Errigal dominates the landscape of North-West Donegal. Everywhere you look, it is there. In the photo above, it is the fuzzy triangle at centre right, while, in the one below (taken from Horn Head), you can see its distinctive scree slopes catching the evening sun.

I was reminded of the Hebrides in many parts of Donegal, and Errigal is a mountain very similar to the Paps of Jura — a shapely quartzite cone rising dramatically out of the surrounding bog. It is a fabulous looking mountain, appearing around every vista as if to say “climb me,” and so this is what we did.

I should mention that I had managed to forget the battery of the camera I like to use, and that this walk is not-altogether-successfully documented with a wee camcorder. These three seconds of shaky footage taken from a moving van give you a reasonable sense of Errigal’s dramatic appearance as we approached it from the West.

There are a number of different ways up the mountain from the R251, all of which involve a good half hour of picking one’s way over squidgy bog before beginning the ascent proper. Here, at this point, are Tom, Bruce and a whole lot of scree.

At 2464 feet, Errigal is not a tall mountain, but it posed serious difficulties for me. The ascent involves scrambling up a scar in the scree, and herein lay the problem. Quartzite is sheer and slippery, and quite apart from the physical effort of climbing up it, I had to think about the placement of my weak leg and foot with every step – this was completely exhausting.

The other two mountains I have climbed since my stroke have been ‘easy’ in that they didn’t involve a lead-in walk, and their ascents were steady, on clearly marked paths. On Errigal, after some tiring and tricky bog-stomping, I faced ground that was steep and uneven and slippery. I was becoming very weary by the time I approached the upper slopes.

The summit of Errigal is really rather fun – there are two points separated by a wide ‘ridge’ that is simple to cross – and the views really are fantastic. But I think you can see in this next clip that I am totally bloody knackered.

If you have no experience of neurological disability, the motor deficits caused by stroke can be quite difficult to explain. It is really, really tricky for me to walk on uneven ground – not because my leg is physically damaged in any way but because it does not know what to do. The foot has no stability, and, when I get tired, my brain simply stops sending the right messages – I become unable to point or lift my toes – essential actions for walking. This is the stage I was at by the time I reached the top of Errigal, and I was not looking forward to getting back down again. There is no footage of the descent because it was horrible. There was falling over and arse-sliding. There was getting to my feet, and falling over, and sliding on my arse again. I cursed my leg and brain and my stupid body for having had a stroke. I cursed the mountain. I threw my sticks at the scree and shouted at it. Getting back to the van was a drawn-out and deeply unpleasant affair, and, if I am honest, my attitude did not help matters.

The problem is that I often still think like someone who has not has a stroke: someone who would skip up and down a mountain like Errigal in a goat-like fashion and – here is the rub – take pride in that skipping. I used to be a physically capable person, and, though I didn’t ever consciously think about it, I really enjoyed that capability. I loved being quick and nimble in the hills; I loved exhausting myself. Now I am all too easily exhausted, and am frequently appalled and even embarrassed by my body’s refusal to do what I want it to. I hate being slow and ungainly, and I also hate being seen to be slow and ungainly. It is at moments like this that I really wish I had the HELLO, I’VE HAD A STROKE T-shirt. I think to myself: if they knew what had happened, they wouldn’t look at me as if I was a slow, silly girly, the unwilling partner that a clearly-fitter bloke was dragging up a mountain. They wouldn’t, as they saw me struggle, sympathetically turn to Tom and mutter “you might want to watch out at the top, the ridge can be a bit tricky.” At such moments I want to tell these numpties to FOOK RIGHT OFF and that I’VE HAD A STROKE BUT I CAN STILL HANDLE A BLOODY RIDGE WALK!!

I, of course, used to be one of those numpties. Without thinking about it, the physically fit often sneer at those who are less capable, and I will be honest and say that there was certainly a significant element of this in my pre-stroke character. In the context of being out in the mountains, my particular sneering was composed of two-thirds hideous prejudice, and one-third (misplaced) feminism: if you are a serious hill walker, you often encounter women who are clearly being dragged around the landscape by their men, and one thing I knew was that I was not one of those women. Why was I so bloody judgmental? And in my present circumstances, does it really matter what people think at all?

Of course it doesn’t matter – I absolutely know it doesn’t matter – I know that I am tackling mountains in my own time and at my own pace; that it is amazing that I can do so at all; and that folk can think what they like or go hang . . . and yet it is true that the point at which I became most angry and frustrated on Errigal was when we were passed by an elderly couple who were finding the descent a total breeze. Clearly, I still want to be the scree-dashing, nimble person – and in some ways that is very important since it is precisely this desire that makes me work hard at recovery and attempt to get up mountains in the first place. But things get tricky when the impulse to succeed comes up against not just an uncooperative body, but the most stupid and unpleasant aspects of one’s own psyche. I will be honest and say that, though I got up and down it in the end, Errigal very nearly did for me. As well as encountering my physical limitations, I think I met the limits of my own hubris in Donegal.

