Down From the Mountains

By Gavin Davies on 24 February 2009

Stag parties are not really my thing…

Stag parties are not really my thing. I don’t really like going out to pubs and clubs – the music’s generally of the fingernails on blackboard variety and I find the lack of places to escape to really confining. That said, a week’s winter mountaineering was on the cards for Ben’s, so up to Scotland we went. Cardiff to Torridon took somewhere like half of forever, but we truly were in the highlands, much more remote than Fort William, some 5 hours north of Glasgow.

Winter mountaineering? The weather had other ideas. The first day saw us essentially cloudwalking as the rains and winds pulverised us. It started off well until we made the ridge and the exposure became a problem. I’d stupidly packed my balaclava at the bottom of my bag and it seemed like a mammoth task to retrieve it. I was pretty exhausted by the time we hit the first summit, and got more so as the day wore on. It became a bruising exercise in endurance as I slithered around in the slushy, grey conditions.

The descent was worse still, as with cold, wet feet we descended. Bashing myself on rocks, I was getting ever more uneasy. Hungry, cold, battered and wet, all I could think of was getting home to my lady, with the dreadful knowledge that there were up to three more days of this. I fell further behind the other guys as my increasing skittish footing diminished in confidence.

Back in the car afterwards, I was drained physically, choking back tears of exhaustion, having been basically miserable for half of the day. Nevertheless, I felt incredibly happy to be alive, very fortunate for all the blessings I have in life. The old cliches proved true – music sounded more real and food tasted better.

Following a much needed rest and drying out day, we headed for the Cairngorms. The weather here was clear and sunny, the snow still crisp, and we had the greatest day I’ve ever had on the mountains – scrambling, kicking in steps, rope work and a painless descent. I remembered why I had wanted to come. Again, I got pretty emotional, glad to be out and enjoying what the world has to offer in all its dangerous beauty.

The final day saw three of us head off for some rock climbing in a nearby crag, which was great fun, very rewarding, and saw me complete my first VDiff route.

It will take a while to recover, particularly from the loooong journey home, but it was a great experience, a very different kind of endurance test to the stereotypical stag do. I mean, damn, we even saw real stags and everything!