Fun, running and solo hikes on the Munros
In nine days I have run up and down a Munro, walked solo on another Munro and walked/run a third Munro. In between I have worked quite a lot and enjoyed a couple of nights of lovely wild camping.
Munro 1 was Ben Lomond. The most southerly of Scotland’s 283 mountains with a summit of more than 3,000ft and a very popular hiking destination. The G-Force and I have decided to increase out Munro bagging this summer and to speed up. When suitable we will aim to run Munros and so we decided to do a starter Munro run on Ben Lomond. Taking the Ptarmigan Ridge route on the ascent and the tourist trail on the descent we completed the whole outing in around 2 hours.
Running up was very tough on our legs and lungs and we had to stop at regular intervals to avoid collapse but thanks to fabulous weather the views across Loch Lomond offered great mental fortitude. Running down was also sore on our legs and ankles, but in a different way and by the time we reached the car again both of us were fairly broken. We agreed that with more training, Ben Lomond could only “get easier”!
Munro 2 was Bla Bhienn (Blaven) on the Isle of Skye. We were lucky to have chosen a weekend of fantastic sunshine for our short trip north last weekend. The G-Force had arranged to meet three friends, Mr Awesome, Just-Go-For-It Dowsa and Not-Too-Fit-Just-Now Nige, for a spot of wild camping and the chance to walk the Clach Glas Traverse. Scary ridge hikes are not my thing and so I opted instead to solo hike Bla Bheinn via the non-ridgy route.
Last year I achieved my goal of walking a Munro solo, Schiehallion, but I had chosen a Munro with a distinct trail to the top. Walking Bla Bheinn would require proper map use and without a straightforward path I faced the potential of getting horribly lost.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog you’ll know that navigation is not my forte (I blame my mum for my poor sense of direction) but having taken a few navigation courses and spent a few years walking Munros with the G-Force I figured I was ready for a solo Munro hike in good weather.
The clear sky and sun were a big advantage and I would not have taken on this Munro in bad weather on my own.
There is something extremely uplifting about being on your own, on a mountain and with the complete freedom to choose your own route. I had done my research and I had a good idea of various routes to the summit but there were still cliffs and drops to avoid and a little scrambling and mini climbs to tackle.
I felt a mixture of nerves, power, excitement and pure delight. I did have a few moments when I wondered if I’d veered to far off route but I was able to consult the map and assure myself I was going in the right direction. I met no-one else on the walk up and enjoyed the time that this allowed for my own thoughts. Being able to walk at my own chosen pace, stop whenever I felt like taking in the views, to eat something or to re-check the map felt wonderfully uplifting.
I arrived at the summit with a huge grin and ate lunch looking out over a truly fabulous view across to Skye’s infamous Cuillin. On the descent I encountered a number of other walkers, and I enjoyed telling them that this was my first proper solo Munro, with map an’ compass an’ all! As agreed, at noon, I took a call from the G-Force who was delighted to hear that I was safe and on my way back down.
I decided on a different route for the descent and loved being able to chose for myself which way to go. For the rest of the walk I basked in the knowledge that my experience on the Munros walking with the G-Force has turned me into a far more confident navigator and walker.
Munro 3 was Ciste Dhudh near Kintail. Having struck camp on Skye after completing Blaven – and while the boys were still on the ridge – we decided to head further south for another wild camping spot. This meant we would have less distance to travel to get home the following day. I’m not going to tell you our wild camp spot because we’ll use it again and we don’t want to arrive to find you taking up all the space. Suffice to say it was somewhere near Kintail.
With only a few hours spare to summit another Munro (we needed to be home for a family meal), the G-Force chose a short-ish outing to Ciste Dhubh. This walks begins at the Cluanie Inn car park on the A87. Various websites reckoned the walk would take up to 6hrs but we doubted this. We fast walked and sort of ran the ascent (the G-Force had a lot more energy than me for running!) and then ran all the way back down. We took less than 3hrs and thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic views, even more sunshine and the remote feel of a Munro that starts from the busy A87.
The walk takes in a Corbett and then heads to the Munro summit along a mini ridge and back again. On a section of this ridge we encountered a walker who looked as though he had been teleported on to the summit. I couldn’t believe how clean his boots and clothes looked and how fresh he seemed. This was a man in his 60s with immaculate walking clothing and not a single splat of mud on his boots. In contrast, the G-Force and I had boggy mud up to our knees. I wouldn’t normally comment on such things but when we stopped for a quick chat with the walker I asked him about his clean boots. Apparently, this was his second day of walking! He couldn’t understand why we should be so muddy!
It seems that we all walk mountains in different ways. While our route was more A to B-ish and we tended to stay off the rocky paths because they are more difficult to run, this walker had clearly spent a lot of time finding the driest and cleanest route to the top. I still can’t fathom how he stayed quite so clean and I’m convinced there was have been another route entirely that the G-Force and I somehow managed to miss.
I can’t wait to do more Munros this summer!