30,000 Feet, 18 Legs & 8 Pounding Hearts
Saturday 11th April 2009
7:30am I awake to a blue sky and a peace so quiet I could almost imagine I am alone. Except, I am not. There are seven of us in our little cottage in Glenlivet – not counting the dogs! And in less than an hour the house will be filled with sounds of
“pass the milk”
“are these my sandwiches?”
“do we need waterproofs?”.
Why? Because at 10:00am we are mustering the group, after a hearty breakfast, to begin our challenge.
A challenge to climb the equivalent of Mount Everest, 29035 ft, in “leg” feet. Ok, so we are really climbing Ben Rinnes, but with a total ascent of 1716 ft, the legs of seven humans and one dog will total over “30,000 feet, 18 legs and 8 pounding hearts”. Though I think our biggest challenge will be getting all those humans fed, showered, dressed and out in less than two hours.
Bring it on!
9:45am Challenge No1 passed with honours. The car is loaded with people, dog, cameras, bags of motivation and lunch. 15 minutes ahead of schedule - and we are on the road to the foot of Ben Rinnes. The forecast earlier in the week alternated between rain, dull, snow and red hot sunshine –
Scotland to perfection!
10:00am We are out of the car, the sun is deceptive, the breeze suggests a chillier day but it is still a fantastic start. Lets hope it stays that way. We pause for a group photo, while we can still breathe and are still flesh coloured!
10:15am Let me introduce you to the group.
We have Ian from Wales, along with Kara, from Liverpool but now resident in Yorkshire, who are probably our two fittest members of the group, being a runner and a ladies footballer respectively.
Then we have Dave, also from Yorkshire who likes his real ale but is sickeningly not phased by the challenge. Then we have Gordon and Dean also from Yorkshire, both self-confessed city boys who expect this to be tough going. You would not think so looking at the pace – perhaps they will burn out by half way (I hope).
Stephen is my husband who walks, and goes deer stalking in the Cairngorms, requiring enduring fitness.
Finally there is me, Marie, bringing up the rear as expected. I have to admit to already finding this harder than any of my practice walks. If this is anything like the final ascent I shall be doing it on my knees! Oh and of course I shouldn’t forget our black Labrador, Teal, a trusty companion who is flying the flag for the other two dogs who have remained at home.
The group have already settled into their own comfortable paces as we ascend – stopping periodically for a sit, a photo opportunity and to allow Teal and I to catch up.
10:30am (Roy’s Hill) Ok, I think we deserve a mini break now. Cameras are out, rucksacks off and we sit for a group photo.
“Anyone got a time delay?”
We have a giggle while we try and set up a camera remotely and guess what we will actually get a photo of while the photographer runs back in shot “Well that’s Venus and Jupiter photographed then”.
There is always one smart Alec!
11:00am We have continued up, varying our pace according to the slope. Funny how the flatter bits, yes there are some, seem to pass all too quickly before the next slog uphill.
While they walk on let me tell you a little about why we have chosen to forgo a leisurely Easter walk by the Spey followed by a pub lunch in preference to a climb up the highest Corbett in Moray.
In February my Dad, John (63) was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery for an ascending aortic dissection. This is a life threatening condition, which gives little notice (48 hours to operate or it is almost certainly fatal).
I won’t bore you with the details of what they replaced, repaired and stitched up, but suffice it to say, my Dad was not in good shape.
Luckily for us there was a theatre and a surgeon (coincidentally a lovely Scot) able to do the procedure available at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI). Dad faced 8 hours surgery and 24-48 hours sedated, on a ventilator with what felt like a list of complications to follow. The statistics were not great, the surgeon has to tell you the facts, and we were all pretty scared.
I (and my family) are delighted to say that, 3 months on, Dad is at home and already looking forward to returning to his next love (after my Mum that is – aww), gardening. It’s his hobby, his work, his life. And it is all thanks to the amazing facilities at MRI’s Critical Care Unit.
I was so moved by the care and effort that goes into saving one man’s life, my Dad’s life, that the day my Dad came out of theatre I pledged to repay them. And thankfully I had a team of volunteers only too willing to help.
Ok, time to get off my stone and start climbing again. Kara, Stephen and I debate – we think this is the last full climb “the last pull now” – it hurts just to look at it. The lads are already at least a quarter above us, drinking coffee! Then I think of my Dad and how chuffed he’s going to be when I phone him and tell him how much money we made. I reluctantly leave my stone and continue up.
This is a cruel and relentless section of the climb.
11:40am We are so close to the top now I start to feel giddy. Not dizzy giddy. Just “girly” giddy that I am actually going to get there and see the view everyone talks about.
All the way up we have been checking “how far can you see now”.
This last section is a killer of a climb. It zigzags up, with gravel and steps making up the path.
Hat’s off to the Friends of Ben Rinnes (makes a mental note to send money – anyone working at this height, in this wind need gets my respect).
Wind? Oh yes, I forgot to mention the wind!
While the sky is still clear blue with just a whisper of a cloud, the wind has got up now. Folk who set of before us (and dare I say reached the top in about 2/3 the time we have) are now leaving the summit at speed with comments like
“it’s a bit windy now, take care”.
It isn’t what you want to hear and we all thank heaven, or anyone who will listen, that it isn’t raining too!
I have been stopping, what feels like, every three minutes. Teal now thinks sitting down is a game – he tries kisses, sitting on me, even mimicking my gazing out to the horizon view. I can almost imagine him thinking “what are we looking at”. Or is that the delirium setting in? By now we can see right across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle.
Can’t wait for that 360-degree vista.
12:05pm The group are now sheltered below the rocks just waiting for me (ok, so that’s no surprise).
I still can’t see the Trig point. “It’s there, look” Gordon points “we waited for you. It’s only fitting you now lead us to the top”.
Stop it, I feel quite emotional now, well I would if I was breathing normally I am sure.
We sit for just a minute or two then I can’t contain myself any longer. Teal and I stand up and set off for the summit. Funny, I have tons of energy now. We reach the Trig point.
“Hurrah” the cheer goes up.
Kara produces a bottle of fizz and plastic cups while I phone my Dad.
It is an emotional call! I hang up and just take a minute to thank my lucky stars that we had this moment to share.
All that remains now is lunch with a plastic cup of Cava (supplied by Mum) on a draughty mountain, a few more photos, then the descent.
What’s that you ask? How much did we raise?
We raised a total of £1200!
Now that deserves a celebratory Cairngorm ale at the Highlander Inn!
Marie Smith & Friends, Easter 2009
Congratulations have to go to Marie & friends
thanks for sharing your moving tale with us