Today, Sunday the 27th of November, brought me some peace.
Well it wasn’t brought to me … I searched it out … through an old tried and tested method for me – I went hiking.
I grew up in the remote Scottish Highlands and spent incredible amount of time hiking. Whenever the school holidays would come along I would grab my kit and tell my mother I was off for a week or two. Sometimes with mates. But one unforgettable and fantastic fortnight when I was sixteen – all alone. I spent a fortnight making my way across to the west coast and back through Lairg to home, sleeping outside under a tarp and not using any roads. I caught absolute hell from my mother for not telling her what I was doing – she had assumed that I went with mates. But the freedom and strength of character that I garnered from doing such a thing at that age still lies within me. Sometimes I think it was the ONLY worthwhile thing I have ever done.
On that and other trips I took many chances on mountains … really stupid chances. As I grew older and became more experienced and learnt a lot more regarding the correct way to hike … it actually slowed me down. If I ever thought the weather was going to be less than favourable then it was a no go. The weather is the killer on Scottish mountains. And I would never take chances. I stopped hiking alone. Its always recommended to hike in a group. It got to the stage where one year I only completed 3 Munros … and they were Munros I had already completed.
However over the last few years I have become quite adventurous again. But I hadn’t been up a mountain here yet. And I am living with right on my doorstep! Nothing too impressive … Why is that? Its on a par with the highest mountains in the UK regarding its height. The reasons are actually obvious – when you go mountain hiking in Scotland you generally start not that much higher than sea level – whereas here the surrounding areas are already at 600 odd metres high anyway. Also the terrain is far more treacherous on scottish mountains – scree, boulder scrambling, quite often no path etc. Its not like that here … this is alpine territory so even when you are at above 1200 metres your still surrounded by trees. Perhaps that is why when on a Scottish Mountain there is a far more vertiginous feel to it … ie if you slip and falter you are going a long way down. Here you are going to be very unlucky if a tree doesn’t break your descent after only a few metres.
So I went up this Saleve yesterday and it was very easy and very safe and I was a bit disappointed by it. I climbed and reached a grassy plateau on top and as I walked further on I came across a road with loads of cars on it. Thats another thing about Scottish mountains – there is none of that going on.
But it was good to get the blood pumping and some elevation – The last time I was this height was Ben Wyvis in Scotland 5 weeks ago. I was thinking about how much more an effort that seemed to have been when I looked up and saw the magnificent sweep of the French/Swiss alps … It was breathtaking. Even this late in the year Mt Blanc seemed to be the only one with a covering of snow – it has been incredibly mild here apparently.
It just reminded me that it takes a lot more elevation round these parts to attain the look of Scottish mountains – but when the elevation is there they look incredibly impressive.
spent a total of 8 hrs and I pretty much hiked the Saleve from one end to the other.
When I told my landlord he said I was crazy, that I should never go alone, that I should always check the weather, and blah, blah, blah.
I have found an online resource for all the routes up there and Im gonna tread that place to death in the next couple of weeks … then Im gonna start thinking about the mountains on which I really do need to heed caution.