We wouldn’t have made it without the efforts of the ground crew at Philadelphia airport last Tuesday night (was that really a week ago!), so they deserve a mention.
I’d already spent eight hours at the airport (planned, that’s life) by the time we were called to board US734 to Manchester, at 8.45pm. It was on time.
“You are lucky, it’s just started to snow”, joked the ground staff.
The snow quickly became a blizzard, and the Airbus A330 trundled off to be de-iced. I’d never seen this process before, so watched from the window, when the snow permitted.
A brown liquid was sprayed powerfully over the wings. It cleared the snow. But unfortunately by the time the fuselage was reached the snow had settled thickly again at the end of the wing.
“You can see what is happening” announced the pilot. We weren’t going anywhere.
“We are going to try again” – it was the pilot on the tannoy. This time there was a little more success, until the process stopped, abruptly.
“The runways are all closed” observed the pilot.
Snow ploughs could be seen in the distance. Lots of them. Very active. But the snow was thicker now, and forecast to last into the following day. Even the locals were resigned to spending an uncomfortable night at the airport before going home…
“The roads will be a nightmare tonight, and the airport will be shut tomorrow. We are going nowhere soon”, was the gloomy prognosis.
It surprised everyone when the captain announced that the ground staff were to attempt de-icing for the third time.
With an even stronger jet, and green liquid this time, the de-icing held its own against the blizzard, and after agonising minutes on the runway whilst snow seemed to be building on the wings, we finally made a desperate but successful bid for the freedom of the air. I think everyone was most impressed with the efforts that had got us there, and not at all bothered about being a few hours late.
The following day’s flights had been cancelled by the time we reached Manchester.
After an hour at home to recover (or was that to pack for the next trip?) the journey to Balloch was benign by comparison, though the delayed flight meant that we had to enjoy a lovely sunset from a traffic jam in Glasgow rather than from the shores of Loch Lomond.
Thursday dawned clear and bright. The snow capped summit of Ben Lomond gleamed at us from the window of the apartment that we were sharing with Dave, Maggie and Ellie.
It was irresistible, but only Ellie and I were fit enough to attempt the ascent, so by 11am we had driven round to Rowardennan and were striding up the icy ‘tourist’ path, whilst Sue and the others were enjoying a more sedate experience near the shores of the loch.
There had been a hard frost, as explained by these ferns.
The edge of the loch was framed by ice, though the warm sun had melted most of that by the time Sue took this picture.
Meanwhile, Ellie and I could look back to the southern shores and islands of Loch Lomond, with the high rise dwellings of the city of Glasgow clearly visible through the glaring sunlight beyond the loch.
The path rises gently out of Rowardennan. This may be one of the easiest Munro summits to attain, but it was entirely appropriate for this day out with my niece, who had never previously set foot on a Scottish mountain.
Way below the snow line we encountered a river of ice, soon after which crampons were donned. We could have managed without, but they did make life easier, and I was keen to test my new 150gm ‘Yaktrax’, whilst Ellie was keen to wear any old crampons (mine, for example). They both worked well, and we happily made it to the summit by 2pm.
It was sunny and still. A lovely winter’s day.
The summit ridge looks quite Alpine from some angles, but is very benign on a day like today.
The Ptarmigan Ridge looked easy enough, but Ellie had never used an ice axe and decided she would prefer to return by the tourist path we had used in ascent, so we made do with this fine view to the north western shores of Loch Lomond, with Ben Vane and Ven Vorlich in close attendance, providing the foreground for an array of peaks.
A slide show, covering the entire short trip, will follow.