17 things I learned on a night-time hike of Ben Lomond
This week I hiked Ben Lomond again. I must have walked this Munro of 974m at least a dozen times. I usually follow a circuit, ascending the Ptarmigan route and returning via the “tourist path”. See Walk Highlands Ben Lomond route.
It was my second night-time hike of Ben Lomond and one of my favourite outings on this Munro.
As I walked I thought about the experience. I also enjoyed seeing the rewards gained by my friend Yvonne who confessed she was, at times, out of her comfort zone on this adventure. It was Yvonne’s first time hiking Ben Lomond and only her 11th Munro.
17 things I discovered on a Ben Lomond hike
1 No matter how many times you walk one mountain it feels very different each time. I have hiked it in sunshine, torrential rain, low cloud, high winds, gentle breezes, at night time, in snow – and with and without views. I have enjoyed every walk because they have each offered different challenges and rewards.
2 At night, with only a head-torch to guide you, the experience feels surreal. It’s as if you have walked into your own fairy tale. The senses are heightened and the quiet seems quieter.
3 While you can see less in terms of wide sweeping views the head torch creates a very focused beam that allows you to see much more of what is in front of you.
4 On a very dark night and with only a head torch to guide you, dark brown cows look like brown bears from afar.
5 When the potential big brown bear suddenly gets up from the ground as you pass it on a dark mountain it can give you a fright.
6 What feels like a beautifully calm night lower down the mountain can turn into a totally different scenario at 600m. The final 30 minutes of the Ptarmigan ascent of Ben Lomond was challenging because of winds that gusted to at least 50mph.
7 I have rarely been on the top of Ben Lomond in calm conditions. It’s an exposed peak and the winds often swirl around it at higher altitude. This time, however, I felt confident in my ability to reach the top without assistance from the G-Force.
Previously I would have held on to him to stay upright in high winds but I have learned, after walking more than 200 mountains in different conditions, that I am quite a strong walker and I can cope fairly well in winds up to 50mph.
If the wind gusts much stronger I would need to be made stable by someone else, but on Ben Lomond this week I was able to gift the G-Force’s rock solid stability to Yvonne because she needed him much more.
8 In time, Yvonne will realise that she can walk unaided in high winds. It was great for her to understand, even just a little, what lightweight women can cope with on the Munros.
9 Yvonne greatly impressed me with her resolve. She is new to Munro bagging and she was obviously out of her comfort zone when the winds picked up on the rocky path high up on Ben Lomond. Yet she later told me she had liked the “rich” experience.
She realised that she was in safe hands and that we would not have take her somewhere that was too dangerous. She was able to reflect that it was a mind-over-matter situation and in the future she will have more confidence when hiking.
10 When a friend stops talking while hiking they are either hungry or out of their comfort zone. Yvonne displayed both conditions and thanks to the experience of myself and the G-Force we were able to guide her to making better decisions. I hope we were not patronising, only helpful.
11 Switching off the head torches while standing still for a minute or so allows you to see far wider in the dark countryside. It was stunning to see far below to the night-time loch and across to a beautiful sky. The glow of Glasgow’s lights in the distance was very impressive.
12 A hike at night in autumn can be very cold and wet. But it can also be surprisingly warm. The recent warmer weather has been amazing and we were able to enjoy a relatively comfortable hike of Ben Lomond at night in the kind of kit I would expect to wear in summer.
I wore only a lightweight insulated jacket, the Salomon Drifter Mid Hoodie, over a long sleeved baselayer and I felt warm and dry for the entire four-hour hike. (Of course, we carried spare layers and waterproofs in our packs in case it did get cold.)
13 If the weather forecast predicts very windy and wet weather it might not always be true. You should respect the weather forecast but sometimes it’s worth taking a chance (you can always turn back f it gets too bad). The weather on our night-time hike turned out to be only a bit wet and the winds were quite strong but not too strong at the top of Ben Lomond. I am delighted we decided to go instead of staying at home to watch the TV.
14 A spare head torch is useful if you forget to turn your favourite Silva head-torch to lower beam. My head torch ran out of battery charge around 30 minutes from the end of the walk. I walked with the aid of Yvonne’s head torch and also with my iPhone torch.
15 It’s a treat drive to and from the foot of Ben Lomond at Rowardennan on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond in a new (on loan for a test-drive) Vauxhall MOKKAX. The 4X4 SUV grips the road and corners very nicely, smooths out the pot-holes on the roads approaching Rowardennan and offers some nice extra features such as heated seats and steering wheel, as well as Apple car play.
16 Apple car play is a fab thing. You plug your iPhone into the MOKKAX, via a recharging cable, and this allows the apps, including Google maps, messages, phone calls and music, to display on the front console. I was able to listen to an audio of a text message sent by Little Miss, stream my own iTunes music and make hands-free phone calls.
17 Pushing your limits creates more rewarding outdoors adventures. If you have walked a hill or mountain many times before, why not try hiking it at night? As long as you have the right kit and experience you’ll enjoy something that feels a lot more daring and exhilarating.