“There’s both a beauty and struggle in walking the land.”
With every tense stride, shallow breath and muscle strain, her friend’s words repeated in her head, 'They don’t call it the ‘sweat’ highland way for nothing.' The impending wall lurked around each bend, taunting her, pushing every fibre of her body and mind to the brink of existence. The aching feeling in her feet was justified by the muddy hiking boots locked around her ankles for support. Six days of support...and wet socks.
Despite coming upon a hiker here and there, she was almost always alone with nature. The landscape was wild. She’d navigated small narrow paths on the rocky banks of Loch Lomond, breathed in the fresh air as pine trees created a protective canopy above and stared into the reflective eyes of a young female deer.
It was her last day.
For every step she took on the rocky, uneven path, a muscle tweaked in a new area of her body. She distracted her mind by reflecting on the things she had been witness too. Solitude amongst glorious mountain ranges, the sweet tune of native birds and the autumn-coloured ground cover replicating ocean waves in the fields of Glencoe.
But such calming images couldn’t distract her from her nemesis, Ben Nevis.
Determined to reach the peak in four hours, she hoped that the misty clouds hiding his crown would disperse and a blue sky would appear. But this was Scotland. Moisture from her clothes combined with her own sweat becoming indistinguishable. The slippery, muddy, slow ascending track of Ben Nevis warped before her eyes. Her shoulder blades were tight, emanating heat underneath her backpack, as an onslaught of rain projected down at a sharp angle, each drop attacking her cheeks like bee stings.
The solid, tall brick wall drew closer.
She passed the halfway point twenty minutes ago. The Little Tower was next, followed by The Great Tower and The Lower Gap, then she would reach the peak. She stopped, leaning her body against a large boulder that sat to the right of the track. Go back - the weather’s not clearing - it’s time to end this. She had come this far, survived The Devil’s Staircase, endured unspeakable blisters and conquered everything the land threw at her.
No, I’m almost there.
Clearing her mind, she kick-started her legs.