a proud feeling that says β€œyeah I did that and it so kicked my butt, and I am still alive, I could do that again…in the future…if I wanted too…” πŸ˜‰

  11. Shauna, you’ve discovered the reason I love to climb mountains. You feel alive, you’re totally present in the moment (especially the pain) and although you may look icky when you’re done, you know that you’ve achieved something. That’s why I love that last pic of you…

  12. If you go to Strathyre again, you must go up Ben Vorlich. ItΒ΄s another beginnerΒ΄s Munro with a steep, but easy to follow straight path all the way up, but without the crowds you had to deal with on Ben Lomond. The views from the top are breathtaking. I live in distant Argentina, but whenever IΒ΄m home visiting family (they live in Strathyre) I go up. IΒ΄ll let you know when IΒ΄m next going and maybe we could go together?

    DG Sayz – That sounds cool SAS! I like the idea of no crowds. Must be a doddle compared to the mighty mountains in Argentina? πŸ™‚

  13. When I was in Scotland, our cheeky MacBackpackers tour guide (who incredibly crazy, pulling stunts like doing 360o spins of the bus in the snow next to a castle near the Isle of Sky, I thought I was going to die, DIE I tell you) decided to take us for a nature walk.

    I like nature walks!

    We asked how long, he said maybe an hour, but it wasn’t too difficult, no worrying. Since my walking shoes were buggered because of all the snow & slush, I put my trusty Colorado laceup school shoes on for the walk. Our group, mostly younguns, but some oldies too – finally got to the start of the walk, and it looked fairly innocent.

    Except 10 minutes in, I’d realised that this wasn’t actually going to be easy after all. Half the group went back after half an hour. I was about to go with them, but the crazy tour driver said I was young so to keep moving! Keep moving! (I told you he was nuts.) Jase was also pushing me, sometimes literally, so I kept going. WELL. I think about three hours later, I thought we’d gotten to the top – but then we actually had to climb a rockface! I’ve never been more terrified in my life.

    We went down the easy way – on our arses in the snow. Did I mention we were there in February? Nuts, I tell you. Nuts.

    My point to this story is, to this day I tell people I climbed a big-ass hill (sometimes substituting hill with mountain, depending on how much I am exaggerating) in Colorado shoes. And to this day, I still don’t know the name of the hill we climbed, other than it was a short bus drive away from where we were staying around the Isle of Skye area, and that I couldn’t walk for two days afterwards.


    Shutting up now.

    (And congratulations! You deserve it, whinging or not)

    DG Sayz – Dude, that is some mean feat. I hope you dipped those Colorados in gold and put em on your mantelpiece!

  14. You look fantastic! I am so inspired. I only hope someday I can do some hiking or mountain/hill climbing. Right now I can barely walk a block. But someday…

  15. I love the way your write πŸ™‚

    You know…people pay huge dollars for personal trainers, and you aren’t allowed to punch them, or swear at them…so Gareth is a real bargain! lol
    Having said that, I think you are both absolutely insane!

  16. You’re married now, darl – so you’re Mrs Cranky!
    And Mrs Heroically Tolerant, and Mrs Mountain-Climbing legend!

  17. woohoo to bagpipes! i love that in a man – don’t take no shit and make you go totally out of your comfort zone!

  18. Shauna – you’re in my old part of the world – many many years ago I used to work part time at the Rowardennan hotel – actually met my first husband there! I also used to work at Passfoot Tearooms (now a house)at Balmaha (the building at the bottom of the Pass of Balmaha (the very steep hill) My mum and my sister both live in Drymen. Congratulations on a magnificent effort – I lived there for 20 years but never made it up the ‘Ben’.

    DG Sayz – Wow Zanna – never ceases to amaze me how small the world is πŸ™‚

  19. Those views have to worth the 5 hrs 55 minutes. What an awesome effort and how great does your butt look. Well done.

  20. I’m going to Scotland!! Here in the Peak District the “Peaks” are laughably small in comparison, which seems like a good thing until I see your pictures. So, you’ve inspird me to come and see for myself!

    Well done – I had a tiny tear when I got to the end – must be misplaced pride in you – misplaced ‘cos you did all the work!!

