I was pleasantly surprised last weekend when an old friend Wullie texted me a few pictures of him up Dumgoyne, saying it was his first proper hill walk and he had the bug already!
With a group of people from his work and a few of their friends all signed up to do the West Highland Way in June they were in training and going to be heading up Ben Lomond on Sunday. Wullie asked if I wanted to join them as they were fairly fit and had done a lot of walking but were not too experienced on the hills.
Despite having a grand plan to try and keep Ben Lomond until last when climbing the Munros I had a change of heart and decided that the closest Munro to Glasgow should really be the one i've climbed the most. It had also been in a lot of views from recent walks and I was itching to climb it so the decision was made, i'll dae it!
I set off early in the car and picked up Wullie from the west end then collected Alison who had made us breakfast rolls to munch before we left, already off to a great start! At 9am we met up with the others in the group, 10 of us in total plus Lola the Cocker Spaniel:
20180422_091640 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
I was asked how long I thought it would take and estimated 5 to 5.5 hours depending on fitness. A few of the group had been up the Ben before but Wullie and Sasha were climbing their first Munro. Wullie and myself preferred the option to descend down Ptarmigan to make the walk a loop but others were not so keen so we decided to review this at the summit and decide then if we'd just to a straight up and down instead.
After dishing out a few spare waterproofs and gloves from the boot of the car, or my pop-up hillwalking shop as someone said, we headed off up the main tourist path in an array of coloured jackets, with Lola running around like mad as all Spaniels do when on the hills:
20180422_092136 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
I hadn't done a group walk in ages so was already enjoying the banter on the way up the path as small groups formed and changed during the ascent:
20180422_092559 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Lookin up to Ptarmigan, we are definitely not due to have a view once we're higher up but I remain hopeful that we'll get a window at some point... we don't!
20180422_092718 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Pretty much the opposite of the conditions yesterday when I climbed Blaeloch Hill and Haylie Brae:
20180422_093113 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Towards the summit:
20180422_093120 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It doesn't take long for the view up Loch Lomond to impress:
20180422_093437 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Looking down towards Inverbeg:
20180422_093632 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_093646 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The cloud level was sitting at roughly 750m but I was still remaining positive that it might clear up briefly when we reached that height:
20180422_094159 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The group did indeed have a decent level of fitness and progress was good up the excellent path which was fairly busy for a rainy Sunday, with the usual assortment of people wearing jeans and trainers!
20180422_094213 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Wullie was loving the walk up his first big hill, as was Lola who at one point when her owner said to have a drink then promptly jumped into the large puddle for a swim!
Approaching the clouds...
20180422_094933 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Janice looking back down the path:
20180422_095036 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The chat was good and I was also being pressured into joining them all to do the WHW in June as I showed them how viewranger works, stressing of course that I had a paper OS map in my bag as back up:
20180422_095714 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Another wee steep section saw us approaching Sròn Aonaich as we continued to pass and be passed by a few other groups of walkers who had set off at the same time:
20180422_100220 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
As we climbed higher the clouds seemed to lift with us, mayeb we'll be in luck and get some views...
20180422_100226 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_100601 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
No joy... we enter the clouds and watch as the visibility decreases rapidly:
20180422_102122 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Luckily it's hard to wander off the good path so navigation isn't a problem:
20180422_102517 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Sasha was making good progress so I chatted to the Dr as we set the pace up front, Janice not far behind:
20180422_103258 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Atop Sròn Aonaich there was a very brief break in the clouds...
20180422_104936 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_110804 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Then it was back to this very quickly:
20180422_110808 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Wullie had caught up with us as we approached the final climb up to the summit ridge:
20180422_112215 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_112438 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Now up at the snow level:
20180422_112854 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
By now we had given up all hope of seeing anything from this high up!
20180422_112900 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
A soldier in training bounded past us, showing off with just a t-shirt on before he stopped up ahead and put on a top! It was fairly chilly and breezy as we continued up the final section:
20180422_113345 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The path skirts along the left of the ridge which I decline to explore further in the conditions knowing there is an almight drop down the other side:
20180422_113755 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Wullie goes over for a look and receives a stern lecture on the danger of cornices as I demand he moves away from the edge!
