First Munro this Century, OH NO!, I'm not 20 anymore!
by Rowil » Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:52 pm
Route description: Ben Lomond
Munros included on this walk: Ben Lomond
Date walked: 14/09/2017
Time taken: 6 hours
Distance: 12.4 km
Ascent: 975m10 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).
Fast forward nearly 40 years. Now retired, a couple of stone heavier than i would like, but still active playing lots of golf and regular workouts in the gym. From somewhere deep in the memory banks came an urge to recapture those glory years. Munro number 48 was calling my name!!
Things moved quickly. Now armed with new fancy lightweight boots and the latest equipment including what suspiciously looked like ski poles, but was apparently a must have for the serious hill walker with grey hair, i planned my next mission. I already did plenty walking on mainly level ground so decided on a wee stroll up into the Ochil hills to get a feel for going up and down big bits of rock again. This confirmed what i suspected………..i was indeed still invincible.
Now then, which Munro would be lucky enough to be number 48. How about one so easy about 30,000 people a year stroll up it. How about Ben Lomond, as gentle a Munro as i could think off, so easy in fact that i never even considered it in my heyday, not enough of a challenge back then.
I enlisted my 29 year old son to accompany me on my triumphant return to hill walking. He was eager to see how this legend who used to run up and down These things for fun would perform.
We picked our day carefully to ensure good weather, if we were going to go to the effort of climbing Ben Lomond then we wanted to enjoy the spectacular views on a clear day. We arrived just before 11 in the morning and set off up the path from the carpark marked with a sign declaring “ Ben Lomond mountain path” . So far so good, i had lost none of my navigational skills !! We quickly climbed above the tree line and onwards up the well defined path. A steady stream of earlybird walkers passed us on their way back down. Young couples, old couples, people with one or even two dogs. Youngsters dressed in trainers and a tee shirt, mature walkers dressed for Everest and a lovely elegant older lady with all the gear and a walking stick who seemed to be handling the boulder strewn path remarkably well, despite her obvious years!! Tough lady!
After a sustained burst of climbing involving much huffing and puffing, during which we failed to pass any of the children ahead of us, i ascertained that we must be pretty close to the summit. A quick check on my fancy phone with the OS map app ( and to think i though mobile phones would never take off when they were introduced ) confirmed, unfortunately, that we were not even half way. Digging in to my own memory banks, i couldn't ever remember the bottom part of any of the previous 47 munro’s being so far from the top part? Eventually the steep rock path with boulders for steps levelled of to a gentle incline before the final assault up the steep north west face ( sounds more of a challenge). We stopped for a breather and a drink of water before tackling the final climb to the summit. The “ well defined tourist path” was in fact a little bit more of a challenge than expected. Two or three parts required careful attention to foot placement and a bit of scrambling up, and down, steep rocky faces, with running water, the previous days rain draining of the mountain, to make it more interesting.
Just short of the summit we were met by a man coming down with his dog who informed us we should have been at the top five mins ago as some as some young ladies had been taking photos of themselves topless !! Wit the?
Sure enough, 5 mins later we were standing at the top enjoying the fantastic views the length of loch Lomond and the mountain ranges stretching far into the distance. Well worth the effort. We had the top of the mountain all to ourselves, briefly. The silence and serenity came to a sudden end when 3 young ladies made summit and, unable to contain their excitement, whooped, screamed and generally went crazy. My comment of “aw well, there goes the peace and quiet” brought a response from my son “ stop being a moaning auld git”. Fair enough. We stayed at the top for nearly half an hour, enjoying the views, but soon, it began to resemble a crowded day in Princes street as hiker after hiker made top. There was the nice Canadian lady who chatted to everyone and by her own admission was slightly crazy, the two Swedish guys who looked…..underwhelmed. The father with two young kids just glad to reach the top. Three young teenage girls who suddenly appeared from the alternative route ( thought that was supposed to be tougher) dressed for a day at the shops rather than a mountain top.
We decided it was time to start heading down, it was only when i stood up i noticed my right knee starting to complain. A bit more attention required on the way down off the main peak to negotiate the rocky and at times steep path down and it was a welcome relief to get onto the more level path as now both knees were giving me severe grief with all this going down stuff. During the final continuous steep descent down to the tree line it became clear i was in trouble. My son would walk ahead, stop and wait, then start walking again once i reached him. Within 5 mins he would be several hundred yards further down the slope, looking back up at my painfully slow progress down the rocky path, shaking his head in disbelief. By the time i eventually got down to the tree line both knees were completely shot and it felt i had no control over which way they would bend, either backwards or forwards !! I was like Bambi on ice!!! The relief of having reached the tree line soon evaporated as rocky step after steep rocky step began to really take its toll. Each one to two foot step had to be negotiated by methodically placing both sticks in position to support me as much as possible ready for the painful, calculated, step down. Now even my thigh muscles ached in protest at the never ending downward journey, making it even harder to commit to each painful step. Not since i took one to many drams for the first time had i been so focused on the simple action of putting one foot in front of the other, such was the effort required. What a state to be in!!
I was completely embarrassed by my situation, as was my son who maintained a heathy distance away ( plausible deniability !! Nope, dont know who that is). As i struggled on, Several things became crystal clear, i definitely wasn’t 20 years old and invincible anymore, and certain bits of me, important bits, where not fit enough for going up and down mountains anymore!!! My tortured antics coming down the path must have looked comical, except i wasn't laughing! To think i used to run up and down these things in my youth, what a difference 40 years makes!!!! What should have been no more that a 25 min victory stroll through the trees to the carpark turning into a 1 hr 20 min endurance test. Twice, when i heard voices behind me i managed to sit on a rock pretending i was taking in the view, so dented was my pride and dignity, i didnt want anyone to see i was broken !!Finally, finally i made the carpark and to walk on level ground was shear joy.
After i had managed to take my boots off and get the trainers on we sat in the car and reflected on the day, “ well, did you enjoy that” i said to my son? “Sure did” he replied adding “ but you really didnt look like you were having much fun coming down?”. I mumbled something about the harder it is then the more sense of accomplishment you feel and i actually enjoyed the challenge……….not sure he bought it though!!
Time taken carpark-summit-carpark….a sedate 6 hrs, a large chunk of which was taken up on the second half of the decent after my knees packed in. My son reckons my “ carry on” cost us about 1-1/2 hrs easy. Sorry !!!
So, what have i learned?.
1- I’m not twenty anymore.
2- I’m definitely not invincible and what i used to be able to do counts for nothing when reality kicks you in the teeth.
3- being another two stone lighter would help
4- get some knee supports.
5- prepare better, i’ll make sure the muscles used for hillwalking are in better shape next time.
6- i’ll be going to less populated mountains in the future.
7- i was astounded at the lack of equipment and clothing some had, not even a jacket !!!! Dont they know how the weather can turn on even the best summers day at the top of a mountain?
8- i love hill walking, why did i give it up for so long??
9- there is no such thing as an “ easy” munro, i just want to make that clear!!!!
And finally, my knees sorted themselves out in 24 hrs but oh did my thigh muscles ache for another 3 days, ouch. I can now walk normally such that my family and friends don't snigger anymore. There’s no Munro going to make a fool out of me (again!).
Final final summary……stupid is as stupid does springs to mind !! If my misguided confidence in my abilities, based on past glories, got me into trouble in the first place, then that same belief also got me down and back to the car park, thats for sure!! So basically, i still have the grit and in my own mind at least, am still a legend!! I have taken the reality check onboard so its onwards and upwards from here, what could possibly go wrong??? LOL
- Before the painful end, Enjoying life at the top!
- Posts: 2
- Joined: Sep 15, 2017
by Coop » Mon Sep 18, 2017 7:28 pm
by Mal Grey » Mon Sep 18, 2017 7:39 pm
I can also confirm that Munros have got steeper and taller since the 70s, so it must be the hills, not just those of us who have aged a little.
Walking poles can help the descents, but I find no matter how fit I am (living in hill-less southern England) its the downhills I suffer on not the uphills, there's simply nothing to replicate going down a hill other than going down a hill...
by Sgurr » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:38 pm
Mal Grey wrote:Great write up, nicely done.
there's simply nothing to replicate going down a hill other than going down a hill...
But unless you live in a bungalow you have a built in training aid called "stairs" No-one is stopping you going up and down ten times each time you have to do it once. Used them as a training aid before to going to Bulgaria where the mountains are bigger and was so glad I had.
Really enjoyed that report.
by weaselmaster » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:54 pm
I found regular hillwalking to be an excellent way of shedding the excess stones (although it does also increase the appetite )
Hope you get up something else in the near future
by Alteknacker » Mon Sep 18, 2017 10:57 pm
by onsen » Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:03 am
Well done for getting out & having a go.
- Munro compleatist
- Posts: 269
- Joined: Oct 10, 2012
- Location: The Great Southern Land, Australia
by ochilbhoy » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:32 am
by Cairngorm creeper » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:49 pm
by Graeme D » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:02 pm
by dogplodder » Wed Sep 20, 2017 3:08 pm
by Jokester » Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:26 pm
Steep descents for me are the killer as well, late 30s.
by Rowil » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:54 pm
It all came flooding back to me on this wee walk and i aim to lose the two stone and get back into this in a more proffessional manner, on mountains is definitely where i want to be.
- Posts: 2
- Joined: Sep 15, 2017