Saturday 28th April 2012
Weather/Conditions: Amazing conditions. A last blast of winter - had snow on the hills, views were totally clear, the light clarity was amazing. Very rare conditions, especially considering were nearly into spring.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 7.8km / 750m / 2h 25m
Ben Ledi is on that Lowland Frontier, to put it romantically; the line of Highland mountains that butt up against the edge of the flatlands. It's an impressive hill and one I never got round to climbing. I'm sure that being out of the way of public transport is one reason. And in my Munro-centric travels, the fact that it's a Corbett is no doubt another. The temperatures had dropped and I was up and out the door early. My eyes popped out my head when passing Blanefield, I noticed a snow-covered Slackdhu glowing in the darkness. Wow. Snow cover on the Campsies at the end of April. How the hell did that happen?
The roads were coated in ice crystals. As I drove through Port of Menteith in the dim dawn light, it could have been deepest January. Mist rolled around, everything frozen to the touch of frost. I found the Ben Ledi car park, packed my stuff and still half-asleep, began the walk up through the forests.
Dawn was on it's way; the chorus had started. Breaking my restless-quick pace, I took a moment to stop and listen to the forests echoing with the sound of of the birds. Everywhere. Beautiful.
The path up Ben Ledi is big, and I had no problems following it out onto open slopes above. The sun was rising and the quality of the light was something else. Views seemed hazy, but there was a sharpness in the air. Ben Lawers was well-seen through the glen northward. Under a plastering of snow, it glowed in blue morning twilight. Just like mid-winter.
Then when I gained the ridge of Ben Ledi, the views opened up. I almost didn't recognise my familiar Southern Highlands. Peaks that I knew so well suddenly looked so different, all messed up from this angle. Snow caps dived to stark brown slopes. The clarity of air made the mountains barren and I actually felt a pang of fear in their presence. Totally irrational, but there nonetheless. It puzzles me as to why mountains can do that.
In the summit, I absorbed their great loneliness. I wasn't lonely myself; but the mountains were. Being alone in their company was oppressive. it's quite incredible; why does this happen? I took a panorama on top and blew life back into numb fingers. The Highlands beyond Crianlarich were absolutely white. In the other direction I could see the Ochils, Dumyat like an upturned ship prow, the Campsies and the wild western Arrochar Alps. They were the steepest, roughest of the lot, which is easily forgotten in their accessibility.
I looked forward to heading back down the mountain. I trotted off at a nice pace, past the memorial. (You can see Ben More very well from Ben Ledi, which I suppose is poignant) I began to think I might be totally alone on this hill, when just above the forest I met two guys who I chatted to for about fifteen minutes. They were from the east coast, and among the conversations, I remember one of them telling me the other had climbed Annapurna. Feck me.
I got back to the car, and headed off home. It was a very short morning, a quick strike and I was home at 9am (I have a habit of taking that road quite fast!). I stopped to photograph Slackdhu on the way home, wild under it's thick snow cover.
Later in the afternoon, I went to Craigmore (which is across the Strath Blane from Slackdhu). It was my first day working on Layback Crack True Finish (E4), which I climbed a few weeks later. The hot sun had stripped Slackdhu and Ben Ledi of their snows, now they were back to summer-mode. It had been a special morning, I am glad I got out to Ben Ledi.
(0.00) 5.20am Car park
(1.20) 6.40am Ben Ledi
(2.25) 7.45am Car park