22 Oct 2006 : The Fatdog takes the Tourist Route to Ben Lawers
22 October 2006
At last a chance to see the hills. With a forecast of 80% chance of a view from the Munros in the South Eastern Highlands it was too good a chance to miss. A minor tickling cough was not going to deter me!
The Fatdog and I arrived at the National Trust Ben Lawers Car Park around 11.15am. I grabbed one of the few remaining spaces and headed out for Beinn Ghlas. Sunshine at last…well almost. A bit of low cloud was hovering above Loch Tay creeping its way up the hill then floating off into the blue above. Beinn Ghlas was bathed in sunshine as we merrily strode through the National Trust planting.
The hill was becoming full of walkers as we ambled up the first of section of open hillside. One hour after setting off I could focus only on the rocky path in front of me as I plodded, and finally crawled, up the zig-zag path on the first steep part of the hill. I thought after 6 weeks walking I would perform better than this. It was too early in the day to feel this bad. Admittedly I didn’t have G with me to keep my pace regulated and The Fatdog was determined to beat any standing ascent record but let’s face it, it should have been a lot easier! Catching my breath I looked back down the slopes of Beinn Ghlas to the car park below. That’s a lot of cars!
Amazing though, how much heart you get from reaching the top! I could feel an insane grin break out across my face as I staggered the last few steps onto the summit of Beinn Ghlas.
It doesn’t matter how bad the climb, there’s always that sense of euphoria and there’s always next one to look forward to. Bring it on! And there it was…straight down the ridge and up the other side; Ben Lawers.
OK, I was tired but I had Views!!!. Hadn’t seen Views before. I could see all the surrounding hills…Meall Corranaich, Meall nan Tarmachan. This was something special. Views were wot happened to those other lucky sods with their blue sky photographs and their never ending ridges! But we’d got some at last…we now had the blue sky photographs and the never ending ridges and “Oh sh**!”, a bloody great cloud bank sweeping in behind us and heading our way.
Down from Ben Ghlas we hurtled, hoping for a bit of momentum to get a head start up Ben Lawers. That lasted for about 10m up the start of the slope. The legs just weren’t there. It was going to be a long afternoon.
As we intermittently staggered, crawled and collapsed up the Ben I looked behind to see my beautiful, bright blue day disappearing in a swirl of dirty cloud. The race was on! It was a valiant effort but to no avail. We were only 30m from the rocky summit when a final surge from the cloud swept it past us to engulf the peak. As we lurched onto the top the much hoped for Views to the east and south were extinguished as the surging cloud layer raced past and over. As I collapsed onto a convenient rock I could see flashes of Lochan nan Cat and Loch Tay, but my Views had gone.
Never mind I suppose 2 Munros wasn’t a bad trade off. I broke out the tea but couldn’t face the roll. The Fatdog was hugely disappointed…2 Munros and only 1 Bonio. Life’s a bitch!
Strange, I thought, it’s 2pm, I’ve climbed 2 hills and I’m not hungry? Hmmm?
The summit was now occupied by 4 walkers, 2 labradors and a retriever. Total anarchy, with the dogs playing a version of tig among the rocks. Time to move on. But it’s euphoria time again. Now where’s An Stuc? It’s truly amazing how the brain ceases to work at 1200m above sea level. I barely made it up the last 2 and I’m now considering a 3rd? I swatted the little demon on the shoulder and headed back for the car.
Half way down Ben Lawers The Fatdog suddenly lurched off to the left heading south in quite determined fashion. Thoroughly pissed off at only one Bonio she’d decided to forage for herself. Not the rabbit crap again, I thought. No, the expert forager had sensed far bigger game…half a ham roll discarded by person or persons unknown! It is possible that she just butted the previous owner over a crag to get it. I don’t suppose we’ll ever discover the truth.
We followed a track from the ridge heading along the valley (to the north of Beinn Ghlas) to the Coire Odhar. It’s an easy plod along and down the N side of the hill saving the trek back up and over Beinn Ghlas. The landscape changed at Coire Odhar from burn valley to peat bogs and stagnant pools. We were about half way back to the car when my legs just about gave out and we were reduced to an amble. By this time (3.15pm) I realised that I hadn’t eaten since 9.00am! I still wasn’t hungry but managed to force down half a roll and a couple of bits of chocolate. The Fatdog appreciated the remainder of the squashed bread cheese and tomato mash.
As we looked back NE to the hills they were bathed in beautiful blue sky with the dropping sun casting dramatic, sharp shadows. Where had those bloody clouds gone!
I gave a couple of dry coughs and we headed back to the car park. Strange my throat was starting to feel a bit sore.
I’m writing this on a sick day. By the time I arrived home I was totally knackered. Head and throat were complaining bitterly and my eyes were meeting in the middle. That little tickling cough at the start of the day…full blown virus by late evening.
Anyway…here endeth the exploits of myself and The Fatdog on Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers. I’m off to get another Lemsip.