“Should be two relatively easy days” said Nick, via Twitter.
The simple fact that I’m writing this at 5am, when I’m supposed to be asleep in my tent at the start of day two should be an indication that things haven’t quite gone to plan.
That plan really was simple. I’d start at the car park by Loch Turret on Thursday, climb Auchnafree hill and drop down into Glen Almond, where I’d camp overnight. On Friday, I’d climb back out of the glen and up Ben Chonzie, then back to the car. On both days, taking in some minor tops along the way.
I had even changed the plan since talking with Nick, to make it even easier. I was now going to do a circular walk to Auchnafree hill on day 1, and another to Ben Chonzie on day 2, so that I didn’t need to drop down to Glen Almond, but more importantly, didn’t need to carry all the camping gear all day. I was a little worried about my general levels of fitness to carry the gear in deep snow.
I knew there would be a fair amount of snow, so I would bring the snowshoes along, to make life that little bit easier.
Things started just fine. I arrived at the car park just after 10am, threw on the boots and gaiters and off I went. Things carried on fine for a couple of hours, trudging through the snow (the snowshoes were a major blessing along the way!) Until a point just before the big cairn on Choinneachain Hill.
I was hit by a sudden pain to my upper right thigh and groin, that was building in intensity. I needed to sit down!
After sitting down for 5 minutes, everything seemed fine, but after 20 minutes or so of walking, the pain started to come back again. It varied in intensity, but it was a constant companion on the way back to the car. Sometimes it felt like a dull throb in my upper thigh, whilst sometimes it felt like my hip was about to pop out of its socket, which was quite excruciating!
You’ll have noted by now that I’d started the return trip pretty much as soon as it happened, even though it felt better.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time it has happened, so I knew what was coming. This is what did it for me when I first attempted the West Highland Way 2 years ago, and it was this that caused me so much bother when Janie and I walked the Mell Circuit the same year (interestingly, we’d been talking about the problem and her concerns about me doing long days in case it came back just a few days ago!).
I know the problem isn’t muscular. If it was, sitting down wouldn’t alleviate it that quickly, and I’d still be in a fair amount of pain just now… That means it’s either a nerve or joint problem. I’m not even 35, so I’d like to think there’s nothing wrong with my hip… I don’t know, though, so another trip to the doctor and physio is on the cards, I reckon.
In saying all that, what I did manage of the walk on the hills, I enjoyed, so it didn’t completely get the best of me! Below are some photos taken yesterday, highlighting just how stunning it is up there!
The walk wasn’t a total bust in other areas, either. From a wildlife perspective, I got my Mountain Hare fix (these hills are one of the best areas in the UK to see them), as well as getting to see Red Kite soaring above. Stunning!
I also got to test a few new bits of kit, to see how they went, and everything seems fine so far. My new boots, in particular, were exceptionally comfortable.
This was also my second outing with snowshoes, and much as I have to admit that they’re still hard work, they definitely do make a difference when compared to trudging through the snow just in boots!
Here’s hoping I can get this all sorted in the next few weeks! I’m supposed to be walking the West Highland Way from the 11th May!