Since first planning this trip with my friends and fellow Californians, Nazareth and Ani, we had set climbing Ben Lomond as a major objective. Our fears of inclement weather were stood on their heads as we ended up with a day that was warm almost to the point of being muggy, bright sun everywhere, nary a cloud to be seen. One can, in fact, have too much of a good thing, it seems.
We ascended via the tourist route, which had some construction on it. Notwithstanding, the path is very clear, very well laid out, truly ideal from a walker's point of view. It's steep, make no mistake, though, and in the warmth of that sun we were rapidly shedding layer after layer of what we had started out wearing. That meant exposed skin, and the midges were there waiting for us! Obnoxious little pests, they accompanied us along most of the way, in varying densities. The repellent creme worked pretty well, though.
The path takes you past some woodlands initially, but then 90% of the way is along open heath with no shade, no relief, and very little variety in the landscape. The scenery gradually improves as you gain in elevation. Soon you are looking across the lake and its islands.
Near the top, there are some amazing boulders of white quartz, gleaming bright in the sun.
The final approach to the summit was daunting, but we persevered and crested it at last. We were met by about 40 people and 40,000 midges! What should have been a triumphal arrival turned into a manic snapping of photos, grab a quick drink of water, all while frantically waving your hands about your face, and then run away as quickly as possible.
This was the first Munro for my friends, second for my daughter, and seventh for me. All in all, I had never spent as little time at a summit as I did at this one!
We headed back along the Ptarmigan route. The descent is a little challenging, but maybe it was the incentive of getting away from the midges that made it seem not intimidating at all. This route is much more interesting, as it passes some lochans and has generally more varied terrain to keep your interest. Plus, you are always nearer to the lake and the amazing Arrochar Alps.
At the end, we reached the lake and I took off my socks and boots and dunked my legs into the waters of Loch Lomond. After standing ankle-deep for about 3 minutes , I was starting to lose sensation in my toes, so it was time to dry out; nonetheless, it was a very much appreciated cool-down.
My friends had a far smarter idea: cold beers at the pub!
Altogether, Ben Lomond is not the most enchanting or spectacular mountain. The crowds are ever-present, and the midges even more so. The views of the Arrochar Alps are the best, though, and having seen them this day, I vowed to tackle at least one of them on the next!
And I did: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=65917
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.