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Ben Lomond & Wild Camping the Ben More Four
by andygunn23 » Thu Jul 28, 2016 7:20 pm
Route description: Ben More and Stob Binnein
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Tulaichean, Ben Lomond, Ben More, Cruach Ardrain, Stob Binnein
Date walked: 20/07/2016
Distance: 30 km4 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Unfortunately, or fortunately, I appear to be completing these Munros quicker than I am able to write the reports. For the purpose of this I have merged my (very early morning) 23rd birthday walk up Ben Lomond, one of my easiest walks with an overnight wild camp on the "Ben More Four", one of my most challenging!
I have separated both walks so if you are only interested in either Ben Lomond or the Ben More Four (from the South; Stob Binnein; Ben More; Cruach Ardrain; and Beinn Tulaichean) feel free to skip to that section.
It was already July and I realised I hadn't taken a single holiday allowance from work this year. I despise taking time off just to mope about so I decided with my 23rd birthday falling on a Wednesday I would take a long weekend and hopefully get blessed with some good weather for the hills.
Finished work on Tuesday evening, endured the horrendous Aberdeen rush hour madness and headed home to the folks in Stirling, hereinafter referred to as my basecamp...
Ben Lomond - Wednesday 20th July
When I turned 22 I never thought I would be setting an alarm for 04:00 all ready to embark on my 35th Munro on my 23rd birthday. A combination of a promised outing into Glasgow for a liquid lunch followed by some Champions League football and the impending early morning thunderstorms meant 04:00 was the take it or leave it option.
I opted to take it. By 05:30 I had made it to the car park at the base of Ben Lomond. Unsurprisingly, given the time, the fact it was a Wednesday and that the weather looked rather tragic - the car park was nearly empty. In fact the car park was full - full of those blasted midges!
Terrific early morning view through the war memorial down Loch Lomond.
Would it really be Scotland in summer if views weren't like this?
Anyway I had enough of the midges devouring my legs so set of up Ben Lomond (yes it was really warm enough for shorts!). When I started this Munro bagging I had already completed a few but opted to wipe the slate clean and start from 0. This was one I had done before so I had a rough idea what to expect - a steep start, a lot of people and a very crowded summit.
After the steep start the views of Loch Lomond are pretty impressive.
Always far too optimistic with the weather - sure it was going to clear up soon...
Was making incredibly quick progress and before long the top was in view. Forgot to turn my work alarm off so at 07:00 I got an additional wake up call!
Views were actually okay so far.
I jinxed it. The clouds rolled in and the views were from something to absolutely nothing. Only a few hundred meters before the summit the clouds "sunk" and I was above the clouds (well one layer of the clouds at least)! Delighted with the views I almost ran to the summit.
Walking above the clouds
I had made it to the top in less than two hours. I still hadn't seen anyone else and unbelievably I had the whole summit to myself.
Views from the summit.
I sat at the top and had only just began tucking into a peanut butter sandwich whilst the first of the rain began to fall. Before long it began apparent this wasn't just a quick shower and was more than likely the approach of the thunderstorms. Perfect, thunderstorms at the top of Ben Lomond with two metal walking poles.
Given the weather the camera got placed into the bag and I made the way down at almost running pace.
Very few photos from the run down.
I had made it up and down Ben Lomond without seeing a single other person until I reached the West Highland Way at the bottom. The rain was chucking it down, I knew I only had a short drive back to basecamp before a good shower, feed, watering and game of football to watch so I was in relatively good spirits. The folk walking along the West Highland Way definitely didn't look quite as impressed with the weather...
Either way I had bagged my 35th Munro in less than 3 hours, got a good lunch and the football was good - all in all a successful birthday!
The Ben More Four - Friday 22nd July & Saturday 23rd July
Firstly I have something to admit. I experience severe Ordnance Survey Underestimation Syndrome. For those who have never heard of the condition, effectively it is where you look at a map and think "aye nae bother, might as well add in a few more hills since they are close". This is good if you are seagull and don't have to endure the ups and the downs, often on non-existent paths. Not so good if like me you only have two legs and no ability to fly.
In short I could look at an OS map of Everest and decide I could probably fire up and down before lunchtime.
For those who know the Ben More area there are four relatively close Munros separated by a deep, deep, deep, deep, boggy, soggy, marshy, wet glen. Traditionally (and sensibly) Ben More and Stob Binnein are tackled from the North in one day and Beinn Tulaichean and Cruach Ardrain are tackled from the South in another day.
Given my OSUS I decided I'd tackle all four from the south. The weather was promised to be a mixed bag with Friday morning offering the worst. I arrived at the car park at the south (late for me) at 09:00 and began the ascent up Stob Binnein.
There are a few absolutely incredible reports of Stob Binnein and Ben More from the south (highly worth reading!) but they will all tell you one thing - the start is an unrelenting, straight up, calve burning challenge.
The weather appeared not to have checked the weather forecast - why were you not going?!
Taking far longer than normal.... I had been struggling along for 2 hours and the summit of Stob Binnein was not even in sight.
Views down Loch Doine (the small one) and Loch Voil (the big one).
Deciding that my legs weren't going to be playing ball today I enjoyed the view and stopped for lunch - as always the trusty peanut butter sandwich and Jelly Babies .
Clouds were hugging the hills, clearing up for a few minutes every now and then (always when I put the camera away!)
Sometimes I think the mountains are better with a hint of cloud - anyone agree? Or am I just clutching at straws...
