December (280-282)

Ben Lomond – (282!!!) – 14th December

Many hillwalkers will look back on this Saturday as one of the worst forecasts they had ever witnessed. Particularly those hillwalkers who had intended to join us for our last Munro, which was scheduled about two months ago! Throughout the week the forecast went from bad to worse, ultimately reporting that wind in the western mountains would increase to 80 mph over the course of the morning, with gusts of 110mph expected!  Not exactly the balmy day out we had been hoping for to celebrate the end of our Epic achievement with our nearest and dearest. By Friday evening our house had transformed into a mini-meteorology centre, with anyone with half a wifi-signal attempting to predict the exact minute the winds would be at their worst so that we could plan accordingly. There was brief mention of starting at midnight on Friday to be up and down before we’d slept for the night, but given that we had already changed the start time multiple times based on the weather we decided to stick with the most-recent plan of a 6 a.m. start from the Rowardennan car park. This gave us a half-decent chance of success, with the hopes that we would be up and down before the worst of the wind really kicked in. Everyone had been warned that there was a good chance we would be forced to back off depending on conditions, but we were going to give it a bash.

And so it was, a 4:15 a.m. alarm and a meet up in the car park at 0545. A dozen of our friends were in remarkably good spirits given that most of us hadn’t slept for more than a few hours. Amazing where a bit of adrenaline and some trepidation will get you! Alys and both Toms had come up from England; Ian had driven down from Nairn on Friday after work; and Jenny had provided the pleasant shock of the decade by surprising Jamie and arriving from Washington, D.C. to be a part of the big event. The rest of the crew, including Matt, Nicola, Julie, Bosco, Stewart, Danny & Megan, headed off with us as planned at 06:00 on the dot. The time seemed to pass quickly in the dark with lots of chatting and the flicker of head torches guiding us. It was eerily calm when we started at the car, and even calmer as we made our way up the obvious path and through the woods. The wind picked up as we were on the final approach ridge, but even this was only between 20-30 mph (it’s all relative now!). Given what we were expecting this seemed mild in comparison. We had a pre-summit pow-wow before the final push, anticipating that the summit ridge would be painful; there was a mini-warning shared ‘round that Andy and Jamie may do a quick blast to the trig point to finish off the year even if others wanted to wait a wee bit lower down.

As it turned out, though, the summit was just about the calmest spot to be found all day! We’d left the celebratory bubbly and hors d’oeuvres at home, assuming as we’d set out that there was a slim to no chance we’d be spending any more than a millisecond on a summit with Force 11 winds! Lucky for us, we have wonderful friends and from a few backpacks (thanks Julie & Bosco, Stewart and Danny!) emerged a few bottles and a flask . . . and they even carried back down the empties! We spent about 15 minutes on the top, just enough time for some individual and group pics, swigs all around, and the addition of layers for those not quite used to winter mountain conditions in Scotland. That was it . . . we had done it!!

We zipped down the first few hundred metres of descent to get out of the worst of the wind and away from the frozen terrain, but from there we daresay folks were even enjoying themselves. Views emerged over Loch Lomond and we picked out the islands we’ve kayaked to in the past and would do again, especially now the Munro Challenge is complete!

We took our time with our friends, soaking in the views and the last of the descents of the year. Within a few minutes of the car park it started to absolutely pour and the winds had clearly picked up . . . seems it was worth the stupid o’clock start to know that we had made it up and down safely, with the entire group of 14 successfully summiting AND returning to cars without anyone being blown over! Woop Woop! Kudos, also, to Ian for making this his 141st Munro in 18 months – well on his way toward Munro compleation in a relatively sensible way, though still pretty bonkers!

The year was capped with an amazing breakfast in Milngavie at Bullands Café (“amazing,” as defined in the dictionary, being any meal that includes whipped cream as a central ingredient) and one heck of a party later on. Thanks to our incredible friends for their love and support throughout 2013! The car shuttles; the tasty treats; the company; the laughs; the motivation . . . Thank you!

What a year . . . What. A. Year.

And on to our next adventure . . .

And on to our next adventure . . .

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Ben More – (281) – 7th December

It’s always incredible how long it takes us to get started from a night spent camping in the rain, but at least we’re aware of our deficiencies and plan accordingly! Unfortunately the stream was so noisy Jamie slept through her double alarm, but luckily we had set Andy’s ear-drum bursting phone alarm so we were only 25 minutes behind schedule from the word Go. Lucky for Jamie, our decision to camp overnight on Mull had been a bit of a last minute one with no time to organise typical breakfast foods (or so she made Andy believe; porridge is yucky!). So, it was giant cous cous with vegetables for breakfast . . . we should have discovered this a long time ago!

