Getting to the end of the year, I realised I still had a few days annual leave left to take and so decided to grab a Monday for a change and use it to get on a hill. Don’t know about you but Mondays are usually the day that sucks most , not matter how much you enjoy your job, so taking one off to head into the hills instead can only be a GREAT idea!
Trossachs bound, my route took me past (for about the 100th time) the Stirling monument, in honour of Sir Archibald David Stirling DSO OBE, the founder of the Special Air Service (SAS) – born locally at Bridge of Allan. An amazing character brought to life along with his fellow SAS pioneers in the TV show recently aired called SAS Rogue Heroes.
We’d been having sustained cold weather (sub zero) and waking up early and setting off in the dark, it’s still -7C when I arrived at my starting point – the car park at Strathyre cabins.
This could only mean one hill – Ben Ledi (did you work it out?) , near Callander, and rising above Loch Lubnaig. Ben Ledi is a gnats follicle below a Munro and at 897m is one of the larger Corbett’s around, and its steep forest start, false summits and long loop return (if chosen) make it every bit as big a day out as any Munro.
Usually very busy I was overjoyed to see the car park almost empty and as I set off, my breath misting as the sun rose to make tinsel of the frosty spider webs in the undergrowth I couldn’t help but grin and think – “yep THIS is how to spend a Monday! ” The name Ben Ledi is apparently a corruption of the Gaelic Beinn Letir , meaning Hill of the Slope and has been more recently mis translated to mean hill of God (an error due to the similarity on the name le dia .
As I was on my own for a change I was happy to set off at my own pace but still stop and just drink in the views and atmosphere as I felt was needed or wanted. No pressure today ! Today was also the first outing for some new kit from Jottnar, and a new winter pack from Osprey so an easy day was a great way to just get to grips with all the zips, pockets, features and foibles of the kit, ahead of proper winter days out to come. A review of the Jottnar shell jacket and pants to follow. The Osprey I will probably review at season end once I really find out what I do and (possibly) don’t like.
As dawn gave way to clear blue skies I thanked the hill gods for what was proving to be a truly superb day !
After making my way up the steep forest path (very well maintained – honestly I don’t know how you folks do it!) i emerged into open ground and as I rounded the shoulder of the hill i came into sun – and this was cue to strip off a layer , the heat amazingly going from sub zero to “warm”.
From here we continue to rise to a false summit before descending to the bealach nan Corp (pass of the dead, so named as it was an old coffin “road” between Glen Finlas and St Brides chapel close to Loch Lubnaig. They were hardy folks back in the day !
Starting to get more frosty / snowy now – what a view !
Local folklore also tells of a party of 200 funeral goers who while attempting to cross the pass in the dead of winter made and error and while crossing the frozen lochan (a small lake) fell in due to its ice breaking – all of them losing their lives. Ben Ledi is also perhaps familiar to some due to its appearance in Walter Scott’s poem The Lady of the Lake – it’s got some history !
History aside for now, the bealach also offered me a lovely spot to rest and have a nice hot cup of coffee ,courtesy once again of my trusty Sigg flask (now adorned with Jottnar stickers! ). Taking in tyhe views both sides of the pass – white mountains stretching east and west , i could not have been happier. It being a Monday, and not at work only made me more so! And barely a soul on the hill – NOT common for Ledi!
Coffee done one last push up to the summit and we reach the snow covered top , with its trig point but not before stopping off at the iron cross, a memorial to a tragic accident involving Killin MRT when a helicopter incident saw Sgt. Harry Lawrie lose his life. A brief stop to pay respects and to take in the beauty of the views stretching as far as the Wallace monument and the Ochills and Campsies to the south west.
A seat, a sandwich and a coffee- at the summit then. Insulated jacket on and hood up to keep the heat in, sitting on my pack i just – paused – just taking it all in, allowing the cold air to fill my lungs, the silence to envelope me a strip away the stresses of the day. A small slice of snowy heaven. It’s why we do it right?
After a while, a quick chat to a fellow Monday hillgoer and a summit snap it was a last chance to take in the calm of the summit for a few more minutes then it was time for home. Off down then path, bypassing the worst of the water ice cascading across sections of the path, chatting to those heading up and having nothing more stressful to think about than what i would do with my afternoon once i got down.
It was around this point, about half way down, mind wandering, me fiddling with my pack and all of a sudden my feet weren’t on the path anymore.. they were sliding. GOING DOWN! Yep , one last bit of ice id told myself on the way up to watch on descent.. only landing on my pack and keeping my head forward saved me from anything more serious than cut finger and bruised ego 😀
Four and a half hours later, back at the car, a quick change into comfy trainers (not better feeling) and I had one last coffee standing breathing in the mountain air before closing the boot , jumping in the driver seat and heading for home….
Monday – best day ever!