I’m going to be brave and step into the unknown. I’m about to attempt the impossible. I don’t know if it can be done but I decide to try, it’s probably foolish and may lead to disaster. I’m going to attempt to get up a Scottish hill without chocolate. Everest may have been climbed without oxygen but I bet they had chocolate. I now realise that confectionary of some kind has figured in every ascent I’ve ever made. Sometimes I probably managed to consume more calories than I expended, which is why I’m now on a diet and denied access to the delicious brown stuff.
It is my only free weekend in July and by some remarkable freak of nature the weather forecast actually looks good, the rain, which has ruined this summer, is set to have a day off and put its feet up in time for the next deluge. I phone my friend Ray to see if he wants to come on the expedition, he’ll have chocolate I’m sure. Sadly he tells me he has to do some gardening.
Gardening is the enemy of hill walking. I live in a flat and am happy to say I don’t own a garden. When the weather’s good I can go out and enjoy myself. If I want to look at grass I go to the park where it’s kindly maintained by the council and if I need flowers I buy them. Way more efficient than spending your precious free time puffing behind a lawn mower. Mike, another friend of mine who is an addicted hill basher has a garden but he has the right idea. He has turned his garden into a gravel desert, nothing grows there, not one blade of grass or errant geranium dares to poke its head through the wasteland he’s created. Napalm, the gardener’s friend.
I decide to go to one of my favourite mountains, Beinn Eighe, in Torridon. I’m not a ticker, I don’t do lists, so I can go where ever I fancy, it’s what they call the freedom of the hills. The last time I climbed the hill by the route up from the eastern end of the ridge I was in my early twenties, in the intervening decades, due to some geological freak I discover the mountain is now larger and considerably steeper than it was back then.
I am reduced to living on tomatoes where once I would have replenished my energy stores with a quick injection sugary chocolate. I’m also only allowed two slices of wholemeal bread per day, these I devour with relish and slices of grilled chicken. I feel a little feint but carry on. I only met two other walkers on the whole day and, even on the best day for weeks in the middle of July, Torridon was pretty empty.
For those of you climbing the hill from the footpath near the village of Kinlochewe you need to be aware that the footpath has deteriorated in a couple of place and care needs to be taken if you are not to be hurled into the stream below. At one point there is quite a tricky river crossing as the old route has clearly been washed away and I think a bridge is badly needed.
One day I’ll be able to eat chocolate again and the joy of sugary treats on mountain tops will return. My trousers already look as though I stole them from a clown and flap around my narrowed waist so I can’t be that far off. In the meantime, I make a mental note to avoid lawn mowers.