The rain sounded far heavier coming down on the tent than it was in reality so once we eventually ventured out we were relieved to find that conditions weren’t actually that bad. We took down the tent and locked up the bikes before following the trail that took us all the way to the summit. The cloud base was about 400m when we set off, meaning that this was yet another summit from which we could see nothing . . . except Jamie doing her celebratory dance on the top because this peak was her final Munro (only Ben Lomond to do on the Challenge, and we’ve both done it multiple times before).

Summit of Ben More

Summit of Ben More

We took shelter from the cold wind by ducking down behind the summit, chowing on chutney and cheese sandwiches (we were out of pickle!;( We decided to just head back the way we had come rather than completing the horseshoe ridge route based on the fact that there were no views to be had and it was quite icy on the top; Jamie had already broken her finger yesterday and we still had to get back to the ferry for the return journey to the mainland so decided to quit while we were ahead!

When all was said and done we only took about 3:40 from start to finish, which gave us ample time for a break back at the bikes before the 20 mile ride back to Craignure port. Once there, we still had a spare 2 hours so spent it chilling out in the glorified bus shelter, making supernoodles (of course!), hot drinks, and eating snacks.

Jamie - Munro Compleater 7/12/13

Jamie – Munro Compleater 7/12/13

Jamie promptly fell asleep on the ferry, only to discover that when we arrived back in Oban it was pouring. It only took us a few minutes to walk from the ferry to the car and get the bikes and ourselves loaded, but even with that we were soaked by the time we set off. Not exactly what we were hoping for to celebrate our penultimate Munro of the Challenge; neither were the various road closures that led to it taking us nearly 3 hours to get home from Oban (should be 1:45!). But, alas, we were home safe and sound . . . only 1 Munro to go of the Challenge; it’s on our doorstep; and it’s only the 7th of December! Bring it on!!

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Beinn Bhuidhe – (280) – 6th December

This had originally been planned as a weeknight endeavour; it was then shifted to be a Saturday (the only one we decided on the day to have as a rest, knowing we could still do it as a weeknight); Jamie then thought we would save it for second-to-last, which would mean that we would both be Munro Compleaters on the same summit. But, with one of the biggest storms this country has seen in years occurring the day before, we were at the mercy of the ferry schedule for Mull (the only other Munro we have left is Ben More) and fallen trees blocking roads to dictate our plans for the remaining two!

We drove up to Loch Fyne in the morning, recognising that we had a bit of a tight schedule to keep if we wanted to make the ferry to Mull later this evening. The cycle up to the foot of Beinn Bhuidhe would generally be easier, but Jamie led us slightly astray and we took the mucky track rather than the tarmac to approach. Oops! We got there anyway and left our bikes where requested, locking them to the post provided by the deer fence. Our walking was speedy today and we were generally very glad to have Kahtoolas with us as it was slick ice in parts of the trail. Jamie was quite nervous about descending this later but needn’t have been; there were ample options for walking on the grassy slopes beside the slick ice that were easy enough. Her problem came later . . .

But in the meantime, there is a section of steep walking not long before the traverse round and a section of flat walking to gain the summit. There was a cold wind reminding us that it was winter, but at least it was nothing like the winds in the storm that blew through yesterday. We stayed on the top long enough for Andy to pose for his “I’m a Munroist” picture and back we went the way we’d come.

As great as the Kahtoolas were on the ice, once the ice was behind/above us they turned out to be a bit of a liability. In her ever-so-graceful manner Jamie slipped on a rock (probably nothing to do with the Kahtoolas, really!) and managed to break her pinky finger. Given its minimal use in walking this wasn’t too big a deal, and with snow all around us the world was her ice pack! That being said, typing the “a”s in this blog report is proving a greater challenge!

Andy - Munro Compleater 6/12/13

Andy – Munro Compleater 6/12/13

We had a brief cycle on the track that links to the tarmac, with Jamie thankful we didn’t have to stay on this terrain for long as the bumpiness on her sore finger was making her a bit nauseous! We hit the tarmac and sailed back to the car; enough time to make the Mull ferry from Oban if the road north of Inveraray was open. Lucky for us it was!

A tiny bit of time to spare at the ferry terminal to get our gear sorted for an overnight of camping on Mull and preparation for whatever the elements might throw at us. We arrived into Craignure at 7 p.m. and cycled the 20 miles in the rain and dark to the start of the track to approach Ben More the following day. It had been a bit of an effort to find a place to camp in the dark with only our headtorches to guide us, but Andy managed to find a super spot beside a stream that was right at the start of the next day’s walking. Couldn’t ask for better!

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