Firsts are great. First day at school, first day at work and first time you set your eyes on that shiny new toy sitting beneath the brightly lit twinkly tree in the coal-fire heated living room on a snowy Christmas morning! Yes... firsts are marvellous!
I contacted a few folk to ask about their firsts. To follow are a few stories that these folks have been kind enough to let me have to record on this blog series called My First... They relate to mountain firsts and range from My First Munro to My First 8000m peak! I'll give a short intro to each story and then let the authors recall their 'firsts'. Hope you enjoy!!
To kick off the whole series there is an account from Sandy off of BigBananaMountains. I'll let him tell the story of his 'firsts'...
When I was just an apprentice I decided to do a charity walk for http://www.npsuk.org/ with a couple of the guy's at work. It was my first Munro that I can remember doing as a Munro. I did do a lot of walking and hiking before this with the scouts but I doubt we went up to munro summits. I remember we got the the company we worked for to spring for the hire of a minibus and we went up to stay at a bunkhouse somewhere in Killin. The owners gave us a lift up to the visitor centre where we set off up Beinn Ghlas then continueing around the ridge ticking off 5 munro's. Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, An Stuc, Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh, not bad for a first attempt! I remember the descent down An Stuc was pretty 'interesting' it was so steep we had to frequently turn around and face into the hill to down climb it. At one point I remember taking my pack of and throwing it downhill then sliding down on my bum to the bottom of the hill! I seem to rember some joke about renaming it "Am Stuck" We finished the walk at the Lawers hotel where we had a few celebratory pints before the bunkhouse owner picked us up again!
A fantastic day out, despite the cold weather and poor visibility and me only wearing shorts (I must've been made of tougher stuff back then!) I was hooked. I wanted to keep up the hillwalking/moutaineering thing. I left it alone though for a while as the whole "never walking alone" kept nagging at me. Eventually though I discovered Outdoorsmagic and have never looked back!
After discovering the wealth of advice at Outdoorsmagic and gaining the confidence to head off into the mountains on my own I eventually decided that I wanted the freedom that wildcamping brings. My first attemt at a wild camp didn't go so well. I wanted to go somewhere I'd been before and with a good choice of escape routes incase it didnt go well and I had to abandon. I was heading for Coire an Lochain at the foot of Sgurr Eilde Mor I had recently been up that Munro on a fine day in near perfect conditions. I left my car parked at Mamore lodge and all I had to do to bail out was drop to the landrover track and follow it out.
I had been planning it for over a week but as it got nearer the weather forecast got worse and worse. I was determined though, and me now being a rough, tough mountain going type meant I could deal with anything the weather or mountains threw at me...or so I thought. I parked up and went to the Lodge to pay the lady for parking there. She looked at me as if I was mental when I cheerfully told her I was camping so I'd pay for two days. I set off in the driving rain, you could see it rolling allong in sheets as it was swept along by some seriously strong winds. Still I wasn't worried but excited instead. About half way up the ascent I got to the wee stream I'd hopped across about a month earlier, now it was in a spate. A raging white torrent that was too wide and wild for me to risk jumping. I put a foot in it and was nearly swept away! I'd have to look for somewhere else to cross. I followed it down hill across some pretty rough heather and eventually got right to the foot of the hill at the landrover track again where I could cross at the bridge. Cross i did and started making my way back up the hill on the other side of the water. I was getting tired now and time was marching on.
I decided on a straight up ascent of the hill instead of countouring round like before. The weather wasn't letting up any and my jacket was leaking at neck of the hood and accross my shoulders and arms and front. My back was just wet from sweat. This is also where my love affair with Rab jackets and eVent started to go sour. I was fit though and making good progress up the steep relentless slope and couldnt wait to get the tent up and get out of the rain which was so hard now I could feel the individual drops hitting me really hard through the jacket! As I neared the top of the slope where I would arrive in the Coire I could see the big towering dark cloud hiding between Sgurr Eilde Mor and Sgurr Eilde Beag. The air took on a decidedly greasy feel and when I took a swig of water from my hydration bladder I spat it out. Eurgh, disgusting! I was inspecting the bite valve for a wee bit of crud that I mustve picked up when the cloud right in front of me suddenly seemed to bulge and flashed furiously as if lit up from the inside with a short burst from a strobe lamp! Then almost immediately I fet my chest cavity being squeezed (think of standing in front of the big speakers at a rock concert!) as I heard the loudest and most violent rumble of thunder I've ever heard. It seemed to roll off down the hill into the glen for ages. I didnt think or even panic. I simply turned 180 degrees on the spot and legged it as fast I could downhill with out losing control and becoming a spinning mass of arms and legs. I dont even remember half the descent just that I was determined to lose height as fast as I could.
It really was just a matter of minutes and I was back on the landrover track wondering what to do as I caught my breath. Should I find a low level pitch and wait it out? I took stock and quickly came to the descicion to go home. I'd had enough, I was burst as they say. I walked out as fast as I could to the car still worrying about the storm I could hear behind me, the sky was still flashing and my bottle had gone. I got back to the car and stripped off my wet clothes into a dry set from the boot. Everything was soaked right through under my water proofs, even my boxers were damp! I got i the car and drove off home. By the time I got to Tyndrum my eyes were closing involutarily and I was doing the nodding head thing. I pulled off at the green well stop and parked as far back froom the road as I could. I crawled into the back seat and slept for a few hours under my sleeping bag. I got home very late at night and afte a small dinner of leftovers and a beer I found in the fridge I went to bed, beaten but determined I'd be back for round two!!
Thank you BBF for the great story. It's a pity there's no photies of the wildcamp!!
Next up is a short piece from Alan Arnette. Not so much a 'first' story but great all the same. Alan is a campaigner for Alzheimer's Association and you can find out more by clicking the links below. Also his website alanarnette.com is a great source of information and for 'watching' people attempt summits of the worlds highest peaks including Mt Everest.
With the Alzheimer’s Association
Guided by International Mountain Guides
As a result of seeing the impact of Alzheimer's on his mother, Alan came up with Memories are Everything: The 7 Summits, an attempt of the 7 Summits (the highest mountain on each continent) and includes Everest which was launched in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association. Their goal is to raise $1 million dollars as people follow the climbs through Web sites as well as through the events hosted at major cities around the world during the climbs. Check out the links above for more information.
I hope you enjoyed the first couple of stories in the "My First..." series. More stories will follow in the next couple of days. And remember if you wish to let us all hear about a mountain "first" of yours, get in touch. We'd all love to read about it.