(Got to say this.. it took me 3 times more time to blog than the time i took to complete this walk )
This was my first solo 8 Munros target. Having done 2 Munros in a row earlier (in total 9 in the bag so far), I was too naive to think (daydreaming)...
Yes I Can!
...Well as the story goes, in retrospect it was over-ambitious but I appreciated it only by the end of my journey (or I must say when I was humbled by the mountains). A lesson well learned, it made me take in more humility .
Completely underestimated the mountains and overestimated my ability and planning.
Anticipated the physical and mental challenge ahead...just couldn't sleep well..got a bit anxious the night before, anyways my legs were well rested.
Started at 9:20 from home, 80 miles to go....
Arrived at Ben Lawers Car Park at 11:10. Greeted by excellent weather condition 15oC, very mild breeze & Sunny.
What's in the Bag
1. Water 1.5 ltr
2. Tesco Meal deal Chicken Salad Sandwich + 0.5 Ltr Diet Coke + Tyrrell's Veg Crisps 40gm
3. Running Wind Cheater + Fleece Cap + Fleece gloves
4. Kitkat Bar 48 gm + Mars Bar 48 gm + 2 Strawberry Fruit Sticks 3 gm each
5. Camera (across the chest) + Phone + Wallet + Car Keys
6. 3 Bananas
7. Pack of Asda Paracetamol 500mg Tabs - pain relief.. just in case
Starting from the Car Park, followed the regular trail of Meall nan Tarmachan. A well maintained, almost bone dry trail. Started to sweat profusely with the sun almost overhead, no wind and no cloud cover. Not that I'm complaining, Vitamin-D is always welcomed.. felt like a workout.
Got a peek at the nicely lit summit of Meall Garbh from the Meall nan Tarmachan trail.
After loads of sweating, huffing & puffing arrived at Munro 1: Meall nan Tarmachan.
Treated myself with 0.5 ltr of water and a KitKat (was getting a bit hungry). Reminded myself to take it slow- conserve energy and supplies for the long way ahead.
Looking at the Lawers range I made a mental map of the undefined trail that I would follow to reach target no. 2
Meall Corranaich. From Munro 2 to Munro 3: Meall a'Choire Leith would be on the regular trail over the ridge as it would supposedly appear from Munro 2 on wards.
Keeping the shortage of time in mind, took a short bum-sliding shortcut below the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan. It was a kind of prep for more slides to come .
Next, to avoid the ascent again after crossing the stile, walked on a faint sheep track starting few meters on the right of the stile crossing.
Also took another short one further down the trail as one can see from my route map .
Back to square-one , starting from the Car Park walked on the road towards the dam to reach my mental marker point at the base of the hill. Descent is such a knee killer started to just feel it a bit, did some stretching and refueling (1 banana) before leaving the Car Park.
As I left the road to start the ascent, initially had to navigate through the grass but at one point not very high up, i caught a faint sheep trail. Kept sheep trail hopping as far as I could. After some scrambling, short vertical climbs, bog avoiding and slipping.....
Finally caught up with the regular trail to Meall Corranaich....
From here Munro 2: Meall Corranaich was not far off.
Next the path to Meall a'Choire Leith is clear and straight forward, just keep walking - just keep walking - keep counting steps 1 to 100 in a never ending loop (I know..its one of the weird things that goes in my mind while walking - I guess, keeps the mind focused ) . Promised me grumbling stomach of the meal deal at Meall a'Choire Leith
The wind started to pick up some steam but not very much, albeit quite refreshing.
After see-sawing descent-ascent-descent-ascent arrived at the flat summit of Munro 3: Meall a'Choire Leith. Time to rest me legs and treat me tummy!
Ate lunch here (Sandwich + 0.5 diet coke + 1 banana). Got high on 2 paracetamol tabs , knees were alright but needed to keep any painful distractions away for the descents ahead.
The meal made me feel a bit cold and it got really breezy on the flat top. Put on my windcheater and in a short while out came the cap and gloves too.
One crazy thought came to my mind...
Go straight down the slope from here into the valley and climb up to An Stuc
...but when I looked down reality struck , its not something I would dare to do...
So falling back on initial plan..go back to Meall Corranaich and cross over to Ben Lawers slope cause at this point the valley is relatively shallow. Which i eventually did with a bit of cheating to avoid ascent and reduce distance. Thanks to all the sheep, discovered their 0.5 ft wide neat trail hugging the slopes somewhere before ascending Meall Corranaich and eventually joined the western slopes trail to Ben Lawers.
Wind got very strong, bringing in a chilly windchill on the way up to Ben Lawers and it lasted till the way back to the Car Park. At last, made it to the half way point, Munro no. 4: Ben Lawers!
Time, day light and energy all were running out with knees a bit soar but bearable. It was almost 18:00, started off to next stop Munro 5: An Stuc and subsequently to no. 6 & 7 and be back by Ben Lawers by 20:00 .... well that's what I thought !
Off I descended almost to the trough in a zippy, a bit more descent still left. When I looked up at the ascent to An Stuc and the remaining trail.. ,
It gave me a pretty good estimate of what's in store ahead . In a good physical state perhaps would need anywhere between 3 to 4 hours to cover the 3 Munros: An Stuc--Meall Garbh--Meall Greigh and be back at Ben Lawers again.
My heart said sheepishly...
Let's do it ! But me mind knew..shut-up and walk back, Game Over buddy!
Pacified myself with a Mars Bar and some water looking down at Lochan nan Cat . It looks like a giant tear drop isn't it?, well all the pain and disappointment made me feel that way .
Hey there..still some joy left...Beinn Ghlas is on the way back remember? I could at least make my first 5 Munros in a row . Got enthusiastic again .
Ascended back to Ben Lawers. Time check 18:41. Next stop Beinn Ghlas & finally the car park.
At this point, the wild thought of not finding my Car in the Car Park in one piece was going crazy in my mind. I couldn't see anybody far and wide, didn't want to be the lone person walking back in the dark . Well there were the darling sheep to keep company.
Finally made it to Munro 5: Beinn Ghlas. Mist started to roll in from the west.
From this point on it's a simple descent all the way to the Car Park. Descended almost jogging up to the Car Park. Ate a Banana and popped in 2 paracetamol tabs as it got a bit painful in the knees and needed to be fit to drive back home another 2 hours or so in the night.
Took a head shower with the reserve water in the car at the same time fighting the midges . Did some stretching, was quite painful. Munched on the reserve Banana stowed in the car and off i went @ 20:34 driving in pain, a bit disappointed but happy as well. Even though i couldn't hit the bulls-eye, this experience was not that bad after all .
Perhaps some other time on another range
Arrived home safe and sound @ 22:34 very tired and extremely hungry. Couldn't wait to do anything else, heated the pasta i had prepared the night before and finished it off like a dog. Had me shower and slept like a log till 10:30 next morning.
Now left with a torn shoe and soar knees, the weekend will be all about recovery
That's all folks