Climbing Ben More – Crianlarich, Loch Lomond – Guest Post

We climbed Ben More near Crianlarich at the end of February.  There were four of us, all friends at the time.  It was freezing but we were prepared.

Following a night out in Glasgow’s West End we headed north early on a Saturday morning to Crianlarich and Ben More, our goal for the weekend.

We woke up that day to pleasant clear skies.  I remember before setting off  from our friend’s kitchen staring at the kettle which was boiling away.  A flask was being prepared.  This would be our hot brew for the summit.  The preparation was pure clockwork, there was no need to think and we left Glasgow without breakfast.

Approach to the summit of Ben More

The 3 hour drive from Glasgow to the foot of the mountain was uneventful, there was no conversation.  My eyes were fixed to road ahead as we passed through Loch Lomond, turning right at Tarbet and then, quite suddenly, we arrived at Crianlarich.  This beautiful village was our basecamp.

We got away from the warmth inside the car, got packed, wrapped up and set off up the mountain.  My personal attire and kit comprised: 2 balaclavas, 2 big weatherproof coats, one pair of gloves (with thermal socks on the outside) and a large photographic bag/case containing some heavy and unfamiliar camera equipment (don’t do this).

The start was like the start of many winter climbs in Scotland; a difficult uphill slog with loose and slippery rocks underfoot.  It must be noted, however, that at this time of year the  mountain scenery in Scotland is breathtaking, which is why I do it.

We had reached that stage, that place in life and of the climb, where one must be focussed, from the soul, and have no complaints against the prevalent discomfort (for the sake of the team) but to carry on, regardless.

Meall Glass, from the summit of Ben More - Crianlarich
Meall Glass with clouds looming overhead – view from Ben More

En route, there was a one minute break and welcome relief from the struggle (about halfway up), at which point we reminded ourselves: do not veer right and go off from the well trodden route (that is, if you can see the trodden route beneath the ice and snow).  There is a deadly gully with a sheer drop to the right.

Most climbers will recognise that at the final stages of any climb there is an irrational drive which takes hold on approach to the summit.  No matter how dishevelled you may feel there is an instinctive urge to conquer the mountain.  And we conquered!   (Nobody beats the mountain, I know this).  We had finally reached the summit.

Elated and at the peak of existence I tried to take some photos.  At this point it was realised that my fingers were deep-frozen to the bone.  They seemed so brittle that they might snap off from my hand if I wasn’t careful.   It was impossible to deal with pressing small buttons etc. on the camera.  There was an ice cold wind.  Where’s the hot brew that had been prepared earlier, who’s got the flask?  Yee ha!

crianlarichhills (1)
Frozen at the summit of Ben More

My eyes are welling up when I think about this even now.  The flask containing the brew was smashed on the inside.  Amongst the boiled water there were fragments of broken glass and it was soul destroying.  Who on this planet would bother to carry one of those large old fashioned and breakable flasks up a mountain in the first place?  Regardless, I was thinking we could filter out the glass via a sock or something to save the day.  What was the brew anyway?  I was thinking Cuppa Soup or something.  The culprit then produced one tea bag.  That was it!

Is there anybody out there who has ever left home with one tea bag?

Posted by Alba

See also: Loch Lomond Bed and Breakfast

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