I thought I’d attempt a Munro this weekend. This was a serious proposition: a Munro is a mountain over 3,000 feet; about three times as high as any hill I’ve climbed since my stroke. After reflecting for some time on the ‘easiest’ Munro I could think of, I decided to try to climb Beinn Ghlas. This was a mountain I felt comfortable with, and was pretty sure I could get up and down. It is in a range we know quite well (for example, here we are three years ago, clambering about neighbouring Meall nan Tarmachan and the Ptarmigan Ridge.) Under ‘normal’ circumstances I would have thought nothing of spending a whole day in these hills, taking in several Munros and tops, but these were not normal circumstances, and I knew that I had to keep the walk as manageable as possible. For those without mobility problems or limited energy reserves, Beinn Ghlas would be described as an ‘easy’ mountain: the start point is a car-park several hundred feet above sea level and the path up is reasonably straighforward, with no tricky scrambling.

Saturday was a driech sort of day, but we had got up early, and made a good start.

The poles really do make an enormous difference to the way I walk on uneven ground – they give me balance and stability, meaning I can feel more confident about my weak left leg. I still have to think about the placement of my foot with every step I make, but the poles make this much easier.

It got claggier and claggier the higher up we got. Bruce developed fearsome old-man’s eyebrows.

We may be some time . . .

Nothing about this was easy, folks – these rocks are composed of mica schist, which can be very slippery underfoot – but I just kept whacking the poles in, and swinging my weak leg up. I felt pretty sure that I could do it.

Without doubt, this is the best photograph I have seen of myself in over a year.

A few days after arriving at the Astley Ainslie, one of my medical team told me that, because of my ‘dropped’ left foot, I would have to get used to the idea that I probably wouldn’t be able to get up mountains anymore. I remember bursting into tears and being unable to do much for the rest of that day. I remember staring at my stubborn, dead toes, wishing vainly I could wiggle them. I tried and tried to will the foot into movement. Nothing happened. But then I started work with a physio*, who was as determined as I that I would climb another mountain. We hit the foot. We iced the foot. We bombarded the foot with stimulus and sensation. Finally, we tried the old ruse: she put a mirror between my ankles and told me to wiggle the toes of my right foot. This tricked my brain into believing that my dead, immovable limb was actually the moving, reflected one. Eventually, there was a miraculous flicker of movement in my left big toe, and after that, we had something to work with.

“Now,” said Tom, after taking my picture at the summit, and giving me a hug, “let’s get down off this chuffer.” Alright, then!

The sun was trying its best to burn off the cloud. At about 2,000 feet, we could at last see Loch Tay below us.

Descending was really much more difficult. I was physically exhausted from the climb, and began to acquire a (now familiar) piercing headache in the place where I had my stroke. Then, with a few hundred feet to go, my brain gave up and decided that my left leg was actually just a giant hunk of meat that happened to be attached to my body. The leg refused to move properly, but me and my poles managed to drag the damn thing back to the bottom of the mountain.

Bloody hell! I was up there!

How I have missed the mountains. I like to be in the exposed places. I like seeing, as one climbs, the trees and grass giving way to bare rock, lichen, and tiny alpine plants. I like to feel the kind of wind that you can only feel at three thousand feet. I like to get down, and take off a pair of worn boots, glittering with mica dust. I like to feel the bliss of putting a fresh pair of woollen socks onto walk-knackered feet. I like to feel tired in a good way. I must build up my strength and stamina, and continue to work hard with my leg and foot, so that I can feel lots more of it.


How very satisfying it is to place this post in the ‘Munros’ category.

*Thankyou, Gillian.

138 thoughts on “good tired

  1. Hi, I don’t know if it will help, but when you hold your hiking poles if you put your hand through the strap from bottom through to top, and then take hold of the handle part, your hand is also resting on the strap as well as holding the pole. It means you don’t have to grip the pole as much, but you still get lots of support from it. Hope that makes sense, and helps :)

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  2. Congratulations! Your post brought a tear to my eye, in a good way though. I’m a hill walker and a caver, I used to do cave rescue. I can’t go caving anymore but I am determined that I will hill walk again despite my lung and it’s protests. You and your posts here are such an inspiration. I know what it must mean to get out there and bag yourself a munroe, well done.

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  3. Look for a boost in sales of your Deco pattern. Clara Parkes mentions it in today’s Knitters’ Review. Only she’s got the yarn weight wrong. What an amazing feat your climb was. Really impressive!

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  4. I miss the mountains too, so I can relate to everything you said. Congratulations! Here’s to many more hikes in the future.

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  5. Congratulations! How wonderful for you to be back in the mountains – yes!

    I love my own walking poles, and I also find them really invaluable for testing the depth of bogs (Wales being Wales)…

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  6. Ok, I get that to mountain climbers that is an easy mountain. HOWEVER, I can look at that path and see many potential ankle-twisters, toe stumblers, etc, for ANYONE. congrats and hats off Gillian and you for the hard work and the refusal to settle for less.

