Bank holiday weekend. A perfect time (if a little late) to start up the hillwalking again. The weather reports were looking good for the Sunday and we had a choice of what hill to start off with. Discussions between Reg, Higgy and I decided we should start off "easy" as we (Hig and I) were a little unfit.
"It's the smallest of the Munro's in the Arrochar area, tall enough but shouldn't be hard."
I am paraphrasing and I can't even credit whoever it was that said it, but that was the general thought.
I just want to say, this is the hardest Munro I have ever had the heartache of doing. Easy my arse! The hill was constantly very steep, there was a few false summits that tore the soul from me every time I peeked over the rock of what I thought was the summit. That was truly devastating. There was also the scrambling, climbing 4/5 feet rocks while hanging over a 30ft steep incline does get the adrenaline going! But this was the group’s choice for an early morning stroll.
An hour’s drive from home and we arrive at the Inveruglas car park. Prepare our gear and then we set off. The initial trek to the road that leads to the Dam at Loch Sloy is a long, long walk. I had actually forgotten how long it was. Previous twags up to Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond one, obviously) had presented us with this path and I remember from then how long the path was and this was a good bit from the Vorlich turn off the path.
Across the bridge over the Inveruglas water and along the gravel path till we reach the burn. We actually went passed the cut-off point and realised then doubled back. It was only by 50 meters or so and on the way back we met another guy. Red T shirt and two walking sticks.
"We've went passed the Path mate" we said.
"I'm just going straight for it" said Two Sticks.
So we left him to it and went back to the burn.
The ground here is soft, damp and boggy. Squelching through the field it immediately turns into a steep climb up a level. This knocked the wind out of me, the pints, pies and pizzas clearly hadn't helped my general fitness, on top of this it was absolutely scorching. I had sweat dripping from the tip of my beak as it ran down off my forehead. It was a fantastic day but at this point I was wishing for a breeze, drizzle or even a cloud!
The ground was pretty level for a good part and we walked to the bottom of another steep looking climb. We were following two guys who had passed us and were running a few of the Ben's. A sharp stead climb brought us to a point where we decided to have a water break, as we sat there a group were near us, one of them dressed like the safari guy, Van Pelt from Jumanji.
Steep hills again, through the well-trodden path and gaining altitude as we go!
We came toward what we knew would be a false summit and could see folk coming down. This was where the hill was getting very steep. As we approached the group we had the usual chat, "How you doin?" "far to go?" all the formalities. Reg asked the far to go questions and was met with the Reply "About an hour." This guy was dressed like Safari Jumanji guy, Van Pelt. So we questioned his time as we had seen them not long before and now they were coming back. Van Pelt swore it was about an hour to go and we headed off in opposite directions. We had a big rock to round before we reach the top of this false summit and expected to see a little more walking before the top. What we saw was disheartening. There were ages to go! Van pelt was telling the truth! We were starting to question that group and how far they had gone given the time difference from the point we had noticed them to when we passed them. "They can't have gone to the top" agreed the other two.
Continuing on the steep ascent there was a little scrambling to be done. The sun was punishing us, sweat was pouring. we'd been making good time but now it was taking its toll on the two unfit guys of our threesome. Myself and Higgy. We'd started to slow down, really slow in fact. We were feeling for Reg, He's a machine and there he had to pace himself for us. We were always gonna get to the top, although our momentum had hit the brakes. Water break again. We sat chatting and rehydrating and saw another group approaching. It was the guy dressed like Van pelt! When they got close to us we could see it was not the guy who came down but the guy we first saw when climbing. They had taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up behind us. Who would have thought there would be two guys dressed as the villain from Jumanji! We let them pass and had a laugh at ourselves and said our apologies to the guys we accused of not going all the way to the top. Not that they heard either accusation or apology.
We got up to set off and looked down the hill, there was a lonely figure making slow but steady tracks and had come from a completely different direction. His red T shirt looked familiar... It was Two Sticks!!! We battled on for a bit and every time we looked back Two Sticks was gaining on us. After a while we stopped to drink some water and Two Sticks went past us. He was moving really slow but happily said hello before moving on. We actually overtook Two sticks again before stopping and letting him go past once more. We were really tiring now so we maintained a steady pace about 50 ft behind Two sticks using him as a guide.
This was where the scrambling basically turned into rock climbing. I am blaming Two Sticks, we followed him and it appears as though we missed the paths, there was a point where every step was a 4 foot rock. One point we were climbing to what we thought would be the top, there was a rock that was 5 & a half feet tall. Reg struggled up, Higgy got shoved up by me, I actually put too much welly into it and nearly threw him off the other side of the hill! Then Reg and hig had to pull my fat ass up the rock. It was at this point where the soul crushing false summits came. This one and then another after a short climb again. However, we could now see the top with Jumanji villain Van Pelt and co. at the top and Two Sticks scrambling to join them.
A short flat to the final ascent. We stated to climb. It was getting steeper and steeper until we were basically on the side of the hill that had a long drop all at an angle of about 20 degrees! Reg was froze stiff, feart to move. Reg has a fear of heights; you'd think climbing to the top of tall things would be avoided eh? He usually avoids being near the edges of the summits or any sharp cliffs. This time he had no choice. "What am I supposed to do?" he said. I leapt into action. Climbed round him and talked him through his climb. As I was climbing it was very steep and I felt like a fat Spiderman. Not paying attention to where I was going while helping out meant I cracked my head off an overhanging rock. Could have been quite dangerous I suppose. That was it. We had reached the top. Van Pelt and Two sticks where there. The fantastic weather meant that the views were awesome, no clouds to be seen a 360 degree view of the lochs and country side.
We sat for a while, Van Pelt and co. went down the way they came up and we planned to follow them. Two Sticks seem to walk off the other side of the summit and never return, no idea where he went.
Coming down is the worst part of any hill for me. All I do is hurt my knees and twist my ankles. So please, if you see me coming down a hill 100ft behind my pals, ignore my profanity.
That road from the dam is the worst thing about, you think you're done and then you have about two miles of tarmac.
I did nothing but moan and so did the other two. Looking back at day on, it was a great day and a great walk. Loads of scrambling, sun was shining and good company.
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