on Ben Venue
Saturday 25th September 2004
Ben Venue is situated in the Trossachs next to Loch Katrine. It stands at 2391ft.
11 of us met at the carpark of the Loch Achray Hotel at 10.00am . We had woken in Ayrshire to rain but it was now starting to dry up and patches of blue could be seen in the sky.
Irene and I had planned this walk a couple of weeks ago. Octobers' issue of "Trail" magazine suggests that before you go out on the hill study the map in detail so that when you close your eyes you can picture all this information. So, on Friday night Irene went to Girvan to listen to a presentation on Machu Pichu and I had finished a bottle of wine by 6.00pm. Still, it was comforting to know that other members of the "team" were taking navigation just as seriously - Pat was out dancing 'til the early hours.
Still, at least I could get there early and study the map before we started. But, no the lure of the coffee shop was too much and we had to stop off for a bite to eat making Jacqui, myself, Pat and Carol the last to arrive. The others (Michael, Davy, Lydia, Kenny, Fiona ,Irene and John) were waiting patiently by their cars all booted up and ready to go. We welcomed Davy to his first walk with Air na Creagan. Michael had encouraged him to come along saying, "You'll have a great day out with this club they really are very professional".
Fortunately, not much navigation was needed on the way up due to the forestry commission providing way marks. So, why did we consult the map, ignore the blue striped post and march off in the wrong direction? Still, it was a lovely bridge over a river which led us to check the map and retrace our steps. Good footpaths led us through the trees to emerge onto open hillside. It was nice to see Carol checking her map here. However, when asked if she was happy with where we were she said she was just looking to see how much further we had to go!!!
Unfortunately, we said goodbye to the good paths here and to the sign that told us we must descend by this route, there is no other way off Ben Venue!!!
The rest of the ascent was pretty muddy and the wind became stronger the higher we climbed. We stopped for lunch just under the crags of Ben Venue sheltering from the wind.
By the time we reached the col below the west shoulder of the first peak the wind was blowing us off our feet and we had quite an unpleasant ascent up to the the first peak. We stopped briefly and made our way across to the trig point on the 2end peak standing 5m lower. Again, only a brief stop before we made our way down. Irene and I had already decided that if the summit was clear of clouds we were going to ignore the sign that said there was no other way down and make the walk into a circuit. We would, drop into the gully below the summit above Loch Katrine. This route requires careful navigation but on a clear day would present no difficulties to us professionals. Once out of the wind it was a very pleasant afternoon with some long sunny spells so we decided to prolong the walk and do the circuit. We found rough paths leading us down and at one point we were on a very clear track descending to the Loch side when it just disappeared. However, we were making for the Loch which we could clearly see so we made our own way down breaking a path through 6ft high bracken. Irene has now requested the club by a machete for the next walk. We eventually reached the Loch side looking like extras from Dads Army with bits of bracken sticking everywhere to find there was no path. We consulted the map!!!!!
It appeared too difficult to scramble around the banks of the Loch so we had no alternative but to scramble our way back up through the trees and 6ft bracken to higher ground. Unfortunately, we had descended much too far over to the left when we should have been bearing right on when we were still on higher ground.
We reached a higher point and could now clearly see the path we should be on. Only a cliff stood in our way!!! The alternative was to climb higher and work our way around the cliff. What is one small cliff when you have brought Indiana Jones and Tarzan (Michael and Davy) with you. Somehow swinging on trees (don't try this at home!) they lowered themselves down. Well, we had to follow!! These poor men heard language they didn't believe women could produce as they cajoled us to swing on tree branches and drop ourselves down this cliff. But, somehow we all did it (some of us making less fuss than others - Carol was Jane to Davy's Tarzan!) and made our way on good paths back to the cars.
It took us 8 hrs to do a 6hr walk!!
I of course will now always study the map before future walks and know my route inside out!!! I don't want to give Air na Creagan a reputation for being anything other than professional!!!!
Photos: Jacqui Miuir and Irene Cahill
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