My Ben Lomond Challenge 

Ben Lomond on a semi cloudy evening, with Loch Lomond infront

Back in 2019, I was asked if I would climb Ben Lomond, a Scottish Munros mountain on the edge of Loch Lomond, as part of a group of people that have Cerebral Palsy and raise money for charity in the process. I have always challenged myself and been encouraged to try everything, so with the support of my parents I agreed. The climb was due to take place in May 2020, but as we all know COVID had other ideas!


I used the time during lockdown and restrictions to practice walking, as it’s not my forte! The climb itself was delayed several times, but finally we had a date of 11th September 2021! My training had taken a bit of a hit, but I knew I was in okay condition.


The week leading up to the climb I was excited but also very nervous. At the end of the day, it was probably the biggest challenge I had set myself ever. I have amazing parents who drove me up to Scotland and also climbed the mountain, but not with me. On the trip up to Scotland up my mum turned to me and said “this is the most ridiculous thing you have ever agreed to do” – she was the most supportive one back in 2019!


Anyway, the day had arrived, it was 6.30am and I was about to tackle what turned out to be my nemesis! We arrived at the bottom of the climb next to Loch Lomond at 7.30am ready to start climbing at 8 o’clock. I said goodbye to my parents and said that I would see them at the top. After a quick safety briefing from our guide, we were on our way. The mountain had been split into three sections, woodland, middle section, and the summit! I started at an okay pace, where I wasn’t at the back but equally, I also was not at the front. I enjoyed the woodlands section, apart from the massive boulders that we had to climb over, and then we got to the middle section.

This section was incredibly hard, it was in the open moor, and some parts seemed quite flat, whilst others seemed excessively steep. I started to struggle and could feel my legs becoming very heavy. Having Cerebral Palsy, I really struggle to stand up for any length of time, so this was definitely a challenge for me. We stopped a few times and I managed to rest on some rocks, but my legs were already very sore.


We lost one of our group members relatively early into the climb, so from a team of five, we now became four. After what felt like a couple of hours of walking, I met my parents who had climbed up the hard route and were on their way down! This completely threw my mind, as I had planned to meet them at the top for lunch and I was nowhere near the top and I hadn’t achieved what I had set out to do. Not long after passing my mum and having said “I cannot do this” but declined her offer that I walk back down with them, we reached the end of section two. That was 777m high, we had less than 200m left to climb to reach the top. It was here that my body had completely given up on me. It came down to my mental strength, something that I had never experienced in my life before and having to listen to my mind rather than my body.


I am not going to lie, I was ready and happy to turn back with another group member and a guide, but the leader and a volunteer guide, had other ideas! They spent a lot of time talking me through what was to come, I had some lunch and a long sit down, which really helped. After a lot of soul-searching and crying, I agreed to carry on to the summit. In my head 200m is not that far, but I can assure you that the remaining 200m climb was the hardest and longest thing I’d ever experienced. The summit of Ben Lomond is not where you expect it to be – it’s not just at top. It’s at the top and round some other summits! It was a cloudy day, so we were all walking in cloud which didn’t help. I even got to the point of asking some random man how far I was from the summit, and his response of “you’re nearly there” didn’t help me much because I had no idea how far “nearly” was!


After 4 hours 48 minutes of every emotion possible, our final group of three and two guides reached the summit. At this point I found out that my shoes had started to fail, and the soles were coming lose, so once again I had to dig deep into my mind, stay positive and tell myself I can get down safely (at that point I had no idea how).


We started the very long trek back down to the bottom. It seemed much steeper and never-ending. We ended up having to put a version of Tubigrip on my shoes to hold them together. I decided to come down sideways, whilst always using my right leg (which is my stronger leg) as a buffer.


There were many times my body wanted to cry, and be rescued from the mountain, but my mind was stronger. The constant support from our guide Matt, and him saying “right leg, left leg, right leg, left leg” the whole way down got me there.


After a long 9 ¼ hours (yes, you read that right!), the end was in sight. We were greeted at the bottom by a huge banner for the charity that I was supporting and my parents, and it was the most amazing experience ever. At this point the tears began to flow, as I realised, I had completed the impossible and that my mind was stronger than my body.


It is now a month on from that day that I experienced every emotion going. It still does make me emotional just thinking about what I achieved. One message from the day that will stick with me forever, is that no matter how hard things seem, how much everything hurts, I am stronger than my body lets me think I am.


 But I can assure you, I WON’T be climbing a mountain again!