When I set out from Dundee this morning it was a gloriously sunny day with a cloudless sky. Crossing the Sidlaws revealed a spectacular temperature inversion filling all the hollows, glens, rivers and low ground with thick white mist. On the way over to Loch Tay I drove through several patches of it, but I could just about see the sun through it overhead, so I was confident there would be good views from Ben Lawers, my destination for today.
Ben Lawers is the highest mountain in Perthshire and the 10th highest in Scotland, rising high above the waters of Loch Tay. On my way, passing the end of the loch before Kenmore, the view was stunning and too good to drive by, so I stopped to take a photo.
Driving round Loch Tay to the National Trust for Scotland visitors’ centre and parking the car, the mountain looked magnificent against a bright blue sky, with not a cloud in the sky. After parking, warming up and putting my boots on I set off up the path. The sun was shining brightly and it was actually quite warm, to the extent that I was only wearing a t-shirt.
It wasn’t long though before a small amount of white cloud moved onto the peak of Ben Lawers ahead of me.
Before climbing Ben Lawers itself there’s the not inconsiderable matter of ascending Beinn Ghlas first, another Munro, and gaining 600m in just a kilometre. Halfway up the route flattens out briefly at Coire a’ Chonnaidh, which was the perfect point to top for a breather, where I was presented with a breathtaking view over Loch Tay.
After a couple of minutes’ rest I set off again, but stopped almost immediately to take a photo of a pair of ptarmigan in their white winter plumage, clucking their way around a rocky outcrop.
As I restarted my ascent, the cloud came down with a vengeance and the temperature plummeted. My hair and eyelashes froze and my fleece was covered in droplets of ice. A thick layer of ice had formed over much of the path making conditions underfoot treacherous, so the going was slow as I picked my route carefully.
The path from Beinn Ghlas to Ben Lawers runs along the top of a flattish ridge, and although this was much easier to walk on, the ice ensured things weren’t too simple.
A cairn and a trig point mark the summit of Ben Lawers. The cloud was thick so there was no view to speak of.
The ridge walk stretches on to Creag an Fhithich and An Stuc but on a day today that was strictly for walkers with crampons.
After a few minutes doing my best not to slide off the summit, I turned around and began my descent, again picking my way carefully around the icy sections. About half an hour down I stopped for my lunch as the wind had dropped slightly. My fingers were frozen though by the time I finished my first roll, so the next two were eaten rather hastily so the gloves could go back on. Before I set off again I took a photo as the sun tried its best to break through the cloud, shining off Loch Tay far below.
Looking back, I realised how thick the cloud over Ben Lawers had become.
Finally the visitors’ centre came into view as the sun started to set behind it, and before long I was back at the car warming up with some soup before heading back to Dundee for a night out.