Ben Hope-Scotland

We awoke to clouds and low temperatures. The drive north through the windswept landscape took us to the upper part of the north coast road and spectacular views of the North Sea. There were a number of sandy beaches and coves that were beautiful in their solitude. We stopped at a sea cave known as Smoo Cave. A maintained path leads down the limestone cliffs into a rather wet boardwalk that enters the cave, a nice diversion from the driving. The night was spent at another youth hostel just outside the village of Tonque. As the hostel was still closed when we arrived we drove the short distance to the town where we found a nice pub for a few pints. Once the hostel opened we were pleased to find that it had been recently remodeled and with only three other guests provided a relaxing night. The next morning we had about an hour drive via a desolate Moorland road to the start of our climb of Ben Hope (the most northerly Munro). As we started up the faint rocky trail to the right of a small stream the clouds threatened to unleash rain. We climbed steeply to the large flat shoulder and headed on towards the high point in a steady rain. The clouds obscured any hope of the impressive views that were described in the guidebooks but we still headed to the top. After a quick summit photo we began our descent and out of the wind. Tim was quite a distance ahead as I struggled somewhat on the now muddy mucky trail tweeking my knee about two thirds of the way down. A slower hobble finally took me to the car as the clouds began to part and weather started to clear. I guess our timing was a bit off on this one. After putting on dry clothes we began the two to three hour drive to Inverness via a short stop at a very remote Bed and Breakfast pub called the ‘Gillies Bar” for a pint. Once in Inverness Tim used his GPS to locate Ian’s house where we would spend the night, my last one in Scotland. Being the last evening we met another of Ian’s friends for a nice dinner and pints and scotch at his favorite pub until 1am. The next morning Tim took me to the airport for my flight to London. On the way we stopped at the Culloden battlefield historic site. This was the spot of what could be called the “Scottish Gettysburg”. The British forces routed the Jacobite and Bonnie Prince Charlie rebellion ( 50 British deaths compared to nearly 1500 Scots) and the place is quite a somber one. Becky’s mom has links to the Farquharson clan that fought at Culloden. I found the site worth the time. Tim dropped me off at the small airport and after a couple of hours wait I was in the air for the short flight to London. Journal: “Smoked the last Montecristo Cuban cigar outside the hotel bar in the wind and cold. Seemed fitting. This has been some life, so many experiences, I have been so lucky. A life of adventure and exploration that has filled the memory bank so full and I know I have so many more years ahead. The climbing has come to a point where it is near its end. Normal aging and awareness of mortality. In the younger days I didn’t think of the risk or danger, just charged ahead and had so many close calls and I didn’t take the slightest moment to reflect on the consequences. They sure are on the forefront now.”