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  7. I’ve been reading your last few blogs to my husband (a runner and a hiker . . . and an Englishman) and he said, “I like this woman and I don’t even know her!” I feel the same way, Kate. You are inspirational. In fact, as a result of this most recent blog, David and I are planning a hiking tour next Spring in your part of the world, probably around Angus Glen. We’d go sooner, but we already have a couple of trips set for 2011. Ah, the life of retired teachers!

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  8. Congratulations Kate, that was very hard going up, and coming down.
    The scenery on the way down looked so beautiful, and I luv Bruce’s eyebrows.
    You are amazing doing this walk/ climb.
    The mirror and the toes and foot, is very interesting, and you are still reminding your body, and keeping yourself fit and strong. You are amazing doing this walk/ climb.

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  9. Start thinking of the opening scene of the Sound of Music…and the words to “Climb Every Mountain”….it is pretty kitchy…but heck…it is fun to think of! Congratulations!

    Annie

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  10. what a wonderful post! i hope you had a fabulous rest of the weekend, too, and weren’t too worn out after you summited a mountain. well done all around and here’s to many more!

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  11. I am impressed. I couldn’t do that & I have no health issues at all (other than mild asthma). You’ve motivated me to get moving TODAY. If you can climb a mountain, certainly I can walk to the post office.

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  12. What a wonderful uplifting post. I love to be at the top of mountains too and I guess it’s easy to take for granted. I hope this is the first of many more munros for you again :)

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  13. Congratulations ! I am always astounded by your will ! But when I see these hills that you climb, I totally undestand that you could not imagine not to get back there after your stroke (is that a correct sentence ? I doubt it). By the way, I am always amazed by your elegance when you go for a walk. How come that I always look like a tramp who fell in a puddle ?

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  14. Huzzah for you! I always thought you’d be back up on the hills, but even so, I am somewhat gobsmacked by how far you have come in a year and a bit. You are determination in human form! Well done, woman! You are a lass with smeddum and no mistake (emotion causing outbreak of Scots).

    (Thank you for the Bruce photo. Those are extremely entertaining eyebrows).

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  15. I generally look and don’t comment but– this post had me tears. What an achievement, I am so happy for you! Your resilience and determination and honesty are truly inspiring.

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  16. So thrilled for you. I’m a strong believer in the healing power of a good walk…good job you had those poles; I agree — they make a world of difference.

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  17. Bravo!
    I have to say that such incredibly rough and beautiful nature around must be some of the best motivation to add to a determined attitude!

    I also just read your article in the most recent issue of The Knitter. It was lovely!

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  18. I love reading your blog but don’t usually comment. How can one not comment after reading this post? As everyone has already said, you are amazing and a true inspiration to us all. Get a good rest and continue to impress us with all your accomplishments.
    Hugs from Canada!

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  19. You are something else!! Congratulations , I’m so, so happy for you! I’m going to be thinking about you tonight while I’m whining away on the elliptical machine.

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  20. Oh no! Here we go – I’m greetin’ again………………Well done, Kate. You do know that there is nothing that you cannot achieve……………I do feel very privileged to ‘know’ you.

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  21. You know, i thought there was a bovine or draft horse at the top of the hill in the second picture. It didn’t quite look right so I kept looking and realized it was Bruce.

    Beautiful snaps. I’m so happy that you were successful and will keep pushing for you to achieve many more.

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  22. I don’t really know you other than your blog and you don’t know me, but I’m so proud of you! Love the picture of you looking back at the mountain. Congratulations!

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  23. Hourrah! A momentous milestone in your rehabilitation, and a real triumph. I knew you would be able to climb mountains again – it is too important a part of your life to be left by the wayside. Bruce is so cute with the hoary brows! Well done!

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  24. I am *so happy* to read of this milestone in your recovery, and am in awe of your determination to get to the top of that mountain.

    I am sorry the descent was a bit precarious, but glad that you had the poles to help you make it down, nonetheless. It is very good to see pictures of you in your full-on walking gear, taking the mountain by storm, striding with your man and your dog through the mists.

    I particularly loved your description of mountaineous landscapes and I hope you get to enjoy many more of these with the assistance of BRUCE, TOM and THE WAZZWAGON!

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  25. I remember writing some time ago that I hoped to be reading about your return to the hills – I’m so glad you made it, and I hope there are many more to come in future!

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  26. Astounding! I feel like such a wimp with my “gardening headache”! Please tell me you spent the next day sitting still and knitting…? Or did you swim the channel instead? ; )

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  27. How wonderful to read of your success; how wonderful to read, ongoing-ly, of your tenacity and refusal to be beaten. I salute you, again and again, and I think of you at any time my courage wanes, in any situation!

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  28. What an inspiration! I hope you climb many more.

    Thanks for sharing your downs and ups (quite literally)with us.

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  29. You amaze me…I just started reading your blog a couple months ago and read back quite a bit to get caught up…I’m just amazed at your strength and will….you go girl!

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  30. What a terrific day!!! Oh, gosh, well done Kate. I love your photos, the mist and damp, Bruce’s whiskers…. and Tom, obviously exhausted after his walk!

