With: Ben (born 1979) and Luc (born 2013)
Date: 28 August 2016
Where: An Sgùrr, Isle of Eigg
Ben has already featured twice - and Luc once - in this series, but this walk was so memorable I had to include it.
We spent three nights camping on the tiny Isle of Eigg and had an absolutely lovely time testing out Luc's new trailer ('go-cart'), watching an otter fishing, rockpooling etc. Luc had been camping before, of course, many times. He'd even been camping with Auntie Hannah before (at my 40th birthday). What he'd never done before was climb a mountain entirely on his own, three-and-a-half-year-old legs! So we set off up An Sgùrr to see if he could.
At 400m An Sgùrr probably isn't technically a mountain, but rising as it does steeply out of the sea it certainly looked like one to us as we pedalled the first short, tarmac section before abandoning our bikes for what probably amounted to a four-hour walk at least. The weather couldn't have been better, with a clear blue sky and very slight breeze. Everyone was in good spirits. We soon settled into an incessant - but not quite irritating - verbal patter designed to encourage Luc to keep going at a bearable pace - not so fast he'd wear himself out and not too bloody slowly! Ben had had the good sense to beg some rewards from the family camping near us. These provided considerable motivation to Luc as, to my surprise, did his imaginary competition with the slightly bigger boy coming up the hill behind us with his parents.
His physical and mental stamina were really impressive. After a while the path got steeper and he had often to clamber up steps as high as his waist. Much of the dialogue was about which might be the best line to take, the least slippy or the least wet. Sometime between our first and second banana stops Luc found three bits of a stick he wanted us to keep (one each). I asked him 'What's the reason you're going to share your treats with Daddy at the top, but not with me? AND I have to have 'the boring stick'?' His answer: 'That's just the way the world works!' We pissed ourselves, needless to say.
The final quarter of the walk was more of a climb, and this was where Luc's climbing experience came into its own. A work associate of Ben's who we'd bumped into seemed fairly staggered to watch this three-year-old head straight up what looked from below like a rock face, closely supervised by Ben of course. The colleague had a fairly fancy camera with him so I hope he took some nice photos of Luc.
At the top - from which the view was astounding - there's no question Luc was pleased with himself and understood the magnitude of his achievement. Ben ('was incredibly proud of Luc, overjoyed with the success of the walk and') looked like he might cry. I enjoyed taking lots of lovely photos of the two of them, including sweet ones of Luc high-fiving us both, and then sitting atop the trig point looking across at the Isle of Rum. We did indeed 'beat' the other boy, who turned out to be five and also very sweet.
After enjoying his treats Luc needed a poo so Ben went off to deal with that. Watching them come back towards me I said 'Ben he's about to walk into the...'
At this point Ben admitted to me he hadn't been sure if Luc would manage the whole climb. He kept his side of the bargain and carried Luc on his shoulders almost all the way back down (I carried him a short way right at the end once the terrain was flatter).
Thank you Ben for planning the weekend on Eigg and also for timing this important rite of passage so that I could be part of it. One of the highlights of a memorable summer!