Celtic Illumination, part 103, Whensoever.
As the world’s leading Master Candle Maker I have to say that there is a fantastic candle making company on the Isle of Skye that makes candles that mirror the landscape of Skye. I know it sounds strange, but it was when I was doing a bit of research that I found this company http://www.skyelight.co.uk/ . I had to contact them immediately to say how great I thought their products are. Of course they are nowhere near the quality, or beauty, or craftsmanship, of my candles, but I just love the creativity of them.
Our time on Skye had come to an end and I have to admit I was sad to leave the island, however I would also have to admit to being exhausted. The ferry ride to the mainland was short and very like the ferry from Warrenpoint to Omeath. It was like being at home. Once on the mainland we drove to Fort William. Here anyone who was bagging Munro’s was invited to get to the top of Ben Nevis and back again pretty sharpish. Once again, safety was paramount as the biggest threat in the mountains was the weather so, in full kit, a large group of us set out to run to the top of Ben Nevis and back down again.
Ben Nevis, apart from being a Munro, is also one third of the Three Peaks Challenge. For us to run up and down the Ben was not a sort of empty activity, it would show us what to expect if we ever attempted the Three Peaks Challenge. The Three Peaks challenge is to run up Ben Nevis in Scotland, then Scafell Pike in the Lake District, and then Snowdon in Wales, and all within twenty four hours. At this stage of life I think to drive from one to the other within twenty four hours would be challenge enough but in those days, we looked at it as an attainable challenge.
Normally you would take your time going up any hill, looking about, learning the terrain, but this time we took the main path and belted our way to the top. The fell runners and super fit, like Tom Taylor and Stan, had to rein their enthusiasm in and stay with the main body, which I’m sure killed them. Then, before you know it we were back in the land rovers and trucks and heading south. Jack broke away from the main convoy as he had an appointment at Buckingham Palace and didn’t really want to be late for that meeting.
The rest of us just stretched out on top of the bags, in the rear of the trucks, and rested. Because we were in a convoy we had to maintain a constant speed of fifty five miles per hour, which meant that the journey home was going to be a very long one.
Going along the Glen of Glencoe I wired up the p.a. system so that the Irish national anthem was blaring out over the speakers that were quite prominent on the roof of each vehicle. It was a bit of a giggle, but the pipers in the car parks along Glencoe, who were performing for the Japanese tourists, were not impressed, in fact I think they got up a petition to have me banned from ever entering Scotland again. However it’s my tune, I can play it where I want, otherwise what the point of being King?
At least on the roads and lanes in Scotland you could rest and just allow your mind to sink into the scenery and dream of just being able to wander about with your dog and maybe a rifle or a shotgun. We had to pull in to a service station on the M 6 motorway to camp for the night. It was like something you would see in the old cowboy films. Form a circle with the waggons and then sleep underneath them. Next morning, which was a Sunday morning, had parents avert their children’s gaze, as half naked, and sometimes naked, men began crawling out from under the trucks oblivious to the audience.
Rather than cook our own breakfast we decided to go into the café and use its facilities. Believe it or not the duty manager came over and asked if we would sit in a designated area, away from the other customers as we smelled rather unpleasant and were being somewhat boisterous. I wonder what they would have said if we had stripped off and began having a scrub at the sinks in the toilets? Hot water and soap was something we were all looking forward to on our return, however, being a young gentleman I did enjoy the odd bath while on Skye and whether it was voluntary or not doesn’t really come in to it.
I promise you back at the section house I stepped from the shower and, with towel wrapped around my waist, went into my room to stretch out on my bed. I felt good and clean and knew that all I wanted was a decent rest without being eaten alive by midges. As Murphy’s law dictates, that’s when the hooter will go, and sure enough we were put on standby. Within five minutes we were moved to call out and sent to the sea cliffs at Holyhead, which is a very popular area for climbers.
There were some decent routes along the cliffs but none of us liked going there when the gulls had produced young, for to add to the excitement of the climb, you were now being attacked by seagulls, who thought you were after their eggs, or their chicks. If you were not careful they would nip lumps out of your hands and any other exposed area of skin.
A small climbing party of two had got into trouble. One of the climbers had got his knee stuck in a crevasse and was starting to panic. His partner had come off the route and called for help. It was a straight abseil job, belay alongside the fellow and then grease and massage his knee, plus lift him up a bit to take the pressure off. It didn’t take long but we got him free and back up to safety. When we got back to the section and despite the fact that statistically you knew we might not get an actual call out for a week or so, you still couldn’t relax, even putting your clothes into the washing machine you hoped and prayed that the hooter wouldn’t go. But this was an RAF unit and we would live up to our motto, which any military unit will do. Our motto? Is that what you are asking me, well, seeing as how you asked so nicely, the motto for the RAF Mountain Rescue Service is ‘Whensoever’.