She Who Must Be Discouraged From Doing So In The Future has been ‘reminding’ me for ages that it would be a good idea to for a nice gentle stroll up Bennachie – a dirty big hill that pretty much dominates the landscape around where we live – and this weekend I finally caved in and said, “OK, why no?” Fool!
Bennachie isn’t even that big, a mere 1698 feet up to the top of Mither Tap, and I’ve been climbing the bloody thing since I was tiny. It used to be a regular thing on a sunny Saturday for my mother to bundle us into the old Wolseley Six – where any exposed flesh would instantly stick to the roasting-hot vinyl upholstery with the faint sizzle of cooking flesh just audible under the screams of pain – and off to the Chapel of Garioch we’d go. Run up the hill, have a picnic on the Mither Tap and run all the way down again. No problems. And let’s face it, the hill can’t have gotten any taller in the intervening years, and my legs are now considerably less short than they used to be.
Only trouble is, everything else is bigger too, and weighs a hell of a lot more. And it’s also spent the better part of two decades sat on its bum in front of a computer, so isn’t exactly in the best of shape. This was made readily apparent about fifteen minutes in, when both She Who Must Never Be Trusted To Suggest Fun Activities For A Sunday Again and I were panting and wheezing and clutching onto trees for support. Benna-bloody-chie might only be 1698 feet tall, but it’s uphill most of the way (OK, technically as it’s a hill that’s being climbed it’s uphill all of the way) and not just your easy-going slightly uphill either – this is full on sixty degree slopes. In the blazing sunshine. But I used to run up this damn hill as a kid so there was no way in hell I was going to give up because of an impending coronary.
Now, when I used to caper and scamper (no, seriously) up this near-vertical lump of granite and boulders, I was kitted out in the obligatory mountaineering gear of the time: nasty brown T-shirt, shorts (probably also a nasty brown) and a pair of Clarks finest clumpy shoes. So how come nearly everyone we saw clambering, grim-faced, up the thing on Sunday was done up like they were making an assault on the north face of the Eiger? Massive rucksacks, hiking boots, those little bag things you strap on your back to carry water about it, full waterproof gear (even though there’s not a cloud in the sky), and ski poles... Ski poles? Hello? Middle of May anyone? And I know they’re supposed to make it ‘easier to walk’, but the people carrying them were hardly infirm (except perhaps between the ears). As far as I can see, the only reason to carry a ski stick is if you’re going skiing. Otherwise it’s just another thing you have to cart up the mountain, along with your dirty big rucksack, emergency change of clothes and a pop-tent big enough to sleep twelve. Nope, what you want are clumpy shoes and a plastic bag with a picnic in it.
I had a craving for egg mayonnaise sandwiches all the way up, egg sandwiches and a packet of salt n’ vinegar crisps. That’s what we used to have when we were small, huddling in the lee of a massive granite boulder as the wind whipped past on the hilltop. Sandwiches and crisps, washed down with a thermos of tea. Mmm... sophisticated. Unfortunately all we’d brought with us this time was suntan lotion and tiny bottles of water. Not even a polo mint to share between us. Though I did suggest mugging one of the ‘serious mountaineers’, dragging their unconscious body off behind a crag and eating them, Fiona wasn’t too keen. Said they all looked far too sweaty and unappetising.
We got to the top in the end – stunning views over most of Grampian from up there, once your heat rate settles down to a mere stampede and the world stops whooshing in and out. And today everything aches. Hurrah. Think we might try it all again next weekend...