The Outdoor Bug

I grew up in Lanarkshire. My first "hills" were playing on the piles of iron ore in Ravenscraig Steel Works. I should have paid more attention as they were great practice for handling scree but sadly I was as wimpy then as now on the stuff. I got my first proper hill day out whilst on a school trip to Wiston Lodge. I can vividly recall the four seasons in one day on Coulter Fell along with that unrelenting feeling as we were dragged up Tinto Hill. It didn't really grab me then. 

Ravenscraig
Tinto approaching from Wiston Lodge
Next I'm a student in Dundee, more interested in causing political mayhem and drinking but the urge to go up The Law would happen at least once a year during my 3 fuzzy years. It still wasn't grabbing me.

It's not that I didn't appreciate what the outdoors had to offer, I even toyed with the idea of trying to get a job working outdoors. I was fortunate enough as part of the 80's government initiatives to get us layabouts off the unemployment figures to work on a project surveying the wildlife in East Kilbride's Calderglen Country Park. Entertaining when you don't know that much about wildlife but very enjoyable. When the funding was pulled I got punted over to Strathclyde Park though this time the job was to work out what people were using the park for - an eye-opening experience!! When reality hit that trying to get a job in this field permanently was as rare as a dodo I reverted back to the career path of nursing. I continued to get my outdoor fix from cycling to work and the occasional wander escaping the city to the highlands.  

It was a good few years later before I had what could be regarded as my first proper adult hill experience. It was someone's bright idea after a party that going up Ben Lomond  was the way to blow the cobwebs away. I do remember enjoying the view as I plodded up the tourist path before the hangover started to hit and the clag came in. My first non view summit on Ben Lomond. Not long after that some work colleagues decided a wee outing up The Cobbler could be a fun day out. My memories of that day are still so vivid. The weather was awful but we still went out. The laugh I had when I commented about how I was working hard as my glasses were constantly steamed up only to have my friend point out that no that was the mist causing the lack of visibility. It was no wonder that we ended up way of course. That day went down as my first non ascent of The Cobbler. The joy I felt when I peeled off my wet through totally inadequate kit to sit by the fire in The Village Inn looking up to where we had been. The bug had got its first real in.

Ben Lomond from Succoth
The Cobbler
My move to London had a strange effect. It wasn't like I stopped getting my outdoor fix as I was running and cycling in some pretty spectacular surroundings. Not many folk can have their usual training route going through Richmond Park and Hampton Court Palace. But something was missing. A visit back to see the olds combined with a wee ticky tour of my old haunts fired up the bug. Soon all the visits back north were engineered to try and get near some hills. The bug had really taken hold. Preparation  for a tramping trip to New Zealand had me in planning frenzy. I had gone from being the very occasional wanderer up a well trodden hill to craving wild isolated spaces. The West Highland Way and Great Glen Way were soon ticked off that ever growing list. This bug was turning into a beast consuming the majority of my leave to satisfy it. It was injury that stopped it in its tracks with a huge jolt.

Ben Lomond New Zealand
me enjoying New Zealand hills
Sunset over Ngauruhoe
Stress fracture of the tibia, not the type of injury that any outdoorsy person wants to be told they have. Eventually after I got to the sports medicine specialists at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, the two years of only being able to go swimming were coming to an end. The bug was itching away at me. My physio kept me on a tight rein as we progressed but the day he said ok to go play on something other than The Downs had me heading straight back to my favourite and yet unconquered mountain.

Things had changed since my last attempt, there was now a nice path making the initial ascent a lot more pleasant. Some things hadn't though the weather was still crap and as visibility went down to non existent, The Cobbler summit would have to wait for another day. In the meantime the bug was back with a vengeance. Every free few days had hills pencilled against them along with all the logistics attached to escaping London. The notebook that started off as an aid to recording what effect my hill days had on my still recovering leg soon had entries from all over Scotland, England and Wales.

Looking over Derwent Water
Scrambling in Hassness Gill
Shy Snowdon
Pen yr Ole Wen above Llyn Idwal
Now, I'm back in Scotland. I have the hills on my doorstep. I am now fully appreciating what was always there but didn't know it. When I talk to my parents, who are Lanarkshire born and bred, I ask them why we never went north. It was really sad to hear that they felt is was unfriendly and a rip off.OK I could see where they were coming from as like all areas that rely on tourists of any kind, there are people who will try to exploit it.  That has not been my experience and I hope that it will continue to be the case.

So here I am once more, stopped in my tracks by injury. Yes it's frustrating but I know that I'll be back out there eventually. In the meantime I have my photos to remind me of the adventures and I'm planning many more.

Coire Mhic Fhearchair
Redpoint Bay
An Teallach
Glamaig
Schiehallion

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