Ben Lomond

I had lost count of the number of times I’ve driven up the A82 on the west bank of Loch Lomond, and barely given Scotlands southern-most Munro a second glance.  More recently however, I had begun to tell myself, “one day, you ought to…” but then the draw of other adventures would take me away.

More fool me.

Today, my ‘ought to’ became a ‘did’ and the Beacon Hill treated me to a tremendous day.  

I had driven up via family in Edinburgh, and had parked my Van at the ‘Forest Holidays’ campsite at Cashel on the east shoreline of the Loch.  The afternoon brought balmy sunshine, calm waters and as the evening drew, a fabulous sunset.  My bag was packed and ready as I turned in for the night.

A fitful sleep was interrupted by my 7am alarm, and I resisted the temptation to sling it through the nearest window.  I breakfasted on tea and porridge (well I am in Scotland…) and packed away for the short drive up the loch side to the car park at Rowardennan – just £3 to park for the day and free for Blue Badge holders.  On the way to the car park I stopped and was treated to the sight of a couple of herdsmen droving a herd of highland cows and calves along the road to new pastures.  I thought to myself, there’s something you don’t see everyday.

I started my ascent through the woodland, where the cover occasionally thins to give a glimpse of the glorious vistas that await.  I climbed on, soon reaching the upper edge of the forest and out onto the open moor.

I understand that for a long time, the popularity of this munro had resulted in a huge erosion scar where thousands of feet had trodden,  but thanks to the work of the park rangers, the scar has repaired and now an excellent path remains.   It is clear but retains the rough rockiness in places a mountain such as this deserves.

The route is not an unrelenting slog, far from it.  Soon after passing ‘Halfway well’ walkers get a break as the ridge levels off to a gentle slope, still gradually gaining height before the final stages and steeper bank to gain the the summit ridge.

One or two folk were on their way down already as I continued along that broad grassy slope.  They remarked that when they had been on the top the view had been obscured by cloud, but that it seemed to be clearing so the signs were good for a view.  Let’s not tempt fate, said I.

The final push up onto the summit ridge is on a meandering rocky path, steep in places, to reach the top of Coire a Bhathaich from where it follows a traverse above the steep, but not craggy, flank of the mountain.  It crosses a couple of pinches where the snow is still lying thick.  In May.  You don’t see that every day…. Or every May. 

Finally crossing the last pinch before one more short climb up and onto the summit, to be greeted by one of the finest clear viewpoints into the highlands and all their glory.

I took a few minutes on the summit to take in the majesty of it all, before the chill breeze suggested I ought to be making my way down.  So I did, carefully and occasionally gingerly picking my way through the more exposed steps, back towards the relative safety of that broad friendly grassy moor.

By the time I’d reached the broad and gentle ridge, I turned round to see the summit was once again wearing its skirt of cloud.  I had timed my day just about right.

As I made my way down, stopping to pick up a discarded can of R-Whites lemonade here, a cigarette there, wondering what possesses people to soil such a place so wantonly, a young man came past me on his way up carrying a mountain bike on his shoulders.  I smiled at him and thought, well, there’s something you don’t see everyday… It wouldn’t be long before he came wizzing past me on his way down, doubtless enjoying his descent rather more than his climb…

I continued to plod on down, back off the ridge and into the forest, finally reaching the car park about 5 1/2 hours after I left.

As I write this, I am back in the Forest Holidays campsite, back in my van.  The cloud is down, the wind has picked up and the millpond calm across the water of yesterday has vanished.  I definitely timed my day right.

Total ascent:  914m / 2,999 feet