Guest blogger: Nina’s momentous first Munro
Guest blogger Nina Smirnoff describes herself as: “A budding entrepreneur and hotel sales specialist with 15 years’ experience. I love hills, beaches, food, wine, gardens, dogs and my fiancee.” I’ve been tweeting with Nina on Twitter and enjoyed her blog Walking With Fatty.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. So the saying goes.
Mine is not a journey of a thousand miles. I’m not conquering the dizzy heights of the world’s tallest peaks as some brave souls have.
I’m not risking life and limb climbing sheer ice walls or negotiating the crevasses of Antarctica. Mine however is a mountain of the mind.
My mountain is omnipresent. It has loomed through the darkness; higher, steeper and more real than any peak or fell. My mountain is insurmountable. Mountains are for others to climb and enjoy. That is until now.
Despite doing ballet and gymnastics for 12 years and being a very active kid, I have suffered from obesity for most of my life.
Sometime back in 2008 after a relationship breakup, I decided to get a handle on my life and try to get the beast that is obesity under control. I tipped the scales at near enough 20 stone and my self-esteem was in the basement.
In the last couple of years I’ve taken up several sports including fencing, badminton, squash and the gym. Some, like squash, have stuck, while others haven’t. And then I discovered the delights and potential fitness boosting benefits of hill walking.
Thus I found myself standing on the summit of my first ever Munro, Sgor Gaoith, just a week or so ago. As I take in the view, breathe in the mountain air and feel my heart burst with excitement, adrenaline and freedom, I cannot believe I am finally here.
Hill walking has been an increasing passion. During the last year and a half I’ve been up and down Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, a couple of times. I’ve come within metres of the Cadair Idris summit, another Welsh mountain, and taken in all the tops of the Shropshire Hills. But it’s a Munro that I have been dreaming of. In April I came very close in winter conditions when I got to Sgor Gaoith’s sister peak, Carn Ban Mor.
I cannot quite believe I have come from not being able to manage a flight of stairs to standing on this magnificent summit. Moreover, the day before I completed a 5 kilometre road race and trekked nine kilometres to our wild campsite with a very heavy backpack. It’s been a weekend of firsts, having never run, backpacked or wild camped before.
I found an idyllic spot by Loch nan Cnapan with stunning views over the Cairngorms and while I didn’t get everything right by any stretch of the imagination, it was a very good first outing.
I achieved so much during just three days. I walked 33km, I wild camped, I navigated a route and I summitted my first Munro. I felt tired, my body hurt from effectively lying on the floor for two nights, my feet were very unhappy and I got very wet and rather cold.
Perhaps, you’re thinking, this sounds like an experience I won’t be repeating. You’re wrong! I can’t wait to do it all over again!
I have learnt a lot from this experience. Some are purely practical considerations, such as, I will never figure out how to use a shewee, I want a sleeping bag that actually fits and it’s always useful to pack a spare waterproof. I have also learnt a lot, lot more about myself. I now know how I respond to fear, pressure, discomfort and potential danger. I know how my brain responds to my physical discomfort, how to work through the walls of my mind and so much more.
It’s the best thing I have ever done, not least because I never thought I would do something like this.
I am still obese. I still struggle to manage my eating habits especially as I’ve given up my favourite vice, smoking. I struggle to motivate myself out of the door to get on the bike or go for a run or walk. I struggle to get up a hill as I puff and pant and cry. However, I have conquered one beast and that is the mountain in my mind.
In sharing this story I hope that others who feel the hills are not their playground will take heart. It’s all about taking small steps, one step at a time, one walk at a time.
It’s about you. Your pace. Your thoughts. Your high when you turn a bend and the countryside opens out before your eyes. Your achievement when you reach your first summit. Your mountain conquered.