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It’s like visiting a friends house, or your granny. Sure, it might not be exciting this time, it might just be cuppas and some telly, but you know that you’ll be welcome, time will pass at whatever pace it likes and you’ll be immune to any outside influence or interference for the duration.
I watched the mix of snow flurries and sunshine, looked at my watch, filled the kettle to make up a flask. I was heading to Ben Lomond for my first visit of 2010.

The pure white summit ridge swings in and out of view all the way down the road from Drymen, and never seems any closer. It’s a big bloody magnet, and it’s pull on me has never lessened through the years.
I changed into my big thick socks and boots(?!), pulled on a windshirt and headed up the tourist track. It’s been a couple of years since I climbed Lomond this way, and as good as the Ptarmigan ascent is, the views this way are different and I was already enjoying myself as I cleared the woods and stepped into the breeze and cool sunshine.
I met my first descenders of the day, a couple who’d not made the summit, but were just out for the joy of it to see what lay up the track. As with most folk I meet on the hill, they were immediately concerned for my well-being as I was walking in the wrong direction late in the afternoon. I explained myself.

The next meeting was one which will stay with for quite a while. An auld fella was coming towards me, and my first thought was “What the hell is that on his nose?”. It was a bit of tissue to stem the blood.
“Have you taken and tumble?”
“Aye, my crampon came off…”
I surveyed him and my mind raced through the options as I questioned him. He was worried that he’d burst hid cheek, but although his face was swollen, he’d just skinned it. The only blood was from his nose and it looked to be stopping. He was having black eye today as well. He was lucid, sharp in fact, and was moving well.
“Come on, sit down and I’ll get you cleaned up”
“No, no”
“Well, let me walk you down then?”
“No, no.. I’m fine…”
He was edging past me at this point. I let him go. It went against all my instincts, and all my standards as an interventionist, but I watched him walk away.
You know what swung it? I reckon he was well into his 70’s, he had a mix of gear from recent to old-school, I reckon he’d been in the mountains all his life. He’d taken a tumble and he’d picked himself up, sorted himself out and was making his way home. If I’d taken over would it has broken his confidence in his lifetime of experience? I just thought of him staying home next time because of his memory of this “young” fell taking him off the hill.
I felt queasy, it was a very emotional moment.
I watched him descend into the dip where the little bridge is, emerge onto the track at the other side and motor along, as he faded from sight he was almost with the couple I’d met earlier.
I don’t know if I did the right thing, and I don’t know if I’d do the same if I had a second chance.

The next group I met were instructed to watch for the auld boy as they went down. Soothing my conscience or taking precautions? At that moment I wasn’t sure at all.
The next pair were a couple of retired boys, using their free time to good effect with-weekly hill trips. We shot the breeze, talked gear and hills and it lightened my mood.
I went a little farther, but with losing so much time the light was fading and it was time for dinner, and it was time for crampons.

Now it was snow and ice and wind. The moon came out, but it’s bright, clear light was cold and the insulated jacket I’d put on when I stopped had stayed on as the wind fired spindrift into my legs, my mitts stayed on as my finger tips nipped and my face stayed covered as every inhalation ran sharp fingernails over my fillings.
The cloud was patchy and fast moving, the snow was hard and my spikes cut into it very definitely with every step. My headtorch was still in my pocket, the moon cast my shadow long and well defined in front of me as I traversed the wonderful summit ridge.
The trig point was iced and exposed, it was so cold on the summit. A quick refuel and I descended to the little coll to watch the camera constantly get blown over into the snow. But I did get the chance to play about a little.

It’s funny how a long exposure makes the city lights look so bright, it turns Lomond into an urban peak. But standing there, they’re just tiny twinkles to the south and don’t feel intrusive at all.

I took forever to descend. And tired eyes and some patchy clouds brought out my headtorch.
Eventually all the cloud disappeared, the moon rose a little higher and the wind sunk a little lower. it was beautiful.
I pulled up a rock and finished my flask. I had a lot to think about. I often say how easy what I do is, how accessible it all is. But the mix of people I’d met and their varying fortunes had reminded me of how relative it all is. We can all make mistakes, experience isn’t a bulletproof shield, we can all find ourselves out of our depth, and we can all find a little victory from reaching a level that others would scorn at.
So I don’t think there is a right or wrong, or if there is it’s just applicable to you yourself. What’s maybe universal then is the need to have an understanding for the “other”?

The carpark was deserted and pitch black. My feet were glad to be back into trainers, and suddenly the most important thing was hot food. I hadn’t realised it was getting so late.
Is a McDonald’s a guilty pleasure? I was the last customer last night, they’d put the cat out, turned down the duvet and were about to lock the door and turn the lights off when I appeared at the counter. I half expected them to just say “Here, just take the assorted lukewarm foodstuff that’s left with out compliments and give us peace”.  But instead I got a Big Tasty with Bacon and onion rings frshly made and fries still with a bit of crispiness about them. Nice.

