At 3295 feet, glowering over the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond is Scotland's southern-most Munro. (*) Today was the day we would pause our northerly march to climb it. After a rubbish breakfast of cereal, bad rolls, and bad fruit (that blighted YHA!), and a careful scanning by Tim of today's Mountain Weather Forecast, we set out.
We'd be taking, rather than the drab and plodding main route up, the alternate 'Ptarmigan Route'. This ascends via the subsidiary summit of Ptarmigan (at 2398ft), then follows the steep north-west ridge between the two peaks. Lots of rocky scrambling and dramatic scenery. And with that, I'll shut up and just give you the pictures and video. (In part because it was impossible to take notes for much of the climb.)
Just two last notes: the video above was a blast to make but, like the Cattle-in-the-Path video, except a lot more so, it wildly over-dramatizes things. It was very windy on the mountain, and we were up above the cloud line, but otherwise it was just a day hike. Tim says I made it look like Kilimanjaro (which, at literally five times the height of Ben Lomond, Tim actually has climbed) while I maintain it looks more like the North Face of Eiger. In any case, I got carried away dramatizing is fun. Sue me. Finally:
Since it has been made abundantly clear to me that people pretty much only look at the pictures anyway, I thought I'd make it easier for you. Groups of images now have Flikr-slideshow-style forward and back arrows, so you can just flip on through (rather than endlessly popping them open and closed). Also, they will sometimes have captions. I figure you'll read a caption. ;^)
Death Before Disrobing
Foothills of the Foothills
Bad-Ass? Or Old Man?
Them Thar Hills
Watch Footing? Or Screw Around With Camera?
The Highlands Bounty Hunters Close In
"Maybe It's Best We Didn't Bring Mark Along"
Approaching The Cloud Line - Like With Skeet In The Rif Mountains
"Thanks, Joe and Laura!"
They Weren't Kidding About The 50mph Winds On The Ridges
Now I've Even Got My Sunglass Strap On This Would Be Harder Blind
"One Thing You Didn't Think You'd See Anytime Soon: Flat"
We're In A Groove Now Or Is It A Rut?
Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah
False Summit; False Snow; False Sense of Security
"I Wonder If I Can Pick Up An 8gb Memory Card . . ."
Because I'm An Idiot . . .
Because We're Idiots . . .
Grass Is For Knees
Now This Bit Looks Like A Mountain
Our Mountain Redoubt
Our Mountain Redoubt Redux
The Final Push
Cool Guys Kicking It On The Summit
We descended, as you can see below, via the boring and well-maintained tourist path. On our way down, we passed a couple of interesting things worth commenting upon.
The first interesting thing was a team of two path maintainers (and their dog)! It hadn't occurred to us that someone would be employed to go up and down the mountain working on the path. We chatted with them a bit, to find out what they were doing.
They had spades and shovels and other implements and, mainly, were digging and throwing rocks around on the edges of the path. This was to keep people from straying from it, essentially creating terrain that encouraged sticking to the straight and narrow. One of the conservation goals is to have one nice path up the mountain, rather than dozens of muddy, ragged, eroded tracks.
Because of my knee situation, I'd been walking down two feet off the official path on the nice soft grass, rather than the hard, sharp, punishing rocks. Until we got in sight of these guys, of course.
I tried to make a bit of a case that it's rather absurd to think the mountain cares whether it has one path up it, or twenty, and that the wildlife had been making their own paths for centuries, and would keep doing so, etc. Also that I did care about the mountain path, but not as much I was obliged to care about my own knees. But it was a bit of a losing case, at least as far as Tim was concerned, I think.
The second interesting thing was gaggles of hill walkers who hadn't gotten out of bed as early as we did and much more critically for them hadn't checked the mountain weather forecast. Because Tim had done done just that, he was in a position to know that heavy weather would be rolling in during the afternoon, and so had gotten us started climbing very early. And while we were now walking down out of the incoming storm, the muppets on the tourist path were schlepping straight up into it. Ha ha ha!
In an echo of his earlier master stroke, Tim also spotted the imminent storm behind us, reckoned its speed, and stopped us to Gore-tex up. While we changed, we watched the woefully underprepared file by including one Canadian guy in a short-sleeved shirt. (Granted, maybe he was from Saskatchewan and a hardy son of a bitch.)
By the time we hit the pub which was much lovelier in the day, and nearly empty, and playing some nice Bruce Springsteen, and especially nice after we had just climbed a mountain the rain was pissing it down. It really all was a master stroke of planning and timing. (Tim's.)
Tim also made a great call in suggesting we go straight to the pub (rather than the YHA). Of course, that's pretty much how it used to work back in the day: you were traveling, you were hungry and thirsty and tired, you were coming in out of the weather you went to the public house.
In a final pleasing coda on an altogether great day, we returned to our room to find the Human Lump had checked out. And the horrible smell had nearly completely gone with him. I was less pleased to have been right than I was to be able to breathe.
[I am teh fail - Ed.] (hide)