WHW Day 2: To Rowardennan and Ben Lomond

Balmaha to Rowardennan

Today was a quick day of walking, only about 8 miles. I left Balmaha just as the village shop was opening (8am) to grab a quick breakfast, and get my WHW Passport stamped. I was pretty disappointed with the selection, most was junk food, soda, and chips/candy. Breakfast then became a bag of potato chips and a bottle of coke….

The walk was nothing too exciting, mostly mud and pretty Loch Lomond views from low to no elevation.

I made it into Rowardennan just before noon, which was great timing since the hotel bar starts serving food at noon! I got the pasta of the day – spinach and ricotta tortellini in a pesto cream sauce😍 it was just what I need to get me going on Ben Lomond.

Ben Lomond, the southern-most Munro

Munros are Scottish mountains taller than 3,000 ft / 914 m. Ben Lomond stands at 3,195 ft / 974 m, and there are two routes to the summit – there’s lot of different names people will use, so for the sake of clarity – the steep route (aka the hard route or Ptarmigan route) and the tourist route (aka the easy route).

Something I’m learning about myself, is that I have an aversion to the word “tourist”. I do not fancy myself a tourist so why would I decide to take that route? These are all notes that I will take with me through life.

So I took the steep way up starting at 12:50pm. It was breathtaking, both bc it was pretty challenging hiking, but also because of the views over Loch Lomond😍

This route also has about ten false summits bc you’re coming up and over “camel humps” with each being taller and further than the last. It took me about three hours and ten minutes to summit. This included two short breaks for water and one near mental breakdown 300 feet from the summit.

Please take note that that is not the summit of Ben Lomond. The path leads you up that hill and then along an exposed spine another ~800ft up.

Let me elaborate – up until this point you are hiking, up at the top you are then scrambling. And of course, on a very clear day, the moment I got to this point, the clouds came down and I could barely see eight ft in front of or behind me. So now I’m clinging onto the side of the mountain on my hands and knees (four points of contact at all times!), on the verge of tears, with no choice but to continue to the summit so I could then go down the tourist way. This moment really solidified my fear of heights when you’re not strapped into anything?

Once I pulled myself together, and climbed up enough I could once again stand, I met a father and daughter pair going down what I had just come up. We chatted for a bit about our respective climbs (they went up the tourist way and down the steep way), and then were very encouraging that what was left to the summit (<10min away) was also climbing but not steep.

I took this positive energy with me to the summit, where there was of course no view. Note the socked in summit picture below.

The climb down was longer, but much gentler. Once I made it below the clouds (10-15min) I sat down for an unmeasurable amount of time (probably 20min), took in the view and then broke down crying. It all was hitting me that I’m in Scotland, on this wild adventure, alone, and accomplished one of, if not the hardest thing I’ve ever done?

I saw the scramble at the top of the mountain as pretty traumatic – I was by myself, at the top of a mountain, with poor visibility, and no other walkers had passed me in quite a while. It was a lot of take in.

Coming down from the summit took about 2.5 hours to the trail head, and I had to jog part of it because I needed to check into my hostel between 4:30 and 7pm. When I reached the bottom it was 6:35.

I also ran back into the father daughter duo I met near the summit on the walk to the hostel! They were headed back to their car and flagged me down (in the rush I hadn’t noticed it was them)! It was great to catch up again and compare climbs. Whether actually true or not, they made a point to say how steep the section was I had just done before I saw them, and I really appreciated that♥️

The rest of the night at the hostel was pleasantly uneventful. I stayed at the Ben Lomond Bunkhouse, which miraculously has a ton of food, sodas, and frozen pizzas for purchase in an honesty shop inside? I was starving and almost ate an entire pizza single handedly.

I got to catch with a few other walkers there – Maria from Spain who has been living in Edinburgh for 10 years, Ava from Kentucky and Daveed from West Virginia who have been studying abroad in London together this past semester.

Everything went by so quickly this night, largely because I was still in shock and awe over the days events.

More on this in tomorrow’s entry.

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Comments 1

  • DMan : Jun 18th

    Wow, the climb sounds pretty intense. We hiked the WHW in Sept of ’21 but would love to go back and include Ben Lomond.


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