36 thoughts on “Advertising space available at reasonable rates”

  1. Maybe I’ll head to Lomond rather than Lawers on Monday then… :)

    I must admit, when you tweeted last night I thought you were pitched up and in your sleeping bag. It was getting quite late, but the moon was nice and bright. So perfect for a late night on the hill :)

    I love that blue which everything turns under moonlight…

    Are they buffalo mitts you’re wearing?

  2. Joycee had family stuff today, so I had to be back. It would have a lovely night to be out, cold though!

    Buffalo Mitts, yes indeed, and just out of sight a Buffalo windshirt. Both brilliant.
    Bunch of new gear there actually, I’ll do a quite write-up later, it helps me remember!

  3. Good account and pics, I really must make the effort to try the camera at night. Some great possibilities at the moment with clear skies and a brilliant moon, unfortunately I’m stuck in with a bad foot.

    “…they were immediately concerned for my well-being as I was walking in the wrong direction late in the afternoon. I explained myself….”

    I often get that sort of thing in winter heading upwards towards my pitch area approaching dusk, but I never explain anything. If they say “it’ll be dark soon” I just say “Yeah it will” and walk smartly on. Leave ’em wondering I say!.

    “…It went against all my instincts, and all my standards as an interventionist,…”

    Uh oh, this sounds like the dreaded… Mr. Mountain Safety Man!. Please tell me it ain’t so!.

  4. Mountain Safety Man? Never, it’s more like I’ll tear the wing mirror off a car if it drives through a pedestrian crossing when the green man is on, that kind of interventionism.
    The incident with the auld fella was different, he’d had some bad luck and could have been in need of assistance, if he had needed me to I would have carried him down on my back quite happily, but if I’d been passed by someone in a denim jacket carrying poly bag I would just have said “Lovely evening”.

    I love being in the mountains at night, and playing with the camera is fun, if a bit hit and miss for me. I’ve kinda made a little mental note to try and take advantage of the full moon this year.

    Hope the foot mends soon!

  5. How did you find them with the axe? I was thinking about getting some for leaving in the bottom of my pack, I tend to get sweaty palms, so I reckon they might be perfect for me given their moisture transferring capabilities.

  6. They were okay actually. I was using a CAMP Corsa Nanotech which has got quite a wide pick at the shaft end, and that felt postive in my hand. I’ll see how they do with other axes, the Black Diamond had a very skinny head so that might be better of worse.
    The sizing is odd, mine are XL and they just fit over those dot-grip liners I wear, work well on their own too though.
    Dry hands all night, good kit.

  7. They do, and I might get a pair so they fit over powerstretch gloves.
    They size them so that the next size up fits over the previous one.

    The purple angle was nothing to do with me getting some…

  8. The old fellas you meet in the hills never seem to be fazed. We are wimps with light packs and the like. They all seem to have Karrimor 70L packs bulging with kit and huge boots from the 70s. Dead hard along with the fact they have done the Pennine way when it first was opened and did the TGO Challenge back with Hamish Brown when you had to do 12 Munros as a minimum and they mostly did thirty on a crossing. You have to admire them. As ever wonderful photos and will we be seeing more of this walk ?

  9. The old guys like that are an inspiration. Dachsteins an wooden handled ice axes, brilliant.

    Would you believe Martin the camera stayed in my pack for most of the trip, I’ve got very little more than what’s above. My most immediate memory of last night is the sound of my crampons slicing into the hard frozen snow step after step, it was slightly hypnotic, utterly enjoyable and I just didn’t want to stop. My first break after my dinner lower down was on the summit, plus it was really cold, frozen moustache cold.
    So as odd as it seems I’ve neither photies nor any more words, it was a wander on familiar ground and I think I left more behind that I brought back if you know what I mean? I think the mountain was just a good listener last night.

    I did spot a cracking campsite in the northern coire, so I’ll try and get back while there’s still snow in there. Looks like a dramatic spot.
    Jeez, still excited about another ascent of Ben Lomond. I wonder what that says about me?!

  10. I think at winter camp aye. I usually keep those PHD down mitts handy for when I’m not needing my fingers, but the dexterity is rubbish when wearing them.
    The Buffalo mitts aren’t as warm, but I can use my fingers better when wearing them. But, with the wind chill I was getting last night they were still fine and warm, so they look like a good general use thing as well as pure insulation.

