Do you love a challenge? Perhaps the word fills you with dread and you are more likely to lean towards a safer sounding “experience”. But at some point in our lives, we yearn for an escape with an edge: some soul searching over sun seeking. However you’re time poor and not fully committed to spending your whole holiday budget on an adventure you might quite frankly hate. The solution? IGO Adventures Scotland Weekend. Two nights, three days and £545 will buy you a wild experience in the Scottish Highlands, covering 51km of Lochs and Monroes. Here’s how Alice Rickard got on…
So here I am, loaded up like a camel with borrowed backpacks on my first ever camping experience, no wait, challenge! Not entirely sure what I have signed up for, I nervously chatter to as many of the sixty participants as I can and realise much to my relief that a few of them like me, are all the gear and no idea.
The Loch Lomond Arms is the base of our event briefing and apparently the place for our last substantial meal of the weekend, a Scottish feast of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. I’m busy shovelling down every carbohydrate I could lay my eyes on, that I miss most of the briefing, other than an announcement not to urinate in the same place we bathe. As it dawns on me, that instead of showers we would be washing in a river, I was shuffle to the start line for part one of the challenge, a 10km trial run, unguided to the campsite.
Part run, part jog, mainly walk, I am feeling pretty chuffed with myself, after 2 hours I can spot the white tops of tents in an empty valley. Whilst riding high on confidence, I join several other participants in a post workout cool down, by sitting in the ice cold river than runs alongside the camp.
Camp feels more like a festival, than home to a gruelling physical challenge. Groups huddled by a fire, others practicing yoga and most of the men engrossed by a Bear Grylls type showing them how to make fire. Aware but not prepared that I have a lot of hiking and canoeing to do the next day I decide to turn in and get some shut eye.
Bagpipes, really loud bagpipes wake me up in a damp and dewy tent and I want to pull the covers back over my head. Instead I open up the tent to sun beaming through the valley and watch our private morning concert in the middle of nowhere and smile.
As I fumble around trying to eat my porridge with a fork (I forgot to pack a spoon!) the challenge details are revealed. 4km Run, 4km Canoe, 12km Climb up Ben Lomond and all the way back again all in one day. I’ve got this.
The start line today is filled with more companions than competitors, after bonding the night before. The first 4km is a gentle jog through the valley and country lanes to Loch Lomond, after which we are partnered up and issued a canoe with little guidance other than a lifejacket, a paddle and a point in the direction of Ben Lomond.
After an hour long paddle across the Loch, we hand back our canoes to waiting IGO guides and it is at this point that the challenge really begins.
Already worn out from the run and canoe I begin my ascent. Every twenty minutes I need to stop. I convince myself it is to look back and appreciate the views and take pictures, the reality is I am exhausted and need the break. Six hours since we left the campsite, I find myself hobbling up the final steps of Ben Lomond, so high I am now walking across snow. Every step I take comes with sharp shooting pains down the backs of my legs. It seems impossible until a kind gentleman called Pablo who I met in camp the night before, walks past and motivates me with news that I am less than five minutes from the top.
As I summit the 3,196ft high mountain, a sheer rush of pride, joy and relief rushes through me. The aches and pains are soon healed by the perfect 360 degree view of the Trossachs National Park and the entire length of Loch Lomond.
Sitting down with my squashed cheese sandwich to enjoy this expansive landscape, it is at this point I realise… Some experiences are challenging, but every challenge is an experience. This one tested my inner resolve, determination and drive, and ultimately helped me to achieve something extraordinary.