Two weeks off work is a great feeling. No alarms and I can wake up when my mind naturally wants to.
It’s summertime, so this was the perfect time to tackle some of My Peak Challenges. Hiking my second Munro, Ben Narnain was on my list but at the same time I wanted to hike Ben Arthur (the Cobbler) which is a Corbett. They are both located in the same area, the Arrochar Alps in Argyll and Bute, near Loch Lomond. Maybe I could hike both of them in one day I thought.
With Scotland’s weather being guaranteed to be sunny we picked a day to drive up north to the Arrochar Alps. It was a Monday and we thought it would be quieter. With only an hour and a half driving, it was perfect for a day trip.
We parked in the Loch Long car park and paid £1. Always remember to pay and display and make sure you’re parked in the marked bays or you could be fined.
We were later in starting, it was already 10am and very hot. I wish we’d left earlier but I was slow at getting started this morning. I was worried that my tiredness would strike again and I wouldn’t be able to reach the summit. I was still determined to try though.
The start of the walk was walking through what looked like a younger woodland with the trees being very dense. The rocky, dry and dusty path started to become very enclosed and steep quickly. Even after 15 minutes of walking I was feeling the heat and tired. This is not a good start I thought. I needed some sugar, so a few boiled sweets now and then gave me a boost.
The path zig zagged for what seemed like forever. I could feel the star called the sun burning my skin and remembered I’d better put on sun cream. Alan thought he had some in the first aid kit … alas it wasn’t there. A young couple were coming back down with their beautiful wolf-like dog and we stopped to say hello. The girl let me borrow her sun cream. People you don’t even know are so kind and friendly.
It was around 2.5km before we were out of the woods. I usually love woodland walks but this one felt really claustrophobic to me. We both felt tired today.
The magical moment was when landscape opened up in front of my eyes. A slight breeze was very welcome and I started to feel excited. I could see the shape of Ben Arthur in the distance, it look so far away. This was the boost I needed though, to help me keep going.
Will we make it? I didn’t even know what was the summit at this point.
We were stopping so many times to take photos and video. This has become quite normal for us now. Sometimes this can disrupt the enjoyment of our adventure but if I didn’t document my journey I couldn’t share it with you or my family.
I also love looking back a few weeks later at what I’ve accomplished, then I say to myself: “wow, did I really do that”.
For a Monday morning, it was busy with people hiking. I recorded this timelapse, hoping I could capture it all before anyone walked past. No luck there. It’s fun looking back at everyone speeding up that hill though!
I only wish I could walk that fast. I saw people running down the hill … so that could only mean they ran up it. I do try a bit of jogging, but I know running uphill is not my friend. The best phrase I heard one time running was “It’s all downhill from here.” That made me happy, downhill when you’re running is the best!
Wildflowers, mountains, blue sky and puffy white clouds, it was a beautiful day. What more could you ask for?
I love this photo, what a unique mountain and so lush in the summer.
The purple heather was starting to show itself along the path.
Fluffy white bog cotton was blowing in the wind.
Even though most of the way up we were looking at the same mountain view, I was inspired with the different angles for taking photos.
I think the rocks below are called the Narnain boulders according to Bing Maps. You might need to zoom in to see the lay of the land. Bing maps is great to see the Ordnance Survey view with marked footpaths. I don’t seem to be able to view this on a mobile device though. I assume these boulders fell and rolled from Beinn Narnain so that’s why they are named this.
The path was pretty good, I was really enjoying this part of the hike. The clouds were clearing too. We didn’t seem to be getting much closer though! It felt like the neverending path, but still exciting.
Ben Arthur has three peaks, the highest pinnacle almost in the middle being 884 metres (2,900 feet). The peak to the left is called Arthur’s Seat and the peak to the right is called the North Peak.
Ben Arthur is more known as The Cobbler. This name came from some of the rocks looking like a cobbler bending over his last.
I think it might be the North Peak as I can see a face and what looks like a person bending over. Can you? Or maybe this is my new found pareidolia kicking in again.
What’s a last? According to what I’ve read it’s a holding device shaped like a human foot that’s used to fashion or repair shoes.
Ideal! My walking boots desperately need replaced. I still haven’t been able to buy sturdy new ones. I wondered if Arthur could fix them for me?
We reached two paths to choose from to reach the summit. The left looked steep and a bit of a scramble near the top. Some walkers we spoke to said this was the harder ascent. I’m all for a challenge but we decided to go right and take what was the easier route up the back.