Once you are up it's relatively straightforward... View looking back where I came from.
AH, HA, finally summit number one was in sight.
Turns out someone beat me to it (from the north) - he was actually from Liverpool, cracking effort coming all the way up to Scotland for some hills
We joked that the weather would definitely clear up soon. He headed off, and I followed soon after. The joke was on us.
Summit of Stob Binnein -views 0.
Summit of Ben More - views remained at 0.
Note the walking poles still intact even ever the Ben Lomond thunderstorms. Spoiler alert - they are no longer intact...
Although there was no views on Ben More, there was no wind, no people and I had no energy. Took a longer break than normal which was incredibly peaceful!
Retraced my steps down Ben More towards Stob Binnein and re-met the two chaps working on the Ben More path, they seemed impressed I was away out to camp on the hills, rather overlooking their own achievement on heading up and down that hill everyday, in all weathers to do some brutal manual labour to repair a path. After Ben More they had a few more jobs on the main land before heading over to Skye - what a dream job! In all seriousness they do a tremendous job that most people take for granted so -
Views up Stob Binnein from Ben More - plan was to head down to the lowest point, take a direct right turn and head down to the glen.
A wee bit down and I could see my two further targets. I still had to get all the way down, that tiny looking boulder at the bottom right is actually humungous!
A year ago I was a complete sceptic of walking poles - I mean you're not skiing what on earth do they actually do. I am now a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind - they are brilliant! Well when they are still on one piece they are the perfect help going down hill and definitely protect the knees!
Over the first 37 Munros I had a few minor falls, nothing severe - until now. One slip on a steep bit of ground, a natural instinct to protect my camera over my limbs resulted in a really rather bent walking pole, at least 4 flips down the hill, soaking wet and incredibly bruised pride, not to mention my hip!
I decided it might be best to put the camera away and try on focus getting down to the bottom. Ultimately a spent a great deal of time bum sledging which seemed the safest (and most fun) way of getting down. It really always does take longer than expected.
After reassessing the OS map I decided the direct route to Cruach Ardrain was achievable - half way up I was regretting this steeper option, but the views back to Stob Binnein on the right and Ben More on the left was nice.
After a really soggy, boggy, steep walk I have finally reached the plateau between Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean. Much later that planned it was already 17:30 and I was starving.
Nevertheless the views were spectacular (and the weather was in a good mood).
By now I decided I would leave my bag next to a stream, quickly hit the summit of Cruach Ardrain before retracing my steps to make some dinner before heading on to Beinn Tulaichean before bed. Taking off a 70L backpack somehow gave me another lease of life and all of a sudden I felt incredible (although bruised and battered).
Munro 38 - Cruach Ardrain, looking towards Munro 39, Beinn Tulaichean
Quickly re-found my bag and began cooking my dinner - what a view to eat from!
Bottom of the plateau looking back along to Cruach Ardrain and my dinner spot which was now blanketed in clouds.
It is a easy walk up from the bottom of the plateau to Beinn Tulaichean, maybe it was just because I was full of vegetable cous-cous.
Who knows - either way here are a few views from the top. Munro 39
It was now only 19:30 and I contemplated just heading back to the car and getting into a memory foam delightfully comfortable bed. Then I remembered I had spent all day lugging around a tent and sleeping bag.
My home for the night
I have recently upgraded the tent, although super light it seems to make one hell of a racket in the wind! I didn't have one of the best nights sleep ever, but knowing what tremendous views I might wake up to made me stick it out!
Set my alarm for 04:00 again.
Worth sticking it out - simply stunning Scotland.
The trek down the traditional uphill for Beinn Tulaichean is far from the easiest to keep your footing and the views aren't that spectacular so I just focused on getting to the car as quickly as possible.
I reached a sheep pen where the path appeared to die. Unsure I wanted to annoy any farmers at this time in the morning, and I hadn't seen any advice so instead of hopping the fence I took the longer route around the outside.
Was back in the car by 07:00 and headed back to basecamp.
One quick ad-hoc stop to enjoy the views along Loch Voil Love it!
That is that. I am starting to debate what is more time consuming, walking these hills or writing the reports. Either way I committed to jot down my journey from zero to compleat so I apologise for any mistakes and hope it proves interesting or useful for anyone heading out into the hills!
Another brilliant wild camp that takes the tally to 39/282 - I can't wait to see what the remainder will treat me with.
I have attached a rough route map at the very bottom for anyone interested in also doing the Ben More Four. Beautiful yet difficult! You have my 100% endorsed recommendation!
Thanks again for reading, comments and questions are as always hugely appreciated .
Relatively accurate route - claims to be 22km (sounds about right).
by Alteknacker » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:01 pm
I did these a couple of years ago the opposite way round (starting at Ben More) and had similar starting conditions (clag on the peaks). But, like for you, it cleared up later and I got some brilliant views - albeit not with quite the same light conditions you had.
by Chris Mac » Tue Aug 02, 2016 9:47 pm
Good to see the Jetboil on the go, they are superb, need to get myself one. I also couldn't stop laughing at Ordnance Survey Underestimation Syndrome (OSUS), those symptoms seem eerily familiar!!
I'm sure we're not the only ones to suffer from this condition!
by ancancha » Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:27 pm
Good effort to get straight up to Cruach Ardrain
by stuart mclovin » Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:12 pm
by Royster23 » Fri Aug 05, 2016 10:00 pm