4PEAKS: The final summit

It’s now been two weeks since the finale of the four peaks journey but my legs have only just returned to business as usual. After three weeks of back-to-back cycling and climbing with only one rest day my calfs were in pieces and seeing my team mates trying to get up and down the stairs was like watching astronauts learning to walk after returning from outer space.

My housemate kindly offered to give me a calf massage. Knowing how much pain I was in I was absolutley horrifed when she stood on the back of my legs and starting pummeling me with her heels.

‘Owweeeeee’, I squealed, ‘Stop climbing on me’.

Only to turn round and discover she was merely stroking me with her fingertips.

The final leg of the trip through Scotland was hands down the highlight for me. We were joined by Miranda’s cousin Lucy who was an excellent addition to the team encouraging us all to find our singing voices by conducting an array of folk songs, harmonies and a music video. Even on the rainy days you couldn’t dampen our spirits as we hurtled along singing at the tops of our voices. Passers by looked confused at the joy on the faces of this sodden band and I half expected some of them to jump out of safety of their cars and join us. Sadly that kind of thing only happens in the movies.

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For the final climb of the trip our numbers were boosted by the arrival of Deano, Kaz and Jonny who had flown all the way from Bristol to conquer the Ben. Once again the weather forecast was looking poor so we loaded up the bag of Jonny (our resident packhorse) with a plethora of woolly jumpers and enough snacks to feed an army.

IMG_20170610_175909_027Fortunately our preparations were in vein and by some miracle we had sun on the summit of Ben Nevis! Apparently this is a very rare occurrence, but Mother Nature really owed me after the cloud fests on the first two peaks of the trip. We spent about an hour on the summit taking endless photographs, soaking in the stunning views and eating our summit sarnies.

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After the descent you couldn’t get us to the pub quickly enough and a surprisingly delicious haggis dinner was washed down with a couple of pints, convincing us that a swim in the freezing cold loch was the perfect way to end the adventure. Unceremoniously we stripped down to our pants for the briefest of dips. Hooting and howling as we rapidly swam a couple of strokes before running back to the safety of the car and heading home for some well deserved whiskey and a rest!

Thank you to Miranda, my partner is crime, for being mad enough to plan this trip with me in the first place and for making me laugh until I  cried so many times over the course of the journey. Thanks to Maria and Lucy for joining us on this ridiculous escapade providing endless hours of conversation, jokes and of course singing. And thanks to Deano, Kaz and Jonny for coming all the way to Scotland and making the final leg of the journey so special. Summiting the final mountain surrounded by so many of my best friends is something I will never forget.

Finally a big thank you to everybody who has donated to Young Bristol. The original £500 target has been smashed and donations have even exceeded my dream target of £1000. Following a donation from my work I will have raised around £1300 which will go a long way to helping Young Bristol with their valuable work with young people across the city.

I will leave you with this excellent account of one of our wilder days in Scotland from Lucy. Until the next adventure. Goodbye.

Never trust a local. Latecomer Lucy ‘s tale of cycling up the west coast of Arran.

 

 
Scottish Highlands and Islands have been on my list for awhile; the wild, dramatic, rugged landscape drawing my soul northwards. So when my cousin Miranda mentioned her trip I couldn’t resist the opportunity to test my cycling legs out on the hills and valleys of the west coast. Having just finished a 2 week exam for my part time MA, I joined the intrepid MCs for their final leg from isle of arran to Fort William and up the highest of the 4 peaks; Ben Nevis.
 
The Isle of arran threw every kind of weather at us. On arrival in Brodick we were delighted to find peaceful waters and beautiful expansive views of holy island and the coastline as we pedalled 12 miles to our cottage at dusk. The next day brought beautiful sunshine, a short ride and stomp to a wooded waterfall, and an enormous lunch followed by ice cream on the patio. We spotted seals as we ate dinner with the sun setting magically on the horizon. Sadly, this was not to last.
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The next morning we were all packed up and ready to cycle the 20 odd miles back up the east coast to Lochranza in the north for our ferry to the mainland. Our lovely hosts came over to chat and wave us off. Upon enquiry about our route, they were extremely persuasive in their recommendation to instead take the west coast. Although slightly longer, they assured us it would provide a tailwind all the way around and to see the whole of Arran- the west coast was something to see. We were a bit puzzled by the idea of a tailwind taking us north. Seemed counter to everything we knew about wind coming off the sea. However we told ourselves, they’re locals, they must know best. Plus one of them was a cyclist.
We set off in drizzling rain and I was in high spirits, excited to see more beautiful Scottish scenary and get some proper miles under my belt. After an hour or so of hilly cycling in rain and a decent head wind, I asked Megan how much further to the ferry (bear in mind we had 28ish miles still to do on the mainland to get to Lochgilphead that evening), convinced we must be nearly there. “17 miles” she said and showed me where we were on the Garmin – only just at the south west point of the island. I was audibly distressed, put it that way. The rain was driving in harder now, damp creeping up my sleeves and the headwind from the full force of the Atlantic was upon us.
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Crawling along with poor visibility and an ostensibly silent Miranda (sure sign she’s not a happy bunny), I started to wonder if we would even make it to the 1pm ferry crossing- a deadline that should have been very easily accomplished. I began fantasising about the stillness and beauty of the east coast, sheltered from the Atlantic by the mountains on inland Arran. As we turned excruciatingly slowly round the inlets of the coastline, squinting through the downpour, I caught the occasional glimpse of picturesque hillside dotted with sheep, but no sign anywhere of this promised tailwind.
 
Resigned to our fate, and aware that missing this ferry would mean waiting until 4pm and cycling all evening, we huddled together into a sorry looking peleton and took it in turns to confront the bruising wind, peeling off one by one to give our calves some respite in the shelter of the others.
 
The final stretch was lighter, as we finally got our tailwind as we turned onto the north coast of the island and, in mild hysteria, started “singing” to get us through the final 5 miles. At one point I had no choice but to stop and inhale a Tussocks caramel wafer – the bonk had set in big time but we had no time to stop for lunch yet. My “fresh” (aka untrained) legs were struggling somewhat alongside my veteran pals but their encouragement got me through. Nothing could have been more welcome upon arrival at the ferry with 20mins to spare, than the discovery of an incredibly hipster-esque cafe serving celeriac soup, focacia bread sandwiches and SOY milk coffee (not easy to find round these parts). We ordered it all, and more. Then took all our wet clothes off and hung them all over the ferry, much to other passengers delight.
 
Well that broke me in alright. The moral of the tale is, never trust a local. I’m joking of course, there’s no moral really. Just don’t cycle north up the west coast of arran. Unless you hate yourself. It’s almost a week later and I’ve had a flippin wonderful holiday, with some absolutely stunning weather, scenary, company and lots more singing, which was a bit more like actual singing. Thanks to the 3 MCs for having me, absolutely troopers each one of them.
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One thought on “4PEAKS: The final summit

  1. Thought I would just check my e-mails before going to bed. Very glad I did Megan. What an end to your adventure. Well done. Now have a rest!! Grandma.

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