81 thoughts on “Errigal

  1. My mom also had a stroke and is finding she isn’t capable of all the things she used to do. It’s been years now and she’s doing amazing considering but even now we can see she isn’t the same as before.

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  2. Well, hubris is often all that gets us out of bed in the morning, so I won’t come down on it too hard. But I hear you on not wanting others to take you for a wussy girl who only tags along in her man’s wake. I got tired of that assumption in my hang-gliding days; I only met my fellow-pilot bf after I took up the sport myself and disliked it when others took me for his protegee.

    And I’ll bet you were never such a jerk as that Rambler woman mentioned above.

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  3. I couldn’t agree more with those who say “it isn’t a race”. To my mind, walking in the countryside is not a sport and is not *primarily* done for exercise, but more for those indefinable benefits one receives from the wild spaces. If all we want is exercise, we can walk round & round the streets near our homes, or round a sports track.
    However, the non-competitive, walking is for everyone, theory is let down by the makers of clothing for walking, who all too often fail to offer large sizes for women (strangely, male walkers *are* deemed likely to need a waist size over 34″) and, to add insult to injury, all too often describe a size 16 (UK) as XL.

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  4. I found your posts through Google, and they are wonderful. What gorgeous sweaters and hats! Kudos to you for climbing the mountain…you are constantly getting stronger; it’s just hard for you to see it.
    I am recovering from a stroke as well. It happened 5 months ago at age 38 in Seattle. My foot is somewhat wonky and my arm even worse; it does not do much, although today I carried a water bottle inside with the right hand! I plan to continue to get better–I don’t care how long it takes.
    Please keep up the good work, and feel free to write if you are interested.

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  5. So many beautiful and heartfelt comments to a brave and revealing post! A good friend of mine had a stroke in March and she is waging a similar battle, but for her it is her language that is slow to return. I am so proud of her, and of you that you stand up to the challenge of recovering from a stroke. None of us knows how it feels to be in your shoes, but your description of your climb and the thoughts that passed through your psyche as your pushed on are inspiring and illuminating. I LOVE that you made the hoodie with the phrase “It’s not a race! So true of so many things in our daily lives. Thank you for sharing the innermost thoughts on your physical and mental journey.

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  6. Watching you climb Errigal was inspiring. Thank you for such an honest and open post.

    I suffered from a manic episode last fall and I am constantly beating myself up for not being “good enough” and not getting well “fast enough”. You remind me that my brain is going to go at its own pace, but with time, work, and patience, I too can climb mountains.

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  7. I started reading your blog well before the stroke. I admired your writing when I only knew you as a designer, but your writing since then has carved out a little space in my heart. (Dear Sugar lives in the same little place.) The idea of “keep on” sounds noble and simple, when the reality very much isn’t. You waver, you get tired, you have bad days, you revel in finally doing things that should be almost humiliatingly easy. You keep going, and that makes us think that we can, too.

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  8. I love the last few paragraphs of your post. I am a person who probably looks “young and fit” to most people, but I have a problem with my heart and one of my lungs, and although I can do sports and outdoor stuff I have to be careful not to go beyond my limits. It’s totally ridiculous sometimes when I crawl up a slope at snail’s speed or cycle at walking speed against a harsh wind, and fitter people overtake me with “encouraging” comments, probably thinking all the things you have mentioned. I try to ignore them as best I can, trying to stay “with myself” and shut out all thoughts about what they might think. It irks me and it’s not fair, but I suppose all this “what might they think” is a bad idea to start with. We shouldn’t do that so much. All the best to you!

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  9. Apart from agreeing with most of the commenters above, I wanted to add that perhaps one thing that you discovered on that mountains is that there are some aspects of your previous self that you do not mourn – that judgmental nimble girl who didn’t realize other people might actually be doing better than her though they were lagging behind, because the odds they were fighting were greater. The price you’re paying is high, but you are a better person for it. And you do climb hills – maybe now you would need to find ways to break the ascent and descent a little more with convenient rests for eating something, taking pictures or drawing them, or knitting like Elizabeth Zimmermann claimed she did went she went hiking with her husband, so you could enjoy everything at a more suitable rhythm ?

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  10. Kate – You’ve seen all the comments above. I really can’t add to them, except to say that I stand here cheering you on, and I thank you for your inspiration. i was born with sketchy depth perception and mild balance issues. And I have an old knee injury that I had not been caring for over the past year. Your grit kicked my grit into gear and I am back at the gym/physiotherapist taking care of myself and hope to get back into my kayak and out on a hiking trail again soon.

