Hedonism & Mountaineering
Hedonism & Mountaineering
Mixing a hedonistic lifestyle at the weekends with a desire to seek out those high, secluded mountain places can be a painful experience. I can recall more than one high mountain ascent undertaken with a full blown hangover in progress. In my earlier days as a hill walker I was less than fit and I think it was only my tender years and tenacity that saw me over the first 1000 feet of those hills; head and heart pounding, alcohol oozing from every pore. On only a handful of occasions however did I succumb to the hangover and fail to reach the summit. On Ben Oss near Tyndrum, I reached the deer fence above the remnant of Caledonian Pine forest at Ard Righ. My body felt like lead and my head ached with dehydration and a desire to retire to bed. After a minute or two’s laughable attempt to scale the fence (at least a V. Diff) I slumped onto the ground and muttered to my comrades to leave me there to die. We spent the rest of the day examining giant ant hills in the forest. Fascinating things ants. Ben Oss succumbed to my boots at a later date as did a couple other mountains that were recorded as spectacular failures in my diary. Today however only two mountains remained that had born witness to my boots at their foot but not at there summit, this weekend was to see me revisit them and set the record straight once and for all.
167. Stob Ban, Lochaber Sat 22/09/07 · light coloured peak· stop baan Since I was re-visiting this hill the trip was planned entirely in my head in a spare moment between juggling preparation for work and entertaining my young children. Reference to a book or map was not considered. We consequentially ended up at Fersit at the head of Loch Treig in Lochabber, looking out over a vista that didn’t match the view I anticipated. Wrong hills. A swift consultation of the map and retracing of our route back to Spean Bridge then on to Corriechoille resolved the matter. Ian, my climbing buddy for the day, took the blunder in good humour and grinned wryly when I explained that arriving at entirely the wrong hill was a first for me. The detour was worth it for the sunlit glimpse of An Dubh Lochan with its reedy shallows and banks of Birch and Alder, one of those rare little treasures in the highlands you will only come across by taking the road less travelled.
The morning had been spent in procrastination as we smarted from a hefty hangover courtesy of the Clachaig and a £14 bill for camping at the Red Squirrel. The anticipated breakfast in bed never arrived. After departing the Clachaig the previous evening we had merrily wandered around the campsite with a bottle of Jura in hand anticipating a party and a bonfire to celebrate the equinox. Fires weren’t allowed after 11 pm and at 1am when we arrived the campsite all was quiet; we had to wait a further hour (until the campsite lady in her little tollbooth finally retired) before lighting our own little solstice beacon.
After arriving at Corriechoille and in an effort to stop history repeating itself I drank a cup of green tea to energize myself for the cycle to Larig Leacach Bothy which I knew from recollection was over an estate track that climbed uphill for about 5km then downhill for about one. My previous attempt at this hill had ended at the bothy where I succumbed to hangover, back pain and glorious sunshine and spent the rest of the day dozing at a bend in the river. The journey to the bothy was infinitely better by bike than a trudge on foot. The path climbs steeply at first and taxes cold muscles, but after a kilometre or so the slope is generally gentler if somewhat bumpy. I was determined to cycle the whole path but was forced questioned the wisdom of this decision when on the steeper sections I struggled to keep up with Ian who had dismounted and was pushing his bike on foot.
The bothy itself is much improved from my last visit. Previously a modest 2 star bothy it is now a proud 4 star and sports bamboo chairs and wooden table, wood burning stove, new sleeping platforms and a much improved cooking area. The first floor sleeping platform has been removed.
