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My First Munro

My First Munro

Postby MartinMcKeown » Sun Sep 02, 2018 1:50 pm

Route description: Ben Lomond

Munros included on this walk: Ben Lomond

Date walked: 01/09/2018

Time taken: 4 hours

Ascent: 974m

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It occurred to me last week that I haven't been pulling my weight on the work’s summer challenge. At the time I had the thought I was watching athletics on TV and admiring my six pack. I was also thinking of getting another before the off license closed but in the end I didn’t. I determined to act otherwise.

I told my boss Andy that this weekend I was going to bag a Munro. He offered to lend me a net. I declined and explained that I meant I was committed to climb Ben Lomond in the Lomond National Park. Andy voiced his support and remarked that he could actually see Ben Lomond from his house - on the other side of the country. I reminded him gently about our no Sarah Palin references agreement and the conversation turned naturally back to the history of Italian resistance fighters from 1939 to blah, blah - as it always seems to do. Not sure what we were supposed to be discussing. My impending final probation discussion perhaps.

I left work Friday full of enthusiasm. Spoke on phone to mum to try and get the use of her dog - Larsson - for company but was declined. His mind is always willing but sadly his old paws aren't able for long walks. Like all dogs however he would follow to the end so perhaps in the end I wasn’t being fair to him.

After returning to Glasgow, I filled my rucksack with the usual essentials for mountain climbing - laptop, ipad, chargers, etc. Seriously – pack CORRECTLY people. I prepared a batch of tomato, red pepper and basil soup, packed some sandwiches and spare clothing, and filled my ipod with appropriate tunes and a Brian Cox TED talk. Then I went to bed.

My alarm was set for 4am but I was up, showered and out the door by 2am. It was dark and raining. I set off for the hamlet of Rowardennan on the banks of Loch Lomond - the usual starting point for Ben Lomond. My journey takes and hour and a half. My night vision is awful and the rain and single track roads don't help. Along the way I narrowly manage to avoid killing a jaywalking badger by employing the trusted technique of hit breaks and close eyes. As I come to a halt I quickly check the challenge points available for "kill a badger". Not worth reversing for so I drive on.

Got to Rowardennan at about 3.30am. The car park is pretty empty except for a few camper vans. I can hear some noise from a nearby camper van. Embarrassed I move to another parking spot. Even though I have a torch and headlamp I decide sensibly (mountains kill) to wait until daylight starts to break before setting off. I stick on Radio 4 and fall asleep under my sleeping bag which is always in the car. I get up only once. Thankfully yer man in the camper has finished questioning his partner (not sure why the answer was always 'yes') and they have gone to sleep. Only me now, radio 4 and the rain.

At 0630am I set off up the Ben. Still raining but only a light drizzle and little wind - the forecast was spot on. The Ben is in three natural stages. The lower stage is brutish and involves very steep inclines and scrambling over rocks. This first stage takes over an hour to negotiate but finally I crest the slope and see the path extending up the hill. The second stage is still very steep but easier under foot even in the rain. I make good progress up the hill, stopping only to catch my breath and fill up on dried fruits. Along the way I become very aware that I am being looked at. Sitting on a fence about 50 feet or so ahead was some kind of bird of prey. It's not small either - possibly a peregrine but more likely an eagle. At that point it occurs to me that I haven't seen any wildlife on the hill so far - not a sheep or even one of the many wild haggis that tend to be active on the hills at this time of the year. I decide to keep my eye on my feathered friend - he looks like trouble, but before he can menace me he decides to fly off. Perhaps l didn’t look tasty enough. With him gone, some rock ptarmigan bravely show their heads. I take some snaps.

I get to stage three in good time - close to the summit now but not quite. Anyone who knows a bit about Zeno's paradox might understand the gut punch that is a false summit. So near and yet...

Stage three is much like the first stage in its ruggedness and steepness but also has the added fun of the potential death drops either side of the narrow summit approach. I am spooked by the mist. Not helped by the drop in temperature and increased wind that is now biting my hands. I take my time at this point to avoid death which I know will count against me in my final job probation interview. I am genuinely a bit freaked out as I get close to the summit and this is not helped by the sudden appearance of a black face out of the mist and immediately in front of the summit. A black face sheep that is - nearly punched it, but again "punch sheep" is not on the summer challenge list.

I finally get to the summit proper at 0900am. 3196 ft above sea level. Surrounded by cloud and mist and absolutely no view of anything. Life lesson. You can prepare as much as you want, and have expectations of a reward after hard work and endeavour, but life isn't always like that. No view for me today - nothing but grey. I celebrate by finishing my flask of soup and eating my soggy sandwiches. It is freezing and I'm not intending to hang about - except to take the obligatory selfie. Before I set off back down I drop my scarf in a puddle - the sheep blush at my language!

