The Cliffhanger in Scotland…literally

I know that you all have been waiting with baited breath to see how we fared once we arrived in Loch Lomond. Sorry to leave you with such a cliffhanger. Once we were all on our own with 2 days left in Scotland, there was so much we still wanted to see and do that there was no time for writing. Once I got back home there was you know what, to pay for my absence of ten days. The longest we have ever been away for, of which I am sure will never happen again.

The Ben Lomond
Some of our friends and family members have affectionately but correctly, nicknamed my husband the “psycho hiker”. He has been known to leave one in his dust as you follow him up a mountain trail, especially when one hikes with him on our family trips to Canada. It starts out innocently enough. He might state upon getting up in the morning, “What a beautiful day for a hike! I bet you could see for a mile in this weather from the top. Let’s hike the C trail.”(Named the Grande Brulee we all jokingly refer to it as the Creme Brulee because this is Chris’ favorite trail and that is his favorite dessert. ) The naive would respond with an affirming response and soon find themselves huffing and puffing, up a 4 mile mountain trek at break neck speed with no chance for a photo opp for everything is passing by them in a blur. Unfortunately here in Scotland, he had a partner in crime…Shane… and at dinner the night before, they decided that we should hike…”The Ben,” as it is coined in Scotland. ( Sounds kind of ominous doesn’t it? Ben is the term they use for mountain) Never mind that we had no hiking gear to speak of with us, there was a 100% chance of rain and Shane has not participated in that kind of physical activity in well over a year.
The view from the trail up the The Ben
There is a curious thing that we witnessed in Scotland and that is the incredibly positive attitude that they approach life with. On our inquiries to various places that we were driving to, we often got the response of something akin to the following (you have to say this with a Scottish accent or it will not have the proper effect): 
Us: “We were thinking of visiting Inverary castle tomorrow? What is your recommendation?”
Them: “Absolutely lovely drive and there is a lovely little place to eat in town called the George. Lovely castle and supposed to be a lovely day. Only about a half hour down the road.”
That translated into a white knuckled one hour drive with yes, some of the loveliest views we have seen thus far but some of the narrowest roads we had driven on up until now with some of the highest altitudes as well. 
Both castle and food was lovely once we shakily got out of the car.
We could only think of what the response would have been from someone back home after having participated in the “lovely drive.”
Another example:
One older woman exclaims to another upon exiting a restaurant all dressed up, “What an absolutely lovely day!” as the skies look ominous and two minutes later the skies let forth their promise. 
Let’s just say the term cheer-e-o is their motto here. There is not much that gets them down and everything is lovely. That was pretty much the response when we inquired about the hike up the 3 booted rating system out of 5 boots for the Ben Lomond. 
“Lovely views from the top if it is clear. Might want to bring an extra layer for the temp drops as you go up…and a rain slicker. I hiked that for charity last summer and the path is well marked…lovely hike!”
Shane and Chris about 1/3 of the way up. They were right about the wide paths.
It has been decided! The Ben it is the next morning, well actually the next afternoon by the time we woke Shane up, gathered up our rain gear from wherever we could assemble it, packed a change of clothes for the ride home for that was recommended on the “Hikes of Scotland”website, stopped at the little grocery store to buy water bottles for that was recommended as well and then drove the most harrowing drive of the whole trip. Let’s just say you would consider these one way roads back home since one way roads have no lines on them and usually only fit a car going one way…not both ways.
Take note of our clothes starting out
We again shakily get out of the car to be greeted by a lovely woman selling tea, coffee and home baked cookies for charity at the toilettes at the base of the Ben. We decline, stating that we will need those lovely restroom facilities should we partake, somewhere along our 4 mile ascent and then 4 mile descent but would love to catch her when we are finished. It is over cast but not too bad and the views from the trek up thus far were beautiful.
There were quite a number of people coming up behind us as well as women in long dress coverings coming down. They were smiling and although steep, the ascent was brisk but we considered it a nice work out pace. Psycho hiker could not leave us in his dust, for he had our lone backpack in which was stuffed our rain gear, another layer and very large water bottles for we felt that we would need lots of water on this trek. It was quite heavy and slowed him down…thank God!
Wait, did we not just see those people who are coming back down as they passed us when we stopped to take in the views? We must be close to the top! And that group there…we just saw them pass us as well and they too are coming back down. Wasn’t this supposed to be an 8 mile roundtrip? We must have only done about a mile thus far. Hmmm….
We put away our water bottles and proceeded onward, puzzled. As we got to the top of the summit we were nearing when we stopped, we saw the fog had moved in and was clouding up the next summit…this was not the top.  Hmmm…those people must have decided to turn around since you probably would not be able to see much once you continued on to the top. 

