Report on Ben Ledi
7 October 2007
Where the Fatdog Gatecrashes the Party
High on the hill they sat, sipping tea, chewing wood and watching the changing weather patterns in the constantly moving sky. Patiently they waited, the Dreamer of Dreams and the Teller of Tales, continually scanning the forests edge for any small sign of movement. For now the autumn sun shone and the vivid gold and browns of the changing trees kept spirits high. All passed this way?it was only a matter of time.
They had picked their spot well. The unsuspecting would find themselves snared by the watchers guile and the true nature of today?s events would unfold before they had the slimmest chance to understand their mistake.
From the heights above the forest a pair of large dark brown eyes picked out a small group, straggling from the cover of the trees. It was time, time to move upwards to the pre-ordained site?and wait. Promise of lunch beyond measure drove her on. It was a spot past which all must walk, but more importantly ?it was where the Fatdog walked.
I do like a good ambush. It does brighten up the day and provides a reasonable modicum of entertainment. Realistically you should never let slip where you intend to go walking. You never can tell who or what may be lurking in the undergrowth waiting for you to pass unsuspectingly by. It was about 10.30am and if our timing was correct today?s victim should be passing by?very soon.
We were about 20 minutes into the ascent of Ben Ledi from Stank Bridge car park. A few minutes before we had passed the tree line, crossed the forestry road and were a few hundred metres up the tree cleared slope when I caught a glimpse of a party clearing the forest below. This was promising. It was time to find a suitable spot.
A few minutes later and a few hundred metres further uphill FD and I pitched up against a handy boulder, took in the views and basked in the unexpected mid morning sunshine. Soon two guys passed and then three women. No sign yet. Had we miscalculated? I could hear voices coming from below. As if on cue, coming round the uphill bend in the track, our unsuspecting target strolled into sight.
The Fatdog leapt out from behind her rock and pounced, well?more like shuffled?around a surprised Irene.
?It?s a black dog?with a pink collar!!!? she exclaimed, the voice creeping higher with recognition as she stared in disbelief at the black hairy creature busy winding herself round her ankles. Surprise had been complete. Mission accomplished.
I?m not sure Irene will ever forgive me for this little escapade but I really couldn?t resist the temptation. She had let slip on a www.scottishhills.com forum about her club visit to Ben Ledi, so I thought it was time the Fatdog gave her No.1 scottishhills fan a visit. A quick check on the excellent Air na Creagan website to confirm the start time was all that was needed to complete our preparations...and here we were. Having successfully infiltrated the clubs expedition to Ben Ledi, FD and I tailed along chatting to a somewhat astonished Irene, and to Keith, who must have thought at this point that his whole world had gone completely insane.
So far the weather was being kind after some heavy overnight rain. Luckily the southbound trail beyond the fenceline was not quite as wet as I had anticipated. I remember one of my early walks up this hill a year ago, squelching my way upwards after many days rain, a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Thankfully today didn?t feel as heavy and for now the sun was occasionally shining, lighting up the autumnal coloured trees. As we eased our way up taking in the views Keith, an artist, gave me a new perspective on what I could see around me as we chatted about how he interpreted landscape in his work (www.artcreation.co.uk).
As we turned back west then north onto the ridge we could see the summit (and the false ones) in front of us. Paul, who hadn?t walked for about 10 years was by now feeling a bit of ache in his legs. Personally I thought he was doing pretty well. One year ago I stood much further down this same hill gasping for air and contemplating defeat as my breakfast attempted to liberate itself.
We were about half way up the ridge when the weather started to change.
Cloud had been building and began to blow over from the NW. Then it went grey. Rain couldn?t be far behind?and it wasn?t. Fleeces and jackets went on in quick succession as the sky darkened. Fleeting glimpses of sunshine gleaming on the lochs below quickly vanished under a dank and dismal blanket. A chilly breeze picked up?then it rained.
I had bought a pair of PacLite waterproof trousers in early August. So successfully have I avoided rain since, this was the first time I had worn them?a fact that saddens me no end. I had rather hoped they would be used only for pack ballast. Having said that, unlike their bulky predecessors, I barely noticed I had them on and during the rest of the walk completely forgot I was wearing them.
With the group in various stages of foul weather preparation, the party began to stretch out over the steeper sections of the ridge prior to the final ascent.
By the time our little bunch of tailenders caught up, we found the first lunch bell had rung with the front group huddled behind a rock rummaging in their rucksacks. It wasn?t a big rock so some of us split 30m east and found solid shelter in the lee of a big flat walled boulder. The wind had also dropped at this location so, other than the rain, lunch proved to be a relatively happy affair. The others hadn?t fared so well. For some reason the wind seemed to enjoy pummelling their little hiding place. FD spent the first part of the break rushing between the two parties in the hope of some scraps, before settling down to harass our little group on a more permanent basis.
The rain and wind curtailed our fine dining experience and soon we packed up and headed up the remaining short haul to the summit. Soggy triumphant photos were taken and in the absence of any sort of views we quickly dropped down north, heading for the top of Stank Glen.
By this time the rain had eased and we were almost below the cloud layer. In the west the unmistakeable, silhouetted, ?horns? of the Cobbler appeared, sharp against the skyline. Closer to hand and further north along the ridge from Ben Ledi, the summit of Benvane dominated the foreground.
After a brief hesitation, when I almost led the whole party off the ridge into the unknown (so much for local knowledge), we arrived at Bealach nan Corp and began the descent of Stank Glen. I have to say I particularly enjoyed the competition for the greatest number of falls during the trip. Paul and Keith assiduously kept their respective tallies and then accused me of cheating when I joined in. Well?it had been suggested that there was a prize at stake?! I don?t know what it is about the top end of Stank Glen but I?ve slipped and fallen more on that short section of path than on all my other walks put together.
Once into the fenced forestry area of Stank Glen the slipping and sliding finished and the high quality paths started. We did the mandatory stop at the waterfall for photos . From then it was an easy plod back down the forestry roads and along the long distance cycle way back to the car. Dorothy had saved a sandwich for a by now starving Fatdog who gratefully attempted to swallow it whole along with the accompanying arm.
The Fatdog ducked and weaved. From her normal descent position on K?s heels she?d never considered the possibility of becoming a kebab. She liked Keith but from his position 1m behind K , he was focussed 100% on K?s heels watching their rise and fall. The sharp pointy sticks however were testing for solid ground, or in this case solid Labrador, whichever came first. The Fatdog considered a career move into a nice, safe, slow moving job with a big harness. After considering this alternative for a few minutes the thought of even more sticks put her off?so she went back to ducking and weaving.
Air na Creagan Mountaineering Club:
Irene, Dorothy, Jacqui, Gail, Michael, Paul, Keith.
K and Kenmill Tri Dream of Dreams (aka Maisie) (aka the Fatdog)
Many thanks to the members of Air na Creagan who welcomed myself and the Fatdog with open arms (and subsequently tightly fastened rucksacks).
Till we meet again?
K and the Fatdog