My son Euan mentioned the previous week that we could ‘do’ a hill together so like a good father I sent him to see his mum for a wee loan of her car, it never fails. I have to say here that he drives and I don’t. I mentioned the weather wasn’t looking the best but we would keep an eye on the prospects toward the end of the following week.
The chosen hill ?
‘Just surprise me’ I said and so on the day we would leave home and we would head but he would not tell me the destination although I said it has to be a Marilyn for obvious reasons.
Thursday looked good weatherwise and I got all the equipment together but this time I was going to travel with the barest minimum. I debated leaving home the 4m handie but thought if any problem with the 2m stuff, I would have least 4m FM.
We decided, okay he decided a 8am start, I thought it must be local as I remember being told once by him that I wouldn’t be fit enough to ‘do’ Ben Lomond so naturally, I wondered where we would go. Off across the usual northern route, the Balloch roundabout was passed so we were now heading further up Loch Lomondside, I had a sneaking suspicion it would be in the Arrochar area but nope it wasn’t to be as we turned right at Tarbet. Heading further northwards to Crainlarich, I thought please no not Ardrain again !!! but soon we passed the Ardrain set off point and minutes later we arrived in Crainlarich, we turned right. More? nope, we passed and looked up the daunting relentless slopes of this fine hill. Onward then it became clear it was the Lawers area but what one ? Corranaich ? Tarmachan on a return trip ? nope, straight into the Ben Lawers car park. It was Lawers !!
Panic ? yep, I panicked…are you kidding ? remember my last time out ? I’ll tell your mum !! I’ll boot yer **** !!!
‘You’ll do it !’ he says casually, comforting words from the oldest in the family who will inherit my meagre pittance, I did text my youngest to tell her mum, HELP !!!!!
‘Move it, Bob’ he says and off we joining the merry throng who all seemed to set off at the same time….
My thoughts at that time ?
It’s just quarter after 10 so this looks like a 4pm activation, my mind was working overtime trying to remember the route as I had planned this at one point but after the last Munro, the idea was shelved.
It was pretty breezy as we headed through the Nature Area exiting through the last gate and on to the open hillside, the dress of some of the parties heading up was making my head shake with disbelief..
I’m not going to head off on a rant but it was like a walk along the beach for some. I spoke to one woman who was struggling and offered her a few wine gums(sugar fix), she said she had some chocolate biscuits and a near empty litre bottle of water. I think she retraced back just before Beinn Ghlas.
Off again I’m still ascending slowly as I do, a wee break then I walk more and a wee break. It works for me!
It was getting serious now and a constant ascent to the first Munro Beinn Ghlas, I stopped after the first 60 mins for a wee break and some scran ( for those gourmonds among you the choice(again) was Toast with mature cheese washed down with a cheeky little drop of Chateau Loch Thom (tap water)).
Off and upwards I headed with the mist and cloud rolling in, rather atmospheric I thought but it was that ‘smirry’ stuff which just clings to you, the one advantage was that the wind was almost directly behind me but even a hurricane cannot move me, I spoke to someone who was on the down and he assured me that the first summit was within easy reach. I headed upwards and soon heard Euan call me into a sheltered area, a wee scran break again.
Minutes later, another ‘Munro’ was bagged although it was pretty nondescript and unexciting but then you start heading down to the bealach, the ridge walk is good for the short time it lasts, a bit ‘airy’ to your left into the glen below whilst Meall Corranaich and Meall a’Choire Leith could be seen occasionally when the cloud lifted. I had thought Beinn Ghlas was only just over the basic ‘Munro’ height but my memory had failed me, it was 1103m.
Lawers was continually shrouded in scurrying cloud but I now thought that from the bealach I still had a 1000ft climb to the trig point although it was really a haul of approx 550ft which looked straight up. The wind was now strong and constant and I slowly worked my way up to the summit, the path was heavily eroded. ‘Not long now, big fella, only 10 mins to go’, Aye, right, I’ve heard this before but no, there it was ‘The Trig (and the nearby Direction Indicator). I thought as I was getting nearer it was moving backwards but no, Euan appeared and I finally reached out and touched the Trig point or to be honest used it to hold me up. The wind was now pretty horrendous, Euan had found a slightly sheltered area where I could use the 5 element 2m beam, I thought no 4m FM today unless I struggled with 2m FM which I did.
Our ubiquitous fellow blogger and my sometimes joint activator, Roddy 2MØIOB was waiting on my call, ten points to you !!. I know ‘giving’ ten chaser points and mentioning CS/001 just sounded so good. I never thought I’d manage a ten pointer. One contact down with three to go and boy, I struggled.
Next call in the log was Denis YDN who was near Girvan, we had a good chat and finally, I thought I better go and try and find more contacts. I called on S20, nothing so off through the band I looked and came upon Derek MIX who was activating Knott in the Lake District and once our beams headed in the right direction, a strong signal both ways, I had a quick chat and the conditions weather wise in the Lake District were much better but I guess as I was nearly at 4,000 ft, it would be different.
Off now to catch the fourth contact, this one would activate the hill fully for my points, Steven TMS in Fife answered my call, a chat about SOTA and I was off once more to find more contacts, it turned out to be only another one, Iain, MIM in the Falkirk area. I had a further search around the band, I could hear with a strong MØ station but my attempts to ‘break’ went unheeded, I also heard a Welsh accent very low in signal strength but as it was getting on, I dropped the beam and mast which had a mind of its own at times.Sadly 2m was not in good use this day.
Packed away it was time to head off the summit, windblown and slightly chilly we descended towards the bealach taking care on the steep eroded sections. We discussed our plan to head down the lower path avoiding the climb back up to Ghlas as this path looked a steady but gentle way down. The path was excellent, no erosion and a steady descent. A thought for ascent if one wasn’t ‘munro’ minded. We could now see both Meall Corranaich and Meall a’Choire an Leith and the ridge between them across the glen.
A slow but steady descent and suddenly views of Loch Tay and the Tarmachan ridge came into view. We entered the Nature Area and soon we arrived back at the car park. Time to head home……
I had done it !!!!!! another victory for this ancient overweight lump, number 10 on the Munro height list, only 270 odd to do.
What a day although I must say to be honest, the walk to Lawers starts at 440m and this is a great help, the path over Beinn Ghlas is pretty much in bad condition as is the final ascent to Lawers but visitors to both hills must run into thousands each year. The return path into Coire Odhar which we used which skirts to the north side of Beinn Ghlas is in excellent condition and if you decide not to bag Ghlas then it may be a better thought to use this path on your walk in.
My pack was lighter this trip as Euan had kindly carried my mast and beam and my much lightened box of tricks. I had carried extra food, water and clothing. It certainly helped, I wonder my progress would have slowed much with the extra equipment, I thought maybe slightly.
In the grand scheme of things SOTA, a ten point hill is the pinnacle, I have achieved one. I know that those who visit the blog have been on these lofty heights but for me, it was an achievement.
Sadly the constant cloud meant I could not have a panorama view from the top, I think I would have struggled to stand in the wind as well. The mist and cloud did not help the photo opportunities either.
I have posted a very short scan of the summit area.
Ben Lawers ( Beinn Labhair ) is 1412m ASL ( 3,983 ft) and is the ‘Hill of the loud stream ‘
is number 10 on the Munro list
Beinn Ghlas is 1103m ASL (3,619 ft) and it’s Gaelic meaning is the ‘Grey-Green Mountain’
is number 47 on the Munro list
Ben Lawers Geohack Info <HERE>