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To be (sensible) or not to be (sensible)....

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:15 pm
by ally63
The day before I had completed the Ben Lawers 5 (see previous report) but the forecast determined that such an epic was not on the cards today. As I was staying in Crianlarich Hotel (well worth a visit) the obvious choice was Ben More and Stob Binnien so, after parking at the roadside along from Benmore farm, I walked thru the gate and up the winding path that accounts for the first 300m of ascent. A small stack of stones (which could easily be missed) indicates the point to leave the path and start the relentless slog up the remaining 874m. Again, in the guide book, 'Walking the Munros', the author compares this to something a sadistic sergeant major might put his recruits through. This would indeed prove to be true!!
Ben More is quite sadistic itself. Not once or twice, but at least three times, I lifted my head from the monotonous climb to see the summit, or so I thought, only to see through the thick cloud, a shadow of something considerably higher!! We've all experienced that, haven't we?!
Anyway, as I picked up the reference point of the stone wall (stane dyke in the guide book) the rain turned to snow and the ground hardened as frost bit hard. Thighs burning, knees screaming, the ground thankfully levelled off to give a gradual approach to the summit.

The cloud, wind and snow magnets that often hide themselves in my rucsack, decided now was a good time to turn themselves on. But in fairness, I was enjoying this now. The worst of the climb was behind me and the firmer ground, though icy, was easier to walk on. A quick snack, drink and extra layer and it was on to my next target, Stob Binnien.


The walk, slide and trip down to the bealach (the day i needed my crampons, i left them in the car!) was made more difficult by the ever increasing wind. As I reached the saddle I spied two brightly coloured jackets huddled behind a large boulder and I headed towards them. A friendly couple from England were adding layers and manfully attempting to eat lunch so I stopped for the company and some refreshment myself. They had approached the climb to Stob but were forced back by the weind more than anything. This was their second attempt and their second time of having to abort. I considered my options, wondering if it could be any worse than what i'd covered so far. At this point, a second couple arrived from the valley below with the same idea of climbing Stob. These two were local, as in Scottish, and the fella was earning 'in awe' points for the fact he was wearing shorts!!! They took no time in deciding that the conditions warranted a respectful retreat.
Should anyone wish to refer back to my very first blog, covering my very first munro, they will see that I ignored similar wisdom when I continued up to Ben Macdui. The ensuing white-out caused me much panic and, but for no signal, would have resulted in a Mountain Rescue call out! Obviously I lived to tell the tale but regretted not heeding local knowledge and respecting the volatility of the mountains.
However, there was no (apparent) danger of white-out this time and the path up and down was still clearly visible. Only the gusting wind threatened my success and I reckoned I could cope with that. Don't ask me what changed my mind but it changed nonetheless. Everything was willing me to keep going, from the fact it was only a 2km return trip to this point, to the realisation I left for Belfast the next day. But, probably seeing the others being so sure that their decision was the right one for them (and the fact that I was solo), I followed them down to the track that lead back to Benmore farm.
That was four days ago and hardly an hour has passed since that I haven't argued with myself about whether or not I should have gone on. One of the hotel staff said the hardest decision is always to turn back but it's seldom, if ever, the wrong one because you've survived to climb it another day. It still gnaws at me though.
On the plus side, Ben More was indeed a challenge; a painful, relentless trudge that culminated in another cloud filled summit. It was also superb fun and was determined to remind me that it's not No.10 in the list for nothing! I loved it and will just have to go back to 'bag' its neighbour sooner rather than later.

Re: To be (sensible) or not to be (sensible)....

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:18 pm
by The Rodmiester
Your not the first, and certainly you won't be the last to be nearly blown off Ben More, think yourself lucky you were not coming off from Ben More from the North, in a strong wind, now that can be scarey!!! :crazy: :crazy: There's always another day :)

Re: To be (sensible) or not to be (sensible)....

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:26 pm
by dogplodder
In conditions like these, if you're having doubts about wisdom of going on, it's always the right decision to turn back. Wait for a blue sky day for your return and then you'll get the views as a reward! :D

Re: To be (sensible) or not to be (sensible)....

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:06 pm
by ally63
dogplodder and rodmeister, you're both right of course. i remember reading an article by andy kirkpatrick where he thinks modern life has programmed us to avoid risk at all costs which, in turn, makes life dull and boring. there is a certain truth to that but my aim was never to risk life or limb but simply enjoy the mountains. i managed that and, with my wife waiting at the hotel and our evening meal already paid for, i couldn't risk losing out on that although she did say she'd have eaten mine as well rather than let it go to waste :wink: thoughtful :lol:

Re: To be (sensible) or not to be (sensible)....

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:33 pm
by quoman
Hi ally63 Yuo done the right thing and turned back the hills will always be there ... its a pitty that you have to return back home but when you return you might have a superb day on the hills.

Re: To be (sensible) or not to be (sensible)....

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:03 pm
by dawnfoth
Good shout Ally! The mountains aren't going anywhere. You left with your life intact and to tell us a Great Report! :D You can do Stob from Inverlochlarig side (near Balqhuidder), where you can also climb Beinn Tulaichean and An Caistel.....

Will get onto the Ben Lawers 5 straight away!

PS What were your crampons doing in the car? They are of no use there! I had mine with me today as well as my walking axe..... tut tut :wink:

Re: To be (sensible) or not to be (sensible)....

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:18 pm
by ally63
dawnfoth wrote:PS What were your crampons doing in the car? They are of no use there! I had mine with me today as well as my walking axe..... tut tut

I know, I know...don't think I wasn't cursing myself the whole way down the other side of Ben More. After making such a big deal about whether I would need them or not and then I don't bring them :roll: .

I put it down to multi-tasking or rather my inability to do it. Seriously, I had to look up the forecast, pack my gear, put everything in the car, drive 3 miles to the start point, put my boots on, fold my map to face the right way out and then I'm supposed to remember the crampons :shock: :crazy:

Needless to say it won't happen again :lol: