A New Recruit

July 31, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

In Scotland our scenery is quite vertically challenged, compared to a great many places in the world. The highest mountain in Scotland is Ben Nevis, which is a paltry 1,345 metres (4,412 feet) - you do have to climb it from practically sea level though…

Any Scottish hill above 3,000 feet (914 metres) is classed as a Munro (named after Sir Hugh Munro - this Wiki link explains it better than I can).

“Bagging” (climbing) Munro mountains is a popular pastime and many people are out there in all weathers at weekends attempting to “bag” another Munro and tick it off their list.  Despite their size Munros are still tricky and challenging - falling 200 metres is pretty much as damaging as falling 2000 metres, except the conclusion is quicker.

In winter, despite their height, I consider them as proper scary mountains as the Scottish weather multiplies the danger immensely, especially with the relentless winds and subsequent chilling.

This lighthearted video clip give an idea of what it can be like. Here is another clip from the Cairngorms in Winter for another taster of winter conditions. 

I have been up a Munro in a white-out when the cloud and the snow create a whiteroom effect. This is a very weird experience and disorienting too, as you do not know if your next step will be on snow, or a cloud, as you inadvertently walk off a cliff.

I took this picture of Bob (100 Munros!) who was videoing the predicament of being in a white-out. Luckily we knew where we were - that little post hidden by my walking poles was a fence line marked on the map.

The WhiteroomThe WhiteroomBob in a whiteout on Beinn Udlamain. The cloud closed in and suddenly everything went white. We stopped, I took a picture of Bob videoing the surreal scene. Luckily we knew where we were...

Hypothermia is a real threat on these hills in the winter. But even in the summer it is a possibility if you are not equipped - At 900 metres conditions can be fierce when below in the glens people are wearing t-shirts, eating ice cream and running away from midges.

I took this video on a Munro called Stob Binnein (1,165m) in August 15, I was wrapped up and was wearing gloves!

August on Stob BinneinIt is pretty cold up here, and hats and gloves were worn. Scottish summer at a 100om metres is short on heat.

Now onto the new recruit - Mrs B has been paying more attention to my comings and goings lately and she realised I was having all the fun! She has started joining me on walks and recently got to the top of King’s Seat hill in the Ochil Hills which is 600 metres.

King's Seat HillKing's Seat HillKing's Seat Hill from the Glen of Sorrow

Whilst on holiday near Inverness I finally convinced her to try and climb a Munro in the form of Ben Wyvis, which is 1,046 metres and classed as relatively straightforward. I lived in its shadow as a youngster, so I have always wanted to get to the top.

With Mrs B joining me on trips she has started using all my equipment, for instance I had recently treated myself to a pair of Mountain King walking poles, which after she had walked with them, she told me she had to have them from now on as she was “used to them” - Cue new poles for me!

So after visiting a hill walking shop in Inverness and buying more gear we looked at the Mountain Weather Information Service website and decided that the Wednesday of that week looked best with a 50% chance of a cloud free summit and no rain forecast until mid-afternoon.

Parking the car at 8am we got our rucksacks on (whilst the midgie’s attacked us) and we then marched off at a good pace so the wee nips couldn’t keep up, after a while our objective, the steep slope of the shoulder of Ben Wyvis, An Cabar, came into view.

Approaching An CabarApproaching An CabarThe walk up to Ben Wyvis is a pleasant one. The route up to the summit is via this subsidiary top, An Cabar.

The climb up has a really good path that has been built to protect the mountain from walkers eroding the delicate vegetation - I can accept these kind of paths and I take my hat off to the volunteers that build them. The path even has steps for about a quarter of the way up!

Climbing Ben WyvisClimbing Ben WyvisThis is the view from halfway up, as we clambered up to An Cabar

There was one or two scary drops that unnerved Mrs B as the path runs close to the edge at times but she persevered and after a short sit-down protest, we eventually got to the top of An Cabar.

Mrs B was very happy when she got there, but her jubilation quickly turned to anger when I told her that this was not the top as that was a further 2 km to walk across the broad mountain! After coaxing her on to continue, we eventually reached the summit trig point and she had a big smile when she touched it. We ate some lunch and I took some photos.

At the top of Ben WyvisAt the top of Ben WyvisMrs B takes a drink while I muck about with my camera.. Northwest from Ben WyvisNorthwest from Ben WyvisThere is a dirty big windfarm in this view Looking North from Ben WyvisLooking North from Ben WyvisI wonder if that distant hill is Ben Hope, the most Northerly of Scotland's Munro's? Oil Rigs in Nigg BayOil Rigs in Nigg BayLooking Southeast from the summit of Ben Wyvis.

On the way back it was a pleasant descent, I am glad we started early as there was a procession of people coming up the hill, it was really busy for a Wednesday!

Eventually we were nearing the car and Mrs B asked which hill we will be doing next, I told her that we had a choice of several easy ones and she decided she wanted to do Ben Nevis (the busiest of the lot!), she then said “I am really tired, but I wish this walk wasn’t ending”.

Well done Mrs B, you have done your first Munro and now (I think that) you have been bitten by that bug. The bug that makes you want to roam and discover and see what is over that hill or along that Glen. I have a new walking partner and she will be doing Schiehallion or Ben Lomond next. Busy Ben Nevis can wait for now ;-)



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