When you weren’t going to go, and you head home afterwards saying, ‘It was one of the best times of my life’.
Being a Mountain Leader with a business in it’s infancy I have to get out there and try new things. I’m still not quite sure what my niche is to be honest. That’s not a bad thing, I just don’t want to be normal. After 12 years of working really hard in my current company I want to find something that I really love where I can make a difference in people’s lives.
So last weekend I went out to find the perfect place for a Wild Scottish Weekend event in May. As another ML, John is also on the hunt for a route; Paul and Holly, being trainee Mountain Leaders, wanted a bit of adventure and a few tips.
Three hours it is up to Castle Creavie Cottages, a barn conversion North of Dumfries. I unpack and go to meet the other lads an hour later. Holly lives near our destination so she’s going to meet us then. We have a disappointing half portion of fish and chips in the village pub, call by a mini-supermarket for desert and get an early night.
Even though it’s the middle of November the fields are sun blessed next morning and it’s a nice hour’s drive up to the car park at Bruce’s Stone, keeping watch over Loch Trool. Holly joins us and changes her name to Polly! That’s Facebook for you.
We head North along Buchan Burn and arrive at Culsharg Bothy. This may be a nice place to stay sometime in the future but not on this trip. Into the forest we must go.
Paul, I find out is in sales, no surprise he wants to get out. At 57 he’s put enough years in. Now, he says, he just wants to make some ‘pin money’ in his thick Leeds accent. Nice guy, I’ll later invite him to assist me on a Navigation Workshop in January.
Polly is training to be a social worker so I wonder which one she’ll choose. Most of the Mountain Leaders (and trainees) I know just want to get out of a job they’ve had enough of and do something they love. We’ll see.
It’s amazing, spending time in the wild, away from all your stresses; with lovely genuine people. John pushes on up Benyellary, I think he needs to burn off some energy live our springer spaniel; we take our time talking about kids, our woes and life in general. You can really open up to people when you’re out with strangers, taking life at a more relaxed pace.
The weather is truly gorgeous now, still freezing and very windy but finally I get my first views from Scottish hills. We summit our first of the day and have a bite to eat but we came to summit The Merrick so onward we must go, along a saddle East and the start of a good steady climb. This is the fastest my weekday stresses have ever subsided, I’m in heaven.
Heading down the spur South we agree there is plenty of time to get another one in and so we plot a route up Buchan Hill, get a river crossing in and make our ascent. We will definitely have and hour in the darkness, but this is the game, this is adventure.
The sun sets as we summit Buchan at exactly 4pm as planned. We linger for the few minutes it takes for the sun to dip and we watch its final seconds. It darkens. We light up, make a plan to pick our way through the crags and down towards the dry stone which will lead us back.
Polly drives off after a fond farewell, and curry bound we take a bearing South in Paul’s Volvo.
The lads are snoring in bed by 930 but on a clear night like this I’m tempted to get the Nikon out of the van and play out around the farm for a couple of hours.
‘One of the best weekends of my life’ is the consensus in the group. Truly inspiring. John and I now make plans to book 8 trainees in next year to focus on navigation, wild camping and steep group in preparation for their assessments. I have the perfect route for my Wild Scottish Weekend which I set up before I return home and send some invites out.
Bonnie Scotland again has offered us peace and adventure; and once again has delivered on the promise.