As we started out on the final section of our climb we thought that our limbs were already aching from our sea level climb, we were unaware of what lay ahead. I mean we could see that it was a ridiculously steep climb but the effort we were soon putting in made the rest of the walk so far seem like a gentle stroll. We lent in heavily on our canes every few steps forcing one foot in front of the other willing ourselves along, digging deep into a determination we didn't realise we had.
It was now the pain in my stomach began.
I suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) but this is now mostly under control after a painful couple of years finding out what I could eat without having to run to the toilet five minutes later and regular exercise keeping it in check these days. I had been to the loo that morning so there was no real concern on my part about any unwanted needs on this my mountain climb, but it turns out that lots of leaning forwards and pushing upwards and forwards has a rather unwanted effect of any contents that are in my stomach. I pushed the feelings to the back of my mind but another twenty hard won steps later saw me having to stop time and time again to try not to literally soil myself.
I was getting beside myself now. When I stopped it started to ease off but as soon as I headed uphill again that awful "I am going to mess myself" feeling came back in force and it took my all keeping it all in its correct place for the time being. Now I am not a proud man but I prefer not to do my toilet business in public but I was fast approaching the point of no return here a little over two hours up a mountain. Frantically I surveyed the landscape for something I could hide behind with a bag but if you have ever been up a bloody big rock there is a distinct lack of places that you can hide from the masses of tourists that frequent it. I was going to have to turn around then head back down but we were so close to the top and I didn't want to. I stood looking again but no comfy woodland or even a nice sized bush had appeared magically out of no where so I asked a passing family how long it was now to the top of this hill and whether there was a toilet up there?
"Oh you are only fifteen to twenty minutes away" the Mum said "Yes there are toilets and a café" then off she bounded happily back down the mountain light in step only those who have already achieved the goal you had set yourself. This information though gave me a new found determination to get up to the toilet, I mean mountain top. So much so that I looked at Wifey who just grinned at me and the look on my face saying "Off you go I will see you up there, it's better than going back again"
Going back again...I don't think I would of made it down clean if I am honest I was just kidding myself there.
I was really hurting now but somehow found the strength to continually keep putting one foot in front of the other. My leg muscles were screaming just not quite as load as my stomach ones but the incline seemed to level off a touch as I rounded the left hand corner. Here I expected to see the end in sight but no it was more of a climb so with head down along with a now wet t-shirt between my rucksack and back I tramped onwards climbing, climbing, climbing.
The pathway bared to the left some more then snaked to the right. The sun was beating down on my from a cloudless sky and I was vaguely aware of the fact that the views were even more stunning now than they were before, but with near on agony from what felt like my entire lower body I raced up the final straight zooming past other exhausted walkers showing an energy that can only be given to the desperate.
There was the café, train station and toilet sign. Barging my way past whoever was in my way be it the elderly, young lovers and I am sure I trod on the small odd child I stomped my way into the toilets not caring if they were the Ladies, Gents or Disabled. For one horrifying moment I wouldn't fit into the cubicle until I realised I still had my rucksack on my back. With relief so close but still so far away I threw myself into some frantic activity dumping hats bags and walking sticks not caring where they fell (luckily the floor of this public toilet had just been cleaned or there would have been an interesting odour following mw back down the mountain again) and I will leave it there. You really don't want to know the full on details of what happened next but it is safe to say it was one of the most relieving moments of my life.
Thankfully I had not embarrassed myself or my long suffering Wife who I found stood waiting outside of the building for me with a grin on her face.
"Feel better now?" she asked "Oh yes" I replied and that's how IBS is for me, lots of agony that can soon be cured most of the time. Thankfully this was not a big attack and the pain subsided easily enough over the thirty minutes or so.
Now I could see the frankly fantastic views in clear skies. You can see so far that you find yourself wondering "Is that my house over there?" looking through squinted eyes. The horse flies were a nightmare and swarmed around you at the top constantly so the idea of a nice lunch at the top went out of the window and we headed down for about ten minutes finding somewhere nicer to sit and eat.
Refuelled we were looking downhill at the route back thinking to ourselves that this next bit would be so very much easier. We were wrong...