The wind was unforgiving. It blew, relentless and ferocious, in violent, icy gusts whose buffets impeded our advance on the soggy slope, bereft as we were of protection from the elements. In those raging outbursts, the sleet, gaining in velocity, lashed out and pelted our exposed faces. Clouds rolled out in the sky with impressive speed and swathes of mist came as quickly as they went, in turn obliterating the scenery.
The lush grass swayed under the wind like frantic waves in a storm and jagged rocks jutted out incongruously amidst this emerald expanse as if they were wrecks on a wild sea. A stream trickled down from the top, its clear flow of water was so enticing that, were it not for a warning from John, I would have been tempted to drink it.
While everyone seemed to bear the exertion needed for the trek with apparent ease, i stood out, aloof, a straggler, falling behind, with a ragged breath rendered more difficult by the force of the wind, and pain which excruciatingly tore at my limbs; my regular training as a runner doing nothing to alleviate my poor condition. The punishing hike up the steep slope had sapped strength from my ham and knees. And this distinction crushed me with misery and shame. It either urged me to give up and lie down on the soft grass or whipped me to exert myself yet further in desperate but nonetheless futile attempts to reach the others.
At last, when I reached the summit, after having endured renewed onslaught from the wind whose force had grown more ferocious near the end, nearly making me choke, and, for a brief instant, having wandered through the mist, panic-stricken as a lost soul, so far behind the others I had found myself, I wondered whether I had conquered the mountain or the mountain had conquered me. I felt emptied, humbled. Pride, or what was left of it, had deserted me.
I dropped, exhausted, with a mixture of elation and relief, next to the cairn of stone that marked the top of Beinn Ime. Come what may, I had made it. The mist had closed in again around us. In fact, on one side it became so dense that nothing was in sight. It was as if the promontory upon which we were floated above the void. I remembered being almost mesmerized by that void which cried out for me to leap over. But that moment of staggering madness passed. It was time for the long descent back to the cars.