Its late February and its been snowing. The Mountain Weather Information Service is telling us winds of 30 – 40mph dropping by early afternoon, snow showers clearing and 50% cloud free. Temperatures -3 at 900m but feeling more like -15 with wind chill. The Scottish Avalanche Information Service is telling us there will be unstable windslab on south – westerly to northerly aspects above 800m, with weakly bonded fresh cornices. The avalanche hazard is “considerable”. All critical information for safe and accurate planning and preparation.
We are traversing the Tarmachan Ridge in full winter conditions; Meall Garbh 1118m and Meall nan Tarmachan 1043m. For our group this will represent a significant challenge.
We arrive at the Ben Lawers car park in a 4WD vehicle. There’s one other vehicle there; A Land Rover. There wont be much company on the mountain today, if any.
Over the next 5 hours we experience deep snow, hours of fierce spindrift, ice, whiteouts, dazzling winter sun, piercing blue skies, and more whiteouts along with driving snow. We are the only people on the mountain.
It was a challenge. We are back at the vehicle, putting away ice axes and crampons, drinking coffee, reflecting on the day. There’s honesty out there. A sense of perspective. What’s important becomes clearer. Thirst for life is somehow accentuated – the more extreme it gets the more one feels alive. It’s both physically demanding and rewarding. It’s a tonic for mental well-being. No consuming, no social media; Just “being” becomes more than enough. Just “being” becomes everything.
We asked our group to collect their thoughts. To be out there, in nature, in the mountains; What does it mean for them?
Suzanne: “I don’t go into the mountains because I’m free; I go to feel free. I don’t go into the mountains to find myself; I go to be myself. I don’t go into the mountains to escape my life; I go to live my life. Feel. Be. Live”.
Lisa: “There’s something so inspiring about being in the mountains. The air is crisp and so clean, I love how it pierces the back of your throat when you inhale, an instant reminder that you are alive! It’s nature at its most brilliant. Experiencing Scotland from a different perspective always feels like a privilege.
No doubt it is a challenge both physically & mentally, but these are played out in some of the most beautiful places in Scotland. Overcoming these challenges gives me a sense of accomplishment: I get to learn a little more about myself each time, this is tremendously rewarding. The mountain does not care who you are, what you do, where you are from, it treats everyone the same, its real, it’s authentic and I love it”.
Ruth: “Taking time out isn’t easy. I have two beautiful kids and days race by. I didn’t always crave the mountains - not until I started training for a charity challenge and signed up for some adventures with OV. Now I jump at every chance to run away to the hills. Time for me in the mountains is valuable in so many ways.
The brilliant stillness of a good weather mountain day is hard to beat. But the pure wildness of more adverse conditions escapes words. There’s something life affirming in testing out your limitations at the same time as knowing you’re in very safe hands. It’s in the moments of reflection, walking in good company, in reaching the summit, or in making peace with a well-considered decision not to - this time.
For me, every sense is sharpened when I’m immersed in the elements: it is mindfulness without effort. Without fail, I always bring something new back home from the mountains and I can’t wait to get out there again soon. There are worse addictions!”
Sarah: “I’ve had two very different mountain experiences with Ocean Vertical. Glen Coe was alpine like; crisp blue sky, snow covered peaks. It was breath-taking. And then there was yesterday on the Tarmachan Ridge; an epic tale of adventure, beyond the comfort zone, and into the eye of the storm. To be there, at that moment, with the storm raging, spindrift stinging our smiling faces, it was as if nothing else mattered. We simply could not have stepped onto that mountain without our guides. The impossible became possible”.
Cara: “Every once in a while take a step back from everything and take in the silence. Or perhaps today the storm; so real, uncompromising and exhilarating. God you know you’re alive. No words can describe the feeling of overcoming a challenge and getting to the top. What a awesome day- thank you Ocean Vertical for another incredible experience”
Step back. Break free. Be amazing.
Ocean Vertical www.oceanvertical.com
“For me, every sense is sharpened when I’m immersed in the elements: it is mindfulness without effort. Without fail, I always bring something new back home from the mountains and I can’t wait to get out there again soon. There are worse addictions!”
Ruth | Edinburgh