Scotland is the ideal country if you like hiking or any kind of outdoor activity. I’ve always wanted to see more of the local countryside so a few weekends ago I hiked Ben Nevis, the highest summit in Great Britain, with my flatmates. We had little to no experience and it was at the same time amazing and one of the hardest experiences of my life. Ben Nevis has the reputation to have “its head in the cloud” and it was aptly named that day.
I will pass on the epic tale of our adventure (you will have to create your own memories facing Ben Nevis – a must do for anyone coming to Scotland) and tell you what came to my mind once I was showered, warm and comfortable in my hostel bed. I think this hike was a very good metaphor of what it’s like to be a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh.
You start at the foot of the mountain, thinking you have the right gear, enough water and food, good physical condition and you’re ready to go. You’ve prepared yourself for this and you think you know what’s facing you. For a while you’re completely fine, you’re enjoying yourself despite being a little out of breath, you put on a brave face for your friends and you keep moving on.
After some time it gets colder, foggier and it starts to rain. You’re still fine because you were prepared for this possibility. However the rain doesn’t stop, it doesn’t get worse either but every minute you just get wetter and wetter. It gets terribly cold and you realise you aren’t wearing clothes as warm as you thought.
Suddenly you realise you can’t see 5 metres in front of you. That’s the first time you think about giving up and your friends are in no better shape than you. Yet, with a strength you didn’t even know you had in you, you keep going up. At some point, maybe 20 minutes away from the summit, your friends disappear from your sight. They’re ahead of you. You also realise you lost your path. You manage to find your way back and you finally make it to the summit!
No time to celebrate. It’s so cold you feel like you’re going to die up there, lost in the fog and the only way to save yourself is to make your way down. You’re back with your friends and this time you won’t lose sight of each other, you’ll support each other and make it down together. Making it to the summit, as you quickly realise, was not the finish line. Going down is not as hard physically, but you move forward almost blind, and you trip a lot.
Finally, you’re out of the clouds, back to a normal weather. You can feel the end coming. Despite being as wet as if you fancied a swim in the sea nearby, you somehow manage to finish not feeling so terrible. Actually, you walk the last hour elated at your own prowess. All of it was worth it.
I’m only on my third month here at the University of Edinburgh so I can’t tell you exactly how it is going to be, and I still feel very much like at the beginning of my adventure, with good weather I hope to make it to the summit unhindered. I have a feeling Ben Nevis is going to be an accurate representation of my personal journey through this postgraduate year of studies. Maybe I’m wrong, ask me in a few months! All I know for sure is that I’ll make it to the finish line no matter what.
Ps : If you feel like hiking in better and safer conditions than me, there is a great Hill Walking society at the University of Edinburgh that organise amazing trips all over the country during the academic year.