As part of My Peak Challenge (MPC) my main challenge in May 2016 was to climb a Munro, a Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet.
Schiehallion mountain is 3,547 ft (1,083 m) high, the name meaning ‘fairy hill of the Caledonians’. Pronounced She-hal-i-on.
It was an early 5am rise and we had a two and a half hour drive in front of us. When we planned this hike at the beginning of the year, I thought it would just be myself and Alan hiking the Munro, but we were meeting fellow peakers at 9.30am so we could all share the experience and achievement together. We didn’t really know each other very well, only through a private Facebook group, but we all shared the love of the outdoors, Scotland and the MPC challenge program.
The rain followed us all the way north to beautiful Perthshire. I couldn’t see any mountains for the dark forbidding clouds and I started to feel a bit disheartened as I knew we wouldn’t get good photos or views that day. It meant so much to me to complete the challenge, but also the photo diary of the day too.
When we arrived at the Schiehallion car park it was getting quite busy with other people preparing to conquer the mountain in the extreme weather. Can I just say that the outdoor toilets are the cleanest I’ve ever used!
So it was walking boots on, extra layers and waterproofs. I had bought myself a nice pair of light beige (not black as usual) walking trousers, in a smaller size. I had to put my black waterproof trousers over the top, back to black again!
I looked up at the mountain … it was hiding.
Fellow peakers were starting to arrive and we all introduced ourselves to each other and chatted. I tried to remember everyone’s name, I never got a chance to chat to everyone. We were all really excited even though the mountain was covered in cloud and the rain started.
Alan and I were some of the last peakers to start off and this lovely lady Anne, from England, walked with us too. Little did we know at this point that we would share all of this adventure together.
The east side of Schiehallion is looked after by the John Muir Trust. This little donation box is a great idea to help preserve the natural area and build us better paths to walk on. I’m ashamed to say I forgot to give a donation … I will do this online, I promise!
I tried to take photos with my phone but it was getting so wet the images were really fuzzy. Peakers in front of us were getting further away and we started to spread thin.
I eventually walked a little in front with Alan and Anne behind me. As we walked higher up the mountain the wind was blowing a real hoolie. I lost my balance a few times and almost fell over. Now, I have lost 16lbs since February, so it actually felt quite good that the wind ‘could’ blow me over.
I stopped regularly to look back and make sure Alan and Anne were still there. Alan was being the gentleman he is and made sure Anne was okay.
Then the hail came. It was quite painful hitting the side of my face but I could only laugh to myself as it was totally exhilarating.
It was at this point I thought we were never going to reach the top. Luckily Alan had his survival thinking cap on and guided us to a huge rock to hide behind for shelter. Wow, where did the wind go, great shelter. We had a snack and then ventured back out on to the open path and plodded on up the mountain.
I could see tiny specks of colour in the distance, peakers were still walking far away in front. I wondered what they were thinking … would they keep going or would they turn back?
Then eventually some peakers started to come back down as it was really too dangerous with the wind blowing them off their feet the higher they got.
I really wanted to keep going as I was hopeful that it would only last for a wee while. I asked Anne if she wanted to keep going and she seemed determined to give it a go. The weather got even worse though, so we found another rock to sit behind and wait out the storm.
Another lovely peaker, Ria from the Netherlands, came back down as she was on her own in the bad weather. She joined us in hiding and we were four.
I’m so glad we did wait because all of a sudden the dark storm clouds floated away and a beautiful blue sky appeared before us with white puffy cumulus clouds around it. The warm sun peeked through with a smile, as if to say, okay I’ll help you along your way now.
It was so amazing how quickly things changed on the mountain. Here in Scotland you really don’t know what you’re going to get. The weather has a mind of its own and on this day it played nice in the end.
This wonderful moment uplifted our spirits and we were all smiling with relief. We knew then we would conquer this mountain no matter what.
We carried on, each one of us happier inside. We all had different reasons for hiking this Munro, and I had a feeling we were all thinking of this.
We came to a small stone cairn that wasn’t the summit and stopped to admire the views. It really felt like you were on a different planet with the rocky terrain. At one point I remember thinking it was like the original movie with James Mason, Journey to the Center of the Earth. I really loved watching that movie as a child.
I said to Anne and Ria that we might see the Outlander filming location Craigh na Dun from here and we did! There was no magical standing stones sadly, but we have plenty all around Scotland to explore.
Alan and I briefly visited the filming location last year on my birthday, the day Storm Frank hit Scotland. Anne and Ria seemed really pleased they could see this and planned to explore at ground level as part of their visit to our bonnie Scotland.
