Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hillwalking

Scotland has hills and mountains, lots of them in fact.   There's a formal classification system too, based on height with Munros the tallest, Corbetts the next and then Gordons.

We tried ascending Ben Lawers in April reaching only Beinn Ghlas due to the wind, snow and lack of preparation.

However the weather is improving and i find myself kicking my heels from time-to-time so I decided to self-assess my fitness.

To start with I picked the southernmost Murno, Ben Lomond on a warm sunny Spring morning.  Ben Lomond is probably the most walked mountain in Scotland and it proved so as i met perhaps half a dozen people on the way up and three or four times that on the way back down.

You park at the end of the road at Rowardennan in a forestry commission car park for the princely sum of £3 for the day.  It has loos and everything.   The car park is alongside Loch Lomond affording very pleasant views:


As does the initial ascent, through woodland rich with the song of Wood Warblers, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Song Thrushes, etc.  Soon you head out of the woodland, still keeping the spectacular views:


The scenery is consistently beautiful in fact.  Although the stuff right in front can appear less pleasant:


I reached the top and was doing well until i looked back, the sky-path on my right was in fact the edge of sharp cliff-face:


In front the path narrowed to the short ascent to the summit, i reckon i was 50 metres from the trig point, i could see the two hill runners (!) who had passed me just minutes before taking pictures.   That was as far as i could take myself so I took in the landscape before heading down:



I reached the car park in 4 hours 35 minutes, having completed 8 miles there and back, all either up or downhill.  I ached for two days afterwards but also had a real sense of achievement.

The following week I decided to head out again.   My ideal ventures include a drive of roughly an hour, accessing the Southern Highlands, and a hill that is not considered either very hard to navigate or indeed ascend, my vertigo suggests actual climbing is a non-starter.

Anyway for my second trip I settled on Ben Venue or the 'small mountain'.   To reach the car park at Loch Achray (again Forestry Commission) you pass the beautiful Loch Venachar:


As you can see i'd picked another still slightly over-cast day for my walk.   I was the only car in the car park at 9 am, gulp!.   Again the hill starts in woodland alive with bird song, which makes for a very pleasant environment:


The first third of Ben Venue is steep paths through growing woodland, before you reach a section of felled woodland, this landscape accounts for the next third of the walk and while continually ascending it's very moderate.

Then you turn a corner and hey presto mountain scenery including waterfalls (it had rained heavily for the previous two days) and it is spectacular:


At one point after a scramble I turned around to look back into the valley i'd walked up:


As you get up to the top the landscape opens up and the walking becomes a combination of steep climbs, scrambles, crossing small bogs, etc:


 But it is worth it, the views are spectacular, particularly over Lock Katrine:


The tops are inhabited by Meadow Pipits and Northern Wheatears and you hear the odd Raven fly-by.but it definitely gets quieter the further up you go.

This time I got to the final climb to the trig point before turning around and heading back.  As I descended i heard voices, the first in three hours and finally encountered a small  group of walkers.  I met a further six people on my descent, nine in total.  I'd walked 8.75 miles in 4 hours and 3 minutes, a notably faster rate than the previous week.  I'd learned and taken two walking poles, which proved essential for some of the steeper parts of the descent.  The high waterproof boots were a boon too.   I do however need map, compass and GPS as evidenced when I realised I was on the wrong exit path and had to cross unmarked bog to make the main path again.

There aren't that many hills that will fit my specific criteria, but I intend to locate and ascend as many of them as I can, ideally with company too!

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