I’ll confess that I had today’s visit to Ben Lomond mentally tagged as an easy day as far as the 70 Munros Challenge is concerned, which pretty much guaranteed that it was going to turn round and bite me on the ass!
After several fantastically sunny days this week, the weather forecast predicted heavy, squally snow showers, meaning it was back into salopettes and multiple layers for the day. It also meant that crampons, ice axe and group shelter all went back into the rucksack and, after a bit of chat with Wendy, we decided to abandon thoughts about taking the Ptarmigan Ridge route and stick with the tourist path to simplify things for the folks who didn’t have much winter experience.
In the event, it was a fairly strong group which assembled at Rowardennan, and we made good time up the path, with the initially pleasant conditions gradually deteriorating as we approached the final zig-zags up onto the summit ridge. Another shower of hail, driven by a blustery wind, made progress pretty unpleasant, and keeping tabs on the group would have been almost impossible without goggles. The wind relented slightly as we reached the summit cairn, but nonetheless everyone was fairly motivated to get the required pictures and get down out of the wind as rapidly as possible. We set off with another squall blowing in, and visibility dropped to almost zero as spindrift whipped around the group.
In the midst of this, we came across several walkers who were having a bad time thanks to a lack of appropriate kit, including one chap who was separated from his group and clearly in the early stages of hypothermia. With a bit of persuading, he agreed to come back down the hill with us; a decision that probably saved him an unhappy end to the day, and he was very wobbly and required a bit of support to make progress down into a more sheltered spot where we could stop and get some food, and hot drinks into him. As we helped him down the lower slopes, we came across two ladies, one of whom was limping and clearly struggling to get down the hill. They’d made it quite far up the path, but after being caught in one of the heavy showers, they’d opted to turn around and head back down. We got our hypothermic man down past the rock step in the forest, then I waited for the limping lady and her friend to make sure they could get down this section as well. Just to round off the day nicely, as I assisted her down the forest track, we came across another walker who was suffering badly with cramp. A banana, some fluids and a foot rub later, and our growing collection of walking wounded was able to cover the last sections of path and get back to Rowardennan, to finish off an outing that had required a bit more effort than I’d expected when I got out of bed this morning!