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.
"BECAUSE I HAVEN'T EARNED IT YET!"
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!"
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."
"ALRIGHT HAVE IT YOUR WAY THEN!"
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 🙂
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.