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Report on Ben Donich
Saturday 10th April 2004

The idea of organising a club walk up Ben Donich, (one of Arrochars less frequented hills) came to me back in December as Nita, Guy and I dripped our soggy way back to the car after a particularly wet circuit of the hill. Going back with a group from the club in the spring seemed to make sense. Hopefully we'd get to see the fine views that I was convinced we'd missed in December, and it would be a good hill for anyone who'd been staying at lower levels during the winter weather. Hopefully we'd get a few people interested in coming along.

10am,Saturday 10th April, Rest and Be Thankful car park

Keith: '****. How many did you say?'

Nita: 'Twenty two and a dog'.

Keith: '****'

Well we'd certainly got a few people interested, (though I still think that at least three were innocent bystanders who simply got caught up in the throng whilst stopping for a quick cuppa on their way to Oban) but as for seeing the views, the cloud was no more than a few hundred feet above our heads and someone had nicked all of the hills.

George once told me he reckoned a 10% loss rate for the first few walks one organised was about right. I looked around as we headed off and decided that no one would probably notice if we were missing a couple and possibly a bit of a dog on our return.

After the initial easy wander along the forestry track the climb started for real. Slipping, sliding and squelching up through the forest fire break we did at least get a bit of a view across to Loch Restil as we emerged from the forest onto the open ridge With such a big group there was always going to be people moving at different paces but the faster members seemed happy to wait for us slower ones and in this fashion with plenty of stops for snacks, breathers but alas no views all 22 of us and the dog, reached the top. At the one craggy little section that involved a wee scramble down, I was impressed to find 3 people waiting to help anyone who needed it.

After the usual summit photo we set off back down the hill. Two hundred and fifty metres later we were on a path and as there was no path on our proposed route back, we decided we were a little out! As it was, we were only a short distance from where we wanted to be but a slight embarrassment non-the less for Nita and myself who were supposed to know where the hell we were. Ooops! I swore as my magnifier steamed up, Brian whipped out his map, Nita madly pushed buttons on the GPS and Jacqui ran off into the mist! Nothing like a good bit of navigation for pulling everyone together!

After a steep little section we all bobbed out below the cloud and were rather pleasantly relieved to find we were on exactly the right mountain! Well, we were even on the correct ridge in roughly the bit we thought we should be. To make matters even better, the clouds that had blocked our views all day were breaking and lifting. The Brack, Beinn an Lochain and The Cobbler all cleared and when someone finally shouted that they could see the pub I think we all felt a great sense of relief!

It was I think a good day and I was very grateful to everyone who helped, not just with bits of route finding but also with bits of guiding for myself and my two likewise fuzzy eyed friends Norma and Rhona. Indeed I think Irene, Michael and Brian all qualified as guide dogs.

I said to Nita on our way home never to let me organise another walk again. Five days later after a wild day climbing Stob a Choire Odhair above Loch Tulla during which we had all four seasons including heavy snow, thick cloud, rain and brilliant sunshine, I caught myself saying, 'this would be a good one for the club, perhaps I'll organise it for later in the summer'. For anyone stupid enough to follow a blind man up a mountain for a second time….watch this space!

Keith Salmon

Photos: Jacqui Miuir and Irene Cahill

Affiliated to:
Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Scottish Youth Hostels Association

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