Positive Failure

Meall a’ Bhuachaille 

Many moons ago, as a trainee teacher I was lucky enough to do a residential at Glenmore Lodge.  This was part of our social studies course and we looked at history, ecology and more.  One part that stood out was the Pass of Ryvoan, taking us to Ryvoan Bothie.  Within a couple of years, I headed back, with a view of completing the Meall a’ Bhuachaille walk.

This walk is advertised as a great introductory walk to hill walking.  With paths and being easily accessible it should be a great one for starting to explore this activity.  However, not for me.  Over halfway up, with the rainstorm heading towards us along the valley, I took a bit of a panic and had to come down again.  This haunted me for years, I do not like to fail.  But I felt I had.  So today was time to address that, today we were going to complete the walk.

This is a gorgeous walk, and with much of Scotland, has its own dose of history.  We started at Glenmore Lodge and quickly bumped into some family, returning from a walk to the wee green loch.  Good wishes for the new year exchanged and then we continued onwards, following in the footsteps of cattle drovers and thieves from times gone by.  Ancient Caledonian Pines dotted along the path. 

I love old trees.  They are strong and beautiful and have weathered so many storms.  They remind me that no matter what life throws at me, I can withstand it.  I am a tree hugger, the power within these old trees is immense.  I like to imagine some of them may have even seen, who they’ve seen and what they may see. 

Before long, we arrive at An Lochan Uaine.  This is the wonderful little green loch.  Legend has it, the loch has its green colour from the fairie folks washing their clothes in it.  When the water is a little lower, you’ll find a sandy beach here, for you to relax and fairie spot.  Unfortunately, at this time of year, the water was high, and the beach was hidden beneath.

Onwards we venture.  We reach a fork in the path with signage for Nethy Bridge, just passed this lies the bothy.  This bothy has been maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association since 1972 and has a supply of wood should you require it.  No wood was required today though as this was merely a stop for food before continuing onwards.

The word Ryvoan comes from Ruighe a Bhothain, or Sheil of the Bothy.  This building was a farm many years ago and was said to have been two or three times as big as it is now.  It was abandoned in 1877 and the land not worked thereafter.  Certainly, whilst the little building does have a fire, some candles and a sleeping platform, there is no mistaking that life here would have been hard. 

However, soon the food was consumed, and it was time to continue the walk.

From the bothy, a path heads west up Meall a’ Bhuachaille.  This is a clear path, with stone steps at the steeper sections.  We set off up at, passing the odd walker coming back and watching as the weather closed in upon us.

When I first attempted this walk many years ago, mother nature sent a rainstorm which caused me to panic and descend.  This time, she upped her game, and sent a snowstorm.  This time I was determined, I would succeed. 

However, I now suffer anxiety and could feel an anxiety attack starting to take hold.  My thoughts were going 100mph, all filled with doom, death and destruction.  An anxiety attack is hard.  The small piece of my logical brain tries to talk sense, but my anxiety yells over it, trying to take over.  Logic can easily fall by the wayside.  It is incredibly hard to fight the monster which is anxiety. 

But I voiced my anxiety, I focused on my breathing and I kept going.  The anxiety was not going to beat me.  Despite every cell in my body aching to succumb to it.  We climbed higher than I had ever been, the views really were beautiful.  However, the worsening weather was slowing us. 

Eventually, with the summit within site, we took the decision to head back down towards the bothy.  With the conditions and limited amount of daylight, we decided to be cautious.  We were unsure what footing would be like on the descent and decided we would rather know our route. Those steps, well they aren’t very fun to descend.  My ankles aren’t the strongest, so I took my time. 

Reaching the bottom, and the bothy, without incident was a relief.  Now it was an easy walk back to the car.  What surprised me was the number of people setting out along the path with darkness descending and with no equipment.  I can only presume they were only out for a short stroll, at least I hope so. 

We didn’t finish the way we had hoped.  It was a little disappointing.  But I had beat an anxiety attack and my fears.  I had gone further and higher than I had previously achieved.  I had faced everything mother nature had thrown at me.  To me, that makes this walk a win.

I am writing this almost 2 weeks on from that walk.  I am sat asking myself if I will I go back and complete it?  The honest answer is probably not.  I have finally admitted I do not get any enjoyment from hillwalking.  I have tried for years to enjoy it, I like the thought of it, but the actual doing and then aftermath of it, I get no joy from.  There are plenty of walks I can enjoy and other ways to spend time outdoors. I do not need to climb a mountain.  So, I feel ok about hanging up my hillwalking boots.  I would rather find ways to enjoy the outdoors that I gain pleasure from!

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