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So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby Stretch » Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:40 pm

Route description: The Cobbler, Arrochar

Corbetts included on this walk: The Cobbler

Date walked: 12/11/2011

Time taken: 5.3 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 920m

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Four years ago I arrived in St Andrews from the great state of Tennessee on a mission to complete a postgraduate degree – or two – and play as much golf as I could in my spare time. During my first year in Scotland I managed to finish my MLitt (MA) degree while maintaining a pretty good social life with a great group of friends from all around the globe. In addition, much golf was played and many balls were lost. The majority of my fine friends moved on after their one year course was finished, while a handful of us stayed in St Andrews to become slaves to the PhD. It was near the end of September 2008, right before I started my doctoral work, when I and another American friend set off from the Cairn Gorm ski center clad in jeans and trainers heading for Ben Macdui. Until that day I had no knowledge of munros, corbetts, bagging, or how to properly dress for a long day out in the wilds of Scotland with its fairly unpredictable weather. My friend was more familiar with munro bagging and filled me in as we made our way over to Cairn Gorm where a spectacular cloud inversion awaited us. It was a great introduction into the hills and a magical day out. But sadly my foray into munro-bagging was cut short due to the intense amount of reading and research that comes crashing down on unsuspecting postgrads during their first year of PhD life.

At the end of May 2009 I discovered the joys of Glencoe for the first time. On what had to be one of the hottest days of the year I climbed Bidean nam Bian and its neighbor Stob Coire Sgreamhach. From that fine day on I was hooked (Bidean remains my favorite hill). I began to scour the internet for deals on boots, waterproofs, rucksacks, and whatever gear I could get my hands on that would help better prepare myself for subsequent weekends of hillwalking. The company who issues my student loans stated that I should use my funds for pencils and paper – oops. After a month home that summer, I returned to St Andrews and began a long relationship with Enterprise Rental Car in Cupar (Thanks!). That fall I climbed over 25 more munros and gained some valuable experience which I used to tackle nearly 70 munros in 2010. That was a big year in terms of how much quality gear I purchased, how many cars I hired to drive all over Scotland, and how little I got done on my PhD.

Despite the joy that my new found hobby of hillwalking had provided me, by the summer of 2010 I had grown very homesick. In addition, I began to question whether doing a PhD was right for me. I was not happy with my work, nor did I like the fact that my student loans were becoming ridiculous. When I went home to Tennessee that summer, I began to check around to see if I could gain a teaching position in my hometown without a PhD. When I learned that I could (and would) I boarded a plane heading back to Scotland with a huge decision to make. On a glorious afternoon near the end of July I made my way to the summit of the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor – there time stood still – and all of the negative feelings I had felt were diminished by the scenic views I enjoyed. http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=6077

Not to exaggerate matters, but that day on the Big Buachaille changed my life. Not only did I decide to stay in Scotland, that autumn I got serious and began to produce the kind of work on my thesis that I knew I was capable of. Hillwalking continued to have a positive impact on my life – even more so after I organized and took part in the first big meet-up for the website over Halloween weekend. There I met a fantastic group of fellow hillwalking enthusiasts, many of whom have become – perhaps unknowingly – part of my support group. The memories of our adventure in Glencoe spawned several more meet-ups in 2011at Aviemore, Roy Bridge, Kintail, and Wales. Friendships were forged at these meets through walks in tough to brutal conditions, numerous pints of ale, and page after page of Monty’s jokes (the delivery of which being funnier than the punch lines). Thanks to the world of social networking, many of us have been able to stay in touch and get to know each other even better since that first meet in Glencoe.

While my group of hillwalking friends was steadily growing, my group of friends in St Andrews unfortunately began to dwindle. In a very claustrophobic academic environment like St Andrews, it does not take long to figure out who your real friends are. Needless to say, by the end of 2010 I had separated myself from the fake ones, which left me with very few true friends who I could count on and ones who actually took an interest in my life. Thankfully, I had my support group outside of St Andrews. Many of the names within this group are familiar to some of you reading this . . . Gammy Leg Walker, Gable Gable End, Mountainstar, Weemistermac, and Jockstar are but a few. The friends I have met through Walkhighlands are scattered all across the UK, yet they were with me in spirit here in St Andrews when there was hardly anyone else over the past year. Their friendship, support, and encouragement helped make this past year the best, and most productive, of my four years in Scotland. Even as my homesickness continued, I could count on the Walkhighlands gang to pick me up and remind me of why Scotland is such a special place.

