Your Memory Sucks, Do Not Rely On It!

Memory sucks, do not rely on it. At least mine does. Recently I returned to a remote mountain range I had camped at some twelve years ago, possibly more. I thought I had remembered it well, but I hadn’t, which led to some unnecessary worry and some mistakes. I do a lot of walking and camping with Thorin for company and being a dog, he’s not very good at reading maps, sharing his opinion on routes or whether we’re in the correct car park. Though he is very good at finding his own route to water and easy paths around rocky scrambles.

I had a very different picture in my head of the layby I left my car in twelve years ago than the one I ended up at, and therefore spent the night convinced we were starting off in the wrong place and a morning move would be necessary. This turned out to be not true and I was actually in the right place. I had no memory of the four mile or so walk in, which ended up in us taking the wrong path and walking for the first twenty minutes the wrong way. Only when it turned to the right through some trees and cross another river did I stop to check and found my mistake. The 4:30am alarm was hardly worth it.

My recollections began roughly around that four mile mark by the ruin of an old shieling. For some reason I had tagged it in my failing memory bank as a possible site for a future campsite. Why here and not the vastly superior beach about 200m away I have no idea. The beach I don’t remember.

The things I mostly remember about the first trip are having no dog and squeezing two grown men into my tent, one of us knocking over the stove spilling the pasta, stupidly carrying a massive book on mountaineering in Scotland as my reading material, and not getting any views on top of the biggest mountain in the area because of the weather. My biggest memory is of the wind whipping up across the loch, the whole area being really boggy and being lucky to find the only dry patch late in the day, which was so close to a river it was practically in it.

This is a really remote part of the country sandwiched between two of the roads that go north and is well worth the long walk in for a camp. But this time we were heading for the two mountains that are most easily accessible, and I wasn’t planning on taking too long about it. Hence why I was so annoyed at the morning detour. But we made good time and I wanted to get some height in early which had the effect of making me feel really crap.

I got quite emotional walking up the first mountain and there was a number of factors playing into this. Erratic sleep patterns at the best of times, tiredness, an early rise, a long walk, a steep climb, no food and no coffee made it hard work. Gruelling almost, and I admit I struggled. The ever present cloud came in. I felt worse. I couldn’t see. I got into a spiral of negative ‘how come this always happens to me’ thought; ‘give me a break for once’ and ‘let me just see for a few seconds where I am going’. This was weird. Even ‘what the fuck am I doing this for’, this isn’t fun!

I missed my home, my family, wife, kids. Funny how I’d only been gone just over twelve hours or so and these were all the thoughts I was having. At this same time my friend was spending two weeks in a tent on a crazy cross Europe cycle race and I’m feeling this balls over a walk that should take me less time than a day’s work! All these mad feelings combined into one giant shitty whole.

In order to pull myself through this I stuck on the headphones and continued listening to my audiobook of The Fellowship of the Ring read by Andy Serkis which is absolutely fantastic. The descriptions of the hardships faced by the hobbits journey I imagined mirrored mine. I perked up. At least I could turn back, didn’t have the fate of the world around my neck and I wasn’t being pursued by nine black riders.

And so we continued, still not seeing anything but managing to find the cairns that marked the summit of the two mountains we had aimed for. After coming off the second mountain we could not find the path and came too far down the wrong side. It meant we had to go back up to a bealach that separates the mountains and I just about gave up then. The thought of ascending again was awful, I was just so tired, lost, confused, and discombobulated from being in the cloud. I was fed up that was it, fed up and needed a break from not being able to see a damn thing.

A glimpse of sun can be all you need to find that route. But of course, like Sam and Frodo, we had to keep going; to give up would be to die. Here at the end of all things. Well not quite, but still a hell of a long way from home. An endurance athlete I certainly am not.

Much later on, about three quarters of the way back to the car, as Elrond is extolling the virtues of Frodo, Bilbo and the others as they accept their perilous quest at Rivendell, I was very nearly crying. Clearly all too much for me that day but by that time I was close to completing my small journey. The Lord of the Rings movies have always comes the closest to making me cry since I first saw ET! The line in Return of the King when Aragorn says “My friends, you bow to no one.” is making me well up just writing it. What a scene! What an effort! The hobbits are the total underdogs for the whole series and yet they have pretty much saved the entire world from evil domination forever. Now that is a lasting legacy.

I was very glad to get back to the car and begin my return journey to my own shire. I could not get home fast enough. Next time I’m checking the weather and eating more food.

Live Deliberately,


Currently listening to Otta by Solstafir which appears on the Last Wolf Outdoors Spotify Playlist

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