Fear, Loneliness and Perspective

My list of things to get done seems to be going in the wrong direction.

I’ve booked a sleeper train up to Glasgow on Friday night, so everything has to be ready by then. I have to make lists of potential B&Bs, campsites and other places to escape to in an emergency. I have to seam seal my tarp, print my maps and pack my gear. On the plus side, the blog is up and running, my route is set, and I think I physically possess most of the gear that I need.

In some ways I’m almost ready, and I’m excited to be setting off. In other ways I’m a little bit concerned that I won’t be ready for my departure, and the lack of preparation will result in failure for the trip.

The West Highland Way eases me into the trip. I’ve walked that walk before; there will be plenty of people around to help me if I get myself into too much trouble. There are a few tough bits that may present issues, particularly if the weather is bad – for example the Aonach Eagach and the Ring of Steall.

My main concern early on is that my knee or ankle will give out early on in the trip. Aside from the long-standing knee issues (which will probably be painful but fine) I recently wandered around the Lake District and seem to have done something to my ankle while playing silly buggers. Being somewhat hypermobile has its advantages. I seem to be able to land on my ankle while running down a hill in a way that looks like it should be resulting in agonizing pain and possibly serious damage. The disadvantage is that I end up with those awkward enduring issues related to hypermobility – joint pain, tendinitis, knee pain, back pain… most of which I’m starting with. I’m hoping that any of these sorts of issues remain manageable throughout the trip. I’d rather fail in some heroic manner than splutter to a finish limping into Fort William – preferably the kind of failure that involves rescuing some damsel in distress.

Gear wise – I have a few concerns about the tarp, because it’s new and I’ve not taken it out in anger yet. The rest of the gear I know well, it’s just that slight unknown about my home for three weeks that makes me a little uneasy. Other than that, the first hundred and fifty miles should be relatively straightforward… providing I don’t fall off a ridge or do anything stupid.

The Cape Wrath Trail is tough; even if I’m physically fit completing it is not guaranteed. It’s a bit difficult to know what to expect here and once again a fear of the uncertain comes into play. There’s only so much you can gain from reading other people’s trip reports and I can only imagine it to be something a little closer to the crazy wee trip around Wales that I did with Heley. Two hundred miles of that will be both physically and mentally exhausting.

Time is an issue, I’m worried that along this stretch I am being overly optimistic with the distance I can cover, and will have to cancel the last couple of days of my trip in order to make it back home to work.

The other issue is that of loneliness. I hadn’t originally planned to spend these three weeks alone, but I’m a little short on notice to find someone willing to walk this way with me. I’ll hopefully find a few people to chat to during my travels. This is particularly likely along the West Highland Way, but is unlikely to be the case when following the Cape Wrath Trail, which already promises to be a long, hard, lonely slog through remote wilderness.

This will be my first time camping under a tarp on my own for this length of time. Now, I might not be the most sociable person ever to bounce along the trails of Scotland, but I do like a bit of company from time to time, so if any of you do happen to be wandering around these particular hills while I’m away, then do try and get in contact. I shall be making semi-regular tea stops and anyone who wants to would be welcome to walk with me for a while.

So that’s all my insecurities about this trip dealt with. Here, written down for you to laugh at. From now on I shall endeavour to wander along unbeatable. If it does surface, my fear of failure will drive me on – as will the hope that there will be at least a couple of donations to UNICEF as a result of my efforts – but looking at the trip as a whole, and the experience gained from the 2011 trip, I know that this is going to be tough. If I am not careful I could end up in a spot of bother, but how could I call it an adventure without all those disasters-in-waiting? On the other hand, I’ve walked 20-30 mile days before and there will be some beautiful views. This will be a grand adventure.