Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood. This post is from Pete (seen at the top of Ben Lomond (see Twin Peaks for more climbing stories)
The first Munro of the trip has been bagged (10 June). What type of bag to place over Ben Lomond? A Waitrose bag from Holloway Road of course. Munros are Scottish mountains taller than 3000 feet, catalogued by an anorak called Munro. Ben Lomond is 974 metres (3195 feet) high and the most southerly of Munros. With its twin shoulders and broad head it dominates the eastern shore of Loch Lomond.
There’s a clear path from near the Rowardennan Youth Hostel. This is slightly easier than the Ptarmigan ridge route which Fraser, who runs the hostel, claims to have ascended “barefoot in a kilt”.
It soon offers views of the numerous islands scattered over the loch. There are numerous other climbers, all seemingly discussing departmental office politics with each other. Fellow walkers stop to say “Hiya”, “How ya doin'?” and “Morning!”. It’s a long upwards slog but as you head towards the summit those coming down offer words of encouragement. If only we could apply the mountain code to the city. You might be heading up Highbury Hill to be greeted with comments of “Humid, isn’t it?”, “Not far to go now!” and “I can feel last night’s beer!”.
The walk offers a chance to reflect in silence. Climbing mountains helps you realize the smallness of humans compared to the landscape, the futility of their material aspirations and particularly Sheffield United’s.
Like most mountains Ben Lomond has numerous false summits, my thighs ache, my shirt is saturated with sweat, but the final glimpse of the summit cone speeds exhausted legs. Cloud drifts across the tops and you can feel the dampness on your face. How much better to be in among the clouds feeling them, rather than just flying through.
Occasionally the mist gives way to reveal the full length of the loch, precipitous crags and wild moorland to the east. “Look out for the beasties!” warns a fellow female walker. Bizarrely the summit cone is covered in breeding insects which look like horse flies. The midges have bagged this particular Munro too and make forays for my flesh, but it’s still a shame to leave.
The route down and provides the best snippet of conversation of the day from two ascending Scotsmen. “Stephen wanted to run up a mountain in his kilt to reconnect with his Scottishness…”“Aye, the last person I saw running up a mountain in his kilt was wearing tights underneath to keep the midges off.”
Scotsmen in kilts and tights avoiding midges… surely enough to give anyone a kilt complex.