20180422_113803 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
With no view at least the route is atmospheric...
20180422_113850 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Almost there, we negotiate the final bouldery section of the path to the summit:
20180422_114031 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Just after this point...
20180422_114051 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
... the busy summit comes into view, just:
20180422_114309 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Despite blustery conditions heading along the ridge, when we approach the top it turns eerily silent and completely calm as if the summit is in a bubble of protection from the elements:
20180422_114311 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Sasha and Wullie who I film on the way to bag their first Munro, their faces light up on seeing the trig point, well done guys!
"Right, where are our sandwiches?!"
20180422_114412 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_114432 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_114434 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Being inexperienced on the hills, Wullie is blown away by the size of the local Ben Lomond raven:
20180422_114455 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Waiting to scrounge some grub:
20180422_114559 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
A large group of youngsters appear out of the mist and the summit is suddenly a busy place as we snack on lunch:
20180422_115101 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_115104 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Here comes the rest of them:
20180422_115502 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_115549 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_115635 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The summit banter is good as people take pics of each other and snack away with the raven still on the lookout for leftovers:
20180422_115638 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Lola can still barely stand still for 10 seconds:
20180422_115646 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
"There you are Mum and Dad, what kept you?"
20180422_115650(0) by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Trig shot with Alison behind me:
20180422_115758 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Janice showing off, nutter!
20180422_120132(0) by Chris Mac, on Flickr
So much for the brief window of views... we decide to all head back down the tourist route as a few aren't keen on the Ptarmigan descent and I agree saying it's best we all stick together as a team, I can always do Ptarmigan the next time:
20180422_122731 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Progress is very fast:
20180422_125138 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
By Sròn Aonaich the view is improving again:
20180422_125548 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Sithein is now visible but the summit of Ben Lomond remains shy:
20180422_125556 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
At least we can see a bit more of the Ben during the descent:
20180422_130126 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
This was the most Ben Lomond cleared, another hill added to the "you own me a view" list:
20180422_130326 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The view to Loch Lomond finally clearing again:
20180422_130514 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_130810 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Catching up with some of the others in the group, we were spread out slightly during the walk down:
20180422_131216 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Wullie posing on a rock, he thoroughly enjoyed the walk despite most of it being in the clouds!
20180422_131448 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
At this point we caught up with Janice and Sasha and found out that Janice had hurt her knee and was being helped down by the Dr (handy to have one in your group!):
20180422_131827 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It wasn't too bad an injury thankfully and she was able to get down with some help from the three of us:
20180422_133635 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
With the final steep section done the going is easy back to the car park:
20180422_134020 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_134328(0) by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_134433 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The Ben Lomond sign could do with a clean...
20180422_134605 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The north of Loch Lomond, Beinn Narnain and Ptarmigan:
20180422_134833(0) by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_135453(0) by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Beinn Narnain & A'Chrois:
20180422_135735(0) by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We're quickly back at the car park:
20180422_140352 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_141055 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
20180422_141234 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Despite injuries, the cold, getting soaked from cloud walking and minimal views there are a lot of smiles on faces as the end is reached!
20180422_141300 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We all gather to change out of waterproofs, use the loo and chat about the fun day out on the hills we've just had as I get more pressure to join them all in June!
I'll decide nearer the time but it is close to holidays for me so i'll need to see if I can fit it in. I would definitely walk with the group again though, they were all a good laugh and top company on the hills. Wullie and I are already planning another adventure some time soon so it looks like he may be joining me on more walks from now on, nice one!
And of course special mention to Lola who kept us entertained during the walk and must have climbed the hill at least 3 times compared to us so she deserved her reward snack and getting dried off at the end, I bet she slept the whole way home!
So I finally got up Ben Lomond and was spot on with my estimate of 5 hours for the walk! We could have picked a better day to climb it but in hindsight i'm glad I didn't leave it as my last Munro, I've a feeling i'll be up a lot more over the coming years as there is more of the Ben I still want to explore, plus who needs views when you are in good company!
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