Alas! Back out to the mountains! After 4 looong months of being confined to our local towns, the travel ban was lifted in Scotland on Friday! In great delight, my dad, my brother (albeit more hesitantly) and I set off to climb our first Munro of the year – Ben Vorlich next to Loch Earn (not to be mistaken for the other Munro Ben Vorlich in Loch Lomond). For those who don’t know, a ‘Munro’ is a Scottish mountain which is at least 3000ft high. Last year, my dad and I conquered 6 Munros as well as some other grand Scottish peaks but had to take a break due to them being so far out-with our hometown. Due to physio appointments, we couldn’t set off at our usual early time and had to wait until late morning. Luckily, we did manage to find a parking space amongst the inumerable abandoned cars along the road-side near the foot of the trail.
This being his first Munro in adulthood (he climbed Ben Lomond with my dad and his football team for charity as a kid), my 22-year-old brother, ever the unprepared party, didn’t pack any food and forgot to buy sandwiches at the shop before we left the city centre. I advised the daft bugger that he’d definitely need sustenance but the petrol station shop had no sandwiches. What did he emerge from the shop with? A Pepperami and a packet of Wagon Wheels… I wish I was joking! Luckily, my dad and I had packed some spare food for sharing so the muppet didn’t starve after all.
After the multiple weather apps (they all tell you a different story, you can’t just use one!) predicting highest temperatures of around 3 degrees Celsius with wind chill factors making it feel like sub-zero, and despite the sun shining, we set off layered up like a trio of onions. Within 20 minutes, I was peeling off my hoodie, zipper and long-sleeve under-armour top, extremely grateful for wearing a sports vest top underneath and embracing the rare warmth from the equally rare Scottish sun. It could only be deemed as true “taps aff” weather. (FYI, for any non-Scottish people; “taps aff” translates to “tops off”. And yes, in Glasgow, this is usually declared when the temperature reaches double figures since it’s such an unusual occurrence)!
The views were beautiful the whole way up the mountain; I couldn’t refrain from turning in awe to the sight of uncountable other stunning peaks and a breath-taking view of the Loch Earn glinting in the sun. As always, my inner child was delighted to encounter the large splodges of snow-drift, and yet, I remained sleeve-less. (This is highly unusual for me – I do not cope at all well with the cold! I’m usually layered up resembling a “Wildling” from Game of Thrones). Later that night, I realised that the sun had even graced my cheeks with a little red glow. However, the next morning, my nose was resembling a certain famous reindeer…
Ok, so I didn’t remain entirely layer-free. I reached what I thought was the “summit”, only to realise, I’d in fact been duped. Lulled into a false sense of accomplishment – and after over-hearing several others’ blatant disappointment at the realisation of the remaining almost vertical climb looming ahead, I was certainly not the only one. Approaching the real summit, the frosty wind kicked up and I was quickly fumbling in my rucksack for my zipper and gloves to prevent my fingers’ usual battle to fight off the eagerly lurking frostbite.
Even with the icy winds, this weather was practically paradisiacal compared to the conditions my dad and I had suffered on our last 3 Munros. These had entailed gale force arctic winds, heavy rain, fog thicker than Dwayne Johnson’s thighs, impenetrable cloud cover and unwanted exfoliating hailstone facials. Drenched, so frozen that even our skeletons were trembling, and we could barely see in front of us… “What views???” Did I mention that we got temporarily lost in the aforementioned dense fog on the way back down? Yes, we braced all of that weather for this view at the top of Ben Chonzie in mid-December… I guess our timing wasn’t exactly great. All the same, the sense of achievement upon reaching the summit (ok, more-so upon reaching the car on that occasion) is invigorating.
On another note – I absolutely do not recommend training your lower body the day before hiking up a Munro – especially when said hike is your first in at least four months… I have to admit, I have definitely had smarter ideas! My glutes were on FIRE for the majority of the climb (fine, and the descent), and even when simply climbing over styles – much to my dad and brothers’ utter amusement. In saying that, I got to laugh at their attempts to step over styles due to their flexibility levels being the equivalent to that of a concrete slab.
The trek was the shortest we’ve done in terms of Munros – but I also think this mountain has had the most consistent steep incline for almost the whole duration. Many others have at least plateaued in places. It was a great mountain to kickstart our Munro-bagging this year and I thoroughly enjoyed getting out amongst nature, the change of scenery and another new challenge. I can’t wait for the next one!
I hope you’re all enjoying the new freedoms too!