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Sunday, 18 October 2015

Up The Trossachs

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Before I go on, I have made a decision about whether or not to apply for next year’s TGO challenge – and I’ll reveal what it is shortly (in case I change my mind!)
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Alert readers may have noticed a quiet period on the blog. This is due to the entire Knipe Court removing itself to The Trossachs for two weeks during which there was no wifi, no computers and no knowledge or skills concerning mobile blogging. In fact the phone signal was shaky to say the le….  (this last sentence is a typical ending to an attempted phone conversation including one during which Dawn announced that not only had she survived a monumental flood up some Scottish dale or glen, but also that she had got me a red basque and some high heels… I think that’s what she said anyway – it was a bad line and the phone cut off at a crucial point.
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Me and the dog did some bagging  - starting with Ewieside Hill quite near Dunbar and not at all very close to The Trossachs, and ending 13 days later on The Ptarmigan ridge of Ben Lomond. In between there were lots of quite short but brutally rough little walks involving deep heather, bogs, some kind of dwarf bush thing and eight-foot deep bracken (I kid you not). And ticks.
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First up was the Marilyn Meall Gainmheich where I broke my rule of never climbing anything I can’t pronounce. This was Rough with a big R and involved following deer tracks, there being nothing else to follow. Happily, the walk also included Ben A’an, a well-known and popular climb currently from Loch Achray by a diverted path which has rope handrails for the nervous or those with slippery shoes. Everybody and his dog was up Ben A’an, but then its a good hill. A few libations were purchased at the Aberfoyle Co-op for the post-walk celebrations.
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It got rougher on the Menteith Hills a couple of days later on a murky day of light rain. We did the ridge, involving the Marilyn summit Craig of Monievreckie plus two other minor tops. There was Very Steep Heather. It was a struggle at times. Lucky fell off some of the heather. By the end I was lathered and the dog had four ticks. We returned to the start by the Rob Roy Way. Called at the Co-op in Aberfoyle for a bottle.
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Doon Hill was done whilst visiting the Aberfoyle Co-op for more beer. Doon Hill is the site where the Reverend Robert Kirk disappeared into fairyland, leaving a corpse on the summit which wasn’t him, but just looked like him. The entrance to fairyland is via a pine tree on the summit. People have left lots of stuff up there revealing the hopes and prayers of various people, mainly children– including some quite moving stuff involving baby’s dummies and teddy bears, messages hoping that grandad will get well, requests for help with schoolwork and “Dear Jim, can you fix it for me to win the lottery”
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Ben Uamha is the Ronnie Pickering of Marilyns, in that its very rough and nobody has ever heard of it before. It lies between the head of Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond. And its very very rough. And a bit foggy. Any plans to walk along the ridge for a bit were abandoned due to a big deer fence and the fact that every drop of energy had been used up getting to the top.
Even rougher was Creag Mhadhaidh, just off the Duke’s Pass. We were just passing and I though this would be a quick and easy bag. This is where the deepest bracken was. It was a struggle for survival. Lucky got some more ticks.  One of them was quite pretty. Back to the Co-op for more supplies. I included crisps this time too.
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Beinn Uird is a big (alomst 600 metres!) and rounded lump just to the right of Ben Lomond, up which the walk started but then foolishly turned off for a heather-and-bog fest. It was a nice day. It was sunny and warm. It was another struggle. We spent some time on the summit, when we eventually arrived there. There was a small cairn, occupied by a heaving, dripping lump of beardy lard and his little black dog. Luckily, the Aberfoyle Co-op was on the route home. They have a fine selection of beers, wines, whiskies and delicious snacks for when you’re watching NCIS after a shower.
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Craigmore looms over Aberfoyle in a looming kind of way and, there was a rumour that it was possible to climb it directly from the back door of our self-catering establishment. I investigated this and discovered, quite easily that this would involve just about 1000 feet of closely packed bracken at a stupidly steep angle. So I climbed it from the Visitor Centre Lodgey thing. This involved lots of trees, about four hundred feet of closely packed bracken and some over-affectionate contours. There was a cracking view from the top, though and even a blubbering, dripping wreck (and his little black dog) could appreciate the fine vista once the lungs had restarted. Irritatingly (in many ways) – I found a really nice path on the top which lead all the way back to my car and which would have been a much better way up had I known about it.  As the checkout assistant in the Aberfoyle Co-op said “ Is that you just finished another walk, Mike?” and “Are ye having another party tonight by the way?” and “We’ll see you again tomorrow then eh?”
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Frankly sick of all the bracken and heather and sloppy bogs, I decided that a final walk should be on Good Paths. And whilst I’d climbed Ben Lomond back in 1989 when the world was young and everything was in sepia, I’d not done the Ptarmigan ridge. And it would be Lucky’s first Munro.
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It was quite fab. The sun shone. The path was busy (I don’t mind busy hills by the way), the views were superb and the was No Bracken. The “hill-path” climbs relatively easily – just a bit of a plod, but with improving views, and gets interesting at the top, with three steep cones. There were a couple of dozen people on the top and one or two coming up from the Ptarmigan ridge – panting and sweating heavily and looking quite knackered, it has to be said.
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I found the descent to the Ptarmigan delightful – quite steep and marginally scrambly in places and the little nobble at the end of the Ptarmigan ridge is a cracking place to sit and, well, do nothing for half an hour in the warm sunshine. Quite a good end to the fortnight’s struggles, I thought. And so did Lucky. And so did the lassie at the Aberfoyle Co-op. Its just a pity they stopped doing the divi.
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christine hindle said...

Looked fun. I remember the Ptarmigan ridge. I was a good 2 sizes smaller then and was wearing green, Rohan breeches. We had a picnic on the ridge too and got eaten by midges.

Louise said...

Sounds all rather good! Except for the struggles. And the ticks. Hate the ticks.
You ordered fab weather for your hols too!

Alan Sloman said...

some over-affectionate contours
I'll nick that. You just watch!
Wonderful, Sir.
I had been a tad worried.

Dawn Linney said...

Cracking write up Mike, looks like you had a fantasmagorical trip. Glad to see you had some decent weather. great photos too.

tootlepedal said...

A beautiful place but tough ground as you say. I have had some tearful days orienteering in the Trossachs in times gone by. Well done for being so fruitful for the local economy.