Stob Ban (as its name implies) is a pronounced peak and is easily accessed via its shoulder which leads straight down to the bothy. We seemed to be on the summit in no time as this is a wee cracker of a hill and a very enjoyable walk offering views of the Grey Corries, the Aonachs and the Ben from the summit. I was so taken by the hill I wanted to continue on to the Grey Corries with a German lad we had met at the bothy. He planned to bag the lot including an overnight camp. Ian however pointed out that this would necessitate a descent in darkness and seemed reluctant to concur. I recall thinking that this has never stopped us in the past and concluded that his hangover must be more substantial than mine. We reached a compromise and decided to retrace our steps to stay high on the descent and agreed to stay north tonight and stomp a few more hills tomorrow…
Sun 23/09/07, The Eastern Mamores 168. Na Gruagaichean · the maidens· grookeechan 169. Binnein Mor · big peak· beenyan mor 170. Sgurr Eilde Mor · big peak of the hind· skoor ailta moar
Arghhh! Awoke smarting from a hefty hangover courtesy of a pub crawl down Fort William’s High Street and a £13 bill for camping in Glen Nevis. Some people learn their lessons fast, some learn them slow and some just don’t learn them at all… The anticipated breakfast in bed did not arrive despite us lying overly long in anticipation. I sought my revenge in the showers and took the longest shower in the world, ever!
The previous evening we had avoided a pub brawl by cunning and and the moderation of mid life. A broad, tattooed and pissed up local had claimed the money I placed on the pool table as his own. Having talked him round (or so I thought) he proceded to lift our money for a game with his mates. Alchohol makes me docile but this affront saw the red mist descend over both Ian and myself. A punch up over such a blatent affront seems quite attractive after 5 pints but in the cold light of day would a face full of bruises seem worth it for £1:50? We simmered but patiently waited until the local deposited some more money on the table and lifted it right from under his nose as he was taking a shot and calmly exited the pub content that in the morning his hang over would be worse that ours.
Crunching up the western flank of Na Gruagaichen in the Mamores with a full blown hangover in progress brought back strangley fond memories. The detail was lost but the essence remained the same. In reality I rarely drink and to be honest I’m not overly fond of alchohol; it is after all a depressant. But somehow the rare occasion I do seem to have a good bevy coincides with a good stomp in the hills. Not always but not infrequently either. I have never fathomed out the correlation. To me a stomp in the hills is a spiritual experience and as I get older it becomes more so.
In my early days as a hill walker the hill was there to be conquered, to succumb to the stomp of my boots, then I climbed the Pap of Glencoe with my very good friend Sean. Sean was struggling to keep up with the pace and to my mind was using every trick in the book to slow it down. At one stage he pointed, gasping, to a rock and exclaimed “look at the cleavage on that rock!” Exasperated and frustrated with only the summit in mind, logic finally took over and I realised it was much easier for me to slow down than for Sean to speed up. The climb improved dramatically from that point as I succumbed to simply letting go and letting the splendour of the mountain.
Now a hill walk is much more about the hill passing through me rather than me stomping over the hill. It’s an exercise in appreciating the now, dispensing with some of the bullshit of modern living and any artificial agenda we bring to the hill. It’s not about ticking off hills, it’s not even about getting to the summit, it’s simply about appreciating the moment, the future and the past are merely illusions. All we can ever have is now.
Today it was Ian’s turn to want to climb everything in sight. I would have been quite happy to spend the day meditating at Coirean an Lochain. It’s remote, melancholic and majestic and any time spent there or in the surrounding hills is priceless. Ian wanted to climb Binnein an Beag as our fourth Munro of the day; I had to point out that this would necessitate a descent in darkness. He probably concluded my hangover was more substantial than his…
Epilogue Munching down chips etc in the Tyndrum Real Food Stop we got chatting to Sarah the owner. Up to this point I had been modestly satisfied with our 4 Munro tally over two days. Sarah, before moving on to entertain other customers with her very pleasant conversation informed us she had completed an Iron Man challenge. “Wots that then?” I remember thinking to myself. On the way out the door there was a picture if Sarah crossing the finishing line at the 2003 Austrian Iron Man challenge; 3.8 km swim (open sea), 180 km bike ride, full marathon (26 miles). Wow.
Colin Wilson 27-09-07
Contributed by: colin wilson< Back to Scotland page for links to other stories