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  11. It’s wonderful how far you’ve climbed and how you’ve written about it – you have touched all our hearts …
    please have lots of cups of tea and some cake and maybe then some knitting too! Barbara x

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  12. Plucky old Kate,
    was knocked down by a stroke
    she had a rather strange gait,
    but refused to be broke.
    At her side was Tom,
    and, lucky dog, Bruce
    while she slid down on her bom
    they galloped round on the loose.
    So, when people stare
    who know not of your fall
    and you feel you may care
    that they think you’re not quite on the ball.
    Hold your head up high and shout at the sky:
    “FOOK ‘EM ALL”.

    (apologies for the dodgy rhyming..)

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  13. Thank you for that post Kate. I think you have summed up very well how a lot of us feel when we go out for a walk/hike/ climb – whatever – that you are being judged. There are some very judgemental people out there – perhaps so far they have been lucky enough to come through their lives without problems and do not see why others should be affected by theirs. In the past 18 months I have lost some of my fitness – due to a number of reasons – some being as simple as not having the chance to get out on the longer, more challenging walks that I used to do. I want to get back to being able to take part in these walks – yet am put off at times by other people who I know are judging me. A perfect example of this is a walk I went on a few weeks ago – I chose, perhaps not wisely to go with the Ramblers – something I do do on occasion – just because it’s nice sometimes to go on a walk and not think about where you are going. Anyway – a pleasant route, one that I know quite well, but it was the hottest day of the year and not one to hurry. By the time we got to the end I was slowing down and added to the fact I am slow on descents anyway I was a little way behind – what did I hear from one woman when I got to the bottom of the hill – ‘poor pace’ – I have seen the same woman time and time put people off these walks – new folk – some of whom are doing their best to get fitter or improve their lives in whatever way.
    You have expressed how I feel – a reasonably fit and well person perfectly. I would find that walk hard – because I don’t like ridge walks – I don’t feel confident enough, but that’s MY thing to overcome, in my own way and in the end that’s what enjoying walking and mountains and hills is about. For the vast majority of us it’s not a race – it’s to be enjoyed and it really doesn’t matter how long it takes. I am in awe of what you have achieved in the past year.
    I hope I have expressed what I meant to say in the right way

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    1. I would like to think that the walk leader (assuming it wasn’t the woman in question!) might actually take her to task for that comment. Walking is *not* a sport, not the sort the Ramblers do. If she wants “pace” she needs a vest, shorts, a number & a whole different venue.

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  14. Whether dealing with scree, judmental looks, our own psyche, whiny children, or a million other trials, we all are fighting. Not giving up is what really counts, of which you are a magnificant example. Who knows what that elderly couple has been through? You might even choose your stroke over their problems if you had a choice. You never know. “Never give up. Never surrender!”–Galaxy Quest

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  15. I fall – a lot – for neurological reasons. And, I have come to realize that my own worst enemy is myself. Not physically, but in the negative self-talk I give myself about how “my old body” (as in the one I had before I got this neurological disorder) didn’t fall, didn’t need to wear a helmet to take a long walk, didn’t, didn’t, didn’t…..

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with that self-talk and the psychologically exhausting (nevermind physical) toll it takes, regardless of our bodies’ fitness or ability. I’ve taken a rather devil-may-care attitude about what others think (or so I like to fancy, but then, I am still refusing the “mobility scooter” as my doctor so daintily calls it) but really the worst bit is not at all what others think, but what I think, about myself and my body.

    You’re showing your mind that your body isn’t so interested in negative thoughts or others’ opinions by climbing mountains! And, if, on occasion that also involves falling down, sliding on your butt, throwing things and cursing – then it is WORTH it. But it sounds like you know that — and so much more. Thank you for being a great inspiration for me to keep trying to show my mind and my body by picking challenges for both.

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  16. Wow, what an inspiration to read your honest contemplations! Mountains are such incredible teachers!!
    Climb on girl!!
    The terrain is so inspirational, it makes my heart yearn to be there too!!

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  17. I’ve read your blog for a while, hiding in the shadows. I am trying to lose weight and find your activities very motivating for me, for whatever reason. Thank you for admitting to your previous prejudices. I know that I am fat and that that makes things like even a long walk difficult. And I know that my fatness is my fault, whereas your stroke was not your fault.

    But often, I hesitate to go on a long walk or to take a small hike with my husband because he is very thin and very able–I am not. I get red in the face and I sweat and pant and can’t talk and breath heavily… but at least I’m trying, right? And I want to tell the people that look at me meanly “Hey, you don’t like me being fat, and here I am doing something about it, and you want to laugh. Would you rather I go open a bag of snacks and sit on my butt?” I hate that I hesitate to go–I hate that sometimes I decline simply because of embarrassment.