  11. Great, they sound perfect.

    I have a pair of Mardale Pile/Pertex booties for winter camp. I wore them back down the hill after my last overnighter. Back at the car I changed footwear, the water vapour coming off my feet was like a kettle boiling, that convinced me of the efficacy of Pile/Pertex. Outstanding.

  12. Now hear’s a thing in that very area, I ended up wearing a merino baselayer, that new Haglofs Lizard top, the Buffalo windshirt and the Montane Flux on top. My camera got covered in condenstaion in the Flux pocket, but when I got back to the motor I was completely dry, right through all the layers underneath, that was just outstanding.
    I’ve worn a windshirt under a waterproof a few times and the same happens, I stay drier.
    There’ll be science at work that I can’t be arsed researching…

  13. Is it just me or does it seem like ages since we’ve had photies and a story like this on here?! It’s been all kit for a while eh. Anyway, a good one again. I like it.

    “Jeez, still excited about another ascent of Ben Lomond. I wonder what that says about me?!”
    I think when it stops getting exciting is maybe the time to start thinking what it says about you. At the moment though excitement is great!! Heck I love just getting up Dumyat (but only because i’m still trying to find my house from the view at the top – which I haven’t yet!).

    Now a few observations/questions: how do you get that ghostly image type thing in photies? or is that just a happy coincidence? and, there’s something kinda otherworldly/ethereal about that second last photie…

  14. “all kit for a while”
    You’re not wrong, and there’s still a pile of stuff to work through… Later.

    I did need that wee trip last night, it was good for me on a lot of levels.

    The ghostly image thing was deliberate, I just couldn’t get the closest figure strong enough. Next time there will be three of me…

    I like that second last photie too, I know it’s squint, but what the hell, it’s a nice wee quiet moment, just me and the moon. And Dumbarton :o)

  15. Ange, I’d guess this was due to the camera doing a multisecond exposure whilst PTC dawdles along, depending on where in the image he was for the longest period is where he show up. Also, judging by the light on the snow, the flash fired, so wherever he was stood at that point would show up most clearly.

    I get paranoid about firing the flash on dark hilltops in case the Mountain Rescue chopper turns up and gives me a telling off…

  16. Like the long exposure snap a bit predatorish pal. I’m in the same camp as you regarding hill assistance. People in jeans and t-shirts will never get any, but people who you can tell are genuine outdoor bods and in need will. If you don’t respect the mountains/conditions then i just can’t be arsed with ya. After seeing people getting helicoptered off Ben Nevis years ago waring next to nowt just re-inforced my approach of should i or shouldn’t i help. You never know now anyway make the wrong choice and get sued.

  17. Telling them will indeed lead to grief. Education on navigation, route finding, survival skills and the basic hill crafts is the best approach. Free days training in map and compass work will help folks be safer than any kit or can we see what is in your pack check points manned by Mountain Rescue Teams. Up their skills, appreciation of the hills and they will be making sensible kit choices. Heck they might even take gloves and the like. After all they could have read an old TGO issue they noticed in the dentist :)

  18. And like I’ve said before, making the hills accessible, not sexing it up when it’s just a perfectly ordinary pastime. That is a particular bugbear of mine.
    Folk have to feel that they don’t have to jump through hoops to be able to get themselves enough knowledge to be safe without losing any fun.
    It’s easy looking at it from our side, I feel for anyone coming to it all for the first time, looking for resources and knowing what they’ll find first.

  19. More love for Buffalo Mitts, from me. As someone who could get cold hands in July, I’ve found them a blessing. I wear them over liners, however, I find that they work the ‘best’ on their own, cosy against skin (I guess the way that P & P was intended to be used, although I find my Montane Extreme Smock doesn’t work as well this way……). They remain warm when wet, weigh less than a biscuit and don’t have a boxing glove feel when on; still able to use your hands.

    Fitting a couple of elasticated retainer loops to a pair is a winner, too, I had to chase them down a hillside once or twice, prior to doing this.

  20. I didn’t notice the squintyness on that photie but it’s a great one nonetheless.
    I’m gonna try that ghosty thing on the camera, if I get the chance.

    Now people, if one of the badly dressed folk needed help, you wouldn’t just walk on by, right? Yes it might be irresponsible and irritating but what can you do. I’d have to help. I wouldn’t be much good at anything but I’d help. That’s just me. Cos i never know when i might need their help. The mountains don’t care about your experience (as the guy has just said on that programme on ch4).

    I just want to say not everybody has the finances to be able to take every course that is offered or recommended, even the most basic navigational courses cost around £60 a go. Heck the winter skills courses can cost more than a new washing machine(!).

    Anyway… how’s your feet? :o)

  21. Neil, that’s the one thing I noticed when I was taking one off, they’re slippery buggers, and there were a few moments last night when I though I was going to be looking for another pair. So I think I’ll add a loop or something so I can hang it on my pack chest strap.