My time in St Andrews is now coming to an end – I leave in 5 days. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze two consecutive weekends of hillwalking in before the stressful task of packing began. This past weekend, I received the best send-off a guy could ask for from my support group. The pictures below hardly do the weekend any justice – everything about it was perfect. On Saturday, thirteen site members – make that thirteen great friends - met me at Arrochar for a walk up the Cobbler. It seems that a few had conspired to dress me in a kilt and send me up the hill. I must say, I actually enjoyed wearing it – despite cheating a bit by keeping my walking trousers on. Thirteen cameras were aimed at me at various points throughout the day, proper paparazzi stuff! We laughed and shared stories the entire way to the summit. At the top, a few brave souls threaded the Needle and stood atop the fine pinnacle. As they looked down on us, a bottle of that fine wine made by monks in England was popped open and passed around – we’re a classy bunch no doubt. After more photos of me in a kilt, holding a bottle of Buckfast were snapped, we descended to lower ground and ate lunch before making our way back to the carpark. At the carpark, site member Scotjamie appeared and presented me with some Glenkinchie single malt. He was on his way to Glencoe and stopped by to say farewell – proof that hillwalkers are class acts! Once we were joined by Alan S we headed for the pub where the gang presented me with a quiach, a beautiful print of the Big Buachaille to remind me of my day on that special hill, and an extremely nice flask.

After saying my goodbye’s in Arrochar, several of us headed north of the Cairngorms to Weemistermac’s country abode. Once there, we celebrated his and Paul’s birthday with a bonfire, fireworks, tasty food, some terribly spicy chocolate, too much alcohol, and the musical talents of Monty, Leithysuburbs, and Gable Gable End. The following morning we were treated to a fine breakfast which helped most of us clear the cobwebs. To finish the weekend, a group of us climbed Ben Rinnes and enjoyed another fine afternoon. Knowing that I was standing on the summit of my last Scottish hill for some time was certainly bittersweet.

The inscription inside the case for the flask the gang pitched in to get me reads as follows: ‘In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks’. No words could be more fitting to describe my hillwalking experiences over the past two years or so. During that time, the Scottish highlands gave me strength to continue my studies, a better understanding of Scotland and its people, and most importantly, a great group of friends. I have so much to look forward to as I go home. I simply cannot wait to get back to the beautiful young lady who eagerly awaits my return. There were rumours at the weekend of plans for a Walkhighlands Wedding Meet-up – like myself, the gang obviously sees the writing on the wall. I’ll also be able to help my parents and visit more with my grandfather. I’ll still have work to do on my thesis, but hopefully by the end of Spring I’ll be able to submit and await my viva. But home is where the heart is and I’m anxious to get back and begin a new chapter of my life. But before I turn the last page of this current chapter of my life, I would like to thank everyone who helped make this past weekend so special. Moreover, I would like to thank all of my friends and those of you on Walkhighlands who I have not met for making me feel like a part of the hillwalking community.

A special thank you goes to Paul and Helen who have provided each of us with a great website. Had I not discovered it several years ago, my life could have taken a different direction. To the many friends that I have made through this site – you know who you are – thank you for getting to know me, for accompanying me on the hills, for the laughter, for singing along with me during Monty’s sessions, and for making me feel welcome in this great country. I will miss each one of you and please come visit my neck of the woods if you get a chance. Finally, a very special thank you goes to Gammy Leg Walker. Willie takes a lot of stick for his clag-attracting ability, but you could not find a better person to hit the hills with. Since last November we have had some memorable walks and have become great pals. He has also been kind enough to look after me on my solo walks this past year. I’ll miss you big guy!

