Last weekend was the official start of my taper, and I decided to forego a run entirely and do some ‘cross training’ instead. That cross training ended up being climbing a mountain.
Ian’s friend Dylan has recently finished dental school, and he got a post up in Forres (close to Inverness) where he moved a couple of months ago. Ian had been eyeing up some munros in the area, and we had arranged to climb Ben Wyvis (about an hour’s drive from Forres) on whichever day was supposed to have the best weather. When we looked at the forecast on Friday night, the better option was definitely Sunday.
We woke up on Saturday morning to miserable, wet weather, so there was no rush to leave Aberdeen. Instead, I showered and tidied the flat while Ian went home to pack his things. We left late morning, by which time the sun had come out and the skies were clearing. By the time we got to Forres, the weather was fine, though we experienced a few showers throughout the day.
Dylan’s girlfriend, Lynsey, was visiting him, and we decided to spend the afternoon exploring the area. Of course, Ian had already looked out some places to investigate, so our first stop was a ruined castle. Unfortunately for us, it was in someone’s back yard, and over a fence (and nettles).
We were going to climb over the fence and through the garden, but some of us were worried in case the owners were in, so we left it, and got the best shot we could over the hedge at the front of the house:
From one ruin to the next – it was time to find the ruins of an old banquet hall a few miles away. It’s actually visible from the road, but easy to overlook. It had some pretty nice window decoration left, and the surroundings were very picturesque.
After the ruined banquet hall, Ian wanted to find a standing stone with ogham writing on it. At least, it used to have ogham writing on it. We could make out maybe a couple of weather beaten lines. I am aware that I’m just dropping in ‘ogham writing’ as though it should be obvious what I’m saying, but I would be lying if I said I had a clue what it was until Ian explained. It’s basically just patterns of lines that represent letters. It wasn’t really all that impressive:
Literally a stone’s throw (okay, maybe slightly farther) from the stone was meant to be the ruin of an old church, so we scaled the fence to get out of the field where the stone is and set out towards the church.
By this point, it was getting on in the afternoon, and we’d all had our fill of excitement for the day, so we went back to Dylan’s for some beer and a board game before going out for a meal at one of Forres’s few local eateries. Then bed.
Sunday morning arrived and the skies were clear. I jumped in the shower while Dylan started making french toast (my diva request for the weekend), and after breakfast we all set off for Ben Wyvis. We had a quick pit stop in a small, super cute village called Strathpeffer, where we had a bit of a nosey around some of the wooden sculptures:
We arrived at the parking lot for Ben Wyvis quite early, and easily got a space. There was a map clearly showing the route to the top, so we set off without having to really check anything. The first couple of miles are a gentle incline through varying levels of shrubbery before you come to the base of a fairly steep ascent.
We passed a man in his 70’s who was trying to get back into shape after a bad few years, and he was tracking his altitude so he knew what to aim for next time. He seemed pretty happy, and when we left him, we told him we’d hopefully see him at the top.
The ascent certainly seemed steep. At times, rocks had been placed which made it seem like you were climbing a never-ending staircase, and Lynsey was starting to struggle. This was her first munro, and she admitted she may have been a bit optimistic about her fitness. To her credit, she carried on, but I don’t think Dylan was her favourite person for the next few hours…
One thing I did notice was that the ground seemed to sparkle. It looked like someone had poured glitter all over the place, helped by the shining sun. I tried to take a picture (and a video), but you can’t really see it (though the video does give you some pretty sweet views).
We finally made it to the top of the steep ascent, where it was very blustery, but still had a couple of kilometres to walk along a relatively flat top towards the highest point.
The views, thanks to not being in the clouds for a change, were fantastic. We could see some of the oil platforms in the distance, as well as several munros in the distance along the west coast in the other direction.
We went back the same way that we came, and realized that the mountain was very busy indeed. We must have passed about 50 people on the way down, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it made me chuckle watching people panting for breath when we had finished and had the easy bit left. One woman asked us if she was nearly at the top. We felt we couldn’t lie, and her face fell when we told her, “No.”
When we got back to the parking lot, the man we had stopped to speak to earlier was just about ready to set off. He told us he’d made it to 750 meters before he felt like he would die, and that he’d have another go later in the week.
Back at Dylan’s, we cooked up some sausages and had them in a bun for a late lunch before heading back to Aberdeen. Dylan, Lynsey, and I had all managed a nap in the car on the way, so I think it’s safe to say that Ian felt like he needed to catch up:
Oh, and because I can’t write a post without staying classy, I’ll leave you with another town name that makes me giggle: