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A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond


Postby weaselmaster » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:27 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn an Dothaidh, Beinn Dorain, Ben Lomond

Date walked: 07/01/2018

Time taken: 17.5 hours

Distance: 35.6 km

Ascent: 3249m

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Our first weekend since the resolution to get back to Munros. Somewhere closish to home given the forecast for very cold temperatures - our agenda initially was for Beinn an Dothaidh & Dorain Friday, Ben Starav & tops Saturday and maybe Ben Lomond Sunday. Would we wild camp or campsite? I swithered about this on the road up, thinking that wee spot just behind the Bridge of Orchy Hotel would be alright - but in the end we chickened out and stopped at Strathfillan Wigwams - the only folk camping (surprise :wink: ) The attendant told us with some relish that the temperature was to drop to -10 on Saturday night...

A long and unbroken night's sleep found me feeling out of sorts on Friday - fatigued and generally off colour. We drove up to Bridge of Orchy to climb 2 hills we hadn't been on since November 2012 - a lifetime ago it seemed. Clag was down on the tops and there were no other folk on the hill. We slogged up to the bealach and decided on Dothaidh first. A wee scramble up an ice lined chimney was mildly entertaining, then a tramp up the nose of the hill in quite thick snow. We reached the 1000m cairn then went off in search of the summit. I remembered getting very disorientated last time round as I had little idea how to read my GPS in poor visibility. The viz was no better this time but at least I had come to terms with the GPS details. We made it to the summit cairn and found a somewhat sheltered spot to stop for lunch.

Dothaidh & Dorain
ImageDSC00363 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00364 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00365 by Al, on Flickr

Ptarmigan
ImageDSC00367 by Al, on Flickr

To the 1000m cairn
ImageDSC00369 by Al, on Flickr

Summit
ImageDSC00370 by Al, on Flickr



1pm by this time - we decided to retrace our steps which were mostly still evident and got down to the bealach just before 2pm That seemed enough to summit Dorain and descend before nightfall. Hmm. We hadn't reckoned with the thickening clag and the deepening snow - we slowly ascended to just over 1000m before I cursed that I couldn't see a damned thing, we were starting to drop down when we should be going up and I didn't like it one bit :( Turn back time. So we made it back down to the bealach and the snowy coire, getting to the station about 4.45. A hot meal and some wine perked me up a bit and we agreed we'd have another go tomorrow.


Looking over to Dorain
ImageDSC00371 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00372 by Al, on Flickr

Descending back to the bealach out of the clag
ImageDSC00373 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00374 by Al, on Flickr

Saturday - high winds overnight and into the morning. I'd seen the forecast say that they were to drop by noon, so I was in no hurry to set off early - I also reckoned that other folk would be up the hill before us, leaving a great big trail to follow :wink: So we got to the start around 10am, the car park pretty full. The winds overnight had blown a fair bit of snow down into the coire but at least we had others' footsteps to plod in. As we got towards the bealach, we met a number of folk coming back down - too windy for their dog, no goggles, just too windy. All-in-all at least 20 folk must have come down past us. I was a little worried that we might have a second day of non-summiting the hill. However we pressed on. It was windy on the bealach and very cold, but nothing too bad yet. We could see a thick trail leading up the hill, cutting through the whiteness of the snow. To the west the white summits lined up in ranks. Great views. We then met a party of about a dozen lads who had made it to the Sassenach's Cairn but been unable to get across the ridge to the summit because of the wind. True, most of them had no axe, but even so...there were others ahead however.

Up we go again
ImageDSC00376 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00378 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00384 by Al, on Flickr

We found a sheltered spot for lunch at around the point we'd turned back the day before. The wind seemed to have lessened somewhat when we started back again. Up to the Sassenach's Cairn - wind manageable. At this point I'm thanking my judgement of turning around the day before as the narrows across to the summit are not the sort of place to be in a white out, thank you very much. On we pressed, meeting another group of about 8 returning from the summit. Pleasure to get there, even if the clouds came in an diminished the views. An easy trek back down the way we'd come and back at the campsite by not much after 3.

ImageDSC00388 by Al, on Flickr

Sassenach's Cairn
ImageDSC00389 by Al, on Flickr

To the summit!
ImageDSC00390 by Al, on Flickr

Someone's pleased
ImageDSC00392 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00396 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00398 by Al, on Flickr

Had an early tea and in bed in bed for 5.15 - it was starting to get very cold - warm in the sleeping bag, but the air you breathed in was chill. In the morning the water was frozen, the butane was frozen and it took quite a while to get the car defrosted. We were treated to some nice views of the sun rising behing the Crianlarich Hills and of Ben Lui with streaks of pink.

ImageDSC00405 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00407 by Al, on Flickr

our water bottle
ImageDSC00415 by Al, on Flickr

Lui
ImageDSC00417 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00419 by Al, on Flickr



We drove along to Rowardennon (on untreated slippy roads) and - arriving at around 11am - found the car park stowed out. In fact all the car parking spots for hills as we came down the A82 were much fuller than usual. That's perfect winter conditions for you. We set off up the Ptarmigan Ridge, guessing that would be quieter than the tourist route, and probably better in ascent than descent in these conditions.