At last, this is me saying so long, but not goodbye. I’ll continue to contribute to the forums and when I get a chance I’ll add some reports to the outside Scotland section. I’m looking forward to reading all of your reports and living through you once I’m home. So until we meet again, stay safe and happy hillwalking!

Stretch (aka MacDrinnon)

Rather than flooding the site with 14 reports, the gang will be posting more scandalous photos of me in a kilt below. Enjoy.

Stretch, you can't leave Scotland without wearing this.jpg

Follow the man in the kilt.jpg

Forward, march.jpg

Incredible sight.jpg

Closing in on the alien rock formation known as The Cobbler.jpg

The gang enjoys a quick break.jpg

Iain spots something that looks like an antelope.jpg

I get by with a little help from my friends.jpg

Dougie is first to the top.jpg

Bod and Val heading up the ledge.jpg

Bod, Val, Mark, Dougie on the summit.jpg

Time to celebrate with some fine wine.jpg

Gammy taking a swig in honor of the sunshine.jpg

Bod, save some for the rest of us.jpg

Peer pressure got the best of Iain.jpg

Just Say No.jpg

Through the window, enough for me..jpg

Arriving at the north top - Beinn Ime behind.jpg

The brave ones dare Jonny to get to the end of the ledge.jpg

Leaving the Cobbler behind.jpg

The Cobbler at the end of the day.jpg

The Cobbler Gang.jpg

Ben Rinnes crew.jpg

So long from Ben Rinnes!.jpg
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby monty » Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:50 pm

Its been a pleasure meeting you big man, walking with you, walking ahead of you and of course walking behind you :lol: I wish you all the best for the future in Yankee town. Yours aye, Monty

Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby Kevin29035 » Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:59 pm

Stretch, a great report. I hoped to have gone to The Cobbler, ended up working but now looks like I missed out! But I want to wish you the best for the future and life back home. I enjoyed your company on the way down and back from Wales, it would have been good to do more walking with you. But heyho, maybe see you down the line!

All the best!
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby rockhopper » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:02 pm

Cracking stuff Stretch. Sorry I never got to meet you but, who knows, maybe in the future. Well done to all of you. All the best for your return home. Do dheagh shlàinte :D
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby Alastair S » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:12 pm

Great stuff - love all the photos :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby davgil » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:13 pm

Fascinating report stretch!
It's been a pleasure reading your reports and comments.
Glad you enjoyed your time in Scotland so much and good luck for the future...all the best :D
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby Tomsie » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:18 pm

Great story there, I'm too extending my time here in Scotland have twice booked oneway flights back to Ireland and have decided to stay at least another 2 years and the bug of walking these hills has a very big part to play in it plus the cheap beer
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby Valerie » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:21 pm

Yes, it was a wonderful day Stretch and one that we will all carry fond memories of. You looked great in the kilt, after the initial shock wore off I think you became quite fond of it :D I would also like to wish you, Amanda and that gorgeous little lad all the very best for the future :-D
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby walk aboot » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:25 pm

I second what Val says, awra best stretch :D
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby magicdin » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:31 pm

From the heart Big Man - Glad I was able to say Hello and Goodbye - and of course you will be back in Alba
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby walk aboot » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:34 pm

A few more photies...

Yup, ANOTHER kilt photie :-D ...Bod showing Andy how to wear it

Iain Watson, Brian (Jockstar) and Bod threading the needle on the Cobbler

Cuban cigar smoking, Buckfast drinking Adopted Scotsman
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby foggieclimber » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:36 pm

Enjoyed that, thanks :)
Was good to meet you a few weeks ago.
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby blueyed » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:41 pm

you'll be missed mate!
good luck back home!
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby ChrisW » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:42 pm

Fine words Stretch and some great photos to keep those memories fresh, sorry I couldn't make it but perhaps we'll get the North America meet up going next year and do it over there :D

Until then, cheers :wink:
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Re: So Long, but not Goodbye - The Cobbler

Postby SouthernUplandKing » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:54 pm

Great report there mate and good luck for the future !

The hills will be waiting...

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