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First night-time Munro walk of Ben Lomond

Written by Fiona

October 27 2016

Munro bagging new-comer Yvonne writes about her first experience of night-time walking. She joined me, and the G-Force, on an after-dark hike of the Munro, Ben Lomond. This is what she thought of the experience.

Yvonne’s first night-time Munro

I will certainly never forget my 11th Munro. The first 10 have collectively and individually been the source of many challenges and happy memories. But the 11th, a night-time trek up Ben Lomond with a head torch on, will stand out as a night to remember, long into my old age.

I had never walked in the wilds in the dark before, far less climbed 974m with no daylight to guide me. I had never even donned a head torch. I can thoroughly recommend both.

I have to stress at the outset that I was accompanied on my little adventure by two of the most experienced Munro baggers I know, Fiona Outdoors and the phenomenal G-Force. Without them, I would never have embarked on it and, without them, I would not have made it safely to the top. I am forever in their debt.

It was already pitch black by the time we were kitted and booted at just after 7pm at the bottom of the hill at the Rowardennan car park on the shores of Loch Lomond. A quick comparison check of my head torch, the EDELRID Tauri, which Fiona had asked me to trial, revealed it was weaker than my fellow walkers’ higher-end, three-times-the-price, versions. But it seemed to fit securely and gave enough light for me to see where I was going.

(See full EDELRID Tauri review.)

Start of the walk. Fiona, Yvonne and the lovely Vauxhall MOKKAX 4x4!

Off-road posing: Fiona, Yvonne and the stylish Vauxhall MOKKAX 4×4!

It’s good to walk with others

Walking with experienced and fit walkers has many advantages when you’re a rookie Munro bagger. The downside is they set a pretty energetic pace and my heart was pumping as we tackled the first, steep stretch of the Ptarmigan route.

Before long, I knew I needed some fuel if I was going to keep up. Stupidly, I’d skipped tea, thinking we would stop for snacks and a hot drink half way up. With hindsight, I now know night-time Munro bagging is never going to be a picnic.

A fuel stop, rather than a picnic.

A fuel stop, rather than a picnic.

Fiona asked if I was scared walking in the dark. I said – in all honesty at the time – that, no, the dark didn’t scare me at all thanks to the torch which was quickly becoming my new best friend. In fact I was beginning to enjoy the calm stillness of the night and the views back down to where we could see rows of lights twinkling and a glorious sky.

All was going well until, with about half an hour to go to the top, the wind got up, just as we were reaching a rocky, scary bit. Now, a bit of wind I might just have been able to deal with; rocky, scary bits I am learning, by digging deep, to deal with.

But wind gusting up to 50mph, long stretches of rocky, scary bits and the pitch dark? I was well outside my comfort zone and panic set in.

The G-Force and Wispa the Wonder Whippet.

The G-Force and Wispa the Wonder Whippet.

It’s really good to walk with the G-Force

The G-Force guided me patiently upwards as I scrambled, stumbled and grumbled. At one stage (I have no idea how this happened) my hat and torch flew off. The hat was lost forever, but a bit of wind was never going to separate me and my torch. Once securely reattached to my head, thanks to the G-Force, it didn’t budge again.

I have never been so pleased to see the top of the summit. I hugged and kissed that trig point with more love than a trig point has ever deserved.

Quick Ben Lomond summit photo.

Quick Ben Lomond summit photo.

The walk down the tourist route was much calmer and beautiful and Fiona and I lapsed back into our walking-and-talking routine. The wind was still howling but I barely noticed it. In fact the scariest thing on the way down was a big black cow that we mistook, momentarily, for a bear. The darkness plays tricks on the mind, as well as the eyes.

My torch really was a star performer. Fiona’s expensive model, the Silva Trail Speed Elite packed in. (I’m no expert but my diagnosis would be that the charge run out due to user error. Word from FO: Yvonne is right. I meant to set the torch to slightly dimmed beam to conserve the battery. The 600 lumens is bright and brilliant but it can drain the battery quite quickly. The G-Force was using the same headtorch and his lasted easily to the end of the four-hour walk because he had remembered to change it from a full beam setting. That was my user error for sure.)

Meanwhile my my modest little friend, the EDELRID Tauri head torch with its 280 lumens, kept going strongly and, near the bottom, offered a guide for the two of us.

The right kit for walking. A Vauxhal MOKKAX boot nicely packed.

The right kit for walking. A Vauxhal #MOKKAX boot nicely packed.

Yvonne’s night-time Munro highlights

So what, Fiona asked me, did I learn from my first night-time Munro? Many things, but here are a few:

  • Night-time walking is a beautiful thing and an adventure you will never forget.
  • Staying safe is key and I would never embark on this, or anything outside my comfort zone, without the right kit and people who know what they’re doing and put safety first.
  • A good torch that fits well and gives you good light is crucial and doesn’t have to cost the earth. Fiona insists her more expensive model is much better but, either way, our experience shows you need a back up just in case the battery packs in.
  • Even when you are facing what feels like your toughest of challenges yet, with support, reassurance and encouragement, you can push through.
  • Replacing my boots is now urgent. I slipped in them a few times, which probably added to my sense of insecurity near the top. As of today they’ve been retired for easy walks and I am away to buy a new pair; in time for my next adventure.

Many thanks to Yvonne for writing this guest post for my website. It’s was a rewarding experience to see how much she enjoyed the outing despite her fears.

You can read my blog about the night-time hike of Ben Lomond.

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