Little Miss Munro bags her first Munro
We chose the Ptarmigan Ridge route to reach the summit of Ben Lomond yesterday. It was eight-year-old Poppy Munro’s first Munro and rather than “simply” walk the easier tourist path to the top of the 974m mountain, close to Loch Lomond in the southern Highlands, she decided she liked the idea of a “wee scramble” at higher altitude.
Poppy told me later: “I liked the rock scramble bit but it would have been better if that had been earlier in the walk because then I would have had more energy.”
Despite being so young, Poppy, who lives in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, with her mum Lynsey, dad Tony, older brother Noah and younger brother Finn, never complained about the effort and energy required to summit Ben Lomond.
I had told her the Ptarmigan route was “tougher and gnarlier but more rewarding” and Poppy loved the idea of this. She also knew that we would return on the easier tourist path.
Rain, sunshine, cloud, more sun and heat
The weather forecast had been promising with plenty of sunshine, yet as we – Poppy, Lynsey, a friend Lucy and myself – set off in the morning to drive to Rowardennan at the base of Ben Lomond, Scotland’s west coast gave us heavy rain.
Gazing upwards, we could see clouds covering most hills and the Ben was nowhere to be seen.
Brilliantly, as we started the walk (we parked at the very useful “Ben Lomond over-spill car park”) the rain stopped and the sun started to shine. Within only half an hour of walking, we were all feeling much too hot.
The air was still and humid and if we stopped we were eaten by midges.
After walking along the shore of Loch Lomond, we joined a hill path that headed upwards with very little relief. For Poppy, the slope must have seemed very steep and endless on her small legs, yet she showed resolve and there was no hint that she wanted to stop or turn back.
She asked for water, snacks and occasional breathers but her pace was very grown up.
At higher altitude, the cloud sometimes swirled in and around us, bringing a welcome cooling mist and a bit of a breeze.
Lynsey had been telling Poppy how good the view would be from the top of the mountain but her daughter decided that she would prefer cloud “because the cloud would be nice and cool”.
The final push to the summit
Having walked and run Ben Lomond many times before, I knew there were several false summits and then a steep and rocky push to the top. I am sure Poppy was wishing the summit would come more quickly but she continued to show great determination and never whinged.
I could hear her following closely behind me, breathing hard, enthusiastically chatting about the climb and making it clear she had no doubt she would be reaching the trig pillar.
And, then, there it was just ahead.
We encouraged Poppy to walk ahead and to touch the trig first. She was grinning and her face was alight with pride. “It feels good,” she said when I asked her about her achievement.
I could feel my heart bursting for her. Everyone remembers their first Munro and this experience will be one Poppy will treasure for the rest of her life.
I was also impressed by how seemingly easily Poppy had bagged her first Munro. The full walk was 14km and just over 1000m of total ascent.
An enjoyable – but busy – descent
As we walked and, at times, ran the path back to the car park, Poppy told me she had her next Munro in mind already. She had been talking to her dad about doing Ben Chonzie in Perthshire.
Of course, there are many children who enjoy Munro bagging and the youngest known child to complete a full round is Daniel Smith, of Glasgow, who had bagged them all by the time he was nine. However, there are many other youngsters who would be far less enthusiastic about such activities and it’s so refreshing to spend time with a child who very much loves spending time outdoors.
The path downhill was very busy with people walking uphill although it did have the advantage of a cooling breeze. We decided our route had been better because while it is more challenging to ascend by the ridge, it had been far less crowded.
I am now looking forward to hearing about Poppy’s second Munro.
When you are blessed with the same name as the creator of the Munros list it seems only right that you should want to experience a few of Scotland’s most famous mountains.
I am proud of you Poppy Munro, aged eight.
What are the Munros?
The Munros – which extend to 282 mountains in Scotland with a summit of more than 3000ft (914m) – were originally conceived in 1891 by Sir Hugh Thomas Munro, 4th Baronet, who was a British mountaineer.
Many people enjoy ticking off a full list of the Munros and the first and last Munros always have fond memories.
The difficulty grading of the Munros is wide ranging, from “easier” mountains with well-trodden tracks to the top, to very remote mountains that can take a day even to reach the base, to summits located on exposed ridges.
You can read about my last Munro.