In June 2005 my sons Paul and Austin spent a week in the highlands of Scotland, climbing many of it's highest mountains including Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, which rises to a height of 4409 feet.
The weather on the summit can be extreme with temperatures well below zero. There are on average 261 gales per year and on many occasions wind speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour have been recorded there. Snow can survive on these peaks until late in the summer months.
The route they chose to climb ' the Ben ' is one of the most challenging, approaching the satellite peak of Cairn Mor Dearg to the north east. The two peaks are joined by a narrow rock ridge called the Cairn Mor Dearg Arete. The ridge is crossed to reach the eastern flanks of Ben Nevis. To take this route you need a good head for heights and a good mountaineering sense.
While in this wonderful wild place, in the relative comfort of his tent, Austin was inspired to pen two poems, reproduced here.
A BLAZE in the Northern Sky
Tonight I lie on earthly soil under a northern sky.
Dreams of a forgotten past occupy my mind carried on th wind.
The misty mountains bring knowledge of an ancient race.
A race forgotten by time and dust.
A people who held the torch that lit the way.
Tonight I weep for the great mother.
May her children return to her, before all that is becomes the grave.
Man's destiny is his own.
But his life is given to him by the mother
A gift to repay.
Our souls are engraved in the land
So to destroy her is to enslave ourselves.
Sometimes it seems we know less than when we were born.
As the mist clears in my dream comes hope.
I see many roads before us
All leading to a final end.
Alone we navigate the path.
Like a circle I hope it ends at the beginning
To start anew.
Austin ( Ozzy ) Sheils
Let my weary head rest.
Let these tired feet renew.
To end my journey in the morning.
In this land I have travelled and spent some time.
Memories to keep, to carry to the grave.
Only me and my travelling companion
Shall share these stories to tell
Of her mountains, glens, loughs and burns.
Her beauty is vast the surface only scratched.
To come again now is not soon enough.
This land is not our own but her beauty has touched our souls,
Us and our kind, we people of the hills.
To my home I shall go to spread the word
That to journey is to feed the soul,
to experience is to learn and to learn is to grow.
There are many out there who do not know.
Stagnant souls, TV is all they know, their reality is false.
Already I have seen my own country
And in words I cannot express what I feel for her.
What she has given I can never repay.
Her troubled history she has endured.
Her strength I respect for she is of me as I am of her.
Now I know that there is more to see across the sea.
To journey another day.
Austin ( Ozzy ) Sheils
On a later trip April 2008 Paul ( Pipe ) In the company of John Paul Kearney tackled the Ben again and on that occasion he filmed it. Video below.