I went to bed on Friday night with the start of a horrible cold. My nose was streaming, my throat was sore and I generally felt awful. It didn’t help that it was really warm on Friday night, either.
As a result, I woke up rather early on Saturday morning (about 5am), and couldn’t get back to sleep. Eventually, by 5:45, I decided to give up. So, choked full of the cold, I got showered and dressed and off I went. I had originally planned to go hiking on Sunday afternoon, but I figured that since I was awake stupidly early, I might as well do it a day early. There was a hope that it would actually help the cold, too!
After a quick stop at Tesco to pick up a mountain of tissues and cold medications (as well as some breakfast), I arrived at the Ben Lawers car park just after 8:30. It was still reasonably quiet, with only 6 or 7 cars there.
It was a stunning morning, with hardly a cloud in the sky (see photo below), so I was feeling quite optimistic about achieving my initial goal.
My initial goal had nothing to do with reaching the summit of any hills. It was all about the wildlife. Ben Lawers is quite well known as a site for the Mountain Ringlet butterfly, which only flies for a couple of weeks a year, and only in sunshine.
Regular hillwalkers will know that a sunny day in the hills can be a bit hard to find!
After only about 10-15 minutes walking, I had my first sighting! Job done! Sadly, the one and only photo I got was out of focus, but it’s good enough to prove that I saw the butterfly. (I actually saw 3 of them, but they wouldn’t settle for a photo at all!)
I figured I’d be able to get a better photo on the way back down, where I’d be more inclined to spend time chasing butterflies.
It’s not long after you get out of the nature reserve section (the whole range is a nature reserve, but there’s a small area which is fenced off to prevent grazing from sheep and deer) that the gradient starts to increase. With the cold, it wasn’t long until I was wheezing, coughing spluttering and sniffing my way up the hill.
It was actually quite a hard slog, but the views on the way up Beinn Ghlas were pretty stunning. (see below)
Once the summit of Beinn Ghlas was reached, I knew it was reasonably easy going from there.
The walk to the summit of Ben Lawers took another 30 minutes, approximately. By the time I’d reached the top, the cloud had gathered, so we’d lost the lovely blue skies of the morning. Still, the cloud base was above summit height, so the views were still pretty stunning!
I had originally planned on continuing the walk and taking in An Stuc, but the cold was getting the better of me, and I was feeling miserable, so decided to head back down.
The walk back down the hill was pretty straightforward. I took the gentle route, avoiding climbing Beinn Ghlas again. On the way down I met a group of botany students, who explained some of the plants that can be found on the mountain, which was really quite interesting. I have to admit, though, I tend to struggle when it comes to remembering plants. It tends to go in one ear and out the other!
Sadly, because the sun had gone away, there were no Mountain Ringlet on the return trip for me to get an improved photo, either.
In general, it was a good walk. It took me 4 and a half hours, which wasn’t too bad, considering I was feeling awful. I’d done these two hills before, a good few years ago (when there was still a visitor’s centre!), when I was still horribly out of shape, and I reckon that took well over 6 hours!
I actually found the walking to be quite good for the cold, too. It definitely stops you feeling bunged up – but you will spend your whole time on the hill sniffing and blowing your nose!