The Climb

My friend Lily Nhoisaykham told me recently, “Amazing things happen when you step out of your comfort zone.” She is absolutely right. 

This past weekend was both one of the most difficult and most rewarding weekends of my life. I can’t remember the last time I pushed myself so hard both mentally and physically. This quote sums up the weekend quite well:

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”  ― Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

When I came to University of Edinburgh, I decided to join the University Hillwalking Club. This club organizes both day and weekend hillwalking trips in addition to weekly pub meetups. You may be thinking, “Hillwalking? That sounds easy!” Well, these “hills” are what we Americans would call mountains. In fact, in most of the walks that the club organizes involves climbing Munros, which are Scottish mountains with summits over 3000 feet. This past weekend’s trip was to Kinlochleven in the Scottish Highlands.

Day 1 (Saturday): Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach

  • Distance: 11 km (6.84 miles)
  • Ascent: 1315 m (4314.30 feet)
  • Total Length: 9 hours

We arrived at the base of the mountain at 8:30 AM ready for the long day ahead.

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As we began the ascent up, we passed by deer, footbridges, and waterfalls. You really got to take in and appreciate your surroundings during the hike. Water breaks are the best for that.

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There were some challenging spots and steep climbs along the way.

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The higher you get, the better the views are. We were blessed with absolute perfect weather, something that Scotland rarely sees. Doesn’t this look amazing?

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When you reach the highest point, you feel like you are on top of the world. AHHHHHHHHH!!!

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But then the descent down is one of the most challenging parts of the hike. Always got to remind yourself that slow and steady wins the race.

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And then after 9 hours of hiking, you have to end the day at the pub. Unbelievably tired…

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Day 2 (Sunday):  Creise from Glen Etive

  • Distance: 10 km (6.21 miles)
  • Ascent: 1100 m (3608.92 feet)
  • Total Length: 7 hours

The first day was challenging, but the second day of hiking really tested my limits. This hike felt 10 times harder than the hike from yesterday. Not only was I incredibly sore from the previous day, but there were no paved walking paths for us. So we basically had to walk on grass and climb rocks like this…

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You can kind of see a bit of the “struggle” in my face in this picture.

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A great view during the climb. Scotland definitely has some of the best views I have ever seen.

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Even though the climb to the peak seems to take forever, you eventually reach it. And the view is still incredible!

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By the time we began the descent down, every step I took was painful. I could feel so many blisters on my feet. Just had to keep reminding myself that there was an end in sight.

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When you finally see the car, that is when you know the end is near. However, we were still faced with one final roadblock: getting across the creek. GREAT.

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Even though I ended the hike with wet boots filled with water and tons of blisters, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I haven’t felt in such a long time. There were so many times during the hike that I wanted to give up, but I kept pushing through. After this weekend, I truly feel like I can do anything.

I also came to the realization that there are so many lessons from hiking that can be applied to life. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the fact that in life, the journey matters more than the end destination. Sorry for getting all Confucius on you, but it’s the truth. You have to take the time to just appreciate what is around you. Reaching the top is great, but the views, smells, and climbs along the way are what make the climb unforgettable. I always need to remind myself to appreciate what I have around me because I truly am blessed.

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