Last updated on 22nd April 2010
I'm at my friend Larry's flat in Glasgow. We're doing one of our three-to-four monthly check-ins - reviewing and planning how our lives are going. I arrived here from Edinburgh yesterday evening and we spent time catching up and looking ahead. This morning though, when I woke, I found it hard to think clearly about the time between now and early August when we next plan to meet like this. The mountains of Glen Affric are beginning to grow closer and fill my immediate field of vision.
Tomorrow I hope to drive the four or so hours north to Affric. Irvine Butterfield, in his marvellous book "The high mountains of Britain and Ireland - Vol. 1. The Munros and tops and other 3,000ft peaks", says of it (p.197) " ... Glen Affric, regarded by many as the finest glen in Scotland." He goes on to describe walking there, writing " ... remote mountains that give long challenging ridge walks above deep glens, to provide some of the most rewarding cross-country traverses in all Scotland." I certainly feel challenged - technically, physically, psychologically, maybe too spiritually. Five days walking in the Sahara last month was a very different thing (see the Holiday, friendship & meditation retreat posts). The guides looked after us. Navigation, food, tents, safety were largely up to them. Going into Glen Affric tomorrow, I'm responsible. There's nobody else. My intention is to spend three nights in a one man tent, miles up the glen. During the days I hope to do three long walks, climbing eight Scottish mountains. I'll be on my own. Navigation and safety is up to me. Physically as well it will be a challenge - maybe nine to ten, then nine to ten, then five to six hours walking each day. On Tuesday it's my 59th birthday. It's likely to be the first time in my life that I'll be alone and maybe speak to nobody all of a birthday (since I learned to talk that is!). With the drive North, heading into the glen, walking for three days, coming out and getting home again, it's going to be a Monday to Friday trip.
I've talked before about why writing about my personal experiences sometimes has a place, even in this "evidence-based blog". Many people go on hugely much bigger adventures than this, but for me taking this time to solo camp and walk out into the wilds is a pretty big challenge. It's an adventure. I hope too that it connects me to this awesomely beautiful country that we live in ... and that it connects me to myself. People have gone up into the hills for thousands of years to find quietness, to realise how very small and insignificant we are, to connect to themselves and to connect to something beyond themselves as well.