I noticed all around us the rocks were sparkling and shimmering in the sunlight. They were so pretty, quartz in most of them. Schiehallion was turning into the fairy mountain after all. I wondered if there was any time travelling magic in them …
The path started to disappear, not with cloud this time, and we were challenged with a boulder field of huge rocks all the way up to the summit. Well, what we thought was the summit.
We reached the top of the hill to more of the same. I noticed nearer the top there was a few walled shelters. I can now totally understand why these are here after what we had experienced below.
I didn’t feel too tired at this point which was good. My feet were soaking wet in my boots though … that pesky rain found a way in!
The real summit
We eventually ran out of mountain, so we must have been at the top! It was narrower than I thought it would be and there was no trig point. I was concerned that the weather was changing again as the wind picked up and some pesky misty clouds were hanging around taunting us.
So we quickly decided to get our MPC photos taken before it got worse. Ria kindly let us use her MPC flag, my flag was still in a pouch somewhere in my bag.
The first half of our peak challenge was completed! We were all so proud and pleased.
We quickly had a snack and then the most magical thing happened.
Schiehallion over the rainbow
All of a sudden we were blessed with a rainbow floating right below us! I was so busy asking Alan to take photos I didn’t get a chance to take it all in at first. I’d hoped we’d see one, but I really didn’t expect it to appear at the top.
It was so magical, we were over the rainbow on this Scottish Schiehallion mountain. This challenging, magical, rainbow, fairy mountain was certainly showing us its worst and best that day!
The ridge was quite narrow with not many places to walk, here are some photos of the summit views.
I painted a rock with the MPC logo to leave at the top of the mountain. I’d collected this rock from the Isle of Arran about ten years ago and thought this was a nice way of marking my achievement. I’ve called this a georock, as it feels a bit like geocaching with rocks.
On the way back down I’d planned to picked up some sparkly Schiehallion rocks for my next Munro challenge. My blog address is written on it, for now, so if you see it at the top I’d love to know!
I really hope it stays there for a long time …
Back down the mountain
Sadly it was time to leave … so we said a fond farewell to the summit and started our journey back again. It was a little harder on the knees going down, and my toes were cramping, but bearable.
It was a rainbow mountain all the way down. We lost count how many we seen altogether, possibly four or five. It was like … “oh another rainbow”, then “oh just another rainbow.”
As planned, I picked up a few rocks along the way. Anne kindly gave me the large white quartz one on the right. I thought the rock in the middle looked like a mini Schiehallion!
Rest and be thankful
Back at the car park we got out of our waterproofs and Alan boiled some water for tea, coffee and pot noodles. The four of us sat at a picnic table and relaxed in the sun. I couldn’t quite believe what I had just done and felt really happy.
We said our farewells to Anne and Ria and then we walked back to the Schiehallion information point where I sat and enjoyed a bottle of Schiehallion lager. I don’t drink lager often, but I can say that it tasted really nice and refreshing!
Dull and boring
We started our journey home and more rainbows were appearing in the sky.
We passed a place named Dull. I thought this was quite funny. The sign said it was paired with a place called Boring in Oregon, USA. I even captured yet another rainbow, so it didn’t look so dull to me!
The strange thing was a few days later on the MPC Facebook group another peaker from the USA posted a photo of Boring, saying that she was visiting there and wondered if she’d ever go to Dull in Scotland. What are the chances of that?
We stopped off at Aberfeldy for a quick look at the amazing Tay bridge, a showpiece in a network of military roads that eventually covered most of the Highlands. It was built in 1733 under General Wade, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Forces in Scotland in response to the threat of Jacobite uprisings at the time.
This statue is the Black Watch memorial and sits beside the Tay bridge. The Watch was established in 1667, where certain clan chiefs raised independent companies to be a constant guard for “securing the peace in the Highlands” and to “watch upon the braes.”
It was getting really late, so we started our journey home, with even more rainbows on the road home! We returned around 11pm, tired but happy.
For days after this, and even now, I keep thinking of Schiehallion and how I want to return and climb it again. Or maybe that was our special day and it would be different the next time.
As well as exploring more of Scotland, I have a few more runs to conquer this year. I’m taking part in a 10k in June and a 16k in September. That’s the plan at the moment so I really hope I stay injury free so I can run these. If I can finish the 16k I might even consider a half marathon next year.
One thing is for sure, I will challenge myself to climb more mountains in Scotland. Reaching the top through the challenging landscape and the stunning changing views is the best feeling in the world.
I love exploring Scotland 💙.
Thanks for reading.
Love, Dawn-Marie x