My hips are bruised. My legs ache. My feet are deformed by blisters. My hair is frizzy. And I stink.
But I’ve done it; I have completed the Tour du Mont Blanc!
Admittedly I had no idea of the scale of what I was undertaking when I agreed to do it. In fact, I didn’t even realise that I had agreed to do it;
“Shall we go away together this summer? Or do you already have plans for the two weeks that Mia is away?”
I quickly calculate the months in my head April, May, June, July, August. He’s talking five months ahead! I (casually) tell him I hadn’t made any plans yet. And that I’m open to suggestions.
Unfortunately the fireworks going off in my head are quite loud and drown out half of what he’s saying. I manage to catch the tail end of it “.......so what do you think about Mont Blanc?”
I think snow, log cabin, open fire, us naked on rug in front of open fire in log cabin with snow (falling outside) ....."Yes!"
Then he (inexplicably) starts talking about how we should do some weekend hikes to prepare. And that I’m going to have to travel light because my backpack shouldn’t weigh more than one fifth of my body weight.
“Obviously I’ll carry the tent and poles but you’ll need to carry the sleeping bags”.
I’m still trying to work out why we need a tent when he starts listing what I need to take; two pairs of shorts, two t-shirts, two pairs of knickers, two pairs of hiking socks and two sports bras.
“The trek should take eleven days but if we do a few ten hour days we can do it in eight”. Trek? Is that what I just agreed to?
I have to put him straight “Jake...” He interrupts me with “It’s so nice to have a girlfriend who wants to do these things with me”.
Then he gives me a big hug. “I’m sorry sweetheart, I interrupted you. What were you going to say?”
.“I was going to say that...” I hesitate. He looks so happy. “...I can’t wear the same knickers four days in a row- it’s very unhygienic”.
He laughs affectionately. Apparently you wash one set of clothes every night. At the campsite. Bollocks. I’d forgotten about the camping.
My chest is starting to feel tight. I can’t do it.
Jake's timing continues to be (annoyingly) impeccable “I’m really impressed that you’re willing to step so far outside your comfort zone”.
I force a smile “Oh, I’m always looking for new ways to challenge myself”.
I’ve only slept in a tent once before. Perhaps it won’t be as bad the second time. Maybe it’s just something that you get used to.
“We won’t have to camp every night”. Thank fuck for that. “We can stay in refuges”. Refuges? As in huts?
He goes into an elaborate explanation but basically they are huts. I try to be positive; at least a hut will be safer than a tent.
Then he mentions that you sleep in dorms. Dorms? With other people? I draw the line at that.
I explain that I do not sleep in rooms with people I do not know. You are at your most vulnerable when you’re sleeping. It is an experience I can only share with those I know, love and trust.
He asks me what I think will happen “I don’t know. They may try and molest me, what if I wake up and some freak is wanking over my feet? Or some psycho slits my throat because I remind him of his ex who cheated on him with his brother!”
It occurs to me that watching Jerry Springer whilst on the treadmill every morning has warped my perception of people somewhat.
So I laugh (hysterically) to show him that I’m only joking “No, seriously, what if they snore or talk in their sleep?”
Jake suggests ear plugs. I respond without thinking “But then I won’t hear the psycho perverts creeping up on me will I?”
I laugh hysterically again “No, seriously, ear plugs are a good idea”.
I’ll just have to take caffeine pills and stay awake all night.
He smiles uncertainly then suggests we go shopping. I cheer up until I realise we’re going shopping for “proper hiking clothes”.
Jake buys me the perfect pair of Rab black shorts which I team with a tight fitting black Rab t-shirt and a (surprisingly) stylish fitted red Marmot jacket.
The ugly brown hiking boots don’t quite work but I still look pretty chic (in a professional hiker kind of way).
I put the clothes away and forget all about it (or enter a state of sub-conscious denial) until I find myself meeting Jake at Geneva airport (he has been mountaineering in the Alps for a month).
It’s a wonderfully romantic reunion. He picks me up and swings me around, our lips locked together.
Then he asks me if I’ve done any preparation for our trek. Of course I have; I’ve had a manicure and pedicure as well being waxed in every conceivable area to within an inch of my life.
But I realise that isn’t the sort of preparation he is referring to so I mumble something about ‘hill walking’ before suggesting we get to our hotel as soon as possible (we’d agreed that a nice comfortable bed was a good idea after a month apart).
We set off from Chamonix the next morning and the first hour or so on flat ground is lovely. But then we start the ascent. And my (11kg) backpack starts to feel pretty heavy.
The weight is designed to balance on the hips so that it takes the pressure off your back. It works. My back is fine. But my hips feel red raw.
I want to scream. But I can’t. It’s too soon to start whining about how bloody hard this is. Especially as he told me that today was going to be an “easy day”.
I grit my teeth, walk through the pain and try to ignore the incessant voice in my head “What the fuck were you thinking?” “You cannot do another seven days of this” and occasionally, “Hmmm...his bum looks very pert”.
He notices that I’m limping. My beautifully pedicured feet are covered in big nasty lumps. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Jake is obviously concerned too because he immediately takes his first aid kit out. He wraps the offending toes in cotton wool, puts plasters over the top and tells me that I’m good to go.
“Ok. Is the hospital close by?”
He studies my face “Are you serious?” I’m getting a bit annoyed. “Yes! You saw those things on my feet”.
Jake bursts out laughing. I find his lack of sympathy shocking. “They’re blisters! You’ll get them the first few days because your feet are so soft. Have you never had blisters before?”
Obviously not; otherwise I wouldn't have embarrassed myself by suggesting they needed urgent medical attention.I bravely pull my backpack on “Let’s go”.
Every step is agony.
We finally get to the campsite just as it’s starting to get dark. I take the backpack off and my legs instantly turn to jelly.
It’s the strangest sensation; I’m walking but I have absolutely no control over my legs.
I do a very convincing impression of a thunderbird before I fall over. I land on something big and lumpy. It starts screaming. I freak out and scream back.
Then a man’s head appears through the tent flap. He isn’t happy about me falling on their tent and scaring the shit out of his wife. I’m not too chuffed about it either to be honest.
I watch Jake as he sets up our tent. And I decide that I must really love him to put myself through this.
But can our relationship survive the next seven days?