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  31. I’m so happy for you Kate! What a significant day for you.
    My family and I plan on being Munro baggers when we return and this may be a good one to start with by the sounds of it….and it will be close by!
    I’ve fond memories of the good kind of tired that you describe from a day on the mountains……and thanks for the reminder of the word “claggier”!!

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  32. Oh wow, congratulations! I don’t mind admitting I was a bit teary at the picture of you at the top of the Munro. And I hadn’t even taken into account the journey down at that point. What an amazing achievement!

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  33. With tears in my eyes, I felt like I was climbing with you. The yearning, the incredible strength of will, the desire to be all you wish to be, where you want to be, comes through in your writing. You may be weary, but you are a tower of strength. Huzzah!

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  34. Oh my gosh, I’m in tears reading this. I’m so happy for you – getting back up there! May there be many more munroes in your future, Kate!

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  35. Chuffing marvellous, I’m grinning widely from reading about your latest Munro. I *know* you’ll continue inspiring us all with lots more Munro Bagging. Way to go Kate :-)

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  36. Damnit, you made me cry. I have a chronic pain condition, and I can’t put into words the help, reassurance, strength and comfort that your posts, post-stroke, have given me. Thank you so much, Kate.

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  37. Hello, I’m a bit of a lurker and normally read but don’t comment, however I just wanted to congratulate you on what is the most recent in a long steady list of achievements – it’s fantastic, well done. I’ve only done a little hill walking (prefer cycling) but I do remember well the bliss of taking the boots off and changing socks at the end of a walk as you describe. I hope you have many, many more such blissful occasions to come!

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  38. I am SO pleased your body has healed enough with all your hard work to get yourself up a Monroe, but I love the way you don’t attribute stuff like the medical person saying you won’t and then you doing to just mind over matter and an “I’ll show them attitude”.

    Hope your body and mind recover quickly and allow you on to your next fun adventures especially those involving the gorgeous scenery of the british isles! xx

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  39. That’s a fer piece, as we say here in Texas. Congrats!

    Shame on that doctor for his negative message of “can’t, won’t, never.” Please send him a link to this post and ask him to think before he speaks next time. This is just the most recent of all the mountains you’ve climbed!

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  40. What a fabulous read (and photos). How wonderful for you, i’ve only just found you and learned about your stroke. I hope you won’t mind me saying what an inspiration you are (i did not do a hike in similar weather, well, it was my camera i was worried about) . Well done on your hike and looking back on your last post, the gorgeous sweater. i’m very pleased to meet you!

    p.s. my husband and i are looking to get a campervan very soon too!

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  41. You are such an inspiration!
    I have been reading your blog on and off for a bit. I love your photos, your writing and photos. I am impressed by how you have taken on a very serious situation and have risen above it. Thank you for sharing and keep climbing the mountains and let the air up high give you the energy to continue to challenge yourself and encourage your readers.

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  42. hooray for the climb!
    What a fantastic and happy post.
    Kate, I am of sound body but I am sure that I do not have the stamina and strength to make the climb which you just accomplished. I am working on strengthening my body, but what impresses me most often when I read your posts is the enormous strength of will you have. Such a strong spirit – I admire that quality in you so much. And your sense of beauty and gratitude is also so very wonderful. Thank you for sharing these moments with us.

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  43. Ah mountains—there’s nothing like them: what you see along the way, what you see at the top, how they make you feel. Here’s to many more!

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  44. I love the pictures you have taken of your adventures. Your country is beautiful. I am a USA person, the UK is stunningly beautiful, as are you!

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  45. YAY!!!
    What an awesome day in the mountains!!!
    And yay for the physio with the mirror to match your determination.

    p.s. Bruce is more and more handsome ever time I see him. Give ‘im some extra kisses from me today, OK? :)

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    1. Carolyn – From the second picture in the post, I mistakenly thought Bruce was a moose and I was sure this was going to be the story of how Kate and Tom tumbled down the hill run down the hill and Bruce came running after.

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  46. I stumbled upon your website last night. Your designs make me swoon – every single piece! And your hike makes me want to visit Scotland more than ever.
    I am inspired by your talent, honesty, strength, and humour. Bravo! on conquering Beinn Ghlas.

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  47. What a beautiful and special hike. I’m always surprised, when you post photos of your outdoor excursions, that the two of you seem to be the only people out there! Is this the case, or just a trick of the camera?

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    1. ha – no – its just that we got up early and were the first ones up there yesterday. We saw a few folk on the way down, but I think that the weather may have put a few people off . . .

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  48. Many congratulations Kate – what a climb ! In the best of circumstances, it would have been a triumph but what with the weather and your physical challenges – well I hope you had a pint or two!

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  49. Now I can see why you’d be tired in a good way but why is Tom lazing on the grass after just one teensy Munro? He’s not still worn out after the marathon is he?

    Huge congratulations on getting up (and down again).

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    1. somehow I never got any of your April posts, but luckily I tracked you through ravelry just in time to read about your great climb. I feel so good for you, happy for you and Proud of you-you are one gutsy dame-you go girl-there are lots more mountains out there

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