Wednesday 8 September 2010

Twin Peaks

For the second Sunday in a row, it was back to the hills. Sunday's plan was the long awaited trip to Killin in Perthshire to bag a double. The Hills in question were Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers, the first two peaks of the Lawers Ridge.

We arrived in Killin and set off on the walk about 10:30. From the get go, it wasn't looking too good weatherwise. You could see the cloud level sitting quite low but we were quite optimistic it would lift. There are a few good things about our intended route. Firstly, it has one of the best maintained routes you will find up a hill, especially considering Lawers is the 10th highest peak in Scotland at 1213 metres. Secondly, the total ascent for getting both summits is only 900 metres. You start at about 450m and as there is a ridge connecting them, you only descent 100m before making the final ascent to the second peak.

It wasn't long before we were right in the thick of the clouds. Having very little experience of poor weather conditions up the hills, this was an eye opener. However, it is a really good route to use to get a feel for the weather due to the well defined path. We took our time up the path and were approaching Beinn Ghlas when we came across a cairn.

On reading reports beforehand, the common trait of this route is that you can easily walk passed the Ghlas summit and not even realise it is there. This is what made me doubt that this was of any significance - it was too noticeable. Anyways, we stopped for a few photos just in case and then it was confirmed. A guy and his young daughter who were just behind us, caught up and confirmed that the actual summit is just up the road. We got blethering to him for a couple of minutes until we reached the proper summit. It's true, you could pass it and not know about it. The guy kindly took a photo of the the three of us atop said carin and it was time to move on as it was very chilly.

After the descent of Beinn Ghlas it was time for my first the first ridge walk. I was looking forward to this but the weather kind of ruined it as you had no view whatsoever. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not though. With the severe buffeting we were getting from the winds, I'm not sure I would want to see where we would be heading if we got blown off our feet.

After a longer than expected walk in the gales, the trig and cairn of Ben Lawers came into view. It was really unexpected. We were walking just staring into clouds and then out of nowhere the shapes appeared with the final boulders we had to navigate.

When we finally reached them, we realised this was th ehighest either of us had ever been outwith an aeroplane. 1213m above see level is not that bad for me. The biggest ascent so far is still the Beinn Imne trip but this felt pretty good to be this high up. Especially in the weather we had, it was such a surreal experience. We quickly got the pictures and made our way back down to find some shelter to stop for a breather.

Heading down was like a polar opposite to the way up. When we got off the ridge and started on the alternative path down the side of Beinn Ghlas, the clouds just lifted in a matter of minutes. Only a couple of hours before at the exact same spot, you could hardly see in front of you. Even stranger though, about 20 minutes later, the summit of Lawers was visible from about 800 metres. If only we started an hour later, the weather and views would have been so different.

The path down on this one was great. It was a different route from the ascent which bypassed the summit of Beinn Ghlas by taking you around it and down at a shallower rate. This was welcome after the previous hills. It may have took longer but as the altitude drop was gradual, the pain on the knees was minimal.

We were back in the car about 5½ hours after we started and on reflection this was one of my best days on the hills. Fair enough, the weather was poor but the route was good. It was challenging but not scunnering and the day as a whole was great. I aim to do this one again next summer, hopefully with better weather in the company of a certain fan of Killin - you know who you are.

2010-09-05 - Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers
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