Battling the Storm

In the last 2 weeks Scotland has been swept by 2 major storms. As an outdoor enthusiast, I have been out in storms before and usually don’t mind them too much. Feeling the strong wind makes you feel alive and it’s great to cosy up at home once you’re inside again. It’s kind of enjoyable actually to go out when it’s really windy.

On the first weekend with storm Ciara I went for a hike along the coastal path to St. Andrews with James and build an Ikea wardrobe for the rest of the time. Although James actually got stuck in Scotland for 2 days more than planned due to all sorts of train cancellations and several trees along the coast were uprooted, the storm was still fairly manageable. Sure, the wind was so strong that my eyes teared up involuntarily, but nothing major happened.

Storm Dennis , hitting the weekend after, turned out to be a bit different up here. On Saturday I went for a short jog along the coastal path. While windier than the weekend before, this was still enjoyable. Well, apart from the rain that set in as I was nearing the halfway point. Hence I decided to follow through with my plan to go to the Lomond Hills Regional Park the next day. I had planned a route summiting both the East Lomond and West Lomond Hill within 13k and was looking forward to it.

Adventure Day

Sunday came, the sun was out in the morning, and I set off in good spirits. Maybe it should have been a warning sign when I got to the parking lot in the Lomond Hills and my car was shaking in the wind, I hadn’t come all the way just to turn back around immediately, so I got out anyway and set off.

First up was East Lomond Hills. Just after leaving the parking lot was a short, but fairly steep ascent. As I gently jogged up there, mixed with some walking, I already felt the cold storm blowing in my face a lot stronger and colder than back at the coast. Nevertheless, I pushed on. I decided to do the ascent of East Lomond Hill first and then run back around the base. From this side, the slope was quite steep. The heavy rain from the previous day had turned the ground into a bog field, mixed with patches of thawing snow.

I had not gotten up very high on the slope, when I decided to turn around and summit from the other side. The wind was getting incredibly strong and I kept slipping in the bog. I figured descending that way would probably be easier. My feet were soaked already, but I didn’t mind too much and pressed on.

Running around the base of the hill, the wind was still extremely strong and seemed to come from all directions at once. After briefly considering to just turn around and go back home, I discarded that thought. I hadn’t driven almost an hour to give up so soon. I wouldn’t let storm Dennis win and give up, so I pushed on.

As soon as I looped around and started ascending the much gentler slope from the east, the wind seemed to get stronger and stronger with each step up. I leaned into the wind more and more to keep going forward and stay on my feet. Unfortunately, that meant falling to my knees again and again in those split seconds when the wind lost some intensity. Still, I refused to give up and turn around.

Giving Up

Eventually, I had to admit that it was impossible to get to the summit that day. I was leaning in a 45 degree angle into the wind, pushing forward with full power. Instead of moving forward though, I stumbled backwards. I just could not fight the intense storm up there. Exhausted, I knelt down on the floor to catch my breath before descending again. When I ran back down the way I had come up, the wind kept pushing me further and further to the steep slope to my left in the split seconds both my feet were off the ground. I basically flew down that hill.

Back at the base, I had to admit to myself that I was exhausted already and certainly would not make it up the West Lomond Hill either. So I decided to at least get to 10k and then go back home. In an attempt to do that, I took a path to the left, but got stopped after about 200m. The path should have led along some wooden planks. Those were about 2 feet deep under water though for an extended length. Slightly fed up, I turned back around and made my way back to my car.

And to top it all off, I then realised I had left the bag with dry shoes and socks at home. Great. My feet were ice cold and wet when I arrived back at my cottage. It took a long, hot shower and several cups of tea, wrapped up in a blanket, to warm up again.

Lessons learned

For the rest of the day, I was content with listening to the storm from the sofa. Sure, going out is great, but sometimes staying inside might be the better choice after all. Next time, I’ll make it up those bloody hills though.

 

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