    I know that I need to get out there and do the things that I find fun (like waking and small hikes, so far) without being embarrassed or ashamed because in the long run, it will help me.

    I don’t know why I’ve decided to post this comment. Do your fingers ever start typing and you don’t really know why? That’s sort of how this comment started. I guess I’ll just end by saying that you are doing a wonderful job, and even when it’s hard, I think you should keep trying–which you seem to be doing anyway. This strange reader is rooting for you.

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  18. There is nothing I can say that hasn’t been said – except that you climb a mountain every day – take the credit, girl – you are doing great.

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  19. I want so badly to say something that will let you know how much I admire you, and I just don’t have the words.

    Climb on.

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  20. When I smacked face first into my own prejudices after my disability had me plonked in this chair I found very little comfort in the sympathy and support others offered. I MISSED hiking every season change, dammit, and felt very few could understand the depth of my loss. Well, it’s true. No one can truly know the depth of grief another suffers when they hit those walls that sheer will cannot overcome. But I can tell you that I have found other challenges. If they don’t replace my lost loves, they do satisfy a similar part of me. And life went on, still precious.

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  21. I am in total awe of your abilities… you are still quite capable and do more than a lot of other couch potatoes who have never had a stroke. You inspire me in many ways..

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  22. You’re a brave woman, the urge to give up and cry must have been so very appealing. I have thrown things around on bike rides when tired(the bike actually), and I haven’t had a stroke . But the important thing is that you’re out there trying (and suceeding).
    You’re right about the physically fit sometimes being judgemental about others. It doesn’t do either the fit or the the non-fit any good, and you are very honest to acknowledge you’ve been guilty of it. I have been guilty of it myself. Now, when I find myself approaching that attitude I remember what an older, fitter guy said when passing me as I biked up the Mound, practically killing myself to stay in front:”It’s not a competition”.

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  23. Getting older is a bit like what you describe. I’m 52 and fit enough to cycle nine miles every day but in comparison to what I used to be able to achieve 15 years ago, I’m a feeble old bird. “But I’m 25 years older than you!” I want to shout after the lycra-clad people who now whizz past me. But what point are comparisons, either with others or with one’s former self? We will never again be the people we were yesterday and accepting it is, indeed, very hard. You shouldn’t beat yourself up about your attitude. x

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  24. I want o say in post script to my post above, that perhaps you ought to have handy, in your pack or pocket, that T-shirt, because then you can may better know which the struggle at the time comes from, your mind, or your body, or your idea of yourself (which ought to always be in flux I think). You are doing so honorably, and I so admire you for being on top of the mountain, you , a true conquerer ! ::claps wildly::

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  25. I thought you might like to know that I looked very carefully at the videos of you climbing and I cannot tell which is the dodgey leg.

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  26. You are doing spectacularly well and to watch these videos and see how you *appear* to easily make it to the top, and not even tired. Well, it’s difficult to get perspective about what others see when we ourselves feel so incapable, but Kate, you *look* amazing ! Correct , when you say in reference to other’s judgement (or yours), or what is being perceived of, or thought about you….and “ why does it really matter at all ?”

    And ~ ultimately ~ it doesn’t. It’s always only relative to our worst ideas of ourselves (which we project on to others when we judge them), just a shadow play of our egos. I am pleased to read that you are questioning yourself with these important matters. Oh, and regardling the elite of the Serious Hillwalkers ~ unlike you, perimenopause has been my path of humility in recent years. We all must one day meet a little of it. As for he Seriousness of Hillwalking , the word ‘was’ is a word I’ve gotten too use to, and now, similarly to having an all-out trainwreck of mid-aged physiological transition, I am fully determined , as you have been, to say ‘am a serious hillwalker’ once again. I stride and struggle , and my progress is less than yours. You have been showing me the way, you strong soldier of a girl that you are. Don’t forget how positively you have affected others and shown them how to be strong.

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  27. I can’t believe you climbed Errigal – it really is a humungous mountain.

    Its sad though when we give ourselves that much shit over how we appear. I think its very hard though because there is a shift in identity. Living with chronic pain I found it more useful to think of myself as someone who used to be very able but is now living *with limitations*, rather than feeling disabled or like a “weak” person. And I think it is easier to give yourself credit when you think of yourself as living with those limitations – you are not as hard on yourself. It takes a very long time to get used to what those limitations are though and feel ok and plan well within them.

    It does get better and easier to live with them.
    You are doing amazingly.

