Monday, 3 October 2016

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Ben Lomond

25.09.16  Cruinn a’Bheinn (NN 365 051)   

Cruinn a'Bheinn (NN 365 051)

Completing an ascent of every hill in a list is a personal achievement, something that is special to the person involved, something that holds significance and many good memories of the hills and places that the journey of completion has taken the individual on.  These hill list completions are special whatever the occasion, and whatever the listing, as they are the culmination of this journey, a journey that sometimes starts without the intention of completion, many times the end is only contemplated during the journey and not necessarily at its beginning.  However special each completion is to each individual, some stand out above others as some hill lists are more physically demanding; the Marilyns is one such hill list.

A number of years ago the completion of the Marilyns had gained a reputation as being something that may never be accomplished, as the St Kilda sea stacks were not surprisingly proving somewhat of a barrier to final completion, but the hardy souls who had reached the wall at the end of the hall were not to be denied, and with Rob Woodall’s and Eddie Dealtry’s completion in 2014, the quest for the elusive Marilyn completion had been attained.  Since then another six people had scaled these forbidding sea stacks and went on to complete one of Britain’s most difficult of hill listings, but until the 25th September 2016 there had been no female Marilyn completion.  The accolade of the first female Marilynist fell to Jenny Hatfield, who along with her partner; Rick Salter became the 9th and 10th people to complete the Marilyns, in the process becoming the first couple to do so and Jenny becoming the first female completer.

I was fortunate to attend the completion having been generously offered a lift north by Bob Kerr, who then drove us back south after the festivities.  We all met at the car park adjacent to the Inversnaid Hotel on the shores of Loch Lomond, as Jenny and Rick kindly posed for what proved to be one of many photographs during the day, the sun shone out from greying cloud, with the forecast for the day not being ideal with the possibility of thunder stalking the hills.

Jenny and Rick at Inversnaid

As more people arrived little groups were assembling with the intention to visit the 536m map heighted summit of Cruachan, a Hump with a listed drop of 101m, before continuing to the main hill of the day; Cruinn a’Bheinn which had been chosen by Jen and Rick as their final hill on their 1,556 Marilyn quest.

I set off in pursuit of a small group as they headed over the bridge spanning the turbulent waters of the Arklet Water, beyond the bridge a path continued directly south, this forms a part of the West Highland Way, within a few metres the majority of people followed a path up toward the Hump whilst I continued south with George Morl and Alan Whatley as company.

This part of the route was in woodland and swathed in dabbled sunlight as the morning did its best to bring light and warmth to the landscape.  George and Alan steadily pulled away from me as we left the woodland path to follow a track that gained height toward the area of the bealach between Cruachan and Cruinn a’Bheinn.  By now the views had opened with Loch Lomond stretching out below with its western banks butting against deep greys as shower clouds massed.

Alan Whatley on part of the path through the wood adjacent to Loch Lomond

The track gave George and Alan good access toward Cruachan from its south, and also Cruinn a’Bheinn from its north, the latter involved a trudge through a particularly unsavoury looking bealach, which proved one of those Scottish marvels that stretched out relatively flat and expansive and contained a watery mass of small channels, thankfully the bealach consisted of grassland and devoid of the dourness of peat hags, however it still proved tiresome.

Shower clouds massing out to the west

It was a slow trudge over the bealach, I stopped frequently on the steep ascent of the northern slopes of Cruinn a’Bheinn, looking back over a land where a multitude of hills stretched for miles all around, a wild and pleasing landscape to look out to, one that beckons investigation.  For a person used to the delights of Wales, Scotland is other worldly, its scale immense in comparison, both countries fulfil that inner hill need, but one is hard to surpass and I was immersed in but one small fragment of this stunning place where water and land meet in loch and mountain, the Scottish Highlands are truly unequalled anywhere else in Britain, and although I love the hills of my native Wales, it would be hard for me to not admit that these Highlands are indeed the jewel in Britain’s landscape.

Heading over the bealach toward Cruinn a'Bheinn

The view north toward Cruachan

By the time I reached the small summit cairn I felt a bit knackered, as any mountain fitness I had built up earlier in the year had disappeared as two months away from the hills due to whiplash suffered in a car shunt from behind at temporary traffic lights, had meant that my body was not used to the grind of distance and ascent.

Ben Lomond from the summit of Cruinn a'Bheinn

Once at the summit I quickly set the Trimble up on the cairn and measured a 0.39m offset between its internal antenna and the highest natural ground at its base.  As the last of the designated 300 datum points were collected a figure appeared over the last steep northerly slope, I closed the equipment down and shook hands with Eddie Dealtry, Marilynist number two.  We’d corresponded shortly after Eddie had completed the Marilyns as he submitted an article for the Guest Contributor heading on the Mapping Mountains site, but this was the first time we had met.

Gathering data at the summit of Cruinn a'Bheinn

The Trimble GeoXH 6000 set-up position at the summit of Cruinn a'Bheinn

Within a few minutes a throng of people had arrived, including Rick and Jen, who stayed safely away from the high point waiting for everyone to arrive before they headed toward the culmination of their own special journey.

Rick and Jen nearing the summit of Cruinn a'Bheinn

Jenny waiting for the ceremonial arch of walking poles to form before taking the last few steps with Rick to Marilyn completion

I had time to take a few photos as thirty people assembled around the summit cairn to welcome Rick and Jen through a ceremonial arch of walking poles, their journey was over, a completion to be remembered. 

The following thirty minutes consisted of many handshakes, kisses, bottles of Champagne and Whiskey and a lot of cake.  It proved a grand and very enjoyable affair; we soon left the summit cairn to gain shelter from the brisk wind and the westerly showers that blew in.

Taking shelter from the wind with Champagne, Whiskey and cake

Before leaving the summit area the those Marilyn completers still present lined up beside the cairn with Alan, who had started each individual’s journey when he first listed the Marilyns in the Relative Hills of Britain book that was published by Cicerone Press in 1992.  To complete such a list is a phenomenal undertaking and congratulations to each and every one that has done so.

Five of the ten Marilyn completers with list author Alan Dawson (seated) (L-R) Alan Whatley, Tony Smith, Rick Salter, Jenny Hatfield and Michael Earnshaw

Rick and Jen at the summit of Cruinn a'Bheinn

As another westerly shower blew in I made a move down the hill following a line of coloured jackets off in the distance as they meandered a slow passage through the mass of watery stuff that formed the bealach, by the time I’d reached the track I felt knackered again, and by the time I had reached the path beside Loch Lomond that continues through the wood I knew that something was wrong with my right knee.  The remainder of the descent proved a slow one, but also one that was immensely enjoyable as the scenery, albeit partly shielded by the trees, occasionally opened out giving spectacular views.

I only had to wait a couple of minutes beside Bob’s car until he arrived, we had just enough time to change, sort our gear out for the journey south, say our goodbye’s to a number of people and dive inside the car as the next heavy shower blew in.  I arrived home nearing 1.00am and woke up next morning with a swollen right knee that made putting weight on my leg painful, looks like it’s going to be a few weeks before I’m back on the hill.    

Survey Result:

Cruinn a’Bheinn

Summit Height:  632.4m (converted to OSGM15, Trimble GeoXH 6000)  632.5m (Leica RX1250)

Summit Grid Reference:  NN 36538 05147

Drop:  c 174m

Dominance:  27.51%

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