Time for my first 10 pointer…
The weather looked fantastic so I was off up the M9 towards Stirling then A84 for Callandar and Lochearnhead. As usual there was no traffic on the M9 but the A84 made up with a large heavy load and the usual plague of tourists driving at 40mph and gasping at the view. Yes, gasp at the views because they’re lovely, but don’t dawdle, man on another mission behind you!
I parked in the NTS Ben Lawers visitor centre. With good parking you can get over 80 cars in here. Shame the Dutch guy managed to take up 3 spaces There were 57 cars in the car park when I arrived at 11:10am and all you could see were a trail of brightly coloured ants in the distance on the path and it looked very steep. Still you can see the summit of Beinn Glas, the first target at 1103m. Not too bad as the car park is at 430m. The car park costs £2. A bargain considering the work done by the NTS to stop erosion. There’s another car park further up the Bridge of Balgie road that’s free. Don’t be a cheapskate like some of my friends, pay the NTS!
The route starts through the nature reserve which shows what the ground would be like without millions of sheep and deer grazing away. Out through the deer gate at the top and follow the path. You can’t get lost. The path is like a motorway. In places you can see rocks that have been polished smooth by the number of boots that come this way. Not too far after coming out of the deer gate, there’s a huge boulder and the path splits. Left takes the lower route that goes up the Coire and round the back of Beinn Glas up onto the col between in and Ben Lawers, right goes over Beinn Glas. Right it was.
This path zigs and zags and zigs and… you get the picture. It was steep and never ending. I noticed early on that after the previous day’s exertions I had no zing in my legs. They started complaining early on and at first I thought I was not going to be able to complete this. I looked at the fact that Ben More at 1174m was in the mist and though that Ben Lawers at 1214 would be well covered. Still the weather was good with on 50% cloud and I stopped being all girlie, had a banana and grimaced on upwards.
After a lifetime I reached the ridge at NN621396. The wind was very strong but the views were fantastic. Still loads of people climbing but I met a few coming back who said the summit was in and out of cloud. Looking good There’s a level bit which came as a relief and I stopped and had my butties at NN621398, sheltering from the wind behind a big rock. It taken about an hour and half to get to here. After 10 minutes I set off up. It felt quite exposed and the climb is steep over rocks. You can’t miss the path but I wouldn’t fancy it in rain or ice, but that’s because I’m a big softy! All of sudden you can sense you’re near the summit. One last pull and you’re there. Wow! A small cairn and the path descends. Of course you get to see Ben Lawers for the first time aswell. All the effort was worth it just for this view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf/1130611190/ Oh, and you can see Tinto Hill. You can see Tinto from just about every summit I’ve been up. You can probably see Tinto from the summit of K2!
I took some photos and watched the summit of Ben Lawers disappear. Hmmm! Down the path and along the ridge. The wind was blowing left to right in that photo, straight across the ridge. Now here’s the funny bit, I don’t like heights if I can fall down! You might well ask what I was doing up these slightly exposed bits. A question I often ask myself. Anyway, it was a fantastic feeling looking into the glen towards Carn Gorm CS-019. At the other side I did notice my heart going faster than the walking should dictate, I think I need some more ridge walks!
So if Beinn Glas was steep, Ben Lawers was steeper. Up, up and up. The path is well worn and you can’t go wrong, snow and ice excepted. The wind was howling now and I needed to use a hand or two but this isn’t really a scramble, just me being inept. Then the rain came. I sheltered as best I could in a depression near NN632413 for about 10 mins. The wind and rain was too horrible to move in. Then the rain was gone and upwards still. Now I’ve looked at lots of photos of this summit and I realised I was almost there and then, bingo! This is a a small summit. Room for a trig point, a view indicator and about 10 people. Nowhere to operate from. I went back down a little and found a grassy area just off the path and setup.
I was cold and wet now. I had my Summer gloves but not my waterproof ones. So this was to be a bit of a quick activation. No real problems setting up apart from the wind. There’s lots of soil,peat,grass to push tent pegs into. 60m played for me and with another heavy shower I decided that was it, I wanted off. During the activation the sun had popped through the cloud and it was warm but windy. But I really had had enough when I worked the last stationon 60m. It took me ages to pack up as I had cold hands and then down. The path looks worse going down because the cloud was thinner and you can see how steep it is! Anyway I managed to not fall though I attempted to twice. A few moments of positive thinking and I didn’t put a foot wrong again, just a little more care for exactly where I was treading.
Back at the col it was blustery but out of the mist. I took the other path back. This descends around the back of Beinn Glas to meet back at the big boulder by the deer fence. There were some great views down into the glen and also the gorgeous cone of An Stuc appeared into view. The walk back is nice and easy. Nothing too steep and the path is excellent. Softies can always come this way to Ben Lawers missing out Beinn Glas. Just a pleasant walk out back to the car park. In the occasional sunny period and the brisk wind, everything including the rucsack was dry when I got to the car.
I had considered going on to do Meall Garbh CS-004 which is about an hour further on the ridge. But that does mean going over An Stuc and the East side is a bit tricky according to work colleague. It’s best done East to West. Anyway, I was kidding myself if I thought I could get up to the summit of Ben Lawers again on the return, I’m still nowhere fit enough. Still the full Ben Lawers ridge is now something to aim for. That’s 5 Munros and 3 Marilyns, CS-001, CS-004 and Meall Grieg CS-029 on the Lawers ridge… 28 points on offer. More training needed and two cars and some good weather. Next June/July possibly?
Well worth the effort and having doubled my Munro count to 2 yesterday I doubled it to 4 today. Does that mean I have to do 4 tomorrow?
Distance walked: 6.2miles, ascent 890m/2919ft, distance driven 183miles.
Picture stream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf