In memory of an eccentric friend - Laurie Marshall, a frequent companion on this sort of trip.
This is another delve into the archives. The equivalent 1985 trip had an equally stunning wintry Saturday, and I reported on that, back in 2014, here. Laurie was in attendance that time as well. He died in 2015.
The following reports on an excellent weekend haven't been updated (apart from a few italicised observations) from their 35 year old state, apart from some conversions from feet to metres, and I've added the route maps.
The Auspicious Ardlui Amble
Dave, Martin B, Martin W and Laurie left the Rising Sun (outside Martin B's workplace in Brazennose Street) at 6:30 and clogged up Martin B's car for a chug to Ardlui via 'early breakfasts', etc at Gretna and two stops near the end for Martin (very tired) to wander aimlessly around.
It was a quiet journey due to the latest incident of theft from the Cavalier, which also means the use of a screwdriver in place of an ignition key.
Cold and clear. A layer of snow on the campsite was not enough to need a shovel, (good job as we didn't have one), but Laurie's hammer was widely used. Brilliant moonlight for pitching tents.
Some were cold in the night (MW). Temperature was low.
Had a lie in until 8:30 to 9:00 and eventually after many photos trundled off to Glenlochy Crossing via Crianlarich and Tyndrum.
We went up Ben Lui (3708 ft) and Laurie tested a "DIGIMETER" pedometer. He did 97.3 miles today, although after the first few miles he had done very little (0 at one point). The rest of us did about 10 miles. Laurie will write a fuller review later.
A brilliant day approximately following route 15 in Poucher, (The Scottish Peaks - 1968 edition) subject to forestry deviations.
Laurie was deviant on the way up. He stripped off for some reason on the grounds that it might be his last chance this year to get a suntan. He posed manfully but forgot to hold his stomach in.
Dave got left behind because of a misfortune. Martin W got up first because he had 'no-messing' crampons.
Well organised self timed shots on the summit. Martin W's camera was suspended on an ice axe. It must have been cold - Laurie didn't take his clothes off!
Dave's crampon broke and he was last down.
It got dark but the moon came out. Laurie's deviant path led down nice rides through a forest of 6-ft trees, rising to large overgrown trees. Laurie crawled through the undergrowth, apparently looking for hobbits or something. He found some wet bits and the rest crawled after him.
Brilliant sunset - reds and purples.
Moonlit plod along the railway line (not disused), closely observed by one motorist - back to the car.
MW adds: brilliant view from the top even to
and beyond. Interesting ice blown feather patterns. Quite crowded for the time
of year - one party had come up a most precipitous eastern gully, leaving
impossible looking footprints. A pity the sun set behind a mountain on the way
down, but it nevertheless provided us with a fine light show of yellows then
pinks and purples reflected in the snow. A fine day.
MB again: Lighting problem in my tent as I found it impossible to fit mantle on Lumogaz lamp.
We all have had large meals. Not much room for 'heavy'. Bar shut for repairs. No fire in cocktail bar - Laurie wanted a wood fire - perhaps the flames would have deepened his tan.
Interesting twin halo around moon as we strolled back to camp.
Here's our approximate route - 12 km with 950 metres ascent.
DIGIMETER product review (LM)
The instructions for the Digimeter specify that it should be worn immediately above the trouser crease (just about anywhere after sleeping in them). A setting on the side has to be set to the length of your stride: if your stride length varies then 'you cannot be walking correctly and you should practice'. The digital distance read out we found to be suspect. After we had walked just over a mile it said 1.8 - although this might have been the result of 'last drip' problems on a bog-stop. Shortly afterwards it said 1.1, and then 11.4 when we got into a cracking pace for 5 minutes. At the end of the day we had done at least 97.3, or possibly 197.3.
This product is highly recommended as a generator of gamma-distributed random digits.
Very subdued in the pub last night. We didn't stay too long. Laurie attempted to lose his Digimeter on the way back to camp, but failed. Much warmer at night even for Martin W. Leisurely get up. Pegs come out easier than when they went in. Laurie's hammer useful for the difficult ones.
Set off for Sloy Power Station at Inveruglas, a few miles south of Ardlui. Four or five car loads of walkers there. Weather very cloudy - can't see the tops. Very damp - Martin B in overtrousers.
Take track from south of power station heading west. We are aiming for Beinn Narnain (3040 ft). The 'track' is in fact tarmaced and is fairly slippery. Martin W does a spectacular slip. The track rises gently. Stop for food / photos at bridge over stream. Dave feeling tired. Carry on up. Pass interesting man-made water tunnels, presumably to do with hydro. Eventually leave track and head up towards Bealach a'Mhaim.
After a while Dave decides to go down and Martin B joins him. Ironman and his mate, being heroes, carry on but decide to go up Beinn Ime instead and meet the other two at Rest and be Thankful.
Dave and Martin B speed down to car park. Some geese provide entertainment at car park. They send dogs in a parked car spare. Lots of robins and chaffinches. Set off for food. Give up on Arrochar - it is either closed or too posh. Back to cafe in Tarbet for tea and sausage rolls, chips, beans and Ewan MacColl on the radio.
The Heroes' Report (MW)
We followed footprints after leaving Dave and Martin. These led up the south side of Beinn Ime before reaching the plateau at Bealach a'Mhaim. Soon we are on a very steep slope with not much to see.
Eventually it flattened out at some rocks and we continued to scramble, slip and slide up a gentler incline still following the footprints (including a dog's).
The ground had obviously melted in yesterday sun and re-frozen overnight; the snow was very hard in places and there were also treacherous patches of ice to clamber over, for which the ice axe was invaluable.
Visibility decreased to near white out in some directions at times, and the temperature dropped so that we were both covered in ice and it was necessary to melt the deposit around rucksack buckles before opening them.
A little below the summit we stopped for a coffee and for Laurie to put his crampons on. The wind almost took the stuff out of the cup before we could drink it. A steep climb up a craggy face led us to a blind summit where we took pictures "just to make sure" and then a little further and higher to the real summit where visibility was about 5 yards and the wind a gale.
Head due north to descend to a small plateau at Glas Bhealach. It was very easy to veer to the left on this section, but the way down on that side was very craggy. We reached the plateau and turned west, facing a much steeper descent than we expected. I followed Laurie in his crampons and had fun making steps to traverse some ice to the other side of the gully which looked easier.
We stopped for a break in a snow hole by a rock and finished the coffee - most welcome! After that it became much easier and we slid and strode down good snow to just below the clouds. The forest loomed out of the murk and looked like a huge black hole waiting to swallow us up. Laurie saw what he thought was Martin's car, and this later turned out to be true when we saw him flash his lights - a welcome sight.
Shown above is the approximate route taken by Laurie and Martin W - 13 km with 1000 metres ascent.
I'm unclear as to whether or not MW actually had any crampons with him.
The campsite at Ardlui was not open, or closed, when these trips took place. We simply put up our tents as if wild camping, and used the roadside public toilets.
Martin W comments as follows:
Thanks very much again for that. I'm pretty sure I have a shot of me and Laurie at Ben Ime summit - but it might take some finding. I'm also certain I had crampons.
These were taken at the summit. I don't have any crampons on at that point but I recall putting them on to go down (I think we both did). I remember because it wasn't easy, it was a bit chilly.
Meanwhile, Dave comments:
I remember the trip – surprising no mention of JM absence.
I seem to have quite a few shots of Laurie having snowballs thrown at his bare top on several trips.
All the best and thank you Martin for the work – it is very interesting (I’d forgotten about my strange jumper).
And Ian, who wasn't there, comments as follows:
Wow - I'm beginning to forget what traditional cold snowy winters were like!
In the SE we have had over 2 months of more or less unbroken sun now - the shape of things to come?
Martin - it's great to read the old blogs - keep them coming!
So my surviving companions on these trips are all enjoying the memories. With no clear end to Lockdown for old fogeys like me, I'll carry on wallowing in the past!