It got a little freaky as we began to not be able to see where the path is taking us in the distance.
It starts to get really freaky when we cannot see over the edge of the cliff that we are on.
Add to that, the fact that people that we are now passing as they are on their trek coming downwards have winter wool hats, gloves and in some instances scarves and face cover ups on. I know this is Scotland and they have the most beautiful sheep and cashmere here, but really, aren’t they being a little extreme? They look quite drenched as well. Hmmm…
These guys look a little different than they did about a mile ago. As we scaled another summit that was NOT the top and hit a plateau, the winds started ripping, the rains a fallin and the temps as well. We quickly pulled out our extra layers and any of the hats we had mustered up as we looked upwards and literally could see nothing. We trekked onwards silently agreeing that we had come this far, we should continue as well as not wanting to be the wimpy one that said we should turn around. 
You can see the flap of Shane’s windblown slicker out the left side of his jacket. He had the hood up on it to protect his ears but took it off for the picture at the top.
I kid you not but there are no pictures  from that point on for the rain fell hard and we scrambled up the Ben Lomond as quickly as we could without a word spoken between the three of us. It was amazing how quickly the conditions had changed, how cold it had gotten and how windy. Shane’s rain slicker had to be put on underneath his other rain coat for it was blowing in the wind so hard that it kept covering his eyes. Our fingers were so numb that when I went to take the camera out to take a picture of his errant rain jacket I could not even unbutton the pocket it was in. Our Creme Brulee Trail had turned into a Baked Alaska really quickly and I could find nothing akin to our familiar hikes in Tremblant. THERE you got to hike up the mountain for approx. 2 and half/ three hours and then take the gondola back down after imbibing in a cold beverage of your choice at the bar on top of the mountain. Where the heck was the gondola to take us back down??? 
We had to get back down???
Some frozen strangers who too had not gotten the memo about the extreme weather changes and were not dressed appropriately kindly took our picture at the top where you could see nothing but the stone that is at the top. It is literally on about 12 feet of ground that falls away to who knows what. 
We stayed up there all of 10 seconds and then turned around and hightailed it back down the way we came. Our plan had been to take another trail down but upon going up, a group we passed advised us to come back down the way we had gone up for it would seem vaguely familiar since you could not see. We took their advise and took shelter for a brief minute out of the elements behind this lone outcropping of rocks that we saw someone crouching in on our way up. It was the one and only place that you could get out of the elements. It was a treeless landscape that we traveled that day and one where we found these strange little burrows in the dirt with sheep’s wool stuck to the sides…just deep enough for a sheep to lie down in all snuggly to get out of this weather. We would have, had they not also been filled with… Again, a sign that we probably should have turned around.
Chris actually dumped the water out of 2 of the bottles for the back pack was weighing him down and we had drank almost nothing on the way up due to the cold, except for Shane who drinks all the time. All I could think of on the way down was the lovely lady at the bottom with hot coffee…I hoped with all my heart that she was still there!
Chris looked like a wee leprechaun in his golf rain hat as the psycho hiker was out psyched by his lunatic wife who careened it down the mountainside with one thought in mind…the lure of hot coffee.



As sure as it does in Scotland on a daily basis, the fog and rain lifted as we got near the bottom. We thawed out under the hand dryers in the “toilettes” once at the bottom while changing out of our wet clothes. Thank goodness for the internet where we got that piece of advice!! We unfortunately had to deal with visions of hot coffee on our ride home for the lovely coffee lady had left. Every dark storm has a rainbow and we found ours in a small little pub that we almost drove right past after leaving the Ben Lomond Park. It lured weary and wet hikers inside with a promising sign and the words, “hot coffee”. I swear that was the only time I saw a coffee sign in all of Scotland! It was always tea, tea, tea, which put me in heaven for I love tea but today I wanted coffee! We partook in a lovely little snack and a nice warm mug of steaming cappuccino while sitting right in front of the little wood stove in the pub.  Not a bad end to a rather soggy day. 
I do have to say that we smiled rather smugly as the doorman told the other doorman as we entered the hotel, bedraggled but triumphant, “They hiked the Lomond today…to the top.”
The wee hours of the night are calling me so I will have to wrap up our last day tomorrow of which Shane was not a part of. He slept for a full 24 hours after our Hike up the Ben. It was a wonder that we were able to get him up for the plane ride home.
Thank you for traveling with me!
Until tomorrow~
Meg
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