Three teens, two grown-ups and a whippet go walking
I knew that Little Miss Outdoors had a very large capacity for talking. But I had no idea that this non-stop chat – mixed with giggling and girlie screaming and squealing – could extend to a one-hour car journey, a four-hour hill climb, an hour in a cafe and an hour’s drive home. But it did. The sound of her chat, mostly shared with her two good pals, Lucie and Liv, was actually a delight to hear.
Despite a long-ish climb (made longer by the girls’ numerous stops to take off layers, add layers, eat snacks, drink water and whatever else they found to do while walking) and a seemingly slower descent, the three teenie girls were delightful hill walking companions for the G-Force, Wispa the Wonder Whippet and I.
I have always been keen to encourage Little Miss into the hills and she has walked more than her fair share of trails and mountains in Scotland but this has normally been preceded by a lot of moaning and groaning. On Sunday, however, our planned outing to Ben Ledi seemed be excite Little Miss and her pals as much as a day at the shops (and Little Miss and her pals love shopping!).
With instructions about the kit to wear – and bring – as well as the difficulties that we might expect, such as snow, cold and tired legs, the girls were well-prepared for the walk amid some of Perthshire’s most beautiful countryside.
Ben Ledi is a popular route because of its proximity to the tourist town of Callandar and thanks to the easily found trail to the top. But with a covering of snow, and more snow showers forecast, the Corbett (one of the 221 Scottish mountains with a summit of at least 2,500ft) the walk in autumn and winter can prove tricky. Our aim was to have fun – and if at any point the outing became too testing or unsafe we would turn straight back.
Walking up Ben Ledi does test your fitness. Some parts of the trail are fairly steep and there is little let-up for burning leg muscles. Although the girls did mention that it was a long walk up they didn’t complain and simply walked at their own chatting pace, stopping to enjoy the views or eat snacks etc. The top third of Ben Ledi was cloud covered but every so often the clouds would part to reveal breath-taking views of the valley and lochs below. Aged 13 and 14, the girls seemed to have reached an age where they really appreciate fabulous views. Every time the clouds parted they would oooh and ahhh with us grown-ups.
Just because they are teenagers, doesn’t mean the girls were less excited about the snow. Coming across your first snow of the season is always a thrill – whatever your age – and the girls were suitably excited. The snow did make the walk slower and the G-Force and I kept a careful eye on the navigation. We would often find that we had walked off a bit faster than the teenage trio (it was almost impossible to walk slow enough!) but we stopped frequently to make sure they could see us, follow the right route and catch up. In any case, we could always hear their chatter and laughter behind us!
The summit of Ben Ledi took me by surprise last time, and again on Sunday. After what seems like an age of a climb, you suddenly see the marker for the highest point at 879m (2,883ft). A stop for lunch showed the girls just how quickly you can feel the cold. Thankfully I’d stuffed my rucksack full of extra layers, waterproof trousers and gloves so I was able to keep them all warm.
The waterproof trousers proved a vital part of the descent. Determined to slide as much as they could on their bums, the trio squealed, screamed and giggled their way from the top to the muddy edges of the snow further down the slope. It was difficult not to laugh at the high pitched girlie screams as they descended behind us. They nick-named the sport Wild Bum Sledging – and seemed as happy as they could possibly be on a wintery afternoon.
As usually happens, the tiredness and sore muscles begin to show on the final third of the walk. Little Miss realised that her Hi-tec walking boots are now too small for her (Hi-tec have kindly said they will send us out a new, larger pair!) and she complained a little about her toes banging in the end of her boots. The sledging meant the girls were soaked through and so we had to swap the gloves around to make sure their hands didn’t suffer.
But still they could be heard, chatting and laughing as we finally approached the forest at the start/end of the out-and-back route. With glowing cheeks and smiling faces we headed to the fantastic Scotch Oven in Callandar. Cakes and hot drinks helped to restore the energy used up by walking, talking sledging and laughter.
We’re all looking forward to the next walking trip.