Back in April, TTS and I had set out to walk Ben Wyvis. It was towards the end of the month and there was still some snow on the ground as we made our way up the hill. I hate walking in snow on hills and this was deep in places, slushy and slippery in others and bloomin’ hard work! I started to have problems after having a slight slip, then as I made my way around one of the zig-zag bends, I had the most dreadful sensation of falling backwards off the hill. It was actually quite terrifying, I simply couldn’t get control of the irrational feeling, despite the fact I knew I was perfectly safe. After a short while, David took the decision we were making our way back down off the hill.
I was gutted.
So on Tuesday, six months later, one and a half stone lighter and a bit fitter, (that’s me, not David…) we took the opportunity of dropping the car off for it’s MOT at a ridiculously early hour to carry on a bit further north and have another crack at Ben Wyvis.
We arrived at the car park in sunshine, there was just one other car with two occupants about to set off in shorts and gaiters (never quite understood that combination…) We had second breakfast, a peanut butter buttie for me, before heading off at a goodly pace along the well made and maintained path.
Looking SE along Allt a’ Bhealaich Mhoir
And that sun annoyed me all, the way, up…
That pointy bit is the top of the steep bit
It starts off quite gradually, steepens after leaving the forestry, then steepens a bit more stiffly. The first bit was done in good time, a bit ahead of our estimated time. The next bit was also completed in good time, if a little slower now. The last bit of steep climb, with it’s well placed steps for people with long legs, took a little longer. With quite a few pauses to, um, enjoy the views… David pointed at the spot at which I’d had my wobble last time, which I wished he hadn’t, but in fact I passed it with ease and without a second glance. Onward and upwards. We saw two runners making their way up the side of the hill. They passed us on their way back down, before we’d made the top, but they only went as far as the first cairn, not right to the trig. Cheats! We were also distracted by some unusual noises that we could not at first identify, nor their origin, but suddenly I spotted a moving white rock and realised the noises were the deep throaty calls of a group of ptarmigan, in half and half summer/winter plumage. There were seven in total and they stayed quite boldly right next to the path as we continued uphill.
Eventually, the slope becomes slightly less steep and the cairn comes into view. That’s just great, as you realise there are another two cairns to pass before you reach the trig, sigh. We continued on as it was quite windy on the top of the ridge and not really a place we wanted to linger. The two fellas that had left the car park ahead of us passed us on their return trip, and a young lady who must have approached from the other side of the hill on a circuit. It seemed to take quite a while to get there, but finally we were on the final little ascent to the trig and it’s little shelter, we took in the views and a few photographs before hunkering down behind the low walls of the shelter to try to get out of the wind while we greedily stuffed lunch and snacks into our mouths. Another gentleman briefly joined us at the trig, but he ducked down the leeward side of the shelter wall to pop on another layer and maybe take a quick bite before he was off again, obviously to complete a circuit rather than, like us and the two fellas, an out and back.
TTS, checking the map to set a navigation question for me
Because the path is somewhat obvious!
I reached a point when, despite having donned a couple of insulating layers and not having removed my gloves to eat (I have perfected the skill of holding my sandwich in it’s bag whilst I eat it) I had to get moving, my fingers were no longer a part of my body, so off I went, leaving TTS to sweep the shelter and then catch up with me. We fair trotted back along that ridge, it didn’t seem to take anywhere near as long to get back to the first cairn and then the downhill path. I knew it was steep. It had been steep on the way up. It was, however, a shock to find to find it quite so knee jarringly steep and it wasn’t long before my pace was dramatically slowed as I crept my way down over those steps made for giants. Eventually I had to call a halt and pop some pills, I suspect that by the time they kicked in, we had reached the easier slope.
Rain in the distance as we made our way back
In no time, we were back at the car, the fellas’ car had gone and there were now two road repair vehicles parked at the end. We had beaten the rain and beaten my demons, all in one day. Ecstatic!
Approximately 9 miles and 3,191 ft total ascent, in just less than five and a half hours including stops. A fabulous day out!!!!