Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Time Travelling on Ben Lawers

With my 25th birthday fast approaching I felt that some sort of celebration was in order. I had two options either a massive drink or spending some time in the hills with good friends. I decided on the latter, secretly knowing the former would follow! Finding partners was easy, back from Spain and spending Christmas with his family near Edinburgh was a dreadlocked man with thighs of steel; Michael Coppock, and ever keen to get out on the hill in the run up to her Winter Mountain Leader award (WML), kayaker extraordinaire Georgina Maxwell completed a Munro bagging team to be reckoned with!

Due to Mike having no transport we decided to try and tick some of the southern Munros. The Ben Lawers chain seemed the most logical being close to Mike’s house and having a possible 8 Munro ticks in a day. Staying at Mike’s house the night before, we would meet George and her border collie Jackson at the car park in the morning. Loaded up with leftover turkey sandwiches Mike and I left at 5.30am arriving to wake George from her comfy, car slumber at 7.00am. Starting in the dark we made fairly good time up to the first summit of Meall Greigh but despite my enthusiasm for the day I couldn’t shake the feeling I had a very serious case of man flu building! This was soon forgotten however when our resident WML trainee announced that she had forgotten her gloves! With the wind chill being pretty severe Mike kindly provided some so as George could guide us round without her hands falling off.


Looking towards Ben Lawers

All went pretty smoothly until the third top of An Stuc, here a steep climb must be undertaken to reach the summit. A scramble on a summers day but with a layer of hard neve covering the hillside it would be quite a challenge for the 4 legged member of the team Jackson. We valiantly cut steps for him up the grade I ground for 100m which he duly ignored using his built in crampons to race to the top. An impressive effort indeed putting us in our place!


Step cutting for the dog.

Pushing on now, towards Ben Lawers, we came across a few people out enjoying the mountain. At first I was mildly annoyed at our solitude being disturbed but I reminded myself that these were popular hills much more accessible than the remote mountains I had visited in the past week. They were probably more annoyed to see us scrambling all over the summit trig point and joking loudly about Mike’s 1950’s mountaineering attire. He had managed to dress almost entirely in wool and was carrying a large alpenstock style axe; quite the pioneer!



Port and Cheese at the top my man?

Still having 3 summits to climb before we dropped down to the car and would have to make the decision about the 8th Munro we sped onwards to the summit of Meall Corranaich and Meall a’ Choire Leith. Jackson was showing some signs of flagging but that was to be expected when you suddenly take him on a 20km walkie! The nice weather we had enjoyed in the morning also decided it had had enough and we were now in thick cloud with snow threatening. Reaching the final top we started a long descent down to the Lochan na Lairige dam. From here to get the 8th top of Meall nan Tarmachan would mean another 2hrs and with rain driving in my face and my man flu worsening I put heroics to one side. Finally the four bedraggled adventurers emerging out of the dark to the car, and just in the nick of time as Mike’s wet woollen layers had long ago stopped insulating him and were now in fact performing the opposite function! Time to retreat, dry out and have a drink or two after a very satisfying day.



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