Munro diaries: Ben Lomond

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4 minute read

Munro diaries 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

I found an old diary entry detailing a solo day trip to Scotland to hike my first Munro.
Originally written, but never published, on 10th January, 2019.

Firstly, what’s a Munro?

Let’s lean on Wikipedia for this one:

“A Munro is defined as a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000ft/914m, and which is on the Scottish Mountaineering Club official list of Munros”.

There are 282 Munros across Scotland and I, like many others, am on a mission to bag them all. I’m currently only on 7.

Now that’s cleared up, on to my original diary entry

📔

Ben Lomond

Thursday 10th January 2019

I’d set multiple alarms for 04:00 to ensure I’m up at the crack of dawn. I woke early at 03:00, messed around for a bit and left Manchester at 04:00 for the drive to Scotland.

Sure it’ll be fine

A foggy drive up in the dark, stopping halfway to get change for parking. Spent some of the change on sweets and on checking my tyres. Now I probably don’t have enough change for parking.

I decide to chance it without parking money - I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Hit a bit of morning traffic after Glasgow so 5 hours later arrive in the Trossachs National Park.

🌤

It wasn’t fine

Get to Loch Lomond’s shores around 08:30 as the sun rises.

The car park card machine is broke, and I need change, which I don’t have. I go to 2 hostels, a hotel, a bar, 2 campsites (one of which I’ve stayed at previously!) in an attempt to get some change. They’re all closed for winter. Finally I find a shop and buy more sweets to get some coins.

Finally I park up and scoff yoghurt and fruit for breakfast, and start the walk at 10:00 an hour behind my initial schedule.

Ben Lomond National Trust sign

Pay attention

Consulting my guidebook and map I set off and immediately go the wrong way. I then get on the right path and carry on towards the start of the incline.

Going past the turning to start the climb I go up the track too far and have to track back. I decide to start paying more attention to the map and use my compass too.

🗺

The “steep route”

I took the Ptarmigan ridge route (the steep route) and for the first hour I’m powering steeply uphill, dripping with sweat already. Stopping every 10 minutes to take off layers and down gulps of freezing cold water, as well as admiring the beautiful views of the loch and mountains on the other side.

A view of Loch Lomond

A view of Loch Lomond

It’s tough going along the ridge and upwards, there’s a wall and I follow the path all the way up but I’m also practising my map reading skills finding how far along the route I am.

Getting quite high up the fog starts coming in with some drizzle. At the top of the ridge it’s time for some sweets and snacks.

On the way up Ben Lomond

On the way up Ben Lomond
🥾

Carrying on past a few pools, descending to a flat and then round the back of the mountain, the route starts getting really steep again and turning into a bit of light scrambling. The fog’s on both sides now and I can’t see anything below.

Climbing upwards I see the first people I’ve seen on this apparently usually busy mountain - they’d come up the other side and are climbing down the way I’ve come. They look like they’re rushing before the weather gets worse.

Damn, I’m not the first to top Ben Lomond today.

After another half hour of scrambling, I get to what I think is the summit. It’s a false summit.

False summit of Ben Lomond

The false summit

Getting there

Further up it’s getting tough but I know I’m almost there so I push on and see the summit cairn. I summit after 2.5 hours and get to the top, but can see nothing else because of the thick fog!

A dog runs up to me and two gentlemen approach and touch the trig point. We exchange a few words before they quickly hurry back down the path they came from.

Ben Lomond trig point

Me at the Ben Lomond trig point

I check-in with my Spot GPS and despite the rain and the chilling wind I set up a base at the trig point for a quarter of an hour. I get some photos with my GoPro and tripod and make myself a sandwich and coffee for lunch. I wolf them down before my fingers freeze, pack up and set off on a different route down the mountain.

I feel like I’ve forgotten something up at the top so just in case, I head back up, look around the cairn, realise I hadn’t forgotten anything, and go back to the path down.

📍

All the way down

The route down is easy. I start to wish I’d come up this way but despite the Ptarmigan ridge route supposedly being harder it was well worth it for the views on the way up and for the sense of achievement in taking the more difficult path.

I start to see a lot more hikers on their way up this way now that the day’s getting on. A friendly bunch. I even see a topless man trudging up, even though the rain’s soaking me through my 4 layers.

It’s wet and slippy, I have a few near falls and when I’m right near the bottom before the path levels out and goes into the forest, I slip and tumble, rolling for a few metres with my hat accidentally pulled over my face.

It’s not too bad.

😵

Entering the forest, I’m trying to finish the walk within 4 hours so I overtake other walkers going down. I stop at a crossroads to help direct a group of 3 trying to get a phone signal to find their way back to the car park.

My map and compass prevail!

🧭

A short walk past the crossroads, through more woodland and I’m back at the car after 3:45 of walking. Not a bad time!

I’m snacking and getting changed in the car park while a robin tries to get in the boot for my crumbs. I have to chase the bird out of the car before I jump in and set off for the 4.5-hour drive home.

1 down, 281 to go

My first Munro! I incorrectly assumed it’d be an “easy one” as I’d misinterpreted its ease of access as the most southerly Munro as an easy walk.

Going up the ridge was definitely the better option - for the training, the achievement and the fantastic views over Loch Lomond and the Arrochar Alps.

I wanted to try a solo mini adventure and see if I could drive up early, get up and down the mountain, and back home within 12 hours. It took me 14.5 hours.

Next up

Next time I think I’ll drive up in the evening and camp out so I can set off at daybreak again, maybe ticking off 2 or 3 Munros in one go.

I’m already planning it

Thanks for reading! 👋🏻
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