On Sunday, Grahame decided that it was high time that I tackled a proper hill-walk, so we chose Ben Ledi (879m) in the Trossachs. We had seen Ben Ledi from our trek around the Mell Circuit the weekend before, so we thought it might be fun to climb it and see the circuit from that vantage point 🙂
Grahame’s friend Sheaghna accompanied us on this walk, again in preparation for her walk up Ben Nevis on 25th June (link to her sponsorship page is available on the Cairnwell Munros blog post), and although this was the first time she and I had met, we found plenty to chat about – when we had spare breath to talk! 😉
The advertised distance for the walk was around 6 miles, taking 4-6hrs. now after last week, I admit I took that recommendation with a pinch of salt – but it turned out to be pretty accurate! We arrived in the car park around 10.30am and it was already busy. Parking issues are mentioned when you consider this walk and the mention is definitely warranted. When we had walked the Mell Circuit last week, we had encountered a sum-total of maybe 8 people. We managed to pass that many people just walking to the start of the path leading up through the woodland on the lower slopes!
You do begin to go up-hill straight away on this walk, although the path has natural plateaus every once in a while, so rest stops are easy to come by. The weather was perhaps a little warmer than you might like for a climb, and the distant views were fairly hazy as a result, but the birds were singing and the company was good, so it was great just to relax and enjoy it. As you come out from the tree-cover, you are treated to your first view of the Ben.
As the least fit member of the group, I did take my time on each of the up-hill sections. I found that keeping my pace at a good rate, but reducing my stride to baby steps worked quite well. At the rest points, I was able to quickly bring my breathing back down to normal level while taking in the beautiful views that were gradually opening up around and below us. There is a mix of path styles underfoot, ranging from very small gravel to large rocks, and areas of peat bog or short stretches of running water along the track. None of these presented any particular issues for us and we took them at a reasonable pace. The real thigh killer, though, was an extended set of stone steps just under half-way up the Ben. The step heights were actually quite managable, but they just felt like they went on forever, and every one of us complained of burning thighs when we reached the top of them 😉 But the view from the top of the steps is also a great reward!
As the walk continued we all got into our own strides, with Grahame heading up the group, Sheaghna a few paces behind and then me a few (well ok, maybe more than a few ;-)) paces behind Sheaghna. That did allow Grahame to snap a sneaky picture or two of the girls slogging their way up the slopes, but I actually quite liked this one so thought it should be included 😉
The weather continued to be warm, although the wind picked up from time to time as we climbed higher. The sun did manage to break through the haze on occasion though, and we were pleased to see Common Heath and Green Veined Whites on the wing in the sunshine. There was plenty of heather on the slower slopes, and a little higher we came across some Alpine Bistort which is apparently fairly common across the slopes and scree of Scottish mountains.
This is a food plant of the Ptarmigan so it was a welcome sight – although we didn’t catch sight of the birds themselves, sadly! One bird that was making its presence very felt, however, was the Raven! There seemed to be a group of around 5 of them swooping and circling the peaks and ridges, making their distinctive call as they went about their business. Although often not considered as interesting by non-bird-watchers, possibly due to their resemblence to other more commonly seen corvids, they truly are magnificent birds and well worth a mention in their own right 🙂 Although each sighting invariably brings about a short extract from the Edgar Allan Poe poem “The Raven” from Grahame 😉 Can’t really blame the birds for that though! 😉
As you crest one of the final rises leading to the summit of the Ben, there is a memorial cross standing proud on the skyline to your left. This simple cross commemorates the tragic death of Sergeant Harry Lawrie of the Killin Mountain Rescue Team, who died during a rescue attempt on Ben More in the late 1980’s. The memorial serves as a timely reminder to all of us who walk in the hills that proper preparations should always be made – but if things go wrong, there is a team of dedicated individuals who put themselves on the line to ensure our safety. They should never be forgotten.
So after nearly 2 1/2 hours of climbing, we finally reached the top of Ben Ledi, and were able to survey a 360 degree view that made all the effort worthwhile 🙂 The undulating landscape stretched for miles in any direction and my breath was taken away by the beauty of it 🙂 This is the highest point I have reached (to date ;-)) and I don’t think I will forget the feeling for a long time 🙂 If you don’t believe me – check out my cheesy grin below! 😉 We were all delighted to have made the top at last!
The downward journey was a lot faster, with only a couple of rest stops to take a quick drink or strip off a layer of clothing. I should say at this point that one of the reasons I don’t really do up-hills is the fact that there is invariably a down-hill at the back of it! And unfortunately my fear of falling on scree was realised maybe 20 minutes from the bottom of the Ben when I was within viewing distance of the car park! Although it was painful, it didn’t wipe the smile from my face 😉 Luckily though, that was the only health and well-being issue we had all day! Grahame managed the entire walk in no pain whatsoever and Sheaghna was also fighting fit throughout so we consider that a real achievement 🙂 We completed the walk in 4hrs 45minutes so the estimated timing was very achieveable. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this walk and would highly recommend it as interesting and achieveable. We passed any number of fellow walkers on the route, from young kids to senior citizens and all looked equally happy to be there 🙂