WARNING: Extreme sarcasm and/or sass ahead. Proceed with caution.
Okay, so, if you know me at all, you know that I’m not exactly the poster girl for physical fitness. Once or twice a decade I get motivated to go for a run, but that’s about as far as it goes. And by that, I mean it stops at the I Should Really Go For A Run stage… I haven’t actually progressed to the Getting Up Off My Ass To Actually Go Run stage in an embarrassingly long time (we’re talking years, people). But the hike(s!) up Arthur’s Seat were so much fun and the view was so rewarding that when my friends found out about an organized trip to Ben Lomond, I didn’t hesitate to sign up with them. A hike up a mountain in the Highlands that, according to my Google Image search, has a view that makes Arthur’s Seat look like Detroit? No-brainer. I will admit that I was unaware of its 3200 ft elevation. Small detail, though, right?! My friends even asked if it was a difficult hike, and were told that it required only a “minimal level of fitness”.
Well, let me tell you something. I have a minimal level of fitness. And they lied. They lied hard.
We arrived at Loch Lomond (a two-hour bus ride from Edinburgh) around noon, and were told that the bus would leave for Edinburgh at 5 PM, giving us “ample time” to hike the mountain. In fact, they (the organizers of the trip) went so far as to tell us that it should take a mere three hours, four if we went slowly. An extremely accurate estimation, that was in no way misleading, as I’m sure you can guess. So we set off at a sprightly pace, excited and blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. And at first, it all seemed to be going so well! The incline was steady, but not terribly steep. Various thoughts ran through my head:
“I can so do this!”
“This isn’t even that hard!”
“Look at me go, I’m practically an adventurer!”
About 45 minutes in, we reached a gate. And on that gate was a sign. And the sign said something along the lines of “Welcome to Ben Lomond”.
That was our first clue.
From then on, the steepness of the mountain increased about 200%, my breathing got about eight times as heavy and I started sweating from pores I didn’t even know I had. Suffice it to say that my moderately asthmatic lungs were less than pleased with me. Death (or at the very least, a coma) seemed imminent.
Okay, I might be exaggerating a little. It wasn’t that bad. Except that it totally was. But if anything could get my shamefully out-of-shape body to keep going, it was the breathtaking view unfolding behind us with each step.
In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred (Pennyworth, apparently, thank you, IMDB) says: “some men just want to watch the world burn.” Well, if Ben Lomond was a person, it would be one of those men. The next couple hours of hiking revealed three or four fake peaks, testing my sanity in ways it has never been tested before. The final stretch (the real one, not the three teasers before it) actually turned out to be the easiest parts of the hike, and by far the most beautiful (and that’s saying a lot). A nearly flat ridge wound around the mountain, allowing for a stunning view of the loch minus the heavy breathing. Finally, finally, we reached the top, and oh my goodness was it ever worth it. It was 360 degrees of sheer beauty. Just as with Arthur’s Seat, I won’t even bother trying to describe it with some clumsy combination of adjectives and nouns, instead I’ll just leave these pictures here to do the talking for me.
Now, I feel it’s important to mention that getting up to the summit took probably a little over three hours (factoring in about 20 minutes of rest time, including a lunch break). Let me remind you that we were told that the hike would take three hours total. TOTAL. I don’t know what kind of hiking enthusiasts/demi-gods provided that statistic, but I have some questions for them (including – but not limited to – how and where they acquired their superhuman powers). Hiking down was of course much faster than going up, but surprisingly more painful. Turns out rocky terrain and steep inclines don’t get along well with feet, knees, or body parts in general. The walk down also included a strange, wonderful and terrifying encounter with a cow, pictured below. As we were walking, we noticed a cow hanging out just next to the trail. Just as we got within 5 meters of her, she walked directly onto the path in front of us, and she wasn’t exactly in a huge rush to leave. Finally, she crossed over to the other side of the trail, only to turn back and watch us as we walked by. I, being the brilliant soul that I am, tried to pose for a picture with our new bovine friend, but just as I leaned in for the photo, she
viciously attacked breathed on me, causing me to jump away in fear (all perfectly captured in the picture below). I’m aware that this post has been 96.4% sarcastic, but I swear with every fibre of my being that the past five sentences are completely serious.
All in all, the hike up Ben Lomond was anything but leisurely, but it was so, so worth it. Sarcasm aside, it was an incredibly fun and adventurous day, which is exactly what I had hoped for in signing up. Would I have enjoyed it more had I been in better shape? Perhaps, but perhaps not, especially considering that had that been the case, there would have been so much less room for sarcasm in this post, and God knows we couldn’t have that.