Heading back down I have more time to enjoy the slowly emerging view over Loch Lomond. Still a lot of cloud but hints of what is around me. I forget how stunning Scotland actually is. My overwhelming feeling is satisfaction. No scrap that - it's smugness. That only increases half an hour after I set back down. I begin to meet a steady stream of people heading up. Most were very nice and stopped to chat. Others were concentrated on getting the deed done and just pushed on. I had the brilliant experience of meeting two border collies out on mountain rescue training. Sadly their handlers wouldn't let me give them treats as they were working.

The walk down was easier but still tricky as I find it harder to walk down a rock path than up it - especially in the rain. That's another thing. As someone who finds it hard to grout a sink, I have so much admiration for the workers and volunteers who build these paths. Quality of tessellation is high and the effort that must go in to placing every stone in the path has to be extraordinary. There were many signs of work ongoing.

Only one event slightly irked me on the way down. High in the bottom section I came across two guys carrying their bikes up the mountain. CARRYING THEIR BIKES UP THE MOUNTAIN. I didn't know whether to offer to help them over the rocks or slap them. I was irrationally annoyed at them for some reason - probably because I felt they had stepped all over my own efforts. Carrying their bikes up... wow!

Anyway got to the car park at about 11am, freezing, wet but actually in a very good place in my head. Mindfulness achieved. Headed back to Glasgow and then had a long soak. Still had to walk the dog that afternoon.

So, that’s one.
On the summit
Last edited by MartinMcKeown on Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: My First Munro

Postby Sgurr » Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:41 pm

Not bad for a first report...could have done with a few pics.

MartinMcKeown wrote:. I take my time at this point to avoid death which I know will count against me in my final job probation interview.

Husband's old college mag used to be sent to his dad's house. When dad died, after a year, the mag got returned to sender with Deceased written on it. Next issue (his friends told us) had a short "We regret to announce..." notice in it. When son followed him to the same uni, his tutor said "He should sue. Being dead can seriously affect your career prospects" As your nearest and dearest would have discovered.
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Re: My First Munro

Postby nick70 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:01 am

Excellent report, very funny and humourous. Note to self, don't turn up in midlle of night lol.

Congratulations on your first munro. Ben Lomond was also my first, a few years ago now. I've still only done the 2, but Ben Lomond twice (does this count as 3 lol?).

I hear you with the false summits, Ben Vane (my other munro) was a killer for that if memory serves me right.

All being well, weather and fitness permitting I am aiming to get to Arrochar Saturday to attempt Ben Ime and Ben Narnain. So fingers crossed I can double my total in one fell swoop.

Again, really enjoyable report, and very funny indeed. :lol: :lol:

Re: My First Munro

Postby LucieK » Wed Sep 05, 2018 9:02 pm

Thank you for the very funny and entertaining report! I truly enjoyed reading it. And congratulations on your first munro!
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Re: My First Munro

Postby riverlodge » Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:35 am

Many congrats on number 1
And also for seamlessly incorporating "tessellation" into a, walk report :clap:
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Re: My First Munro

Postby MartinMcKeown » Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:58 am

LucieK wrote:Thank you for the very funny and entertaining report! I truly enjoyed reading it. And congratulations on your first munro!

Thanks. Just a haver.
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Re: My First Munro

Postby MartinMcKeown » Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:58 am

riverlodge wrote:Many congrats on number 1
And also for seamlessly incorporating "tessellation" into a, walk report :clap:

Maths is everywhere.
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Re: My First Munro

Postby satkins » Tue Oct 02, 2018 5:27 pm

Great report, well done on your first, its a drug you know, careful you might get addicted :clap:
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Re: My First Munro

Postby yokehead » Wed Oct 03, 2018 1:26 pm

A superbly entertaining account, great job! Get out there again soon, looking forward to your next description!

As for tessellation, perhaps the path builders have this as their call to work......

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Re: My First Munro

Postby spiderwebb » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:30 pm

Congratulations on your first, and for an entertaining read, enjoyed that :clap: :clap:
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Re: My First Munro

Postby naepace » Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:03 pm

Great read mate. Sorry about the Mrs, I just kept asking her if I was doing it wrong :(
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Re: My First Munro

Postby courtscotties » Mon Mar 02, 2020 11:51 pm

Love the humour! Have you thought about a book deal?
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Re: My First Munro

Postby KWC54 » Tue Mar 03, 2020 2:35 pm

Brilliant read and i can share your efforts as it was my first Munro too. In fact it still is lol.
During my ascent, I thought it was a holiday day out for the local schools. kinda deflates your efforts/ego to see kids running ahead while we puffed and huffed up it a lot slower.

Only made worse when they passed you on their way down and we were only half way up and looking for a defibrillator to get us going again.

Well done again
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