The words ‘I’ve had an idea’ come out of my mouth on an all-too-regular basis. Some ideas turn out well; others not so much. ‘Character building’ is what my Dad would say, and it’s the phrase that I’ve now adopted in all situations of the latter.
My latest scheme popped into my head last week on my way home from work: ‘I’ll climb up Fyrish… on Saturday… at sunrise.’
Romantic notions filled my head of being at the top of the hill, poised with my camera, as the sun would gradually rise over the monument with a glorious pink sky in the background. That evening, my sales pitch went well: Ross agreed to come on the condition that he got to buy a head torch and that we packed a thermos. A fair deal.
The alarm went off at 6am on Saturday morning. Have crueller words ever been spoken? But a plan was in place! We managed to drag ourselves out into the unusually mild outdoors and drove North to Fyrish Hill, near Alness in Easter Ross.
On the way, I was convinced that this was going to be brilliant. It was dry, mild and the sky was relatively clear. Plus, if we had waited until summer, we would just have had to get up even earlier, so this was definitely the day to go for it.
We reached the car park around 7am and it was essentially an ice rink. A clear sheet of glassy ice should have triggered a klaxon going off in my head as to what lay ahead. But a plan was in place! So off we went, in the pitch-dark, up Fyrish, with Ross’s head torch firmly fixed and my industrial hand torch guiding us up the woodland path. There wasn’t another soul in sight.
About 20 minutes in, we hit some ice on a relatively steep section of the path. In the dark, this seemed steep and treacherous. In the light of day, it was steep and treacherous. We both slid back down the icy path but managed to keep the coffee flasks intact (our dignity less so…).
Post the ice-path challenge, the rain started coming down and I had to admit that this may not have been the experience I had in mind. But we had started and therefore would finish (a plan was in place…).
With the exception of some snow near the top, the rest of the path was completely clear and surroundings became slightly more visible as we carried on. That is, until we reached the top. Instead of a starry sky and the promise of a dramatic sunrise, we were met by a thick fog and a wind that whipped you right in the face. Supposedly sunrise was at 8.35am and the time was now 8.05am. Maybe it would clear? Maybe I am insane.
I took some photos and was disappointed that they weren’t great. We huddled like a pair of penguins over the coffee, determined to wait until 8.35am in case miraculously the entire weather system cleared, and we would know it was all worth it.
The fog did clear, but we didn’t see the sun rise. It just got lighter and we got colder.
Our descent was much more pleasant. We could see every step in front of us, we didn’t fall, and we had the whole day ahead of us to do anything we wanted. Sure, the photos didn’t turn out well, and I wouldn’t have a spectacular sunrise to write about in this blog. But, that was the reality of it. Things don’t often turn out the way we expect and, as I get older, I realise that it’s the process we need to enjoy, not the end product.
It might sound crazy to most but I enjoyed our early morning adventure. It was different, challenging, and required some perseverance, but it was indeed ‘character building’ – and we stopped off for breakfast at the delightfully consistent Storehouse on the way home – delicious.
In an age of social media, filters and PhotoShop, it’s all too easy to get sucked into the assumption that everyone else is living their seemingly perfect lives. But not every experience is perfect, not every photo shows the real story behind it, and sometimes it’s helping each other up from the ice that makes the best memories.
Fyrish Monument was built in 1782 on Fyrish Hill under the direction of Sir Hector Munro – a lord of the area who had also served as a General in India. He commissioned the monument as a way of keeping local people in work during the clearances. The monument represents the Gate of Negapatam: a port in Madras. Views overlooking the Cromarty Firth and Ben Wyvis can (usually) be seen.