Saturday, 24 October 2009

Medicine for the soul

It seemed the order for good weather finally went through this time, every time I checked the forecast for last last weekend it seemed to get better and better. The plan was simple. Find a hill, walk up it, put up a tent and watch the sun go down in a blaze of glory. I sorely needed some time out on the hills. A bit of me time.

As I was coming of nightshift on Friday morning I packed on Thursday evening. All I had to do was wake up and go. My overnight kit all went easily into my Jirishanca, which amazes me, as I haven’t made any super duper fantastic weight/bulk saving purchases for a while! I just seem to be packing faster and lighter these days. I’ve mentioned before but I really am starting to prefer my Jiri’ to the Villain these day’s. It’s just a better carry for me in terms of fit and stability.

As usual I woke late and had to rush off dealing with M8 Friday rush hour then all the usual morons on the A82. I parked up and the light was already failing which meant I’d have to pitch up in the dark but it all seemed insignificant now. I was going out to play, and without a care in the world. Work stress, money woes, house move hassles and all the other wee annoyances of life just seemed to fade away.

I shouldered my pack and set off but due to the late hour I changed from my plan of going up the tourist route to the summit then finding a spot to pitch somewhere on Ptarmigan ridge, to simply going straight up the ridge. Walking conditions were near perfect. There was a wee nip in the crystal clear air. The shadows were long as the sun was dropping behind the familiar Arrochar Alps on the other side of Loch Lomond. I was enjoying that magic half hour or so you get at the start and finish of days like these when the sunlight is golden and even boring old grass seems to burst with colour and texture. It’s like the world’s suddenly being broadcast in High-Def, Truly medicine for the soul! I’m grinning again just writing this!

Despite having not been out regularly for some time and with the constant stop/start for photies, I was making pretty good progress. As I ate up the contour lines, enjoying every one of them, the sky started to put on a fantastic display of colour. There was a band of gold crowning the tops on the other side of the water with pink streamers fading off into the continually darkening sky. Even this was no disappointment as the air clarity meant the wee pinprick stars seemed to dazzle and dance against the sky. As my eyes were naturally adjusting to the descending gloom I had no need for my head torch, I could pick out the shapes and terrain quite easily in the bright moonlit hillside.

Suddenly the ridge flattened out and I decided that here would be as good a place as any for a bed for the night. I had to don the head torch now to pitch the tent. This would be a test seeing as I’ve been neglecting my trusty Laser Comp during my love affair with the Shangri La 3. I was pleased though when it went up in a few minutes with no problems. The gradually increasing light pollution from Glasgow looked like a neon work of modern art and had the camera pointed at it many times before I decided to turn in for the night.

I was pretty exhausted after the exertion of getting up here, probably not helped by the screwing around with my body clock as a result of nightshift. I was so tired I simply couldn’t be arsed faffing around with a stove so I ate a Honey Stinger protein bar instead. After tiring myself further by blowing up my new Pacific Outdoor Thermo Orange Lilo I slept well, although I did have cold feet before I dropped off. PHD will be getting a call soon ;o)

I awoke naturally before my alarm that was set for sunrise. The tent was quite light but the sun wasn’t above the horizon yet. It was cold when I stuck my head out of the warm snuggly down cocoon I was in so I jammed on my beanie and reached for my PHD Ultra Pullover. The door zipper went up and the light streamed in. It was a glorious morning. I got up and took in the scene in front of me and wished I could wake up on every wildcamp like this. It was so quiet and peaceful; the sea of mist lying on Loch Lomond was swirling below while the sky got brighter and brighter. I made a quick trip to the wee lochans slightly higher on the ridge for water, taking as many photies as I could.

