The first quarter of a mile along the flat and level tarmac road went well enough with us starting to find our walking rhythm right up until we came to the first gate. There was a large cattle grid across the road so thinking safety first and not wanting to break an ankle yet we went through the gate on the left hand side of it instead. The road now bared to the right and it was now that we saw the incline that it was going to take. Our nice easy start had turned into what felt like a vertical climb for as far as we could see before it turned off sharply to the left hiding from view what was about to come. Not to be defeated so quickly into our walk we lent forwards into the hill, taking the strain of our back packs using our newly purchased walking sticks and soldiered on to the first bend in the road.
Now I am assuming that they put this first bend in the road so you could not see that the hill got steeper and longer causing an already heightened heart rate to increase some more to heart attack level as you pushed forwards towards your goal of the "gate on the left" that marks the beginning of the off road climb.
Legs now burning a touch along with breathing becoming heavy, not in a fun way, this has to be the most intense warm up I have ever done at the start of any sort of work out ever but we were thinking that it had to get easier so onwards we pushed. After about what felt like ten miles (it was one) we made it to the gateway which showed us a well worn pathway made from rubble that headed up this rather large hill we had come to conquer.
We stopped to take in the view of the surrounding valleys realising that already we had climbed a considerable distance and take a swig of water each. The sun was still climbing in the sky so that with our enforced warm up we were already a tad on the hot side. Not to matter though the pathway did not look too bad from this point and we set off again taking in the large boulder steps one at a time that seemed easy enough for the first few minutes.
I am sure that who ever set these stones in place was a little sadistic because without a doubt on that first section of steps as you got higher and further along, the steps themselves got higher and steeper forcing and even longer stride to get up each one. I guess those guys thought it was a little bit funny...in all fairness I would have done the same!
Now at this point I should let you all know now that Wifey does not like hills she finds them extremely hard work. So why was she climbing a mountain then? Because she wanted to be able to say she had done it. Because life is about challenging ourselves and filling it to the brim staving off the mundane and repetition that we all find ourselves in from time to time. The bonus for me was every five minutes or so I found us separating away from each other so I would stop and wait for her to catch up giving myself a much needed mini break.
Anyway with the quarter mile of giant steps done with along with the broken glass noise from both of my knees now subsiding we found ourselves on a nice flat pathway that extended for a good mile or so off into the distance. When I say flat I don't mean flat as in level, nope it was still climbing quite nicely what I mean is that there were no steps for a good while so you can once again get into a steady walking rhythm.
The sun was now really warming up and it was at this point a little sweaty and hot we realised we had not packed any sunscreen. Hats on it was then to give ourselves some sort of protection from the rays on this rather exposed mountain side.
The scenery was fantastic though all throughout the climb when you were not busy looking down at where to put your feet. With each curve of the pathway a new vista presented itself resplendent in all manner of greens and blue waters ranging from small pools to the ocean itself. It was breathtaking.
So was the climb.
It was getting hot now. I mean hot. The sun was beating down and the temptation was to drink all of the water in one hit but that would just of made you ill. We had brought enough to get us both up and down the mountain again if we were sensible so even though the heart rate was up and the sweat was running down between us and our back packs we soldiered on. The pathway kept climbing some sections steeper than others past crystal clear streams of ice cols water.
That's when the penny dropped.
When we lived in Spain and I was working outside I used to dip my hat into a cold bucket of water then place it on my noggin to cool down as I worked. So at the next stream I stopped and dunked my hat deep into the cool tumbling waters. After I held it there for a few seconds I unceremoniously plonked it onto my head letting that fresh cool water run just about anywhere it wanted to! Wifey grinned at me and did the same and when we stood up looking at the other people walking past us they were all smiling as well. This was a great idea that made a huge difference to our temperature and our state of mind because we were both already tired.
With legs aching and lungs burning we rounded a corner and saw in the distance our first proper stopping point, the half way house. This is in fact a little cafe and how they get the food and drinks there I have no idea but it is used a a marker for those people climbing up this particular path.
We found ourselves some shade dropping down into a heap taking off our back packs as we went. A deep pull on our water bottles later we looked upwards at what we still had left to do and it felt like even though we had been walking for a good long while there was still the whole climb to do.
We sat and talked for a while discussing the usual things that life throws your way but we ended up on the subject of climbing Ben Nevis next time which just then seemed like a good idea.
Legs aching a touch and the sweat cooling on our backs we decided that after a little food it was time to push onwards towards the peak, I brushed off the pathway dust from my trousers took a deep breath and we stared upwards once more. How much harder could it be compared to what we had already climbed?