    Ange, I’d like to think none of us would pass by someone in trouble, be it on a hill or anywhere else.
    I wonder if it’s where we are socially as a nation that we would have to wait until there’s an incident before stepping in though?
    Advice is free, but also recieve a smack in the mouth? Or maybe we all live in the hope of being able to say “I told you so”.
    It’s all wrong whatever.

    Good point about the courses, and add to that kit. I’m just glad we’ve got Millets, Mountain Warehouse and now Decathalon so folk can get kit that’ll keep them comfy without breaking their credit card.

    Just a thought, all my outdoor “stuff” was learned from the cub scouts in the 70s, my dad, books with line drawings of men in plus fours and trial and error. Never been on a course in my life.

  22. ah cool, I was just checking cos some comments seemed to scoff at folk in jeans and hint they wouldn’t do a thing if anything happened. [“People in jeans and t-shirts will never get any, but people who you can tell are genuine outdoor bods and in need will”].
    I don’t think I’d be so bold as to stop someone and warn them of the dangers of flip flops on the hillside but if she then turned her ankle I think I’d have to help her (for example). I dunno what that says about me though…
    Yes, I have a book on the go about map reading etc and I have one in the wings about winter skills (but reading it in a book and doing it in real life are different! yikes).

    Now, the clouds in that new picture look like a unfinished suspension ceiling in a vast warehouse that you need a secret code to enter. :o)

  23. I put the pipes in that warehouse…

    One of my favourite stories is very relevant in this context, about the day when I took a woman in jeans and a jumper down from the summit of Ben Lomond. She was sheltering under her umbrella hoping the rain would go off…

  24. If we are talking mitts, I’ve tried a pair of these open palmed neoprene windsurfing mitts over recent months:

    The big advantage of these is that you can flip your fingers and thumbs out without taking the mitts off and therefore completely avoid the chance of losing them.

    They work particularly well in rain compared to say the Outdoor Designs Kona Grip Convertible mitts that you can see up on Needlesports.
    They are surprisingly warm if you keep your fists clenched but you need a decent conventional glove / mitt as backup in case it turns really cold.
    I have tried them with my Buffalo Mitts as Overmitt’s but my Buffalo XL’s could have done with being XXL’s as there seems to be quite a bit of friction between the two mitts.

  25. Interesting bit of kit. No stranger than the lightweight horse riding gloves I’ve been wearing recently I suppose.
    It’s amazing what works if you just use it, a picture of a mountain on the packaging is no guarantee of success.

    Gloves are a big thing for me, my hands get cold quite quick and I like to keep them “just right” all the time.
    These days I’m pretty well covered with the 50g Haglofs Paclite/ProShell mitts, at the other end the PHD down mitts and now with the Buffalo’s in there…
    I’ve either got a super-flexible system or I’ll never get out the door again as I”ll spend all day picking out gloves…

    I’ll need to do a glove round up at some point, like socks it’s dead importanmt and often overlooked.

  26. Just read that post i did before and i sound like a bit of a knob reading it back now, so apologies for that. It is just frustrating when you see people out on the mountains (which is good) but totally unprepared for any mishaps that may occur resulting in MRT being called out when they might not have needed to be for the sake of carrying some basic kit. I have helped a couple of bods many years ago (broken ankles) before the days of mobiles, but the phone seems to be the emergency kit a lot of people rely on these days.

  27. Don’t worry, I know what you meant.
    There’s two different types of the “unequipped”.
    Folks that don’t want to spend all that money before they’re sure that they like this hobby, or just haven’t come across a situation yet where their clothes have gotten them chilled or their lack of map has seen the panicking in the cloud. It’s all learning.
    Then there’s your neds in street wear who are on the hills so they can drink Bucky or smoke dopoe as far away from the cops as possible and will leave all their crap behind them.

    It’s an issue that does get us all worked up and righly so. Some folk just need to have the information there if they need it, and other just need a slap.
    We just have to be careful not to put everyone into the same box.

  28. Got myself a great pair of gloves last year Marmot Randonee undercuff (dropped em this year though for normal gauntlet style). I suffer cold hands too but these are primaloft lined goretex with tuff palms, great dexterity, excellent build quality and room for my powerstretch inners when really cold. Buffalo mitts or the old dachsteins are great as a back up pair. You NEED good gloves in this weather or your stuffed.

  29. Marmot gloves are brilliant. I’ve had a geed few pairs over the years.
    The warmest ones are their old “Work Gloves”, mostly leather, with microfleece lining and Primaloft on the back too. Never been cold in those.
    Warm hands in winter are where it’s at.

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