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  28. I haven’t had a stroke, but a brain tumor has left me quite differently-abled — I won’t be climbing mountains any time soon as I am not yet (one year out) able to sustain a standing position for more than ninety seconds. Mostly, I am at peace, but sometimes it hits me and — Oh how I miss having a body that is free of such physical limitations!! The simple ability to dash out the door with my kids, and spend a day hiking in the woods with my children, playing at the lake (no mountains here!).

    You describe so well how the brain, after a time, simply shuts down in a way, leaving your leg and foot on their own. Yes. My brain has had to learn a new way of telling my body (all of my body) how to move, in what direction, with how much force, how fast etc etc.

    Enjoy your mountains! What an adventure! And yes, enjoy the rest in-between climbs, too!

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  29. You shouldn’t be treating yourself like that :-) You are brave!! You are an example of extraordinary strength. I admire how you manage life after the stroke. Be yourself a friend :-) When my husband and I go walking in the mountains there will always be elderly people overtaking us. This is so embarrassing :-) But we make them feel good, I suppose…

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  30. What can I say? We all want to be perceived as doing well anything we do. When I drove a Bad car for a while I realized that some people don’t drive fast cause their cars just wont. But it took my car being in bad shape for me to see that.

    Thanks for the doggy pictures. My Dog died a few years ago and I have severe dog lust, but no time now for a friend like that.

    Do you read other peoples knitting blogs? Who do you read?

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  31. Can’t think of anyone I know, whether acquaintance or friend of one, or tabloid news focus that is doing ANYTHING like a hill-climb w/in 2 years of a major stoke. Don’t worry about what used to be. Keep one foot ahead of the other and you are WAY ahead of the pack. And, yeah, I like seeing the photos of you with your poles working, your head down, (Bruce cavorting), determinedly scaling the ascent. Its poetic really, but all I can think is YEAH, YOU GO!

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  32. I was most impressed by this phrase in your post:

    “The other two mountains I have climbed since my stroke”

    What an incredible thing to be able to say. Congratulations on your hard work and your stubborn, prideful temperament, which has doubtless gotten you to this point.

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  33. Kate you are brilliant, and I am very happy you railed at the mountain and at all the things that were, and the things that are now and that will improve over time. I have had debilitating migraines for over 40 years that make it hard for me to get out of the house let alone hike as I used to. My fitness has gone out the window and I long for the days when climbing a hill like Errigal would be just another day. But first things first, and I must get my migraines managed so I can have more than 2 days a week where I am feeling well enough to have a day. I am encouraged by your bravery and willfullness to make your body work the way you want it to no matter what. Bravo for effort and for making it up and down! On to the next hill on your splendid vacation! Perhaps, and I do not say this lightly, a walker would give you more support on these treks. Perhaps it would not be flexible enough for the uneven path. Just a thought. Onward. You are a brave and courageous soul. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us.

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  34. I admire your courage. Not just because of the energy and tenacity you exhibit as you struggle to regain your health, but because you are not afraid to look at yourself and really see what’s there, the good as well as the bad. Not many people have the courage to be honest about themselves. This post made me think about my own “numpty” moments.

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  35. I think you should consider the “Hi, I’ve had a stroke” t-shirt more seriously. I think it’s brilliant, frankly.

    Not quite to the same effect, but Asian immigration to Australia in the late nineteenth and much of the 20th centuries was referred to in the media as the ‘yellow peril.’ I went to uni with a ?Malaysian girl who had a t-shirt that said “I am the face of the yellow peril.” I liked that quite a lot.

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  36. Kate – I read your blog religiously for two reasons: 1) you knit and love fiber arts; and 2) you are an amazing person! I could not climb Errigal if my life depended on it and, supposedly, there’s nothing wrong with me other than I am a knitting couch potato! There may be a little something off-kilter in the head, though! I have been blessed that you have shared so much about your ordeal with the stroke. Again: you.are.an.amazing.woman. And a brave one, too. You are loved all over the world whether you descended the mountain on your feet or on your butt!

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  37. Kate – your post tugged at my heart. As a person who has a disability, I know what it’s like to be embarassed by my body’s limitations and I hate to admit that I also often feel ashamed of my disability. (Why on earth should I feel ashamed?!)

    Despite my physical limitations, I’m a relatively fit person; but I don’t think I could tackle anything like Errigal… but who knows – I like a challenge, so maybe one day!

    You have achieved so much since your stroke – don’t forget that!

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  38. Looks like you did a terrific job on all the other parts of your climb; you are one tenacious woman, I would be angry, too, grief is so weird, but screw the nimble scree thing I sense you’ve gained something more valuable than that!!! Thank you for the lovely photos of a place faraway from me. Looks a little like Iceland where I visited two summers ago. I live in the Pacific Northwest of America. You would love our mountains, REAL (a small geo pride dig!) mountains, young, new, pointed and wild! Here’s to the vivifying power of nature! And the water, Bruce would never get out of Puget Sound so much driftwood and many sticks on the beach!

