Bowery Mural

It's alright this walking business!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Date: Saturday 27th June 2009 Location: Ben Starav, Glen Etive

"What you doin on Saturday?”
“Nothing, why?”
“We’re going up the hills, you fancy coming?”

I was up at 5.45am!!... on a Saturday morning no less... I’ve not been up this early on a weekend for ages!! Out the door by 6.20 for a rendezvous in the Uni car park before heading up the road to Glen Etive. We stopped on the way to pick up Mark and he told us on the journey that this would be his last weekend as a free man before his wedding to Kirsty next weekend. Congrats to them both! It took us just under 2 hours to get to the parking spot and we waited on the others arriving. Walking today were me and Sharon then her mates, Mark, Graeme, Michael and her nephew Simon. The clouds were swirling all around the summits and were dark grey. Occasionally the sun would sneak a peek through them turning the green of the trees a really vivid shade. The others arrived about 20 minutes later but not before I’d eaten half my piece, Sharon had opened her Haribo Sours and Mark had half a breakfast bar. After waiting on Simon change his clothes we set off down a track and across the river. On the bridge we came across a wee toad that was thinking about whether or not he was going to jump off it. He did... eventually and then swam away.

We headed along the track, quite good walking and started up the shoulder of the hill. We somehow managed to take the wrong way and had to go back on ourselves or straight up a lush green grassy slope, as we did. There was a wee cairn up on the hill and we were struck by this bright blue bird – a kingfisher Sharon said. Everyone was about to get their cameras out at it was a great picture then Simon went across and picked it up. It was a fake plastic bird on a stick; some joker had stuck the stick down the cairn so you couldn’t see it. It was funny. We set off again and kept on going up the shoulder of the hill. It was quite windy but still hot. I was just in a t-shirt. My pack was lighter today than it had been on previous outings but looking at the photies it stills looks too big!! I had my walking poles out too and they are very handy for pulling me up the steep slopes. By now the sun was sneaking through the clouds every now and again and it had started to burn the clouds away. At one point I turned around and it was hitting a plateau so I just had to snap away with the camera. Lovely...

Heading onwards and upwards the path was pretty good if a bit rocky. That was fine though. I’ve trekked the Himalayas! Soon I turned around again and the sun was pretty much out in full now. This was good. Sharon had told us earlier that lightening was forecast, I hope not! Looking up this mountain was an imposing beast with an unrelenting climb. It rises up to 1060m almost from sea level and you could tell! We hit an area with huge boulders all over the place and headed up it, the path or route being a little bit more obvious once you were on it. The poles were now getting in my way and the wind was getting stronger occasionally blowing me over. Was still warm though. I couldn’t be bothered putting the poles away and we soon stopped for lunch at a flattish area before our push for the summit. It was a bit sheltered from the wind but when you stop you just get cold so it was on with my extra long sleeved base layer and my Marmot wind shirt. A good combo I think. Kept me warm in this wind but not roasting hot. The clouds were coming in thick and fast and visibility was down to about 20m. Lunch today was the rest of my honey roast pieces, a bag of salt and vinegar crisps and a couple of M&S chocolate covered peanuts - braw. I also had a mini Milky Bar, a porridge bar, my wee mini pack of Haribo jellies and water but had forgotten to lift some fruit. About 3o minutes later we headed up to the summit.

There were lots of boulders and rocks and the poles were a nuisance, I couldn’t be bothered to put them away so kept hold of them in one hand whilst I stepped precariously over these huge rocks. We could hardly see a thing by now and the wind was stronger but I loved it. We came to a cairn but after much map and GPS checking we were told this can’t be the summit and carried on. It was only a pile of rocks after all. We continued on and seemed to be dong down so we stopped and Graeme had a quick check on his blackberry for pics of the summit. Turns out that was indeed it!! A pretty disappointing summit if I’m honest cos we just seemed to have passed it, the cairn being a little on the small side. So we headed back just to make sure and to get some pictures.

Heading back down we came to a jagged ridge of honking boulders and made our way steadily along it. All the while the wind was still blowing. Down down down we went and by now my knees were starting to hurt, and the soles of my feet were burning. (“That’ll be them boots!”). I could feel a tiny blister I’d got last week when climbing Ben Lomond. I might have to try shoes instead at some point...

We reached a bealach at 767m and had a rest on this huge boulder. Bad move. It was a midge fest and we were covered as soon as we stopped. The sun was now out again or was it that we had just dropped below the cloud blanket. The scene opening up in front of us was magnificent. Blue skies a little breeze (essential to keep the pesky midges away) and sunshine – wonderful!
We stopped every now and again for a drink and this was annoying me now because although my Osprey pack is very good and light and I love it, I can’t reach for the water bottle that easily. A little flaw in an otherwise great piece of equipment. I was time to strip off wind shirt now but I decided to keep on the long sleeves for fear of getting bitten by the wildlife. When we reached the river it was tempting to take the boots off and paddle in the water to cool the feet down but we were on a time limit – one member of the group had to get back to Dunfermline to see his mum and dad in a Gilbert and Sullivan play!! It would have been an ideal spot to pitch a tent and play in the water – lovely.

Back along the track and up to the car it had taken us about 7 hours. Longer than the books say but I’m not keen on the book times or list ticking. In fact I utterly don’t like that kind of attitude. “Book say this.., book says that..” I prefer just to be out there doing it and walking and enjoying oneself not to feel like you have to beat a time. Jees I’d come last every time if I was working on that premise.

Anyway Saturday was a good day out, tough but good. The company was good and you know what I’m beginning to really enjoy this walking business again. I’ve said before that I was feeling a little bit disillusioned with it last year but I must have been keeping the wrong company then. The drive home was nice, I like being a passenger on those kinds of journeys. I got home about 7.45pm just in time to see Andy Murray win his game.

I was knackered, tired, sunburned but thoroughly satisfied with Saturdays jaunt up the hills. I'd been up since 5.45am and went to bed about 1am, tired? - aye!! I will be doing this again...
Ange xx

PS number 10.... ssshhhhh...

Kit: Osprey Talon 33l pack, Berghaus Statis pants, Berghaus t-shirt, First Ascent long-sleeve base layer hoodie, Marmot Ion winshirt, Bridgedale trekker socks, a Buff, Suunto Core Altimeter/watch, 2x Leki Carbonlite Anti-shock walking poles, Scarpa ZG10 GTX walking boots, first aid kit, a compass and map, camera and too many other things I'm ashamed to mention for fear of a lecture. I'm getting lighter though - honest! :o)

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