Having booked the Crianlarich Hostel as a base for my last munro celebrations a whole year ago, in my usual overly-optimistic state, the pressure had been considerable leading up to this date. After leaving the 5 remote Strathcarron munroes still to do 5 days before, which then needed walked solo and in challengingly grim weather, by the time this weekend came I was in need of an easy fun hill day ! I had chosen Ben Chabhair as it seemed like an easy 4-5 hour trot up and back, with a pub at the bottom – what could possibly go wrong ?
We gathered on the Friday, 60 friends and family, including about 20 children, and instead of an early night in preparation for the big hill day, we made the mistake of ‘thoroughly testing’ the disco which meant ‘testing’ most of the 80’s tunes and dance moves….but none the less we were all up and ready to go at about 10am.
It was a long line of people left the Drover's Inn, like a group of worker ants heading up the initial steep climb. Dogs, kids, walkers and non walkers alike all did their best, with various children, including my 4 year old Archie being treated to shoulder carries to keep progress reasonable! Archie and I, and the other young ones were last to arrive at the lunch spot at the loch, having negotiated a very boggy walk, with more than one child losing a boot in a bog en-route. To be honest, within about half an hour of the start I was regretting my decision to bring him, with aching shoulders and none of the light heartedness I had hoped for on my final munro !
After lunch we started the main climb to the ridge, with an initial discussion on which route to take, we headed up the most obvious path. Again, I was at the back with the kids and could see the rest of the troop gaily making their way up whilst we negotiated bogs and steep paths with children on the shoulders…. A more challenging day than I had hoped for sure. Slow progress with the kids but already as we climbed and the sun appeared it was starting to seem like a really worthwhile achievement for all of us. The children were so pleased to be here, hard as they found it.
So - when the main top was reached, it was an amazing sight. I hung back and waited for everyone else to reach the top, then quietly made my way across to the summit which from the short distance looked incredible, I have never seen so many people on a cairn before! The walk across was lovely and I took the time to think about all the people who had helped me on this journey, not least the babysitters who made it all possible….
When I reached the summit there were 60 people lined up to the cairn with poles and arms in the air to form an archway. It was such a humbling feeling to have the company of so many lovely people on this final Munro summit….on the top I cheered and opened some fizz – then drank it quickly - then gathered my two children, India and Archie to get a picture with them. It was then that I realised how very glad I was that I had dragged wee Archie all the way – it simply wouldn’t have been right without the two of them by my side. Huge thanks are to be extended to those kind men who leant their shoulders to help that happen!
After the fizzy wine was drunk and the sun came out to shine down on us all, we all headed back down, later than planned. Most people headed straight back to the pub and hostel, leaving a select crew of us with the little kids to trudge the seemingly endless bogs back to the foot of the hill. By the time we got back to Beinn Ghlas farm we were parched and exhausted with very sore shoulders and very tired kids! It had taken we stragglers over 8 hours but what an achievement for everyone – well worth it.
We all got back to the hostel and had a fantastic meal, wine, and ceilidh. Then a few dances to the disco, but with rather less energy than the night before.
My lasting memories are of the huge effort and encouragement to get the kids up that mountain, and how fantastic it is that they all experienced it and all enjoyed it. Having my friends and the kids on the top of my final Munro made it so very special.
Sunday 16th August
On Sunday morning after the excitement of the previous day it was hard to drag ourselves from the warm comfort of our bunk beds (!) but some of us managed it. Chris, Moira and Robert just couldn't turn down the opportunity to add another munro to our list which was Ben Challum.
The weather was very kind apart from at the summit which we timed badly to coincide with some low level passing cloud, but on the whole there were great views all around. A good end to a memorable weekend.