Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Up the Ben

Up here, "The Ben" is not Ben Nevis. Inverness has its very own "Ben", that dominates the skyline....Ben Wyvis. Just under 3,500ft high, but a high whaleback of a mountain, very important by reason of some of the flowers and mosses that grow on it's slopes and summit plateau.

And it rises up straight behind our house!

But, somehow, we'd not made it up there yet. Yesterday was my day off and, with the weather looking distinctly unpromising (ruling out a drive further afield to the Affric munros), but the legs itching to head up a big hill, I decided to head up the Ben from the main car park at Garbat.

As I arrived, the rain was pelting down and clouds scuttled across the sky at a swift speed. The top of the first summit, An Cabar, was well into the cloud, and I took a look at the map again to get a rough bearing to follow on the summit.

Coat donned, buff pulled up around my face, I headed out from the car along the pleasant path that makes its way through the woods. After about 10 minutes, I spied a couple of young deer on the opposite bank of the burn and, realising I was downwind of them, stealthily approached, being careful with my foot placement. Sure enough, I was a matter of 20ft away from them before they spotted me. Rather than scooting off into the nearby trees, they stood transfixed (as did I!) watching me. We stood for about 5 minutes, them waiting for my move, me taking in the beauty of the scene and these marvellous young animals. Only when I started to shiver in the driving rain, did I turn and make my way, as the deer scuttled down the bank and into the burn. Magical.

Pretty soon I was heading up the steep pull to An Cabar. Clouds swirled by, and the wind picked up in intensity, causing me to steady myself using my hands a couple of times. Finally, I sensed I was summiting this first shapely peak, and I could hear the wind whistling over the rocks above me. I popped up onto the top and was hit by the full force of the ferocious weather. The hood was pulled further down, gloves donned and buff pulled further up, before heading forward, attempting to make progress along the summit plateau against a howling gale which threatened to pick me up and deposit me over the Western slopes of the mountain.

The main summit was further than I expected, beyond an intermediary top. I tried to run as best I could, but progress itself was hard work! I finally saw the trig point and headed towards it. Not a day for stopping, I touched, looked around at the non-existent view, and headed straight back down! The wind at my back was seemingly even more insistent and, on one occasion, it almost took my legs from under me with a vicious gust!

It was a relief to drop back down under the summit of An Cabar and enjoy a leisurely run, coming down out of the swirling clouds to take in views down Loch Glascarnoch one way and past Loch Luichart further to the south. The irony was that the weather to the west looked brighter!

I dropped down to the car, having taken about 2.30 of walking/running time up and down. It would be a fair bit less on a decent day!! Soaking wet clothes were changed immediately, and I headed down to the Old Station cafe for a warming cup of coffee.

I think I shall enjoy exploring the Ben. It's more complex than you would imagine when viewing it from the West. I got glimpses along the valley to the east (to the south of which our house lies), and it looked wild, untrodden land.

But for now, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip out to my local hill!

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