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A Joint Effort (High Above the Clouds)

By Phil on 2015.01.19 In Munros Scotland

Last weekend I decided to head up to Scotland to meet up with my mate Rory who I met during our Toubkal trek last October and attempt a few Munro’s and the first winter hikes of the year.

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We had been checking the weather leading up to the weekend and after the recent windy weather we have been having, everything looked good for Saturday and Sunday. Though I should have took a bit more notice of weather for the drive up to Scotland, as I hit a blizzard on the M74 as I approached Glasgow and delayed my journey by 2 hours. I honestly thought I was going to have spend the night in my car on the M74 after coming to complete standstill for almost an hour. I think a dog sled and six huskies would have been a better choice of transport than my car.

Eventually I arrived at my favourite B&B, Coppice House in Callander owned by my mate Pete, also a fellow Munro bagger. Was good to catch up with Pete and talk Munro’s before spending the night in the new super deluxe room he had kindly put me in.

After an early breakfast I drove to Invergulas to meet up with Rory to start our hike up Ben Vorlich. It was a stunning day with clear blue skies with the sun lighting up the snow-capped mountains we were heading towards.

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I had been so looking forward to getting back on the Scottish mountains in the winter, as I hadn’t been up since last February and the failed attempt of Beinn Dorain and Beinn Dothaidh. It was also a good opportunity to get some additional winter mountaineering practice in before next month’s Winter Skills course at Glenmore Lodge.

The hike involved a long walk in before turning right at a tiny snow covered cairn, which luckily Rory had managed to spot, as I certainly didn’t. Opposite the cairn was a tiny green snow covered tent looking rather out of place and not the location I would have chosen if I was camping out in winter. More on the tent later…

As we started the very steep ascent up towards Ben Vorlich, we met a girl from Northallerton who had travelled up on her own to bag a Munro. She didn’t have a map and was quite happy to just follow our footsteps up to the summit.

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It certainly wasn’t an easy ascent up, as the snow was so deep it made it very hard going, certainly the deepest snow I have ever hiked in and was often waist height. Luckily some others had gone up before us and had cut steps in to the deep snow, which you try to follow the best you can, but doesn’t always mean your leg won’t sink deep into the snow.

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At about 600 metres up you could start to feel the hard ice under the snow, which is usually a good time to put your crampons on. Though I wish I had done it 10 minutes earlier before I had slipped on icy rock and ended up snapping one of my Leki Titanium micro trekking poles in half. It was at this point I suggested to Rory that we should put crampons on and get the ice axes out.

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As we ascended the last 200 metres the sun broke through and the skies cleared and opened up stunning views of all the mountains around us. It was easy to see why the area we were in is often referred to as the Arrochar Alps, as it really did look and feel like you were in the Alps. It was awesome. Without doubt the best winter weather conditions I have ever experienced in Scotland. Simply perfect!

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We finally made it to the summit of Ben Vorlich and I had bagged my 5th Munro! Only 277 to go. It was Rory’s 58th Munro, so I still have a way to go to catch him. As we sat admiring the views eating our lunch, we were joined by a couple who had been following us all the way. Usually when people bag a Munro, they usually celebrate with a wee dram of whiskey, however this couple decided to roll up a celebratory joint. Well I guess that’s one way to celebrate bagging a Munro.

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We chatted to the couple for a short while, though the guy just seemed to laugh at everything, but they did tell us the little green tent we had seen earlier was in fact theirs. Which explained a lot, before they headed off back down before us.

We left not long after them but we couldn’t see them anywhere in front of us. They were probably so high from their joint they probably just rolled themselves down.

The descent down was a lot harder than I was expecting due to the depth of snow and we somehow managed to veer off the path we had come up and went down a slightly different route where the snow was even deeper. While side stepping down some of the more tricky bits, my leg went so far down into the snow that it was well above my waist and at one point felt buried under the snow, before comically trying to get back on my feet.

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We made it back to the cairn at the bottom, opposite the little green tent. It was obvious our joint loving friends had made it down safely and were having another celebratory joint as we walked past their tent which smelt like Bob Marley’s kitchen.

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We finally made it back to the car park after a good 6 hour 40 minute hike. It was great to have our first winter hike of the year under our belts.

We then headed to the Crianlarich Youth Hostel for a shower and change before heading to the nearest pub for food and plenty of beers. A great end to stunning day.

We had hoped to do another Munro on the Sunday and we drove towards Ben Chonzie but had to abort as our cars couldn’t make it up the single track road due to snow and black ice and we had to turn back, along with a few others who had also hoped to bag Ben Chonzie.

It was great meeting up with Rory again and bagging another Munro and hopefully the first of many with him, as he has the maps! I will be meeting up with him again next month when we attend the Winter Skills course at Glenmore Lodge along with 10 others for what should be another awesome winter weekend on the hills. A cannae wait!

You can view our route which I recorded with my Suunto Ambit2 by clicking the link here: View route

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog about hiking, trekking, Fjällräven Polar 2014, in fact anything where you require boots and the outdoors.

My name is Phil, and following my outdoor epiphany which started in the summer of 2012 I’m now hooked on everything outdoors. So far my biggest treks have included the 250km Cathar Way, the 170km Tour du Mont Blanc and best of all, winning 1st place to take part in the Fjällräven Polar in April 2014.

I plan to use this blog to write about all my adventures, which will include my personal goal of becoming a Munroist (completing all 282 Scottish Munro mountains), summer treks, weekends in the Lakes and many more.

I like to try and make my blog posts humorous so I hope you enjoy reading and that I can put a smile on people’s faces while showing you some amazing places.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on: phil@philyourboots.com

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