So there I was, the day had gone horribly wrong. I was meant to be somewhere else, but I was actually on the Southern bank of Loch Lomond trying to fix an unruly oil burner. Ben Lomond sat there with it’s white summit cone against the blue sky mocking me. Mocked I was.
Back to base for lunch, parts ordered. Sod this, I’m off. Kit organised, sack packed, flask filled, door closed behind me. I got to Rowerdennan the back of four and headed up the tourist path. With an eye on the setting sun and my mind on smashing photies of fiery clouds and the like I made good time with those skinny poles well employed. There was a crew of NTS path builders at work lower down, they’re making a good job of it too using stones foraged locally. A wee bit higher up met a few folk, one pair were very concerned at my late departure time and apparent lack of gear. They were reassured and we went our separate ways of up and down.
Bam. No sunset, just darkness as I started along Sron Aonaich. And the temperature dropped like a stone. Shell jacket on. The track here is pleasant and easily graded, the urgency had gone so I bimbled along enjoying the changes in the colours, the crunch of studded soles on ice and the chill air sucked in over the chin guard of my fleece. By the time I got to the snow line it was black, the light was gone. The snow was hard, there was a lot of ice so I swapped poles for crampons, ice axe and headtorch.
The ascent from here was a total joy. I walked in a tiny island of stark white, an apparently precipitous void of blackness on either side, but sure footed all the way. I know Ben Lomond so well, I felt secure, the trig pillar was where and when I expected. The summit was cold, really cold and I was too long in putting on my insulated gloves. The cloud came down the wind got that little bit fiercer. It was time to head down.
I realised that I didn’t know this new hill, I felt tentative, the line of descent had to be picked out. In the dark, in winter, in the cloud by headtorch, 974m suddenly doesn’t seem so lame.
But my hands thawed, I chewed on a thoroughly unnecessary High5 banana sports bar and the spring returned to my step. Morale? If ever something was an underestimated piece of essential kit.
I sat at the edge of the snowline and had a hot cuppa. I switched my headtorch off. I sat there in a navy blue and grey-out, the only visible shapes were the wee patches of snow. Peace. The cloud started to break up and the stars twinkled at me as I sipped.
I sat for a while, warm in my insulated jacket. Ben Lomond, all mine. But as nice as that was, it would have been nice to have been talking about this mini adventure today with someone that had been sitting there with me.