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Day 5 – October 14, 2010

View from Ben Lomond, looking east

Ben Lomond is a 3192 ft. high munro whose trail starts close to the youth hostel at Rowardennan, and that was my agenda for the day – to climb to the top. It’s a long and arduous climb, much harder than the hardest climb I’ve done till date (Torna fort close to Pune). Ben Lomond starts off slow, but after you cross the first third of the climb it starts to show it’s true colours. Steep and rocky slopes twisting around the shorter hills surrounding the peak lead up the side of Ben old boy there, testing your strength and will to climb. The initial climb was aided by this fantastic view of two RAF jets flying no more than 150 ft. above Loch Lomond, between the hills surrounding the loch. I was at an altitude above them and the view was stunning and very uplifting.

And so I trudged on to the top. After a while a pattern started to emerge. I would climb for 10-15 minutes, then look up and realize the top wasn’t any closer than it appeared the last time I had checked. A well-known four-letter expletive would then effuse from my mouth, partly from the seeming lack of progress, and partly from knowing that I was determined to get to the top. There was a long plateau section that lent relief for about 20 minutes. It must be a ridge between the surrounding hills that form the initial ascent, and Ben Lomond itself. Once the ascent of Ben Lomond commenced, it dawned on me that this was going to be much harder than I had anticipated. In all my wisdom I had decided not to carry a bottle of water with me, hoping that the small amount I had at the base would be fine, and I’d manage the ascent with the two cans of Red Bull. Dumb. I nearly decided to give up, with the last 20% of the climb remaining. Getting up there with around 8kg. of glass and metal wasn’t easy, and the strain started to show. It was also getting colder and colder with the wind picking up.

At that time I met these two Scottish girls, Emma and Amanda, who were also on their way to the top. Seeing them moving ahead and aided by some friendly banter I kept moving upward, albeit at a much slower pace. Eventually, after what seemed like ages, I managed to get to the top. The brochures for Ben Lomond say that you should keep aside 5 hours for the whole thing. Well, it had taken me almost 4 hours to get to the top, so I wondered how much I’d need to add to that in order to get to the base.

The view from the top is fantastic. 360 degrees of visibility, and only then does one realize how big Loch Lomond really is. Being a clear day I could see way out into the distance, and looking southwest I thought I could make out some peaks far away that might have been the Isle of Arran, but I can’t be sure. I spent about half an hour there, shooting and looking around. It really felt like I had come into the highlands of Scotland now.

The hike back down to the base ended up taking me much lesser time than I had anticipated. I completed it in a couple of hours, chatting with Emma and Amanda on the way down. They’re both schoolteachers, or so I gathered, from some place close to Glasgow and were on a weeklong holiday of their own. I bid them farewell at the base and decided to drive back to the SYHA at Loch Lomond. I was planning to drive up to Glencoe the next day and I’d have to take the same route, so it would be better if I went back the same evening seeing how I had some time before nightfall.

And so I ended up back the Loch Lomond SYHA in the same room I had stayed in earlier. Met up with one of the guys who had been there the last time I was there. Andrew, from Jamaica, is working in London and was up in Scotland to attend a workshop for a week (something to do with energy transformation in the human body, i.e. some psychokinetic mumbo-jumbo, not too far from Indian tantric tales!). We got chatting, and were joined by our new Australian roommate, Ben, who was also on a short holiday around Scotland. Stayed up the latest that I have so far on this trip, talking and exchanging tales of the past with Andrew. Good fun. Great day.

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