Standing on the shoulders of giants. Finding your Feet on Bynack More #80

7 06 2018


It was to be training weekend for my pals at Finding Your Feet to get some hill miles under their belt before they head off to tackle Kilimanjaro in late September. I’m not going with them but I offered to help organise and supervise a hillwalking weekend along with the very able and accomplished all round outdoor bod and good egg Roy. We plumped for the Cairngorms as Roy knew the hills and surrounding area like the back of his hand – there may be some hands and feet puns in here just to warn you, I’m sure Corinne is OK with it.

We arrived sporadically during the day on Friday, we had two 6 bed dorms to split between us and with 3 call offs from the original 12, we would have more than enough space to rattle around in. We stayed at the Cairgorm Lodge (SYHA), first time there for all of us, and a real pleasant surprise – it was licensed and there was a bar with live music within two minutes walk! By the time it got to 9:00pm, all had arrived and tonsils were duly lubricated and the singing had started.


A late visit to the beach on Loch Morlich saw us all arrive back at the bunkhouse ready for a small Monkey Shoulder nightcap.

We woke early(ish) and readied for the day. Breakfast done and faffing complete, we set off to tackle Bynack More, a Munro on the outer fringes of the Cairngorm range. Passing Glenmore Lodge, we followed an excellent path winding its way through the forest, passing a beautiful green lochan which Roy informed us was full of leeches. Not content with Roys warning, Laura had to go find out for herself, and true to his words, she came back minutes later with a live leach she plucked straight from the shallow water. Horrible things! So glad Dennis wasn’t with us, he’d have been straight in.


We set off once more, with a good path and Roy’s knowledge of the area, we were in good hands (see, told you).

“We’ll have a wee break for food at the bridge which is about 150m from here.” says Roy. We all agree and headed toward the bridge which at this point was out of view. After what seemed like two miles later, we came across the bridge. “Are you sure that was 150m Roy?”



Ian took some time to polish off his first bottle of buckie (he had two) having forgotten to pack water, and dusted off his third wrap of the day. I took a pile of stick for having middle class sandwiches – apparently hummus is “posh” – and “bloody Kettle chips, he’s got bloody Kettle chips!”. We gathered together for a group Finding Your Feet picture. Laura didn’t get the memo about the t shirt, neither did she get instructions on how to create a “wrap”. Maybe it was the fuggy head from last nights Pinot, or maybe it was just down to shoddy wrapsmanship, but her first wrap of the morning was more of a “fold”. This got Ian contemplating a new hipster West End food franchise idea – freshly made Folds for the hipster on the move, constructed with a degree of indifference and served with a shrug – this joke was to run and run during the walk. We all got up and set off once more. It was around about this time that Paul started to sober up and the realisation that the hangover was in the post, sunk in slowly.


The hill started to rise gradually and as we moved up the slopes, we stopped again to catch our breath, have some water (buckie for Ian) and share in Roy’s Apartheid Jelly Babies – only red and black ones “none of they shitey yella or green wans”. I didn’t know there were such packets of discerning jelly babies. The things you learn on the hills.

It was around about this point that Nicola – on her first and last Munro – asked how far we had walked. the look of utter disappointment on her face when she was told it was only 10km will live with me for many years.

“Ten kilometers? are you sure? really? surely we’ve walked more than that? please somebody tell me we’ve walked more than that?” But no one could because we hadn’t. Welcome to hillwalking Nic, you can always be sure that the next disappointment is only just around the corner, we still had the three false summits to trick us.

As the ground on the plateau leveled out and the sight of the peak which was Bynack More came into view, we were greeted by rumblings of thunder and it seemed that all around us the the clouds were gathering and the rain was falling, not however on us for the moment. It was at that moment that a huge scream made me jump out my skin as I turned quickly around to see what disaster had befallen our party. Fiona had departed the path and was heading toward Braemar as the crow flies. A sufficient distance between us she shouted to us in warning “There’s a frog, a bloody frog, I hate frogs. What the hell is a frog doing up here?” She wasn’t happy. I don’t suppose the frog was either.

By the time we reached the bottom of the final steep rise to the summit, Paul’s hangover had cleared and the rain had introduced itself to us for the final push.

And now to the main point of the story.

In 2013, my pal Corinne almost lost her life. In surviving her battle she lost both feet and both hands. At times during today’s walk, I had to remind myself that she didn’t have both feet to power over rocks or hands to grip walking poles. So adept is she at “getting on with it” that she just appears like all the rest of us. But she is not. She is so much more than the rest of us. She is at times everything we are not. Her determination, spirit and drive is an awesome thing to see at first hand. As we made the final push towards the top, I noticed a silence develop. The rain had came on just to add to the trial, but it had also attenuated the group vibe and I think we all had some inward moments, reflecting not on what we had achieved and were doing, but on what we were witnessing and what we were a part of. It was without doubt, the most uplifting and humbling moment I have ever experienced in the hills. This woman, my friend was battling everything in front of her to show others that it could be done, and that others could take that first step.


When I had got to within a safe distance of the top, I stopped and raised the flag in triumph.


I let the rest of them head onward to celebrate a very emotional summit. I watched them file up and onto the top, and I cried.

Only a couple of weeks ago (see my last blog entry), I set off to do two hills near Ben Cruachan. It blew a hoolley and rained incessantly. I did one and then gave up. I couldn’t be arsed. I couldn’t be arsed.

I felt ashamed now standing on this hill, watching these people supporting my pal in her, and their, struggle to get to the top. I was ashamed at how readily I opted out, how easily I gave up. I wanted to celebrate with them, to make amends, to thank them for being an inspiration and for what they were about to do by tackling Kilimanjaro. I waited on them returning down from the summit. I shook hands and kissed each and every one. I hugged Corinne and told her she was an amazing woman, because she is.

Only days earlier, Ricky Mundy, one of Corinne’s friends and a supporter of Finding Your Feet, summited Everest. He reached the top of the worlds highest mountain. I read with amazement his facebook posts and was in awe of his achievement. Today I was watching something very similar at first hand.

In Corinne and in Ricky, in Roy, Nicola, Paul, Ian, Laura and Fiona, I was standing on the shoulder of giants.






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