Daunder up Ronas
Many years ago, I read A fantastic book called-
No Picnic on Mount Kenya by Felice Benuzzi
Felice Benuzzi was a P.O.W. in a British Camp facing Mount Kenya. The depressing tedium of camp life and the fascination of the mountain combined to inspire him with a plan. He put the plan of escaping camp to climb mount kenya to a fellow prisoner who was a professional mountaineer. The expert told him that the idea was mad, that they would need six months' training on first-class food and porters to carry equipment to a base camp. But Benuzzi was not to be put off. Eventually he got two others to conspire with him, a doctor and a sailor. Surreptitiously they improvised scant equipment and saved what food they could from rations. Their only 'map' of the mountain was a sketch of it on the label of an oxo tin
then they escaped and went to climb the mountain. The sailor was ill immediately after break-out but decided to carry on. The lower reaches of Kenya are jungle and forest infested with big game. They were unarmed, and their encounters with the animals are some of the most exciting passages in the story. At the foot of the highest peak the sailor was too ill to go further, Benuzzi and the doctor went forward to the climax of their adventure. Their way back was as hazardous as the ascent, they at last break back into the P.O.W. camp, in January 1943 with their improvised equipment and meagre rations, two of them had reached a point on the north face of the Petit Gendarme, at about 5000 metres, high up the NW ridge. After an eventful 18-day period on the mountain, to the astonishment of the British camp commandant, the three adventurers broke back into Camp 354. As reward for their exploit, they each received 28 days in solitary confinement, commuted to 7 days by the camp commandant in acknowledgement of their "sporting effort".
I was thinking of this adventure! while the weather on Shetland that trip had been fantastic, twelve hour shifts wearing full on PPE coveralls helmet glasses gloves heavy big boots radio and tool belt etc, with the sun blazing down made me feel trapped, I found myself often taking a vantage point at the top of some vessel module or other high point, looking out over the huge over spec’d security fence at the surrounding Shetland coastline, there was the scenic looking islands some with beaches along with majestic looking sea cliffs to be viewed in the distance, way over the fence and the Sullum Voe oil terminal across the body of water which gave the oil terminal its name, Ronas hill could be seen basking in sunshine, this is unusual I was also feeling like a prisoner one day! obviously not as bad as being a POW, I was a prisoner to banks mortgages and buying stuff which had made me a slave to earning money. having only myself to blame for imprisoning myself in this work camp, luxury of course compared to any other work camp but non the less I wasn’t free, my Daunder lust requires regular bouts of micro adventures to stop me feeling totally trapped, definitely not feeling sorry for myself as work has been an adventure of its own over the years I have no regrets. I am a prisoner of my own making and not blaming anyone else for my self-imposed what could be viewed as luxury encampment, it just doesn’t stop the occasions of gazing beyond the fence dreaming of kayaking swimming cycle running trekking across that landscape beyond the barbed wire and locked gates disrobed of the suit of shame into clothing of my choosing on a path also of my choosing!
There is still some time after work and before bed that could be used for a Micro adventure or nano adventure especially at that time of year, it was approaching the summer solstice or simmer dim as it’s known on Shetland at that time of year the longest day in Shetland means it doesn’t truly get dark – there’s a whopping 18 hours, 55 minutes and 38 seconds of daylight to play in. even Then the sun just dips below the horizon for a few hours before reappearing. The sunsets & sunrises can be phenomenal especially when the weather is like how it was that week, having worked on and off on Shetland for seven years, looking at Ronas hill day in day out for well over a thousand days I can categorically state it is mostly in cloud or fog, some mornings it seemed to wear its own bonny white bonnet of low cloud, which is nae sae bonny if your inside that bonnet! I read once that ben Nevis summit gets the least amount of sunshine of anywhere in the world due to it being in the cloud so often if that’s true then Ronas hill would be a close runner up, in that weeks weather with a couple of hours I could take of flexi time I planned a micro adventure
Ronas Hill (Old Norse: rön, meaning stony ground or scree) is on the Northmavine peninsula of Mainland, Shetland, The Norse name certainly describes the hilltop. On a clear day much of Shetland can be seen from the summit. It looks over Yell Sound, the North Sea, across to the Atlantic Ocean and even the highest points of Fair Isle, this is Shetlands highest point at 450meters. My journey would begin at sea level in the town of Brae my GPS watch said it was 15.8miles to the top of the Hill with an elevation gain of 2208ft (ronas hill is 1500ish there was 700ft of undulations in the wee roads) this took me 1;57min just short of two hours up, the watch said one hour thirty three back with only 922ft elevation? (the ascent and descent stuff always confus`s me) it also felt like a lot more than just half an hour in times up and down two hours up an hour and a half back was roughly correct, but the actual physical journey seemed much longer up and much quicker back
As for the journey itself it felt great, the weather was fantastic on leaving brae I stopped to take pictures a couple of times on route and also to check my map I was using my OS map to find the best approach, my side pannier (just one) had spare clothing bike tools a lock a bottle of beer and a can of alcohol free beer, I also had my platypus and small backpack on with some snacks,
As I set of from the Moorfield hotel the chef toby came out and gave me a banana for the journey, which was very nice of him I appreciated it greatly, it turns out him and his wife like to go up to the summit every year around this time, simmer dim and the weeks around it is big on Shetland and many people make a pilgrimage somewhere on the island for sunset and sunrise or one prolonged dawndusk simmering
I was smiling as I cycled past Mavis grind - the road that passes along the small gap between the Atlantic and the north sea, my favourite bird the arctic tern was swirling around as it does in these parts at this time of year, a bird that never sees winter was making me ponder if one day I should follow their example and head from Nordkapp at summer solstice and try to make a southern solstice (without flying) to the most southern mainland road point down at Ushuaia, later on discussing this with my work colleague mark he mentioned the southern Orkneys and Shetland suggesting I should cycle of from work on Shetland at the solstice and head to southern Shetland, this was a thrilling exciting idea to me one which I couldn’t stop thinking about for hours I LOVE this idea! An adventure with a new goal is on the cards the idea formulating daily. The adventure cogs in my head are working on this idea now
Stopping to take a picture of the bike in front of a pallet painted with a rainbow heart (and check the map) it was then a pleasant, sunny cycle past a wee loch then a scenic cycle past two left turns before I took the third to head up the flank of the hill, this road has a sign saying only suitable for certain vehicles, it was easy enough to avoid the plentiful potholes on the steep cycle up to the car park
I had a beer well two really if you count the Brewdog alcohol free beer whilst enjoying the view, this was so entirely different from my previous visit to this summit when I was with the two Colin’s and gary, on that occasion the sleet came in at a forty five degree angle at one point where we all had to turn our backs on it as we couldn’t open our eyes while the sleet was stinging our faces with low cloud zero scenery,
I jogged backed down to the car park it was a brilliant hill for walking and running on, sure enough the bike hadn’t been touched and I was flying down the steep hill before long the brakes work fine! Some mist had rolled in at this side of the hill when I was up which misted up my sunglasses, I had to stop to remove them, the descent was over way too quickly, downhills on potholed gravel strewn old roads is exhilarating
Never stopping once on the way back not beasting it just a steady comfortable pace, happy with the day I was surprised the journey up was only half an hour longer than the journey back