Tuesday, June 20, 2017

183. Ben Vorlich (229). 17/06/2017.

On the event of Ben's (a frequent walking partner) stag do, the best man gave me the remit of 'sorting out some Scottish stuff', so it was off to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond for hills, haggis and whisky.

Frequent readers will recall an episode from 2013 where Ben helped organise my own stag do, but where we ended up climbing the wrong Ben Vorlich (some 40 miles away by Loch Earn) from the one he had planned. By a cruel twist of fate (and pure chance), this time we decided to climb the right one. This of course caused Ben huge embarrassment and he opted to climb the hill in disguise so that nobody would recognise him.

Trying to find a hill that caters for all abilities and is accessible on a weekend trip from London is a delicate operation, but this one ended up a fairly good choice. It was perhaps steeper in parts than the easiest munros and with more ascent, but we could find accommodation right at the foot of the hill and a good chunk of the distance was along a tarmacked track.

The weather couldn't be helped, but at least the persistent drizzle did fade later on and the high winds we were expecting on the top were more manageable than expected. The fog was pea soup from halfway up though, as promised.

I took on all the facets of a mountain guide by walking too fast, demonstrating navigational errors, helping members of the party solve their maths puzzles, answering everyone's questions about the local flora and fauna, providing gentle encouragement in the shape of turkish delights, safeguarding the group with 9-year-out-of-date midge repellent (that seemed more to engage the midgies' curiosity than repel them) and outright lying about how little there was left to climb. But all 10 of us made it up and down in one piece (and in more or less good spirits), so some of my methods must have been a success. Our porter (Ben) had very kindly offered to carry a couple of cans of beer to the top for each of us, so we made sure we cracked these open in the mist for some well earned rehydration.

Those who hadn't done a lot of hillwalking coped very well and maybe one or two may even climb again in Scotland. Other walkers on the hill seemed amused by our antics, but hopefully not offended - we of course got Ben to carry away all our empties!

 A moment of clarity on the descent for a victory shot

A possible yeti sighting at the summit

The atmospheric Ben Vane across the glen

181, 182. Beinn a'Chleibh (281), Beinn Laoigh (28) 31/05/2017.

After being in danger of spending a week in Scotland without climbing a hill, I was pleased to be able to find a day of cracking weather and a willing companion to take Elodie up her first Munro (and her second too).

Hilde and Hamish were off to the Scottish Sealife Centre and practicalities would be simpler if we were down off the hill in 5 hours so they could pick us up again on the return journey, so we didn't dawdle (or kept it to a minimum at least - a small amount of dawdling is inevitable with a baby).

Hamish had been very happy in the backpack at a similar age for up to 4 hours at a time, but there was no telling whether his sister would be similar. It turned out if anything she enjoyed it more, keeping very quiet for most of the walk (a mixture of absorbing the scenery and taking naps after all her hard work) and there was barely a whinge until the last 20 minutes or so.

This walk starts with a fairly interesting river crossing - I mean it's relatively easy without a baby on your back, but boots off wading followed by limboing under a 4 foot high bridge under the railway kept me on my toes (although not literally). After that there was a slightly damp walk through the forest, although it was by no means bad and then a good path up the corrie to the bealach between the two peaks. We could have gone to either peak first, but chose Ben a'Chleibh to break up the ascent slightly. Only just a Munro, but with great views of its neighbour and beyond, Chris and I couldn't quite understand when we later found it had been ranked one of the least popular in Scotland.

The walk along the ridge and up the additional 200m to Ben Laoigh was pleasant in the afternoon sunshine and conditions were very good underfoot. We were back in time to meet our lift back down south. Apart from a few stops for milk and pureed fruit (all for Elodie), the backpack didn't slow us much, but with 1100m of ascent I think this was the most I'd done carrying a child, so I felt it in my legs the next day!

 Chris congratulating Elodie on her first Munro

 Ben Laoigh, somewhat higher than Beinn a'Chleibh

Elodie admires the steep drops between naps 

Rambling back to the bealach