Ptarmigan - 778m
Ben Lomond - 974m

Sunday 21st September 2008

Weather/Conditions: The morning was incredible - as we headed north in the car the the thick cloud pushed back to leave Lomond clear as we arrived - glowing in fiery morning sunlight, veiled by wispy mist it was a sight to be remembered. The day was fairly sunny, with strong winds at the very top. As we arrived cloud lifted off the top to give views. Otherwise, a hazy day, we couldn't see to the bottom end of Loch Lomond but the sun was out otherwise.
Accompanying: Allan

My third trip with cousin, Allan. We'd walked together a bit before - him and I climbed an immensely boggy Beinn Ime almost a year ago, before going on to The Cobbler. That was almost a year ago and then in April '08 we climbed Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond) in winter conditions. The first walk wasn't so great but Ben Vorlich was astounding. It was only a matter of time before we'd go again. Two weeks previously my trip around the Crianlarich Munros made the bug bite even harder and I felt I needed to climb again - sadly the weekend of the 13th and 14th was wet wall to wall. Actually, Sunday morning wasn't too bad but by the time I'd found that out it was already too late. The weather for the Sunday was debatable as to whether it'd be all-out sun or rain. At sunrise on Sunday, cloud blanketed the sky. Things weren't looking good even though Allan was over and we'd have to do something. It backed up the weather reports that it'd be a day of low cloud and rain.

How wrong was I? Upon leaving, the clouds began pushing northwards and with it, the sun which was low in the eastern sky cast broad shadows over fields. Could this be a good day? We passed through Drymen and Balmaha and it appeared to be that things were going to clear up. We approached Rowardennan and Lomond was golden with the sun and covered top to bottom in a thin layer of mist - an amazing sight. Not going into overly romantic details about golden suns and shrouding mist, it was something I won't forget any time soon.

Ascent via. Ptarmigan Ridge

We arrived at the bottom of the mountain and chose the route up Ptarmigan Ridge. It was a slog up the first 500 metres - as I found it to be last time too. The day was hazy and the cloud formations were fascinating. All the same, the sun was out, low in the sky, and I had an excellent time going up, even if it was a bit of a slog. The pace was moderate and all the time views were opening out. We stopped several times and eventually after much slogging, ended up on top of Ptarmigan Ridge.

I felt like we were finally getting somewhere. Ben Lomond looked beautiful, the sun was out and lit up the mountain. The haze added dimension to the place, layering hills one behind the other and ahead of us, the ridge curved around and up to the summit of Lomond. A bit of cloud was capping the top but otherwise it was an excellent day. It was just a passing cloud and I had imagined the summit would be clear by the time we summited.

We took the path along the ridge which was a brilliant walk. I felt in great spirits, and headed up to the top of Ptarmigan, where a small cairn stood. Allan and I headed on up to Ben Lomond. The final ridge up to the summit of Lomond now solidifies my suspicions of being a brilliant ridge walk and brilliant scramble. It was sure both - Allan and I both loved it. It's never technical enough to be of any concern but the drops to the north are pretty magnificent. It strikes that border between safety and exhilarating, giving you best of both worlds.

Cloud was still on top of Lomond and we were going to enter it sometime, though it was light and was only scraping the top. For a while the jagged edges of the ridge were hidden behind a murk of grey, very atmospheric, but as we reached the top, the wind blasted a gale and in a moment of magnificence, the cloud was lifted off the top of Lomond. The last wisps of cloud were whipped up clean into the air and the entire fog lifted above our heads, spinning and rolling away. It was spectacular and timed beautifully. We were at the summit of Ben Lomond and it was a brilliant place to be.


On the other hand we didn't stay very long. The initial idea was to find somewhere to sit sheltered but with a wind coming from the south west and cliffs facing north east, there weren't many options for shelter. Once we'd started walking we didn't stop and in the following time we proceeded to spend our time having an easy jaunt down the broad Sron Aonaich. The path was visible and featureless for a long way ahead, but we were not once bored. Must've been the endless conversation.

We were down off the ridge in no time and Allan was walking in front of me. His walking pace slowly turned into a running one and I, following his feet, step for step followed what turned into running. Soon enough we were belting our way down the track and had an great time flying down the mountainside - equally enjoyable as any other moment on this great day.

We soon got to the felled forestry and through the woods back to Rowardennan, by which time I was walking out of exhaustion. I may be able to walk up mountains but I just cannot run. It's hell and less so downhill, but the pace had me gasping for air in no time. Some coming up looked surprised at out speedy descent and others couldn't have looked less impressed at our 'controlled fall', but we had a great time.

Upon reaching Rowardennan, a lift home was nowhere to be seen. Allan and I sat in the sun by the pier, occasionally dipping feet into water, but it was sunny as it had been all day and after getting through to parents on the phone, we waited around lying on the rocks, looking over to the Arrochar hills. Rowardennan was an excellent place to cool off after the walk.

Mum pulled in soon enough - the journey isn't too far and asides visiting family on the way back, we headed home.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 7.30am Rowardennan
(2.10) 9.40am Ptarmigan
(3.45) 11.15am Ben Lomond
(5.30) 1.00pm Rowardennan

Written: 2008-09-21