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A Meikle Knock almost meant the Bin for me.

A Meikle Knock almost meant the Bin for me.

Postby rohan » Sun Dec 18, 2016 11:58 pm

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Bin of Cullen, Knock Hill, Meikle Balloch Hill

Date walked: 05/12/2016

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 6.6 km

Ascent: 575m

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I lay on my back, the sound of dripping water all around me and a view up through the glass to the grey sky above but overwhelming me was the enormous pain emanating from my left hip. My leg was at a strange angle; clearly I had done something major. What was not clear was how I was going to be able to negotiate the 37steps down to the living room and the phone...

Nine weeks later to the day found me and my friend Viv at the car park for Meikle Balloch (NJ458494), not the highest of hills but my first hill since I dislocated my hip (for that was what I had done). Meikle Balloch was to be the first of three Marilyns I was going to try and walk up this day. Actually I had picked out four , that was always unrealistic but Viv humoured me. Originally (way before my accident) I had thought that these Marilyns and their trig points on the Moray/Aberdeenshire border would have been ideal as companion hills in a circular summer cycle but my confidence and fitness have not returned enough to achieve this (particularly as we approach the shortest day). Their accessibility, views and short walks meant though that they were ideal for my rehabilitation of gaining confidence, testing my stamina and above all giving me a much needed outing. Viv probably would have preferred something longer, higher and altogether more challenging but she kept quiet. It had been nine weeks and two days since I had been higher than Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (4th floor) so I was not to be messed with. My last hill had been Morven, two days before my accident and the morning after a fine ceilidh in Ballater for a friend’s 50th birthday. Ceilidh dancing will have to wait a while.

The early morning sunshine and the low temperatures combined to give us stunning views as we took the easy blue circular route to the summit. I’ll not be sniffy about tourist routes for while. The crisp, frost-touched vegetation and iced–up track softening when the weak winter sun reached them as we neared the summit but never so much to make it soggy. As a collector of trigs, we spent more time at the TP than at the actual summit. The left over pinky-yellow gravel from the path construction rather detracted from the TP surrounds and I felt it ruined my shadow “selfie” as I tried to be “arty” (failed again!). The views were amazing and we picked out the nearer hills easily, Knock Hill and Fourman appearing very close. Ben Rinnes, The Buck and Tap o the Noth further away to the west and south. Beyond Ben Rinnes there was a white mass (is there any snow?) which we figured was the Northern Cairngorms maybe.
IMG_0217 sunrise copy.jpg
Another Sunrise

IMG_0220 Knock Hill copy.jpg
Knock Hill

IMG_0221 Viv on Meikle with Fourman Hill copy.jpg
Viv with Forman Hill just over the shoulder

IMG_0222 Cairngorms copy.jpg

IMG_0223 Ben Rinnes copy.jpg
Ben Rinnes

IMG_0225 3shadows Meikle copy.jpg
Shadow Selfie

We continued on, just briefly touching the summit cairn as we passed. In the woods a number of tiny birds flitted amongst the trees but I am not a good enough birder to be able to I.D. them without my good binocs which I had stupidly left behind. I think they could have been goldcrests. A local dog walker caught up with us as we descended through the woods. On hearing my story she strongly advised against taking in Knock Hill due to the very “trenched” steep path. Unfortunately this was almost guaranteed to make me attempt it. For the time being I went along with her advice, kindly meant. We had other walks to choose from after all. We returned to the van and headed off to the Bin of Cullen, just over 9 miles as the craw flees to the North but 14 miles round the road. On the way we passed through magical trees of ice in the dips where the air remained cold. There were no mists associated with temperature inversions so it was more due to the sun’s rays reaching the air above and melting off the frosts from higher land.
We arrived at the start of the walk up the Bin (NJ492633) along with a number of other people (again walking their dogs) however everyone went off along different routes while we stuck to the most direct route to the summit. The switch-backed path took us at a gentle gradient to the top, easy compared to the descent I had nine weeks previously. I had fallen sometime between 11.00 and 11.30 am whilst cleaning windows (of all things-something some of my friends found hilarious knowing the relative frequency of my window cleaning as compared to my hill walking alone in remote places). Whilst we ascended in the here and now, on that other Monday I had been making my way painfully down the 37 steps, a journey that would take me one and a half hours., it was far harder than any hill walk I had done (including the Fisherfield six in one day), or any multiday trip carrying a full pack but I had read “Touching the Void” and figured that what I had to do was an absolute puppy walk in comparison to what Joe Simpson had done. I also knew that once I reached the living room and the phone I would have the full support of the NHS. The morning news on the day of my fall was full of the continued bombing of Aleppo including the hospitals and there were only 30 doctors left for the whole population of that war-torn city. I compared my fate and pain to that of the people of Aleppo and figured that I was well off and had little to complain about.
Back to the here and now at a bend in the path, approximately 75m below the summit a break in the trees gives a lovely viewpoint to the west, a foretaste of what we could expect on the summit. We were taking these hills slowly and enjoying the wonderful views. A viewfinder at the summit helped us pick out Ben Wyvis across the Moray Firth. Cloud around the coast line meant we couldn’t really pick out any details on the Sutherland and Caithness coasts. All the same hills that we had seen from Meikle Balloch were visible as were the towns of Lossiemouth. Buckie, Portknockie and Cullen. To the East we could see Troup Head (another good walk). I was feeling fine with no ill effects and absolutely blown away by the views. It was good to be alive and I reflected on my luck. I had fallen 10ft straight down and had not broken anything or knocked myself out. It could have been a lot, lot worse than a dislocated hip not least because without getting down I was out of sight and earshot from the rest of the world and how long would it be before anyone missed me? My neighbours knew that I was leaving for my son’s wedding followed by a week hill walking in Ireland some time that week and they probably would assume I had gone. They may notice the hens weren’t shut in but as they didn’t get in from work until after dark they probably would not see this and the hens would be at the mercy of the fox. My other neighbour was away and I was feeding his cats and he wasn’t back for a fortnight. So I had to get down as it could be 3 days before the alarm would be raised by my family when I didn’t turn up for the wedding. It was more than just me that would suffer, the cats and hens would too (unless the former beat the fox to the latter!) Needless to say the descent of The Bin was easy, quick and pain free.
IMG_0237 Cullen copy.jpg
First view (of Buckie)

IMG_0247 Viv on yhr Trig point Bin of Cullen copy.jpg
Standing on the TP, well sort of.

