With only two weeks between the Inverness Half Marathon and the Hardmoors 55 I knew I would only have time for a couple of key sessions so decided a run up and down Ben Lomond would be one of them.
Jonny and I set off after work from Rowardennan. The forecast had predicted rain and as we drove from Glasgow to Drymen it was certainly raining. Plus the road was flooded in quite a few places. But by the time we started out the rain had eased and it wasn’t too bad for the first hour or so.
We ran our normal route of going up the Ptarmigan Ridge and down the tourist path. Half way up I was saying to Jonny this is a lot nicer weather than I thought it was going to be. We were both wearing shorts and our OMM jackets.
With about 1,000 ft to go Jonny mentioned that the top of the Ben was looking quite menacing and the higher we climbed the tougher it got. There was a lot of ice and snow which we had to work hard on. Jonny enjoyed following me at this point as he was able to use the footmarks I dug out.
Then the wind was stronger and stronger especially on the more exposed bits. We were both having to concentrate hard on staying upright and not being blown off. There was certainly no conversation going on for this bit.
On one section we were basically crawling up on feet and hands as it was so slippy on the ice and the wind was unrelenting. I slipped and fell to the side. As I did one of my water bottles fell out my pack and I watched it disappear down the hill in the mist. So if you are on Ben Lomond and see a green water bottle full of an orange energy drink it’s mine!
We both enjoy the challenge of conditions like this but I was looking forward to getting to the top and heading down as soon as possible.
I was carrying my full gear that I’ll need for the Hardmoors 55 but it didn’t really bear thinking about if either of us twisted an ankle or fell badly and couldn’t move very quickly. It was so cold that we would have struggled to stay warm.
We reached the top in 1hr 24mins and immediately set off down the tourist path. The wind was still really strong and the path either icy or slushy so our feet were pretty wet. I have bought a couple of new pairs of Drymax socks for this year and they were getting a good try out.
Jonny is always so much stronger than I am on the way down but I kept him in sight and he paused regularly to make sure I was okay! Once we got off the steep final section the more level ground was really slippy as there was a layer of ice underneath the slushy snow.
We both went down a few times. On the second one for me I fell fairly heavily and my left hand was absolutely soaked. I was only wearing my lighter gloves and once they are wet they are useless. My hand left really cold and as we headed down I knew I would be struggling to keep any warmth in my hand.
We ran down the grass rather than the path and we made good progress. I was actually really pleased with how well I was descending. I think part of it was self preservation. The quicker I went the sooner I would be warmer. It was quickly getting dark by now as well.
Jonny paused for me to catch up and I said my hands were really cold and sore. I was also feeling a bit sick. Jonny immediately offered me his gloves which I was very grateful to accept!
It didn’t take too long for some sensation to come back to my fingers and the sickly feeling to go away but it was another reminder just how important it is to have the right gear on a night like this.
We put on our head torches for the final half half or so as we made our way back to the car. We completed the loop in 2hrs 28mins which was about 30mins longer than average but showed how tough the conditions were.
On the drive back to Drymen I was grateful we had come in our car as it has heated seats and steering wheel!! The shower at Francis & Jonny’s b&b was soooo good. It was hard to get out.
So I think this Ben Lomond run will go down in our ‘most challenging conditions’ list of ascents!