I was glad I chose the path round the back as this route took us to other mountains in the Arrochar Alps. We reached a junction with three routes. One to Ben Arthur, one to Beinn Ime and one to Beinn Narnain. I knew at this point I’d only manage one mountain today. It was decision time.
We stopped to have a snack, recorded some drone footage and then it was upwards to Ben Arthur. Afterall, I did need my boots fixed. Narnia would need to be another day.
We started climbing up the steps getting higher and higher. You can just make out the steps on the right in this video clip. I jokingly said that I felt I was climbing to Machu Picchu.
This was looking back down, showing the paths to Beinn Ime (left) and Beinn Narnain (right). Wow, I had goosebumps. I think it was my excitement that kept me going.
We were also climbing up the steps with three lovely ladies, Rachel, Claire and Kristeen from Falkirk. Rachel and I chatted a fair bit going up. I was very inspired that she conquered Mount Kilimanjaro! She noticed my wrist bands and knew all about My Peak Challenge. I even passed a fellow peaker on the way up and missed her to say hello. I didn’t have the My Peak Challenge t-shirt on this day, only the pin on my hat and the bands on my wrists.
As I’ve mentioned many times, when you’re outdoors you meet the most amazing people. We’re all challenging ourselves for different reasons. We all respect each other as we know how difficult it is. My knees were sore most of the way, the pain was bearable though. The rewards are so worth it.
If we’d chosen the other path, this was where we would’ve came up. It looked pretty steep.
This was looking across to the North Peak where the Cobbler formation is. We didn’t climb here though as we took a different route back down. No boots repair for me today 😉 We noticed some people did climb to the North Peak. They sat down near the edge and dangled their feet!
Yay! I reached the summit, I couldn’t believe I was there at last.
Some people have reached the true summit by ‘threading the needle’, through the eye and up to the top pinnacle on the right. Sheer drops all round just to test your balancing skills. I wasn’t crawling through this today.
I wish I could have done this but my balancing skills are definitely not the best. I’d watched a few videos of people doing this before we hiked and knew that it would be too risky for me. I was wobbly just standing where I was.
I watched three people thread the needle to the summit. This is Claire at the top. Wow, very brave lady, I could hardly watch. So amazing, well done Claire!
At the summit of Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran there’s usually always a seagull lurking around. On this mountain it was a Raven. It was a friendly wee bird who didn’t mind getting a photo taken at the summit. Easier ascent for the Raven though!
It was a little hazy, and this photo is dark, but you can see Ailsa Craig and Arran in the far distance. I waved to them both thinking I’m usually over there.
We sat on top for a while and the girls mentioned that they might hike down a different way. This sounded adventurous and they didn’t mind us tagging along.
The start was steep and the path narrow but it was exciting. I loved that I could see the mountains from a different perspective. I did have to shuffle a bit on my bottom to get down at parts and my knees were getting worse with every high step down. When I saw this ridge from above I thought we had to climb it … but the path turned right and down, phew!
I stopped now and then to look at the landscape around and below me. Alan pointed out a red flag on the way down. I scrambled up to have a look and read this message on the back of it. There’s a story to be told for sure. Well done to the rescuer!
We all looked so tiny walking down alongside the high rocks. This part of the hike was my favourite. We all took our time at our own pace. Coming down this way would be more dangerous in wet weather as I needed to watch my footing.
This was looking back at the summit pinnacle in the middle … wow, I was just up there.
We were slow coming back down, but there was no real rush. It was so relaxing in the sunny weather, even though I could feel my skin starting to burn.
The bog cotton up here seemed to be more white and fluffy. Can you see the path in the distance? This was the way we came up. Beinn Narnain straight ahead with Beinn Ime to the left.
It seemed like we were never going to reach the bottom and then a few surprise uphills appeared.
At last, all downhill from here. I found walking through this grassy hill more difficult though as I couldn’t see the trodden path. There were a few surprise holes too. I was really wobbly now.
We met up with the girls at the dam and we were back on the path we came up with still a fair bit to go. Alan hurt his ankle, his shin was painful too and getting worse. The last part back to the car was a struggle. The steep zig zag path back down repeated and felt like Déjà vu. Every corner we turned was like the last one, but we were still not at loch level.
We were both tired and relieved to get back to the car in one piece, only just. We ate some tuna pasta in the car and sat for half an hour with our boots off. Bliss.
Our walking time all in was almost nine hours, moving time four hours thirty minutes. We walked 14.7km.
Watch my video of Ben Arthur
I look back at this day and feel quite emotional. Silly I know, but I’ve been so tired recently I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. This was a good day to remember.
I will return as Narnia is still waiting for me 😉
Until next time, thanks for reading!