"It’s not every holiday that you get a mountain pass named after you… but it’s not every holiday that you climb to the top of a mountain just to see if you can…. "
The only way to start this blog, is with the little seed of an idea, that eventually culminated on me standing on top of a mountain… and then having the pass named after me forevermore***
Early in January I went to a Vision Board workshop that the lovely Emily of The Living Project was facilitating. I was sat in my happy place, cutting and pasting images of what I wanted the year of my 40th birthday to look like, when I realised that so many of the pictures were of mountains, the wild, and escaping to green spaces. Em and I got talking, and it felt like, before I knew it, I’d signed up to a June adventure to Knoydart with The Living Project.
Fast forward 6 months, and I’m stood on the edge of a car park, thinking that Emily is slightly less lovely - as she is suggesting that I may not need to take all of the very many (heavy) things I have packed ‘just in case’. I’ll be honest - she was totally right about almost everything; (but, the look of excitement a few days later when I shared the moisturiser that I’d snuck in with her, kind of made the extra weight worthwhile)!!
Picking up my (considerably lighter) bag, the trip finally felt real. On my back I had my share of food for the trip, part of our tent, my sleeping bag, a pared down collection of clothes and the smallest and most basic toiletry bag I’ve ever seen.
"It reminded me of times spent backpacking, and how freeing it is to have so few things, because you end up with so much more brain space when you don’t have to so much to choose from - and that was one of the hopes for this trip, to clear my head and to get some space and perspective."
And what a way to start gaining that perspective than on the boat from Mallaig - seeing the wilderness coming into view, searching the seas for dolphins and seals and then finally mooring in the tiny town of Inverie (population 104, only reached by water or a hike across the mountains).
The teamwork of the week started early on, as we helped to form a human chain to help all of the passengers retrieve their luggage from the boat. And continued as we soon got to camp and attempted to work together and put up our tents for the first time.
I’d give our skills a 6 out of 10 for the first evening, but we were there to learn, and by the final evening we were on a solid 9.5. By then even remembering to lie down and check the flatness of the ground before all the pegs are in, (as we had quickly learned that finding rocks under the tent are not what you want to learn about as you settle to sleep)!
The view from the tent was a 10 out of 10 every night though, and waking up on our first morning to the sounds of the waves lapping on the shore was a moment to savour, and a reminder of the fact we were spending this time immersed in nature.
Our first day of walking started with nervous excitement, readjusting of bag straps and the hope that my walking boots were as comfy as they seemed. It was a tough hike as we were all getting used to the weight of our packs, the sun shining on us, and the incline as we moved away from the town.
It would have been interesting to watch us all throughout the day - the surge of excitement to start the day, the animated conversations about music and travel, the reflective moments of seeing the view change and how far we’d come, and the moments of pushing through - forcing one foot in front of the next to keep going, and wondering how you’ll get through four days of this.
But the view from the top made it all worthwhile…
Seeing where we had camped on the beach the night before, from a birds-eye view was the sight we needed to give us strength to keep on going, and traversing the first mountain pass of the trip was a joyous moment, as we realised that we were then headed downhill for the rest of the afternoon.
Putting up our tent was the perfect full stop to the day. As we set up our base - with the all important question each night of what view we wanted to wake up to.
Before the next most important question of what was for dinner; (the answers to these included views of rivers, mountains, beach and cliff, and dinners of pasta, chilli, couscous, veg, and an assortment of meals that you would never expect to be so good when made in the open air, miles from a kitchen!)
The next few days soon developed a steady rhythm of early rising, packing up all of our belongings, and picking them up to take to our next new home. Some mornings saw us having a quick splash in the river in place of a shower, often with the previous days clothes in an attempt to make them cleaner, and some mornings began with a short yoga practice to get our bodies ready for the upcoming day.
Breakfast most days was the most amazing porridge with coffee. I’m not sure if eating outside makes everything taste better, or the fact that brown sugar and a cafetière were amongst the necessities we were carrying, either way, I’ve not been able to make it taste as good at home.
We would then set off into the unknown, with our walks each day interspersed with wild swims, meditation practices, map checking, photo stops and snack breaks…. Very many snack breaks… I’m sure all of them just to keep up our energy, definitely not just because we’d all developed a strange love for Irn Bru pastilles….!
The break that will be forever etched in my mind is when we reached the mountain pass on day four. The weather had turned, and we were bundled up in waterproof gear. The terrain was a bit tougher on wet grass, and we’d covered a lot of ground over the previous days.
After warming up with lunch, we started on the ascent for the day, and as we were climbing, all of the emotions that I’d been feeling suddenly caught up with me, and I found tears flooding down my cheeks.
"The walking and the wilderness teach you so much about yourself, and sometimes the lesson hits you when you least expect it. I’m not sure if this lesson was that it’s really tough to try to breathe, cry and climb a mountain at the same time - or if it was that getting out into the elements and into the wild was what I so desperately needed to try to give myself some time out from the real world and time to let myself grow."
All of us had our own pivotal moments throughout the trip, because you can’t do something so big without learning as you do it, and even though I felt like I was using all my strength to stop the tears, I had to keep on moving forward as I don’t think anyone else would have wanted to sit on a narrow mountain path in the rain all day.
Pushing through and keeping going made the summit so much more spectacular, and without wanting to fall into the cliche of a mountain walk, it felt cathartic to be able to see how far we had come, and how amazing the route onward was.
I wish we had been able to erect a sign here, as for the whole group this small section of path will now always be known as 'Two Biscuit Pass'….
As a celebration of our achievements, and to warm us up we found a rock to shelter behind, fired up the kettle, put on a brew, and out of my pack came the other piece of contraband that I’d snuck in - a packet of biscuits.
We’d been rationing the treats as we went along, but this was such a momentous occasion that we celebrated with two biscuits each, and the tears of frustration soon turned into tears of laughter as we officially renamed the ground that we stood on.
The following day we finished our loop of Knoydart back in Inverie, and celebrated with a beer in the countries most remote pub. Our packs were lighter, and I think some of the weight had also lifted from our minds after such a liberating experience.
We were all tired, but felt so strong, and so capable. I think we were a little in awe at how far we had come, just by putting one foot in front of the other, and what we had managed to achieve. It’s definitely a trip that I will never forget.
So, that is the story of how I had a mountain pass named in my honour, all because on a cold January day a picture of the countryside caught my eye and made its way to my vision board.
Six months later I had manifested my way to the top of the mountain - and along the way had found an amazing tribe of people, seen some incredible sights, and learned so much.
On a side note, there was also coffee and biscuits on my vision board… who would have known when it was being created that so much of it could actually happen, some of it all at once. I’m excited now to see what goes onto next years, and what adventures that will lead to….
***The Ordinance Survey map may not have this name yet, but if you go on the next Living Project adventure to Knoydart, I can assure you that one of the team will let you know when you are there, and if you are really lucky, someone will have packed a secret pack of biscuits to celebrate with!