That’s Me A Mountaineer Now.
It was Andrea’s idea really. “Let’s do some hillwalking!” she said.
I’d always fancied hillwalking for years but just never did it. …Which is a disgrace when I think about it since I’m 34 and Scottish, and I can get from city to wilderness in under an hour easily.
I have asthma and I was thinking about how I ONLY admit to having asthma only when it’s very obvious that I have it, and sitting on the train to Balloch, I was imagining being half dead from an asthma attack and having to be airlifted off a mountain hours later. Always be prepared for the worst! That’s my motto!
…Except it isn’t even! Because I NEVER prepare for the worst!
Andrea asked if I had my medication with me and I said “Yip! I’m not a fool, my dear!”, and then I looked out of the train window and watched the scenery roll by as I thought about the growing distance between me and my medication. Which was on my bookcase. Which was in my hoose. Miles away.
There was a strange smell on the train from Glesga to Balloch. I couldn’t put my finger quite on what it was. I said to Andrea, “Whit dae ye suppose that is?”
She nailed it.
“Piss. It’s piss, Al.”
And that’s exactly what it was. And I already knew what it was before I pretended to not know and ask. I just didn’t know how else to bring it up.
It was from an auld woman sitting across the aisle from us and she was soaked! We heard her muttering, “…ah dunno WHARE ah’mur!,,,”, and that’s when the, thank fuck, ticket guy came over and saw to it that she was alright.
Which, she wisnae.
I spilt my peanut M&M’s all over the train floor. 95p they cost me. The bag was tiny. Cannea believe I bought them.
…Lesson learned there. Eat the M&M’s BEFORE the train comes.
This was probably the best day I could choose to give up smoking cigarettes.
So that was us in Balloch and from there we took a bus to Drymen, which is pronounced ‘Dri-Min’ and not ‘Dry-Men’. From Drymen we were supposed to take another bus to Balmaha (Which isn’t pronounced as, Balma-HAHA!’) but the road was closed to traffic so we just hoofted it. It was roughly a five mile walk but the weather was perfect and we took our time. Whenever I go anywhere with Andrea, it takes twice as long because she wants to stop any time we see puddles.
She’s always taking great photographs of puddles…
So we walked and walked and then there it was! Conic Hill. Looked more like Conic Mountain tae me.
Nobody seems impressed when I tell them I did Conic Hill. I don’t think it’s considered very difficult or dangerous at all but when I saw it, I secretly thought, “I’m never making this”. That’s what living life as a shut-in does for you.
So, that was us. Up we went.
You start Conic Hill by walking through a trail through a forest. My imagination always, always gets the better of me and right as I was about to come out with quotes from “Predator”, Andrea stopped me with, “What. The. Fuck. Is…”
And before I could say, “If it bleeds, we can kill it!”, I saw the lone sheep she was staring at. It was about 30 feet above us just hanging about at a weird angle on the hill in the forest. It was weird to see.
‘Fuck was it daein’…
…there, up Conic Hill, we went higher and as you get higher, the forest disappears and it starts to feel like you’re doing some actual climbing. It was about this time that I filled our empty water bottles from a trickling stream and really felt proud to be Scottish. Ridiculous when here was me being taken up my first hill by a Canadian. Haha!
As we climbed further I just kept thinking how I’d been a fool for all those years I’d spent smoking cigarettes. But at the same time, I was glad that I was having no trouble going up this hill. “We’re not fucked yet, Al!”, I told myself.
…Looking back at Andrea behind me and later, when she took over me, she was beautiful…
Later, I realised we were near the summit, which is how we mountaineers refer to the top.
It started to get a bit fucking windy for my liking but at this stage, I just wanted to get to that top.
Andrea went ahead with her camera and watching her jump around right beside the sheer drop to the left started to make me worry for her. Fuck.
That’s what vertigo is to me. An amplified sense of doubt. And that’s how it starts with me.
I never used to get vertigo. I work at heights and daft angles in the job I do. It never ever bothered me until a bad experience I once had at the top of the Rockefeller building in New York during very windy conditions. But that’s a whole other story for another day.
There’s a bit just before the tip of Conic Mountain where you have to do a bit of scrambling. Which means that you have to watch what you’re doing, and that was fine with me but I forgot about the wind.
Long story short, I made it.
I got up there, shouted “YAAAAAAAAAAASS!!!”. I’d made it. WE’D made it!
After we made it, I made us make our way right back doon.
The funny thing was that when we got to the top, we ran into a German family! 2 parents and two kids. The kids looked to be about 8. We steadied those kids and they grabbed us as we were going up and they were coming down! That was really mad. Because it’s dead funny to meet people way up a mountain. You pass them and they say “Hello!”, and you say, “Hello, yersel!”. It’s a weird setting to meet folk. It’s great!
That was us. I gave Andrea a big kiss at the top.
I used to think: “What’s the point in climbing up a hill? I’ll only have to come down”. But now I feel differently about that. I loved it. Why kick a football up a pitch only to have to go get it and kick it back the way, right? You can’t knock it unless you do it.
But I was glad when it was time to get the fuck down from there.
I got cockier the further down we got. A third of the way down, I was all, “Glad I did that!”. Two thirds of the way down, I was swaggering, giving it all, “Yep! The Hulls ur definitely in mah blood, oe’r here!”.
As we were coming down, some people were coming up, and they had all the best of gear on. The waterproofs, the crampons, the poles etc… and they asked me if it was a rough climb to the top.
I wanted to say, “Aye, if yeese are amateurs!”. What a dick.
I was just proud because I’d never done anything like this before and I’m even more surprised how fine I felt given the years of abuse that I’ve put my body through.
I was as proud as punch and speaking of punch, I’m grateful to Andrea for not punching fuck out of me up there. It would’ve been the perfect spot to do that.
You’ll have to forgive me if you’re a hillwalker. It was my first hill and I KNOW I wasn’t wearing sensible clothes!
I bought a bike a few days ago and I won’t do another hill again in jeans and a jumper.
If DiCaprio can’t commit to “The Revenant 2”, I could probably fill in.