I was looking at some photos the other day and found a couple of James and myself on Conic Hill earlier this year. We had intended to do a hill run farther up the west side of Loch Lomond – Beinn Bhreac and Tullic Hill (and it’s still on my list) – but when we got to the start of the run, it looked impossible – the snow was piling up fast. We couldn’t see the hill never mind any Bens. And we had no idea whether our Iphones would be able to GPS track the route.
We quietly talked ourselves out of it, and considered our options. Push on up the loch and do a gentler 18k in Glen Loin, or bomb it back round the other side of the loch and give Conic Hill a bash. I’d been up Conic Hill in the rain a couple of weeks previously & as a hike, it had been a doddle.
We aimed for Conic Hill. Besides, James had read on the Scottish hillrunners website that they had a race on Conic Hill & we might just make it in time to join them.
When we got there, we had missed the race start. But so had everyone else. It was cancelled due to bad weather. We’re mountain goats, we’re deerstalkers. We did it anyway.
We were both wearing Asics trainers (Gel Nimbus, I think). I had a map of the route stored on my Every trail app, a few things stored in my rucksack for bad weather, and a packet of jelly babies, Tom Baker-style.
The first stretch was OK. We intended to go up the steep side and run off the back and home via the shallower path. By accident, we did it in reverse. As a result, we couldn’t find the connecting path to the summit. I shudder to think what kind of trouble we might have been in, had we been stuck on Beinn Bhreac.
As we stood there waiting for my Iphone to help us (apparently it feels the cold too), a lone figure appeared out of the white. Coming towards us was a sole hillrunner, carving his way through the snow like a hot knife through butter.
Embarrassed, I said “Hey pal, you’re putting us to shame”. He looked up at us and said without breaking step, “Come on lads, keep going”. And then he was gone.
I put the phone away and then realised I recognised the lie of the slope from walking the hill two weekends previously (even under a foot of snow). The path found, we were revitalised. We took a few pics and grinned. I think there might even have been some laughing as we coursed along the ridges.
We soon realised that Asics had little traction on the downward slopes. However, the human backside provides remarkable stability, and proved much more efficient than our gel-filled footwear.
A combination of slipping, sliding and arse-sledging helped give us a respectable if undignified account of ourselves. We got changed into dry clothes in the Balmaha tourist info centre toilets, before retiring to the pub for tea and a buttered scone (don’t knock it).
Feeling triumphant and not-a-little relieved, we were almost at the front door of the Oak Tree Inn, when I reached into my pocket for a now-damp fiver and realised I had my trousers on back to front.
Seriously though, if you’ve got a sense of adventure, exercise it. If you’ve got great kit, use it. But I’m fast learning it pays to bring some common sense along too. That, and a packet of jelly babies.