The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Ben Vrackie (NN951632; 841m)

It was just gone 6 this morning when I set out up Ben Vrackie. I would have been a good ten minutes earlier, except I’d had to search around a bit to find somewhere suitable to park Bertie nearby, having decided that I wouldn’t chance fitting him under/through overhanging foliage on the little lane that leads to the Ben Vrackie car park. If I’d known that a brand new ‘overflow’ car park had just been installed at the bottom of that lane, much faffing could have been avoided. As it goes, I probably would have managed to get up to the main car park without scraping any bushes too.

The early start came about mainly because I was meeting Mick in Blair Atholl today and, unsurprisingly, he walked considerably further yesterday than his route sheet said he would, leaving him just 10km to walk today. He said he would have a lie-in and I said I would only go up my hill if the weather was perfect. Having not closed the blind on the skylight above the bed last night, I knew as soon as I woke that the sky was blue. A peek out of a side window told me that not a speck of cloud was to be seen sullying Vrackie’s flanks, causing me to stow the bed with all speed and get on the road to Pitlochry.

I’d not got far into my walk when I had that awful thought of ‘Did I lock Bertie?’. Such had been my rush to get out (I paused for neither a cup of tea nor breakfast, although I did inhale some fig rolls, which is quite tricky without a cup of tea to wash them down) that I wondered whether it was conceivable I had walked off without employing any of the locks. All sense told me that I must have, but it still gave me something to fret about for most of my ascent, not to mention a second incentive to be quick.

The engineered motorway of a path that leads up the hill lends itself to speed, and the surroundings were superb under the stunning sky. Loch a’ Choire looked particularly lovely…

…as did all the nearby hills, including my objective, but with the position of the sun, it was the loch which photographed the best.

Given that it was just gone 7.20 as I stood on the top, it’s probably not surprising that I had it to myself.

Of course, I often have my hills all to myself, but then they often don’t have any paths at all, never mind ones which scream ‘popular hill!’. Incidentally, although this hill is obviously popular (any hill with a path like that and with big yellow warning signs at the bottom saying things along the lines of ‘Don’t go up in your bikini and flip-flops’ must be popular) it was remarkably clean – the only litter I saw was a single discarded tissue.

The stone staircase leading from the loch to the top didn’t lend itself much to speed on the descent, but once back at the loch I burst into a fast stride, followed then by a jog. I soon regretted opting for my warm, bulky Paramo trousers (well, it had only been a chilly 2 degrees when I set out) and wondered whether I’d been right to take all of my usual stuff in my pack, rather than going for a more ‘fast and light’ approach (I had started taking stuff out of my bag before I set off, before thinking ‘If I slip at the top and break a leg, will I regret not having this?’ and putting it all back in again).

At just gone ten past eight, I was back at Bertie having covered 6.4 miles with around 730m ascent. By 9am I had been shopping and was in Blair Atholl, beating Mick by, oooh, a good two minutes. I think Mick can count today as a rest day, having finished his miles by that time in the morning!

This afternoon I took a ride up to the road end at Loch Moraig to see whether that road (which isn’t covered by StreetView) would be suitable for Bertie, with a view to doing 2 or 3 Munros up there tomorrow. The road is generally good, with just a couple of trees that overhang the road a bit low, but I wasn’t taken with the parking options at the road end. I could, of course, cycle up there again, but I’m perhaps feeling more inclined to get my money’s worth out of the campsite by staying put until I have to leave at noon, and having a thorough lazy day. It’s not like we don’t pass Blair Atholl often enough to pick up these hills another time.

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