As I waited for my brew to come to the boil the big orange sun eventually crept above the horizon. Slowly and inevitably it rose upwards sending out its rays of warmth. I had 3 cuppas with my breakfast and took so many photies that I had to start deleting old ones off my camera. Texts were beginning to arrive from Elaina and Steve who were picking up Jamie at the airport for a trip up the Cobbler. I was supposed to join them but I knew I was going to be late at best. This was magnificent up here. It made all the wet hill days, clagged in summits and wild and windy nights in a tent of before all absolutely worth it. I spent so long just enjoying being there that an early riser had walked up the ridge and passed me before I’d even started to put my sleeping bag and stuff away never mind take the tent down. Eventually though I did get moving and made my way onwards to the summit.

Up here I lingered for some time as well. I was just blown away by the views whilst the air was so clear. I had several conversations with a few other walkers who all came up the tourist route. I sent a few of them down Ptarmigan ridge while I made my way down the way they came up. I wish I hadn’t now as frankly it was the boring one of the two and I was getting face ache from the constant smiling and saying good morning! I honestly reckon I must’ve met approx 60 to 70 people on my descent. It’s good though to see so many folks out enjoying the country and being active instead of becoming the couch potato Britain we always see on telly ads. I am glad that the masses are happy to conquer Ben Lomond by the boring route though. It means I get the harder more interesting one to myself.

Eventually I got back to the car and drove around to Arrochar. After a quick bacon butty I started off up the track towards the Cobbler where I eventually met Elaina, Steve and Jamie who were on their way back down. It was great catching up with pals and hearing their stories of snickers conmen and Jamies antics on the Narnain Boulders. When we got back to the cars we had a short drive to The Real Food CafĂ© to wait on PTC, Bobinson and co who would be arriving soon at the halfway point on their West Highland Way Falldoon adventure. The crack was good and so was the food. Eventually Jamie had to go onwards to continue his adventures and then the Falldoon team arrived. We stayed another hour or so hearing about their impressive and slightly bonkers journey while they got fed and watered. I don’t know what time I left but it was very late by the time I eventually got home. Definitely the sign of a good weekend ;o)


  1. Nice one! Fantastic photies too! Ocht... I want to camp oot and see a lovely sunset.

  2. really great write up. Your obviously great trip carries through into your post and the pictures say it all!

  3. What a great night on the hills. It's great to see the sun rise in places like that.

  4. "that magic half hour or so you get at the start and finish of days like these when the sunlight is golden and even boring old grass seems to burst with colour and texture. It’s like the world’s suddenly being broadcast in High-Def" :-)

  5. First of all a big thanks to everyone who takes the time to leave the occasional comment on here.

    I'll apologise for not responding to anybody here sooner but I've only just got my broadband connected in the flat (like 10 mins ago) so I can go back to more regular updates on here. I had to post the last post in the library and the one before that was from my phone.

  6. hi how you getting on with shangri la???? my nallo2 just doesnt seem to work now i take dog aswell??? peter

  7. Hi Peter

    Yeah the Shangri La is a great tent, its very spacious and should work very well with a dog I'd say. If I offset the pole Louise and I find we can both sleep together in the middle and have loads of room to spread out our stuff on either side.

  8. Stunning photography coupled with great narrative.A breath of fresh air.Keep up the good work nephew.

  9. Lovely post - The beginning and ends of days on top of the hills are just so magical

  10. They are indeed Alan, that's when all my best photies are taken.

  11. buying a shangri la 3 green would be descreete but would a bamboo one feel warmer!!!!!!!????????? ta peter

  12. Yes. As you can see from the pics above (Red Laser Comp fly) I have a personal preference to brightly coloured tent flys rather than green ones. The main reason is the ambience created within from the light coming through the fly. Generally I find tents with green flys to be dull and uninviting which affects mood, morale etc.

    I understand that a lot of people will want to be discreeet and have their tent blend in in the hills, but as I generally camp high and in remote places and in Scotland this doesn't bother me.

    Brightly coloured tents look better in mountain pics due to the contrast. Although funnily enough the last time I saw PTC he was telling me he had seen some figures that show something like 9 out of 10 tents sold are green and 9 out of 10 jackets sold are black.


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