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  39. Congratulations on your achievement of climbing and not giving up. The more you do, the more those neuron pathways have to practice going their new route. The walking and climbing you continue to do help increase your muscle tone and strength. Also, give yourself permission to not be as you were and to be angry because you aren’t. You definitely are an inspiration to others. Keep it up. Take care, and have fun.

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  40. I love being up hills and mountains but in a solitary, Wordsworthian kind of way, in which I take my time and dab my brow and look at the scenery a lot. This doesn’t always work well with the steelily determined, competitive and yes, masculine quality of the culture of ‘hillwalkers’. Especially in Scotland, with all the Munro-bagging and everything. I want to resist all that, but at the same time really hate being looked down upon by other people up the hill because I am slow, and wearing a skirt and patterned tights rather than expensive walking gear, especially if they think I’m a lazy girl being dragged up by energetic male friends. So it’s interesting to read your thoughts from someone who has seen it from both sides. And of course – it’s wonderful that you carry on doing something you love even now it’s a different, more difficult experience – I hope you don’t get discouraged from getting up those hills, even if it’s a little slower than you used to. Your photos are beautiful, as ever.

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    1. I’d climb with you any day…love the image of the skirt and dabbing of the brow…I would also bring along my watercolors and paint…you could open the basket and pass out the biscuits and tea!
      Annie

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  41. :D that you DID enjoy your physical fitness, imagine if you’d just take it for granted!!

    others have said everything else so well, but just wanted to say the above xx

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  42. Dear Kate
    I know exactly what Errigal is like to climb as my family come from that area of Donegal. It is hard going and you did brilliantly to manage it. I have only climbed it once with my sister and a couple of aunties when I was 15 and we came all the way down on our arses. I didn’t know there was any other way. We wore out massive holes in our jeans and they had to be thrown on the fire. The Granny was not a happy woman that night! That same sister introduced me to your blog as we have both recently discovered knitting. My sister now has MS and I have had ME for the past few years so we understand something of struggles with fatigue and bodies not obeying their owners. My daughter also has type 1 diabetes and is facing all the issues of people judging and not understanding her condition. All I can do is acknowledge that I have made similar mistakes in the past and that others will eventually learn what it is like to be less able as age takes its toll on all of us. Your blog is great not just for the knitting but also for how honestly you share what you have gone through so those of us with other or no experience can have an insight into what it is like to have a stroke. And one day I will send you my photos from the top of Errigal.

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  43. That’s one humbling encounter – with one’s own hubris! My own struggle lately has been with professional accomplishments and the lack thereof. Every one and every thing pertaining to the subject that I have quietly criticized in the past seems to be biting me in the rear lately. The lesson, I think, is to simply BE.

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  44. You did a wonderful job of climbing that Errigal mountain, and no wonder you get angry and frustrated, and it’s better to let it out than keep it all in. It is true for all of us, that we never realise what we’ve got until some of it is taken from us, or we are changed through illness/accident.
    We sorrow for what we once could do so easily, but you must take pride in the new Kate who emerged from the stroke, and has fought her way back to the really amazing climbs and walks that you are still achieveing. Your Tom must so admire your coureage and strengths.
    Thank you for sharing, you give us all hope to fight our various ways back to better health and fitness, when we all see and hear how you made the climb. Take care.

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  45. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself! I’ve been up Errigal and found it pretty challenging, and I am a reasonably fit hill-walker. Rain sodden ankle-swallowing peat and a general lack of paths made it a far cry from a total breeze. I can’t even imagine what it would be like attempting it while recovering from a stroke. You are incredibly brave to attempt such a thing.

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  46. Dear Kate
    Firstly congrats on keeping the teeth gritted. I have no experience or knowledge at all here (I am an able bodied walker and runner) but looking at the way you place your feet reminds me of how I place mine when I am tired, and thus trip over pebbles, and find myself embarrassingly lying on my face in the muck. For me, I find it helps to ignore what the shoe-people say and go for closely fitting shoes/trainers (trail shoes) that allow you to feel things better; (lots of caveats- may make others lose toenails) I am happy because I can only accommodate mentally/spatially what is mine and not what is shoe.
    Please do keep going, we are all (as evidenced above) very proud of you.

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  47. Thank you Kate for the wonderful post. It does seem that the more we experience of life the slower we might be to judge others, if we are becoming more wise/mature that is. It seems like growing compassion, for yourself and others, and I really appreciate your sharing the road with your readers. You have a lot to be proud of.

