Walking Ben Lomond on a winter’s evening
One evening recently, the G-Force and I had decided to walk up Ben Lomond. In the dark. The rain. And the wind. Our original plan for that evening had been a civilised trip to the cinema and a drink afterwards – but us being us, we reckoned that walking Ben Lomond at night would be a lot more fun!
I’ve walked Ben Lomond – Scotland’s most southerly Munro – several times. Once on a stunningly sunny day. Once on a murky afternoon. And another time I ran to the top and back down again. But last week’s summitting was by far the most epic.
Setting off at about 6pm from Rowardennan on the east shores of Loch Lomond, the evening felt warm-ish and the weather seemed good. Wispa the Wonder Whippet ran about in off-the-lead glee as we set an even pace upwards. We took the Ptarmigan Ridge route up and because it is fairly steep we quickly made height. Stopping for occasional breathers we looked back over our shoulders at stunning autumnal evening-lit views across the loch.
By the time we’d climbed two-thirds of the height of the Munro the weather had suddenly changed. The mist came down as the skies darkened. The wind whipped up and then came the rain. I felt quite scared to be on a Scottish mountain in darkness and mist – but there was also a huge sense of exhilaration. The G-Force and I have a lot of experience of walking Munros and we have navigated ourselves in very misty conditions before. We have occasionally walked the last hour or so of a winter hike in darkness. But I have never experienced almost the entire hike in darkness.
There is actually a well-trodden trail on Ben Lomond and with the aid of our head torches and Wispa’s amazing ability to find the route, we didn’t have much difficulty finding our way to the top. There are some sections of slippery (and snowy) rock to scramble up but nothing challenging. But the wind did grow in power as we climbed higher and we were forced to stop to add several layers of clothing. Wispa wore her winter fleecy jacket, too.
At the top the mist was very thick and we needed to be careful to locate the “tourist” route back down. We didn’t stay for long at the trig point – and quickly began to descend. But in the mist and heavy rain the descent was much slower than our usual pace. The path seemed to be steeper than I recall – and the wet rocks were slippery.
Somehow we found a rhythm and we enjoyed the chance to catch up on our chat (we wouldn’t have been able to do this at the cinema!). Wispa stayed close and never once complained about the wind, wet and distance. It did seem to be that the descent was longer than the ascent but perhaps it was the worsening weather and some tiredness that saw us taking the longest we ever have to walk Ben Lomond.
Many people have asked us: “Buy why?!”
Our answers are many. For a challenge. To test ourselves in difficult conditions. Because going to the cinema is too ordinary. Because it was Thursday and we were free to do whatever we fancied. Because we like hiking hills together. Because it keeps us fit. Because, well, just because it’s great to do more extraordinary things!
The other thing we found out was that my Gore-tex Active Shell jacket has the most amazing reflective detailing! This means it is ideal for running and walking on darker evenings.