IMG_0251 Hill of Cullen trig to Troup Hill copy.jpg
Looking over the TP to Troup Head and the Banffshire Coast

IMG_0253 view from the Bin of Cullen copy.jpg
Buckie and Lossiemouth

IMG_0258 Knock Hill copy.jpg
Knock Hill (again)

IMG_0259 copy.jpg
"There's bigger hills over there."

I have never really bothered before about getting off the hill in daylight but being cautious for myself and respecting my companion’s difficulties in low light (due to cataracts) we agreed that we could only do one more hill as the day was marching on. Fourman Hill was further away and would take longer in ascent so we elected for Knock Hill and that “difficult” feral path. My biggest fear was falling. I still have a vivid memory of the pain of dislocation and it would be highly embarrassing knocking my hip out again and landing back in hospital. My family, neighbours and friends had all rallied round, giving me lifts to hospital appointments, shopping and the pub but I doubt if they would be as understanding the 2nd time round!
Back to that fatal day, given where I live there was a 45 minute wait for the ambulance once I had reached the phone. My leg was a dark purple colour and I felt rather cold as I sat on the floor (a handy mop that I hadn’t got around to putting away helped me hook the phone down from the shelf to the floor). The heating was off and I had spent 90 minutes shuffling down stone steps but I was glad that help was on its way and I didn’t have to move anymore. The pain was still there and heightened with any slight movement. The radio (R4) was playing but fortunately the ambulance arrived in time to switch it off just before The Archers started. Having to listen to the everyday story of farming folk might just have pushed me over the edge.
Although I had told the Control Room that I was indoors, the crew had scrambled the Coastguards given where I live. This was a bit embarrassing; I know these guys as they come by from time to time but it turned out that due to the tight turn from the living room to hall the coastguard stretcher was invaluable to getting me out with a minimum of discomfort. My crew weren’t paramedics so couldn’t give me pain relief beyond gas’n’air which I used rather a lot! The journey to the hospital was straightforward enough after the first mile of pot-holed road which they took very gently. I was able to have some water on the way, my first liquid since my morning cuppa at 09.30. I hadn’t had any breakfast either, intending to have a late morning snack around 11.30.
At Knock Hill the start of the path from the parking spot at NJ547533 was not immediately obvious. I had been expecting a huge visible scar similar to the old Schiehallion path however although it is a trench it is somewhat obscured by the heather. It is gained by going a few metres north along the road. Again the hard frost meant that the path was firm rather than a sludge underfoot and not at all slippy. I felt that I was going at a cracking pace, it is amazing what you can convince yourself of especially after nine weeks of relatively little walking. Viv and I had agreed that I would go first to set the (slow) pace and would turn back if I felt it beyond me. There is not a lot to see on the way up except the hill in front. We reached the summit in reasonable time rather than record breaking and again enjoyed the views and the stunning wintery late afternoon light. We were both underwhelmed by the “stone circle”, a late 20th century meaningless addition to the hill. The rather dull ascent was well worth it for the views at the summit. An easy hill climb to boot on a day like the one we enjoyed. So far Knock Hill had been devoid of other walkers or dogs but it was not to be left out and as we descended with the sun we saw a couple below us out with their dog. They turned back without passing us but their walk was not left unmarked as unfortunately they failed to spot that their dog had left a number parcels in the middle of the path. These were the biggest hazard as we as descended. There was still plenty of light as we reached the car and I felt fine and in subsequent days had no problems.
IMG_0266 Ben Rinnes from Knock Hill copy.jpg
Ben Rinnes From the Summit of Knock Hill

IMG_0269Ben Rinnes copy.jpg
Ben Rinnes
Ben Rinnes

IMG_0277 copy.jpg
Into the Evening Sun

IMG_0278 looking towards Ben Wyvis copy.jpg
Towards Ben Wyvis

IMG_0279 Cullen Bin copy.jpg
Bin of Cullen

IMG_0281 Temp inversion starting copy.jpg
Evening Mists starting to form

IMG_0275shadows selfie.jpg
Another Shadow selfie

I do not know what time I actually arrived at A&E nine weeks previously, sometime near 3.30 I think. Then, after assessment and x-ray, lots of doctors, pain relief, sedation and my hip was put back in and I was on the road to recovery. The first eight weeks were significant in terms of risk of re dislocation and I had to follow the same recovery process as someone who had undergone a hip replacement. I learnt that hip dislocation without a previous hip replacement (given my age it was assumed by many of the medics that I had previously had a hip replacement) is unusual. I will be followed up for 2 years because of a possible complication of osteonecrosis (bone die off due to poor blood flow) but the good news is that I am clearly not suffering from osteoporosis. Oh and I did make my son’s wedding in Northern Ireland but not the walking holiday.
These three Marilyns were a great way to return (and included 3 Trig Points) and will be the first of many post-accident hills. I owe Viv some Munros and can’t wait to get back to some more challenging walks.
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Re: A Meikle Knock almost meant the Bin for me.

Postby litljortindan » Mon Dec 19, 2016 7:15 pm

Three fine hills and great to have a pain free return to walking.
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