Climbing Ben Lomond

The plastic poncho was flapping wildly in the wind and the hood was vibrating with a high pitched whine against my eye. The sleet still made its way under the thin plastic and snaked its way down my arms. I reminded myself again, that I was doing this on purpose and I was in fact, on holiday. This may not have been fun but it was satisfying. Life doesn’t always have to be fun but I am a firm believer in satisfaction, despite what Mick might  say.

Ben Lomond at 974 ft,  is one of the great Munros of Scotland. A short and easy drive from Glasgow ensures it popularity. There are two ascent routes, the “tourist” route and the more difficult climb via the Ptarmigan Trail. I like a challenge so decided to do the second trail. Halfway up, I decided that perhaps that wasn’t such a good idea! All the way up I was expecting a welcoming crew with champagne on hand and a helicopter to whisk me back down! Due to budgetary cut backs my welcoming party were two young Poms who were happy to chat and take a photo for me.

I did it! 3 ½ hours!

Invincible and in the fog almost invisible!!

I passed no-one else on the trail and no-one overtook me. The path is very easy to follow in that you can see it at all times.  It is well worn and although in some areas you scramble over the rocks, the track is never out of view. At no time did I feel like I needed to make a decision on where to go – that was easy – just go UP! I do strongly recommend that you used hiking poles as there are a lot of big step-ups and while manageable it would have been much easier with poles. It is a steep ascent, with switchbacks to ease the climb but the contour lines are VERY close together.

Each time I thought I was at the top and ready to celebrate, the mist revealed another, taller peak behind it. “Will this never end?” The black faced sheep seemed amused at my mutterings. “Baaa no lady – you have a ways to go yet.”

The sign board in the car park warns you to be well prepared for changes in weather and boy were they right about that. At first, it was sunny and I took off all my top layers. In 10 minutes it was raining so out comes the over jacket which kept me dry but made me feel like I was in a furnace. I switched to the plastic, disposable rain poncho which kept me dry and cooler. In the last 500m, I needed to swap this out for the over jacket again because it was in danger of turning into a sail and pushing me off the mountain!

The walk down – ha! A doddle in comparison. A gentle grade most of the way but the rain had made the stones slippery and care was still needed. This route was like a highway and I passed at least 70 people making their way to the top. I t’sked at those in shorts and t-shirts with no apparent outerwear. “Oh dear!” I said to myself “you’re gonna freeze when you get to the top!”

I used this Map (link to download) although Google maps worked well and the signal was very strong at the top.

DON’T do this walk if you do not have a good level of fitness. I’m 58 and my fitness for my age is good but unless you are doing regular exercise and walking this will be a challenge too far!

(video to follow when I have better internet!)

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