On top of the world! (Well, Scotland!)

me+ Members

by Billy Ritchie

I have always enjoyed getting out into the Scottish Highlands for a stroll in the hills. I have tackled many walks and scrambles over the last 20+ years in all different weather conditions.

In December 2010 due to bowel cancer I ended up with a stoma (urostomy) and thought that getting back into hillwalking would be difficult. I took it easy getting fit again and it was well over a year and a half before I thought that I was fit enough. My first post-stoma hill walk was with my 17-Year-old son up Ben Ledi (879M) just north of Callander.

I was panicking that the bag would burst and I wouldn’t make up the hill. My son treated me like I was fragile, constantly asking if I was okay. It was a hot sunny day. I wore a stoma support waist band and carried too much water and numerous changes of clothes and bags in case I had a leak. I wore a leg bag and found that I was continually adjusting it as the constant stepping was pulling at the pipe and bag. It was uncomfortable and hard work but I made it up and down. I realized that it wasn’t the stoma that was the problem; I just wasn’t as fit as I used to be.

Looking back on it I was over cautious, worrying about what might happen. Since then I have been up numerous hills and, recently, my longest day post op was a classic walk called the Ring of Steall which is a horseshoe configuration next to Ben Nevis up by Fort William.

It was a 3 hour drive up (time to use the leg bag) followed by an 8km walk up and along 4 Munros (hills over 914m in height) with 3 hills in between. The walk itself took 8 hours, I kept rehydrated and had a couple of lunch stops along the way. The last bit was a plod down the side of the final hill, but I managed a small scree run down about 200m decent, now that’s fun! But the 3-hour drive home wasn’t, after such a long day.

Billy blog #2 picture 1

An amazing part of the Ring of Steall is the crossing of the wire bridge. Why was I first over?! This is wet and slippy!

When I go out on the hills nowadays, I put a fresh bag on in the morning and don’t bother with a leg bag. I find that a good waist support is still best for me so I wear special support underwear with a high waistband. I don’t think about my stoma at all when out on the hills, just the environment, views and of course the company of good friends. Whether rain, sun or snow I find that being out on the hills gives me a great freedom from everyday life.

Billy blog #2 picture 2

Happy in the snow on top of Ben Vorlich- Lochearnhead

Thinking back to my first walk after the operation, I have realized that I am more relaxed now and take the days as they come. Having a stoma doesn’t stop me from doing the things I want to do.

Billy blog #2 picture 5

Getting to the top of the final hill of the day is always rewarding, even if I am exhausted!


Cookies are needed for this website to work optimally. They also help us to know a little bit about how you use our website, which improves the browsing experience.  Cookies on this site are used for traffic measurement and optimisation of page content only. By continuing to browse on this website, you indicate your consent to the use of cookies.  You may block the use of cookies by following the "How to block and avoid cookies" instructions

Learn more about our Cookie policy