It’s late September 2020. I’m in Scotland and I’m about to climb my first Munro – a Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet (914.4m), of which there are 282.
It also happens to be a volcano and the UK’s highest mountain.
Ben Nevis stands at a glorious 4,411 feet (1,345m) and is beautifully imposing. It is the remains of an ancient volcano that collapsed in on itself more than 400 million years ago, which was then moulded by the elements.
While not the hardest Munro to climb, it is the highest and for a first Munro it sets the standard.
April 2020 was spent in a yellow motel room in the small tourist town Te Anau in New Zealand. That first Covid lockdown put paid to my #WalkNZ adventure – just seven days from the finish line in Bluff.
Once things opened up in New Zealand, and the rest of the world was still on pause, my partner Mark and I did a tiki tour of the North Island.
And I climbed volcano number 23 in my #40by40 challenge.
So far, #WalkNZ has been a solo journey – but it was always meant to be.
Last week I was asked if I was bored of walking by myself. An interesting question.
I said no – I’ve met many people along the Te Araroa trail and, for the most part, I’ve spent each night with an eclectic group of random fellow trampers.
That said, I have to admit I am a little bit over listening to myself think while I’m walking. Mainly because all I seem to be thinking is how much my feet hurt, how much my shoulders hurt, how boring and monotonous this road walk is, and where I should put my foot so I don’t a) slip over b) twist it or c) fall off the trail/down the hill.
So, it was quite a joy to have one of my best friends join me on the Coast to Coast trail across Auckland, which just so happened to conveniently cross over three dormant volcanoes – part of the 40 plus volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field – and thereby ticking off volcanoes 18, 19 and 20 in my #40by40 volcano challenge, and reaching the halfway mark. Continue reading →
I regretted it the moment the hill started to steepen. It was already hot and muggy, and within minutes of climbing through tropical rainforest to the crater lake lookout, I felt like I was slowly being steamed alive. Continue reading →
The Yellow Bus’ door closed and it accelerated off before I could figure out if that was the stop I needed. I looked at the brochure and my map amid high-speed twists and turns. Yeah, I probably should have got off at that stop, I realised.
Oh well, final stop it was then – the Vista do Rei viewpoint that overlooked the magnificent and photo-famous Lagoa das Sete Cidades in the north west of the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. Continue reading →
“I guess I should be grateful that I’m actually on my way to see a volcano,” I thought as the ‘Yellow Bus’ hurtled through the Azorean countryside, passing fields of maize and languid dairy cows.
It had almost been a no-volcano day after a caffeine-deficient, panic-fuelled morning. I’d arrived in the Azores – the volcanic archipelago off the coast of Portugal – the night before rearing to tick off four more volcanoes in my #40by40 challenge.
It had been an awesome three days in the Auvergne region in France walking a section of the GR400 route and climbing volcanoes.
In three days we had hoped to climb four volcanic peaks as part of my #40by40 quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 but we’d only been able to tick off three (because of our leisurely pace) – Puy Mary, Puy Chavaroche, and Puy Griou (the latter hadn’t even been on the original list).
I’d been a little bit gutted that we hadn’t been able to make the last two, Puy du Rocher and Plomb du Cantal, but as I was quickly coming to learn with this challenge, it was no easy street and there were bound to be blips and bumps and failings. I just had to be flexible, not give up, and remember that everything would be ok in the end. Continue reading →
After a wet day with thoroughly uninviting views, we awoke in the little French town of Mandailles to what promised to be better weather. There were pockets of blue in the sky (hurrah!) and while the tops of the higher mountains were still shrouded in cloud it looked like it was only lingering like a bad smell.
Today was to be our last day of our three-day hike along a section of the GR400 route in France’s Auvergne region. So far, we had been buffeted by gale force winds in an almighty thunderstorm, my hiking companion’s tent had nearly blown off the side of the mountain, and we had climbed two volcanoes as part of my #40by40 quest to climb 40 volcanos by the age of 40.
Today’s aim was to take on two more volcanoes – including the immediate region’s highest peak Plomb du Cantal. Continue reading →