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  48. I admire your courage in writing such an honest post. While we’ll never come to the point where we’re able to see if a person is new or experienced in mountain walking, fit or unfit, has physical or mental inabilitiels, I always think there will be some looks and silent (if they are wellbehaved) thoughts. But I hope most of them think to themselves that “well done” as they see you struggling, even if they don’t know what it is you’re struggling with. Perhaps I’m just inclined to think that people think the best of others.
    I have always looked upon people braving the odds (those that are visible to the outside world) as brave, and I’ve never known if they were struggling with more than difficult terrain.
    As a side note… do people really think it is the husbands dragging the wifes up the slopes? I must admit never having thought about it, which perhaps is fortunate, as I’m certain I’ve looked like the “dragged” part many a time. And while it has been true physically (I’ve never been as fit as my husband) it was the wish of both of us to walk those walks…

    Keep fighting the slopes. Remember to be proud of what you’re doing now, not what you did before.

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  49. I wonder how many people have railed so honestly at Errigal? Sticks and stones won’t hurt Errigal’s bones, and the catharsis probably did you as much good as the fresh understanding of yourself.

    As ever, thank you for sharing – and WELL DONE on your achievement! And to Tom & Bruce; they got to the top and back down again too, they also deserve kudos :-)

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  50. Kate: You go girl! I so admire you and I admire Tom that he does not coddle you, but lets you get on with it in your own way. We never know what the person passing by us in life is dealing with, but I like to think if we did that we would be more gentle with them and full of admiration for their determination. I swim with a gal who has had MS for about 40 years and suffers from double vision – she always needs to swim in the lane next to the wall for a reference point, and her stroke is not perfect – but my admiration for her is like my admiration for you – neither of you wants concessions made for you, and you just get out there and give it a go! Thanks for causing me to remember how fortunate I am and never to take my abilities for granted! You look great on the video and the backdrop is spectacular. Peg

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  51. I think every time you do something like this, your brain learns a little bit more about coping and controlling your body. You may not notice any changes, but they’re there. Someday you’ll be part of an elderly couple finding a descent a total breeze. Just keep giving yourself time and plenty of rest.

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  52. My daughter has had severe mental health problems for the last 2 years but she is still a great teacher-even tho she has taken a leave of absence she plans to return in the fall. She has battled long and hard and continues to do so but I guess my point is “people” are literally afraid of anyone with mental health disability even tho they may be just as capable as anyone else. Everyone has a weakness and you my girl, and my daughter as well, have guts in abundance. Perhaps you are learning a bit more about yourself and others along your tough journey. You are amazing. Did I get my point across? I’m not so great at thoughts on paper but I guess I meant it as a discussion of preconceptions maybe?

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  53. Kate,
    Though I have bought many of your patterns, I have never commented on your blog. And though I have been reading your posts since before the stroke, today I felt I must comment. You are, and continue to be, an inspiration to me. I get teary eyed every time I read of your triumphs, because that’s what each one of them is. Your determination and strength are beyond words. And though this journey may not be the one you would have chosen for yourself, your impact on so many other people’s lives is incalculable. Though my battle is drastically different than yours, your words are a balm. They keep me pushing forward when sometimes I’d just like to quit. Keep on Kate. Just as you are with us, we are with you!!!

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  54. I am in total awe of your strength. You insist on climbing mountains, post stroke, and then you share your discoveries of yourself in a most honest way here. I already admired your knitting patterns, and now I very much admire you. (And I love all the shots of the scenery accompanied by informative descriptions. You’ve decided me, I must visit Scotland and Ireland.)
    ~Cinnamon

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  55. As always, one can trust you to find more in a hill climb than just the views. I’ve been both physically fit and physically-challenged. Its impact on my view of life was distinctly different. I still can’t manage uneven ground very well, while that that scree you tackled is enough to send me screaming out of the hills, much less attempting them. I got knackered just watching you climb. So, another lesson learned; I bet you are more than a little tired from all the “lessons” the bloody stroke keeps trying to teach you. Thank you, though, for sharing those lessons with those of us who seem to take our physically abilities for granted. I know you are tired and worn, but you MADE IT. You may have been pissed off, rolled up, exhausted, and not very happy, but at the end of the day you also accomplished more in that one hike than the majority of people, able-bodied or not, even try to do in their lifetime. Take a moment to be very proud of yourself.

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  56. Throw those sticks at the sky, scream at the wind, howl at the rocks – you fought the odds – I take my hat off to you!

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  57. Thank you for this. My stroke 7 years ago left me with poor balance and the need, when walking on broken ground, to be careful and attentive in just the way you describe. In my case, my brain refuses to accept the idea of walking on a narrow trail with a steep drop-off on one or both sides. My efforts to overcome have twice ended up with me being essentially stuck and needing to hold on to someone for long stretches to protect me from falling, or from the feeling that falling was imminent. Just as you say, this brings feelings of humiliation that are entirely undeserved, but are strongly felt nonetheless. It’s a comfort to me to read of your similar experience.

