Losing the first game of the season is never ideal, as Edinburgh did at Ospreys last Friday, but it hardly leaves a mountain climb. Even if it did, they would have just the man in the shape of their new flanker Luke Hamilton.
The 26-year-old recently completed the notable achievement of climbing the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales – and all within 24 hours.
Hamilton, who arrived in the capital from Leicester in the summer and now has three Scotland caps, took part in the “Three Peaks” challenge in memory of his friend Brad Jenkins’ stepdad Mike, who sadly died after a long battle with cancer. Hamilton joined Brad and his mum Mary last month to raise funds for the Withybush Cancer Day Unit Appeal and completed the incredible hat-trick of climbs in 23 hours and 50 minutes.
Pembroke-born Hamilton, who has a Scottish father and made an impressive Test debut off the bench against the All Blacks last November before featuring against Canada and USA in the summer, explained: “We did Ben Nevis, then we went down to Scafell Pike and finished in Snowdonia. We did it in 23 hours, 50 minutes.
“My best friend back home’s stepfather had cancer for five-and-a-half years and recently passed away. So we were doing it for the local cancer ward in Withybush back home and we raised £4,000 in eight weeks.”
Hamilton took advantage of the window between Edinburgh’s pre-season training camp at St Andrews and the first friendly against Bath to take part in the epic feat.
“We started on Ben Nevis and worked our way south. Up and down Ben Nevis took four-and-a-half hours in a thunderstorm and torrential rain. I was in shorts and T-shirt because I thought it looked quite nice when I set off.
“Then we had six hours in the car to Scafell Pike. We went up as the sun set and then walked back down in the dark, which was a very strange experience. Walking downhill in the dark for two hours was quite weird.
“Then we were back in the minibus to Snowdon. We got there for the sunrise and we only had an hour and 50 minutes to get up it. We started Ben Nevis at 7am and finished at 6.50am the following day. We just made it to the top.”
The vertical exertions have complemented a first pre-season in his father’s homeland after spells with Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill’s old club Leicester, French side Agen and a start to his professional career with Cardiff Blues.
The return to Wales, who he represented at Under-20 level, didn’t go as he hoped as Edinburgh slipped to a 17-13 loss in Swansea.
“It was great to be out with the boys, but obviously we were bitterly disappointed with the result, especially at the end when we came so close,” said the flanker.
“By no means was that our best performance. We made a lot of errors, but to come so close at the end, the last play of the game when we could have won it, we were disappointed in ourselves.
“We let ourselves down a bit. We know that we are a lot better than that and we should be a lot better than that. Sadly, we didn’t deliver on Friday, which cost us the result.”
Friday now brings another challenging away trip to face Ulster. For Hamilton it will be a first time in Belfast since his time in the then Pro12 with Cardiff, who he left in 2014.
“I haven’t played Ulster in Europe since, but I did play them when I was at the Blues. I feel old now; that was six years ago I think,” he said with a laugh. “They are a very good team, and obviously [former Scotland forwards coach] Dan [McFarland] is out there now as well doing the forwards so they will be a well-drilled side.
“You know what to expect with an Irish team. They will try to hold you up in contact and be big and physical and direct. But they’ve also got that ability to play and stretch you out wide.”
Hamilton worked closely with McFarland, pictured, who enjoyed a home win over Scarlets last week in his first match as Ulster head coach.
“I won my first cap with Dan,” said Hamilton. “He is a great technical coach who leaves no stone unturned. From the forwards point of view, we know they will be very technical and very detailed. We’ve got to front up. We let ourselves down in certain areas at the weekend and we need a reaction this Friday away at Ulster. It probably doesn’t get much bigger going away the on a Friday night needing a result.”
Friday’s match will take Edinburgh halfway through a punishing opening four-match schedule, which will be followed by the visit of Connacht and a trip to Pro14 and European champions Leinster.
“We have a good two home games to follow, leading into the European weekends. It’s obviously swings and roundabouts,” is Hamilton’s take.
“It is a tough start to the season for us, but at the end of the day you have to play everyone.”