Ben Lomond

DSCF0852.JPG For my birthday last September Dee presented me with a pair of rather lovely hill-walking boots. No wardrobe is complete without Italian leather footwear, of course, although the Vibram sole and reinforced toe-cap is perhaps not every woman’s dream. These boots spent the winter in store in Nairn along with most of our other possessions, and until the before that the most action they had seen was walking up and down the stairs at 14 Lewiston. But fair weather and our current residence in Glasgow enabled me to rekindle an age-old tradition and break them in properly on an outing up Ben Lomond.

DSCF1492.JPG We chose a warm and sunny day. The car park at Rowardennan was very busy and we did not exactly have the hill to ourselves. The views were splendid, if a little hazy, and I had a grand time to myself recognising old friends. The Cobbler and the rest of the Arrochar Alps, of course, Ben More and Stob Binnein, Ben Lawers and ‘that wee pointy bastard in the distance’ which, as Muriel Gray memorably remarked, is always Schiehallion. There were cows and calves grazing near the path, Aberdeen Angus I think, butterworts, harebells and violets bright flashes of colour along the way, and the loch shining deep and blue below Ptarmigan ridge. It quite put us in the notion for another walking holiday in Switzerland.

DSCF1479.JPG The thing about Switzerland is you can get the train up and enjoy a high-level walk without knackering yourself. Dee’s knees and hips were complaining on the way up and her feet on the way down. I thought I was fine in my new boots, striding up the path, sure-footed on the slight scrambly bits off the top, but boy did I suffer later. Thigh muscles so sore and tight that each normal walking step was painful for several days afterwards. Dee had blisters on the soles of both her feet and we were both a bit tired and grumpy.

DSCF0857.JPG So a few lessons learned. Mountain climbing in your 50s is not the same as mountain climbing in your 20s. Ben Lomond seemed much higher than I remembered, but it probably wasn’t. But the days of bouncing up and back down again in three hours or so are long gone. Nor is it an easy break-in for new boots or for out-of-practice hill-walkers – we should have done some longer flattish walks before embarking on Munro-level ascents and descents. We thought we’d developed good strength and stamina through cycling but hill-walking tests the muscles in different ways.

DSCF0854.JPG Our hill-walking days are by no means over – there are lots of other mountains to climb and vistas to enjoy. But a good day in the hills doesn’t always have to mean a long slog up and muscle-wrenching return down again.


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