    Lesley x

  21. God, gorgeous views. It sounds like you were going on at a good clip, too, no wonder you were so tired at the end.

    I had a satisfying yogurt-bagging experience yesterday, because the Fage cups were on sale and I was able to nab 4 of the 2%.

  22. I LOVED this post.

    What I loved more was your last sentence. The self acceptance and glee with what you’d just achieved was really, really touching Shauna.

    I think I need to make me some plans. πŸ™‚

  23. I’m on the fence between being envious of seeing those views and not so envious with knowing how it hurts ohhhh but you did it!! That’s the main point πŸ˜€ good hiking woman!

  24. As the queen of bitching while doing that which is good for me, I loved this (and not just because you write like a dream!)…it’s always so much funnier in the retelling, isn’t it?

  25. cheers everyone! i’m happy to report that four days later i can now walk normally again, w00t!

    btw, i am trying out PQ’s technique of replying to your comments inline with bold text, rather than replying to a bunch of questions in a new comment. hope that makes sense!?

  26. I hadn’t checked in for a while. You look fantastic (even with the tongue out!).
    You look so slim and healthy.
    Way to go girl. What a tremendous accomplishment.
    You continue to inspire and entertain.

    Lisa Veratt

  27. Wahey! Well done! I actually want to do more hill walking, I just need to get myself to some hills at some point!

  28. Awesome post. I think I must have skimmed all the bits that referred to how tough it was, because you have got me thinking I want to one day tick a few Munros off!


  29. Well, go you!

    I have done my share of moaning while part-way up hills, too. Well done for actually making it to the top.

  30. GReat story!!! I laughed so hard… After doing parts of the GR20 in Corsica I know how though those mountains can be.
    Up to the next one ;o)

  31. Congratulations! I’ve bagged two and I think the best bit is when you’re back down at the bottom and you look up and see where you’ve been…and the second best bit is having tea and toast in front of the fire when you get home.

  32. Hi Shauna, I`m travelling right now and only just caught up on your blog (at great internet cafe expense I might add, and worth every franc πŸ˜‰
    I just want to say EEEEEEEE you met Jillian Michaels! I love her. She gave me great advice for free when I was really struggling and it`s obvious that she really gets it when it comes to living healthy in the real world.

    I`ve been climbing a few mountains lately too. I dunno… I think being from NZ I tend to be a bit underwhelmed by nature.. seen it.. mmm.. seen that too… It begins to just feel like exercise. Give me a city with a few stairs and inclined streets and that`s different. THAT is not exercise. That is SHOPPING.

  33. I was suckered into “kloofing” in South Africa once, which ended up being 12 hours of intense hiking and leaping off cliffs into mountain lakes miles below. I was not amused. Nor did I recover for at least a couple months… either physically or psychologically. Now, however, I have a great story to tell and some killer photos.
    Thus, congrats! Anything this painful is always worth the story and the memory of being at the bottom. (YES! warm clothes, a hot meal, et al…)

  34. If you read my previous post about my trip hiking into the Grand Canyon… where I said it was a breeze going down… well… for my friend who was with me, going down the trail was hell too. She had the same problem you did with her boots and her feet sliding forward and hitting the toes. She actually had 2 toe nails COME OFF a few weeks later!!! So consider yourself lucky! πŸ™‚

  35. Hi Shauna, nice work with the climbing. i always remember reading that the most important ability to have is “stickability” and you have this in large chunks. btw what’s with the ski poles??

  36. We have just returned from a trip to Austria where we enjoy just hiking. I really love going up but HATE going down. The worst is that so does one of my knees. The doctor told me downhill is not especially good.
    But it is SO satisfying when you’ve gone uphill a thousand meters.

  37. “Woohoo! You did it Marsho!” Too funny girl and how much are you a legend anyway for persisting. Obviously the anger helped push you even more LOL. 5+ friggin’ hours hey, I don’t know how cheery I’d be either but YOU did it! πŸ™‚

  38. oh, whoa.
    Is that Loch Lomond below?

    Maybe I should ditch my swimming aspirations and climb the hill instead?

    Oh, bugger that you won’t be around when I’m there. oh bum!

    That looked an awesome walk!

Comments are now closed on all Dietgirl posts. For fresh conversation please visit me at shaunareid.com.