Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021

Opposite page: Glen Coe. Above: From left to right: Everest in the background from Mera High Camp; Stella Point on Kilimanjaro at 5786m; Toubkal, the highest point in the Atlas Mountains at 4167m; Abel and Sean McBride at the summit of Ben Starav. Below: Sean at Everest Base Camp. Images © Sean McBride.

and gently strengthen my core. This also includes several stretches for my lower back to loosen the muscles there and in my hips to overcome lower back pain and sciatica. I wear a sports watch and monitor my heart rate. During one of the hottest days in the summer of 2018, I pushed for the summit of Cairngorm after having walked across from the summit of Ben Macdui. I’d considered descending into the ski resort instead of pushing for the Cairngorm summit because I was feeling so tired. In hindsight, I should have. By the time I clambered onto the Cairngorm summit, for the first time in thirty years, I was exhausted, distressed and dizzy. It turned out my pulse had reached 204 beats per minute. The mentality of an overweight mountaineer requires several factors. First, you need to be thick-skinned. The looks I receive from others on the mountains vary from surprise to downright shock or concern. Those looks alone could have me hiding out in the car. I’ve learned over the years, however, that most people we meet in the Scottish Mountains are extremely friendly and helpful. They are not judging me, just concerned, and often wanting to help. It’s that camaraderie and encouragement which gives me the self- belief to keep going into the mountains. For sure a sense of humility is required. Fortunately, it’s easy to feel humble when surrounded by the majesty and beauty of the mountains. There has to be an acceptance that I am going to be one of the slower walkers on the mountains. It’s not uncommon for me to see people leaving the car park hundreds of feet below me and be talking to them within half an hour before they move on past me. We all get to the top in the end and the advantage for me is that people can tell me the conditions up top as they pass me on the way down. It’s also vital to know your limits and turn around when you need to turn around, whether you’ve reached the top or not. My brother and I attempted to summit Ben Nevis through the night via the Mountain Track in 2019. I had a cold at the time and had started to struggle before we had climbed 600 feet. We climbed on through the night and soon found ourselves crossing the Halfway Plateau across the Red Burn and on towards the zig-zags. Even as high as the zig-zags, looking up at the summit ridge tantalisingly close, I had to tell my brother I needed to turn round. He was full of encouragement, telling me I’d made the right decision. High on the mountain in the middle of the night in sub-zero temperatures was no place to risk my condition deteriorating further.

Finally, and in common with everyone else on the mountain, a clear head and positive mindset need to be maintained. When the weather closes in and there’s thousands of feet to descend over miles of rough terrain is not the best time for the ‘critical self ’ to emerge. I need to read the map, consult GPS or my phone. The conditions and the emerging situation need to be assessed and reassessed. I need to be ready and able to revert to my survival kit and communicate that situation and location should the need arise. I need to do all of this despite any voice in my head telling me I shouldn’t have come here in the first place. It’s not so much about telling myself I can do these things. It’s as simple as I need to do them to survive. Over the years in the mountains, I haven’t

lost any weight, in fact I’ve still gained, but that hasn’t stopped me. To date I’ve summited 54 Munros and, though a modest tally, the experience has been nothing short of amazing. Though I’ve found myself either in, or passing through, Glencoe every other weekend, the sight never gets any less breathtaking. The experience of climbing the mountains here in Scotland and the encouragement of so many people I meet in them has been fantastic. It has taken me to over 20,000 feet in the Himalayas, to the rim of Kilimanjaro and the summit of Mount Toubkal. Scotland is my home and I truly feel like these are my mountains. They are wild and beautiful, and I love being among them. ✪




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