Rather more readers than might care to admit it will have been hungover on a hill. Here, courtesy of Gordon Smith and Perkin Warbeck, are recollections of two such unhappy excursions.
Paaaarparp: the car horn echoed through the fog of my drunken sleep. I felt myself drifting like a hapless jellyfish towards the beach of consciousness, where the small boy of memory awaited me with the sharpened stick of remorse. I emitted a stenchy groan and decided to ignore the summoning horn. I reasoned that if I stayed in bed and feigned death they would bugger off to Beinn Ime and leave me to my suffering.
Radadadadada: urgent knocking at the door. Faaark. I pleaded with Julie not to answer it, or at least tell them I had a stomach bug. He's still in his pit, I heard her say, he's got a shocking hangover. I was given five minutes to make myself both decent and breakfast.
Burbulurbulurbul: soggy cornflakes and curdled milk conspired noisily in my stomach as the van sought out each of the A77's many potholes. Unable to muster more than phatic communion, I curled up on the back seat, where I closed my eyes while my skull was inexpertly trepanned. I had not intended it to be this way: I had only gone out for a quick pint the night before, but the company and conversation had extended that to a gallon. And then came the whisky.
At last we arrived at the Rest and Be Thankful. I crawled out of the back of the van like a crapulent dragon from its den, belching stale smoke and boozy breath into the damp February morning. Young Hugh started up the hill like a gazelle: I followed for over a minute before subsiding onto the hillside, retching and wretched. I begged him to slow down, whereupon he fixed me with a contemptuous stare and eased back to the pace of a haughty stag: I had been hoping for something more like that of a diffident sloth.
A sleety rain began to weep from the wounded sky. I was wearing a thick woollen sweater (this was the 80s, when fleece was a fabled material available only from the Colchis branch of Nevisport), which soon began to droop to my knees as it absorbed more and more of the weather. On with the waterproofs, then: but alas, they were at that moment piled high on a kitchen table in Kilmarnock. The prospect of winter mountaineering in a wet woollen midi-dress did not commend itself: I was forced to confess all to Hugh, and retreat shamefaced to the road. I resolved never to drink to excess ever again, or certainly not before a day on the hill. However I have to admit that the lure of beer has sometimes been too strong, and I have suffered further hill hangovers.
The triumph, I suppose, of hops over experience.
"WAKING UP in Drymen and not climbing Ben Lomond," opined Perkin Warbeck, "is like waking up in London and not going to Madame Tussauds". "Have you ever been to Madame Tussauds?" asked Mustafa Hilmy (aka the Hilminator). Warbeck swerved this one by changing the subject. "Champagne reception at six then in Mary 'Goddam' Spellacy's room".
The two men were discussing the Urology Department Night Out - a shindig in Drymen necessitating a sleepover. In 2005, Warbeck had barely managed the drive home never mind a Munro, but a year later he was full of optimism. "This year I'll take it easy," he vowed. A cunning plan was hatched involving dancing and eschewing all wine - you can't drink when you are dancing. However, there remained beer and champagne and the dehydrating effects of the dancefloor.
He sallied forth next day full of good intent, although not to the point of being able to down any breakfast. The drive to Rowardennan, sadly, was the opposite of hair of the dog; queasiness again ruled, to the point where our hero could hardly look at his two-litre bottle of water. The next big mistake was having lined up the Ed as companion. Apart from his complete lack of empathy (the Ed is not far off a teetotaller compared with Warbeck), he started off at his usual pace which was never going to suit the wrecked compadre. This was the pace that had once, on the same hill, given Warbeck such blisters that two days later he had to traverse Liathach in trainers.
The day was fine. Any doubts about the weather would have been seized upon by Warb as a reason for retreat. An extended sit on a rock while the Ed dialled Nature's Callcentre did nothing for the physiology. This same pairing had successfully ascended Meall Greigh on New Year's Day 1988 with similar mismatched misbehaviours the night before, but on that occasion Warb had taken his favourite hangover cure, a potion called Resolve, and it had seemed to clear the head. Today there was no respite from the pounding cranium and the rollercoaster stomach.
In truth, a mild hangover can be vaguely enjoyable if all one has to do is lie in bed and later maybe grapple with the TV and toaster. Beating Naismith up a Munro calls for more resources. Warbeck wondered if this was even a tenth of what routine altitude sickness felt like. After the third or fourth stop, around 300m up, the lads reconvened and a tactical retreat was intimated. The Ed was solicitousness itself and would undoubtedly have seen his pal to the car, but Warbeck insisted he'd be fine. Unlike some retreats, the second he started down he knew with certainty that the right choice had been made. His legs were very shoogly, necessitating a slow careful pace. With descent, blood pressure dropped and the pounding head gave way at last. It was still a beautiful day and Warb began to anticipate the soothing tones of Richard Gordon and the comforts of home.
The department may well go to Drymen again come Christmas 2007. Warbeck will again attempt to have his cake and eat it. The plan must be even more cunning - possibly involving drugs.
Ed. - Was a good job the old soak turned back. The rate we were going we'd have needed two bivvies before the summit and another on the way back down.
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