Sunday 16 August
Having allocated today to the main section of the Ben Lawers ridge, based on a fine weather forecast, it was disappointing to wake up to find the hills shrouded, particularly as we’d woken to clear tops yesterday morning, when they were all supposed to be covered. I declared that it would soon burn off and that we would have views by the time we got to the top of Ben Lawers itself.
Beinn Ghlas was the first summit on the ridge and getting up there was straightforward enough, even if we did have to stop four times to adjust what we were wearing (‘too hot!’, ‘getting wet!’, ‘too sweaty!’, ‘too cold’!). After having passed a grand total of two people (one going up, one coming down), we were surprised to find ourselves on a pointy bit, with no more up to be seen; neither of us had calibrated our altimeters before we set out and we were both expecting another 50m of up. Always a bonus when that happens!
Jumper, jacket, hat and gloves. I’d been perfectly warm in a t-shirt earlier!
My hopes for a view from Ben Lawers, which was the next top along the ridge, were overly optimistic. There was still nothing to be seen, but we paused there anyway for a quick snack before moving on to An Stuc.
Murk atop Ben Lawers
Half way there it looked like things were brightening up and sure enough, suddenly we could see our next objective before us.
Oooh, look! We can see something!
It stayed within sight all the way until we were about twenty paces from its highest point, when the cloud rolled in again. Then it started to rain – just in time for us to tackle the scramble down the other side. Neither of us exhibited great elegance in getting down, but we each made it in one piece, which is the most important thing.
Mick being elegant.
Two runners passed us, heading the other way, as we started up to our next summit (Meall Garbh); we paused and watched them head up An Stuc, which they did far more elegantly than we had come down it. Then, finally, the weather cleared. In fact, it got better and better over the rest of the day, such that by dusk the skies were clear.
Looking back to An Stuc – that’s quite steep and craggy!
My objective for the day had only been for the first four tops along this ridge (four Munros, two of which were also Marilyns), as the walk back to the Ben Lawer’s ex-Visitor-Centre car park was long enough without adding on another couple of miles by taking in the final lump on the ridge: Meall Greigh. Mick had always thought we would do the final hill, and he was right. As it was only an extra 170m of ascent, over the course of a mile, once we were at the col, it seemed silly not to pop up it. First, though, we paused for lunch, during which time seven people passed us, heading the other way. They were the last people we saw until we got back to the car park (which was, again, heaving, making it seem odd that we had only seen 11 people all day).
Atop Meall Greigh, from where there was blue sky to be seen and a view
Looking down on Loch Tay again, but this time without me marring the view
The walk back was long. The track along which we started wasn’t of a fantastic quality, but it sped us along. Then it ceased to be useful to us and the next two miles or so were spent in a contouring yomp along a steep hillside, which was really quite unpleasant with the feet constantly at such a sideways angle. We were happy when finally the car park came into sight and the ground flattened out.
We were half a mile away, and all the tricky stuff was behind us, when my pole got stuck in some mud, coming to an abrupt stop as momentum kept my body moving forward. I duly tripped over it, fell and rolled, which saw me come to a halt with my backside in a pool of filthy bog water. Again. I have, in fact, only fallen over twice this week and the outcome has been the same both times. Still, wet pants are better than an injury and it was only another hop, twenty skips and a few jumps until I was able to change into something dry.
Our bodies felt well and truly exercised by the time we stopped, having covered 14.3 miles with 5300’ of ascent.
Taken from Colin at 7pm, looking back to where we’d been, with not a cloud in the sky. It was a pretty good spot to spend a couple of nights – very quiet and with cracking views all around.