I've been on holiday and was dying to get out walking and so that's what i did. I'd been checking the weather all week and there were showers, 30% chance of a clear munro top, slight chance of thunder/lightning all week and so Saturdays forecast looked best.
Friday night was spent getting my bag ready but still it managed to look bulky and heavy. It wasn't that heavy but no matter what i do i still can't get it down. The equipment must be wrong...
anyhoo here's what was in it this time.. along with 1.5 litres water in a platypus and 2 Leki walking poles.
I set off from home a bit later than I'd wanted but got to the car park at Rowardennen around 9.55am. The car park was mobbed and I was lucky to get a space. After getting my stuff ready I set off about 10.10am and headed along towards the youth hostel. I headed up the path through the wooded area and steadily up the slopes. It's only been about 5 weeks since I was here with PTC* but I wanted to go out walking by myself to gauge my own pace and I'm not brave enough to go it alone on new ground so the familiar seemed the best idea. I mean I fly solo up Dumyat most weekends but it only takes about 40 minutes and is not a real test.
I heard a few voices up ahead of me. It was a family group and grandad, 2 sons and 2 s grandsons. I'd be yoyoing with them up and down Ben Lomond all day. They were a nice bunch of folks. We were the only ones going up this way and i liked it that way. The crowds that were at the car park must have gone the other way - the easy way! Yes! As i headed up i had a wee break took some pics. It was a clear day right enough, the sun was hot but the clouds gave some respite. The wee breeze was also welcome. I tied my hair back as it's soon becomes a distraction so better to have it off the face when your internal heating system goes up a degree or two. I set off again up and was recognising areas and features from my previous hike up here. It seemed just as nice in the daytime but I'll bet the sunset would be braw tonight. A funny thing happened though, at one point i looked up and saw some smoke billowing up. I was curious. As I got closer i could hear voices coming from the bushes. Turns out it was a young couple having an early morning barbecue breakfast. We exchanged pleasantries and I walked on. I couldn't see a tent so not sure if they camped or had walked up early on. It looked like romance was in there. Perhaps he was proposing to her! Ah see that's my girly romantic side coming out.
After walking a bit further I caught sight of the rock where we'd had our dinner that night and I made that as my next target. I was sat there having a wee snack of an apple at about 11.30am so it'd took me about an hour and a half to get there - not bad I think. Now you know I'm not into book times or anything like that but this was a personal test to see if this 'slow' thing i have in my head is in fact all in my head or am i indeed really slow. Judging by this i don't think i am. I'd stopped a couple of times for a drink, a comfort break and to take some pics so this was alright - great! After 10 minutes here and a chat with the family group I set off again with the summit in my sights. I aimed to get there by 1.30pm.
As I walked along I decided I like this hill, a lot. It's a good one. Many great features like the wee path leading from the Ptarmigan ridge up to the rocky outcrop just before the summit, the views are stunning all around and there's even a bit of a scramble near the top.
Further on and I now had a view of the masses making their way up and congregating at the summit and was glad I came up this way. I wondered if this is what the Hilary Step on Everest might look like! (except it would be much colder - maybe). The day was clear and you could see for miles. I tried to remember all that encyclopedic knowledge PTC had bestowed upon me but couldn't, however, I did pick out Ben Nevis peeking between two shadowy peaks in the distance. (What are those ones called again PTC?). It was cool! I was soon at the start of the scrambly rocky part and took a few minutes to have a drink and take a few more photies.
As I set off up you could begin to hear the voices of people coming down. There were a few by now - they'd had their pieces on the summit! The family had headed up a few minutes before me, I let them go. The groups coming down were varied in their makeup. There was the really old seasoned hill-walker (you can just tell), the ones who're working off a hangover ("Murphy have you heard fae Davie?", "Naw, how?", "Ah sent him a text sayin ah wis gon hill-walking and ah've no heard fae him since") and the super group of about 12 members trying to outdo each other (lots of army talk from them!). Anyway I was kinda secretly smiling when I heard a few of the super group army guys talking about how steep this side was and " 'magine comin up this way!". I could almost hear them gasp when I popped up from the rocks. "I'll let you by hen". Aye cos you're shittin yourself coming down these steep rocks I thought. Ha.
You're not long here and then you're on the summit. I could smell the cheese sandwiches a mile away. It was mobbed - absolutely mobbed. I took a photie. I'd reached it about 5 past 1pm - not too bad at all. That means 3 hours up with a few breaks for photies, drinks and comfort in between. This was alright! I never hung around for long. I listened to a few conversations going on - take my pictures at the summit, Bobby was up 4th in another large group, there was a dog called Pebble and a wee boy was with his Aunty Claudia. I wasn't sure what to make of it all. It's the first time I've been on a hill and there was this many people around. Must've been at least 30 at a time up there on the summit - between people coming up and people heading back down again. Plus there were a good few on either side who were making their way up the tourist path and down the Ptarmigan route. I don't think I liked it this busy but i suppose at least they're out here. It was better after hours when there were few out. Anyway after my smoked ham piece and half a porridge bar I took another glug of water and headed down.
I got the poles ready, I would need them! I set off at about 1.35pm. I was like Jenson Button trying to wait for a break in the traffic coming out of the pit lane. As I headed down I looked east (i think) and wondered if I could maybe see Dumyat (cos I can see Ben Lomond when I'm up there on a clear day). It was a nice wee donner down except for the dreaded knee pain. The poles were helping (though I'd had a sore head nearly all day!). I stopped a few times for a stretch out and this seemed to help. There were still folk aplenty heading up the way including a strange girl with a giant teddy bear in her rucksack! Takes all kinds I suppose. There were young families heading up to and it got me thinking about taking Ryan one day. Maybe he's a wee bit too young (and hyperactive) just now. I'd need eyes on the back of my head! I got lower towards the treeline and I was thankful. It had been a good day going solo but I decided that I did indeed like company when walking. I'd forgot to charge my iPod so left that at home. Apart from the wee chats with the Family group and the hiya's to some passers by (of the non-miserable type!) I missed some chat and indeed some cajoling on towards the summit or towards the car. I did have fun with "wee Bru" though. It's my new project - Adventures with Irn Bru! Join in... You can see more photies here.
After a final few pics and a strange encounter near the wee toilet block with about 10 guys dressed in full black and orange American football outfits!! i was back at the car just after 3.30pm. 5hrs 29 minutes were on my watch - not bad!! I'd passed my own test. I would not now label myself as "slow".
I was knackered, my feet were roasting hot, my face was a bit stingy with sunburn and my head was sore. Apart from that I was totally happy that I'd set myself and completed this wee personal challenge. Now for the next one... I wonder where that will be... we'll see...
(Kit will be reported in a new post, this one is a bit long already! :o) )