Jeff and Lisa got in touch with me in late 2016, from Ohio in the US. They were planning a UK tour, and wanted to include a day in the Scottish mountains, so I was pleased to oblige of course. What made it especially pleasing for me was that they had no real objectives, no 'must-do's', and were understanding of the implications of our weather, along with the kit that makes it an altogether more enjoyable experience, (something that is not always the case!). The forecast was wet in the morning, with no real wind (aarggh, midges!), but brightening up in the West, so it was West we went.
Jeff had mooted the Tarmachan Ridge as a possibility, but that was due North of Stirling, so wetter longer, but also the Cobbler, which fitted the bill perfectly. After a rather later start than I like due to the ridiculously late breakfasts that Scottish B&B's seem to insist on, we drove over to Arrochar in the rain and low cloud. We joked about the forecast game, where you find several but take the one you prefer; I was sticking with Mr.Monk at MWIS, and he didn't let me down. As we arrived, the midges got munching, but the rain stopped, and it cleared up gradually as we ascended. In fact, whilst the midges promised to be fierce, they weren't t all bad all day, maybe a legacy of the long dry spring? Here's hoping.
On the way up the zig-zag path from Succoth, we chatted about the work of the Forestry Commission on the paths, the wee micro-habitats provided by the clear felling and deer-exclusion fences, the various plants to be found, and even the art of 'going' in the woods, (something one needs to practice! ;)
After an hour you pop out of the trees and get the first views of the Cobbler, or Ben Arthur as it is properly named. It was misty and atmospheric, the 'horns' coming and going in the cloud. we shared the route with a number of parties, noticeable for being younger than normal, which is a good thing I feel, seeing the young on the hills. Indeed one young couple had camped right next to the path, and were valiantly making a fry-up amongst the midges!
We cut off the 'tourist' trail, and struck upwards into the coire along a much-improved path that takes you direct to the bealach between the East and central summits. The path-builders have done a splendid job on what was a horribly eroded area, and are to be congratulated. They are continuing on the path up Beinn Narnain and on the wet bealach to Beinn Ime, a much-needed improvement too, so well done in my opinion.
After a snack in the sun and the breeze (to avoid the midges), we took the slabby approach up to the East summit, which Jeff and Lisa tackled with aplomb, filling me with confidence for the main summit. The views were excellent, the cloud giving shadows and perspective, but the clear air giving views as far as Ailsa Craig and the Mull of Kintyre to the South West, and the Black Mount and Glen Etive etc in the North, as well as Lochs Long and Awe of course. We didn't dally, but made our way sharply to the main attraction, the threading of the needle on to the main summit.
This can be a little unnerving when the mica schist rock is wet, as it can be quite slippery. We were blessed with sun and a breeze however, and the rock was perfect. Jeff and Lisa have both climbed previously, so were confident and assured as we crawled through the hole, edged along the ledge and then smartly over the crux moves to the summit for a photo. The 360 degree drops always focus the attention, but the scrambling is on sound rock, and with care is quite straightforward.
I would have liked to have gotten a shot of them stood on the block, but of course I was up there with them, so hey ho, maybe next time!
Once we were down, it was just a case of taking the path down to the high bealach between Narmain, Ime and the Cobbler, and the turn sharp right and back down to the car. Ben Lomond looked splendid in the afternoon light, and we chatted all the way down, greeting a surprising amount of walkers on their way up, making the most of the long summer evenings.
It is always a gamble making a booking so far in advance, but with the flexible attitude that Jeff and Lisa had, there is always something you can enjoy, and I feel we made the best of it. Thanks for your company folks, an absolute pleasure.