ImageDSC00421 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00424 by Al, on Flickr

Wow it was warm! The path was treacherous however, slippy thick ice coating all the rocks. We paused around noon in the sunshine, before the snowline was reached for our lunch. As we were enjoying the views across the Loch, two young lads walked by, both in Doc Marten boots, one with a rucksac, no gear. "Well they'll no be getting to the top" I said to Allison. After a while we set off again, idly wondering when the lads would turn around. Snowline started, up onto Ptarmigan - they're still going ahead of us. Weather was fab - no breeze, beautiful sunshine and snow that was consolidated and crunchy, a pleasure to walk on. We could see a stack of people on the summit, and another large group somewhat ahead of us going up in line.

ImageDSC00425 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00427 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00428 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00429 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00431 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00434 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00435 by Al, on Flickr

At the start of the pull up to the summit ridge we met up with the Doc Boys. They were determined they were going on up to the top although did concede that it was a bit harder than they'd been expecting - turned out to be their first Munro too. Now came the difficult bit - did we walk by them, advising them in no uncertain terms to go back down (but knowing they were virtually certain to keep on going up) or did we try and assist them to the summit. I decided on the latter, but am far from sure it was the right tihing to do...we gave them a pole each, which at least provided some stability, and Allison led, kicking steps where needed with me bringing up the rear and hoping to hell they didn't slip, as it was a long way down. As we got to the final 30m where the trodden path wends round an outcrop I was far from happy, heart in mouth in case they should slip. But they didn't and we made it to the top, where most folk were wearing crampons (and no-one else was wearing Docs). The lads were pleased to have managed it and acknowledged that maybe investing in some winter gear for "next time" might be a good idea.

The "Doc Boys" - Ryan & Jack
ImageDSC00437 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00438 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00439 by Al, on Flickr

Made it!
ImageDSC00440 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00443 by Al, on Flickr


We continued down the tourist path with them, they seemed to be having a fine day, enthusiastic about the scenery and hills in general. So maybe we did the right thing in making them as safe as we could so that they had a day to remember. All's well that ends well - but I'm not sure that everyone would have made the same decision... I did feel very responsible for their fate.

ImageDSC00445 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00446 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00447 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00449 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00453 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00454 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC00456 by Al, on Flickr
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weaselmaster
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Re: A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

Postby Sunset tripper » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:18 pm

Nice one. Fair play to you for being there incase the guys needed a hand. It's pretty steep that final pull in the snow. I descended that way in march a few years back on the snow. I didn't have crampons but did have my axe just in case. :shock:
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Re: A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:31 pm

Lovely pictures, and those last couple are sublime.


I think you did the right thing. Hopefully the lads will have had a memorable experience, but will have taken away the thought that they'd needed help and therefore had something to learn. If you hadn't helped them, they are perhaps more likely to have continued anyway, at higher risk, than return.

I can imagine it was a little unnerving for you though!
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Re: A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:19 pm

Mal Grey wrote:
I can imagine it was a little unnerving for you though!


Aye, it was that! Just had a mental image of having to speak to the mother if one had slipped off that last section to his doom :shock: Not a comforting thought to be having when you're negotiating a narrow and slippy section, worse than thinking about slipping yourself :?
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weaselmaster
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Re: A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:06 am

weaselmaster wrote:
Mal Grey wrote:
I can imagine it was a little unnerving for you though!


Aye, it was that! Just had a mental image of having to speak to the mother if one had slipped off that last section to his doom :shock: Not a comforting thought to be having when you're negotiating a narrow and slippy section, worse than thinking about slipping yourself :?


Know that feeling very well! I go from being pretty relaxed when solo to being quite excessively neurotic and careful when I'm responsible for someone else less experienced...
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Re: A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

Postby dav2930 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:29 pm

Great to see such a deep covering of snow on the hills. Looks arctic up there. Some wonderful pics. Amazing how whiteout conditions can transform a relatively simple hill walk into a no-go zone of doubt and confusion :clap:

The way you looked after the two lads on Ben Lomond was commendable and definitely beyond the call of duty! As you say though, you took on a worrying responsibility that could have gone horribly wrong. I don't think I'd have been as sympathetic or as patient. My feeling is that the joys of an experience like that should be earned through the care and effort of acquiring suitable equipment, which reflects a proper respect for the mountains. But maybe I'm just an old grump! :lol:
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Re: A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

Postby Walk cycle » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:33 am

Great report and photos. The last walk I did at the end of my holiday last year was Ben Lomond and it was very busy with a corporate challenge taking place at the time.
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Re: A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

Postby Spade » Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:20 pm

Fab' report, congratulations to the two Doc boys. They may have been naïve but hey most of us have made ill informed decisions in life and it paid off !! Hats off to WM for helping them make it. They didn't come to harm but did they leave with the fabulous memory and hunger for the mountains and will set them off on the Walking routes we all love. So big pat on the back WM it all worked out well :clap: :clap: :clap: Look at the smiles on those lads, there's your answer. :D :D :D
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Re: A Moral Dilemma on Ben Lomond

Postby dogplodder » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:58 pm

I'm sure it was the right decision (as they'd probably have gone on anyway with a likely less positive outcome) and your photos are great. Lomond was my first Munro as a kid in 1962 and I'm looking forward to a revisit by the Ptarmigan ridge later this year and minus the white stuff. :D
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