At the start of the week the stark white cone of a snow-topped Ben Lomond could be clearly seen from my window in Bathgate. Now the weather had changed and the view of the hill as we travelled west from Stirling was obscured by low (and very wet) cloud.
Six hardy Club members set out along the WHW path from Rowardennan. The vegetation was predominantly brown; the loch was grey but we were glad that initially at least we did not need our waterproofs.
This being Remembrance Sunday it was fitting that we stopped briefly beside the modern War Memorial at the lochside. As we traversed the hillside above Ardess where the waterfalls could be seen in full flood we were climbing into the clouds and soon had to stop and put on our waterproof jackets.
The little lochan near the summit of Ptarmigan was partly ice covered but the air was still relatively mild.
As we climbed round the rim of the corrie and onto the more challenging terrain leading steeply to the top of the hill gusty winds threatened to blow us off our feet – just when we most needed our balance among the rocky bluffs. Jim’s photo nicely captures the mood – though you’ll have to imagine the wind. Thankfully on the summit it seemed to have abated to some degree.
All that remained of the snow was a couple of compacted patches on the path and some small sheltered pockets – it was now raining and there were some large puddles accumulating on the path. Pretty miserable in fact!
A refreshment stop at the top was not an attractive option - no view, no shelter - we simply gathered round the trig point for a photo and then hurried on. We were now heading down the ‘tourist path’ that is traversed every year by countless visitors to what is one of the most visited hills in Scotland. Sunday was no exception, even in the uninviting conditions we met dozens of people – a couple on the top, several individuals with damp dogs, a couple of hill runners (who seemed to be carrying very little in the way of equipment), a party of about 18 youngsters and other small groups. We weren’t the only people mad enough to venture out on such a day after all!
After a quick stop for half a sandwich beside a large rock that offered a degree of shelter, we continued down the path, moving as quickly as we could. A sign-posted diversion, which everyone apart from Tim and me appear to have ignored, took us down some pretty disgusting terrain beside a new fence – our boots were covered in boggy mush – but we soon rejoined the main path through the woodland and before long emerged again at the visitor centre (which was all locked up) and the welcome sight of the cars – the car park was much busier than when we set out in the morning. After removing our boots and changing into dry clothes we all repaired to the pub for a drink and a chat in the warmth of the bar.
Wildlife sightings were almost non-existent on this trip – a roe deer on the road near Balmaha, some ducks on the loch, a few jays in the woodland, a very tame robin beside the path above Ardess and a couple of ravens giving an aerobatic display at the top: I think they were enjoying themselves in the wind!
At last the Club has claimed Ben Lomond for its tally – I think that’s the fourth time it has appeared on the programme. The Ptarmigan is a tougher route up than the ‘tourist route’ but made for a rewarding day out. Thanks to Calum for taking the lead and to Jim J, Dave C, Jennifer and new member Tim for their company and encouragement when the going got tough.
Thanks to Jim for the photographs