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  58. You are an amazing person! Thank you for such an insightful post full of frustrations! You gave me a lot to think about and I can not thank you enough for your words. Everyone battles with something but it is the ability to pick one’s self up and march forward that makes us who we are . . .

    You are certainly inspiring . . . don’t ever stop moving or climbing your mountains . . .

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  59. It’s funny your frustration is my inspiration. I want to be able to climb those mountains and you are inspiring me to work towards that goal. I am grossly overweight and out of shape. Following you has pushed me to exercise, I have lost 50lbs and am looking forward to the mountains! Thank you

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  60. Kate, your post really made me think. We’re always taught ‘No pain, no gain’, that anything worthwhile has to be fought and struggled for; the corollary of which is that whatever is not struggled for automatically has lesser worth. (Hence the universal and unthinking dismissing of people who are born to great wealth or good looks – they never had to work for it! )

    I used to think like that, and then suddenly, a chance sentence in a health book leapt out at me: that the point of exercise should be to refresh and rejuvenate and not exhaust. That was such a shocking and pleasant thought – that there was no need to prove anything by pushing myself to the point of unpleasantness!

    I’m not comparing my situation to yours, of course; it’s just that your post brought all those old memories up! I greatly admire your sprit and love reading your blog. Like you, I love the feeling of pleasant exhaustion after a day of great physical accomplishment. I just gave myself permission to stop whenever I wanted to.

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  61. Kate, as a sister of a physically- and mentally-disabled man/boy, I completely agree with your assessment that people can be ridiculously and illogically judgmental. I have spent much of my life bristling at the sneers and wary glances of strangers, as they’ve watched him try to negotiate social and physical situations. I’ve watched as mothers have whisked their children away from his presence, as though whatever he is afflicted with might be catching.

    I think, however, that the fact that you can see yourself so much more clearly now really speaks volumes on how much you’ve grown as a person. I know it sounds horribly trite, but there are so many things in life that can’t be learned from a book and it makes me unspeakably happy that you have shared your experiences here for hundreds to read and possibly learn from. The supply of compassion always seems to be outstripped by its demand. Please don’t forget, dear friend (for that is how I think of you, though this is probably the first comment I’ve ever left here and you don’t even know who I am), to show that same compassion to yourself.

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  62. Great post, great honesty. The fact is that you are out doing it, not sitting on your tuckus and whining. Throw the effing sticks and holler if you want – yeah, you will feel ashamed of yourself afterward, embarrassed, but the fact is there are times when you just need to let it out. You are not hitting anyone! Also, you are not alone in your rage and frustration about the stroke. People with limitations feel it a lot – not all the time, but feel it when frustrated. And the pity or unasked-for help is also annoying, but not unkindly meant. I’ve had limitations since childhood, and function quite well, but still get angry and frustrated at times. Then I have a pity party, moan about my lot, and get a good laugh out of it all, and move on. I’m not lying to myself, and I am not succumbing, and I am continuing to deal with frustrations. And you are too! Look at you climbing those hills, tired out, and still on your feet, even if you did skitter down on your butt a bit on the way back. Keep it up!

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  63. This piece reminds me of the conversation I had with my husband yesterday, in which we discussed competiteveness (If that is even a real word in English). I love walking in the mountains, but I am certainly no climber and scree-slopes, especially downhill are among my dislikes. He, invariably chooses the red walks out of the Rother walking guides, because the are sure to be much more interesting than the blue ones. (I want to do mostly the blue ones and only a couple of the red ones) And also because he finds that we can do these easy compared to lots of other people that we engage on our walks. We can’t seem to agree that he sees OUR walking as something to compete with other people and that that is part of his enjoyment whereas I see it as a walk that I want to enjoy (not survive). Now of course, you will have to have that battle with yourself and not with Tom, so I wish you good luck with that.

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  64. Kate – I’m no good at mountains (although I’m trying to get better) and found conquering just one of jura’s paps quite a challenge even as an ‘able-bodied’ adult. I slid on my arse down the scree there and ripped the arse out of my trousers as I did so. Not a pretty sight…. Thing is, it doesnt have to be pretty – noone is giving marks out of ten for artistic impression as far as I know….

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    1. ooh, I love this!

      When I was at the pain clinic, discussing the fact that I couldn’t go to a museum, exhibition etc as it was too painful to stand, the nurse suggested I get on of those portable seat/walking stick thingies. I said I don’t like to use a stick – more like I don’t want to be seen with one. She asked what I thought when I saw a person using a stick? ‘Nothing’ I replied.

      ‘Exactly,’ she said.

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