aka “Ben More Slog”
aka “Touching the Cloth”
(With apologies to Joe Simpson)
(Written by Stuart)
Karla quickly became aware that there was a problem, and when we reached the col we dumped all our gear other than the cameras and some water, which Karla carried. It was pushing 10am when we set off from the col, and although my knee hurt a lot less going up than coming down, we still made slow progress.
A little scrambling near the summit was fun and gave my knee no problems, but it was an otherwise straight forward climb and we pushed up slowly, but without a stop, and made it to the summit in just over an hour.
The summit had a number of people on it, most of who were complaining about how much of a slog it had been up from the north. I was surprised at this, not because I didn’t think the north side would be a slog, but because I thought every munro bagger knew it was a slog. Every book I’ve seen that mentions Ben More describes it as a slog from the north, so much so we now call it Ben More Slog to distinguish it from the other two Ben More munros, who at least have the decency to have a third name.
But, alas, these poor climbers didn’t know better, and so they arrived, in their masses, sweating and exhausted, to flake out at the trig point for a nice long rest. Which was slightly inconvenient for us. Although this was no longer a day for naturism, we still had to get the naked on the summit photos, and an audience was going to make things slightly awkward. I have no qualms about staying nude if I meet someone on a quiet mountain while hiking nude, but stripping for a quick flash is something I like to be more discrete about.
After at least an hour, we had the summit to ourselves. Although the summit was clear, we could still see climbers coming up from the south, about ten minutes away, so this was going to be quick. Karla went nude first, and I quickly followed. As always, the feeling of wind on naked flesh was delightful, but we both knew this was a busy munro, so we made it quick. Within ten minutes, we were dressed again, and heading downhill.
And my knee started to scream. It took us an hour of my hobbling to get back to the col, and every downhill step was making me wince with pain. I was dreading picking up the pack we had left behind.
My fears were entirely justified. When I put the pack on, I could barely walk unaided and we were now going off path onto steep, boggy ground towards the Inverlochlarig Burn. Karla, in a moment I’ll be eternally grateful for, put as much of the heavy gear into her pack as she could, but it was still going to be tough. I began using my trekking poles to hobble on one leg, but it made for painfully slow progress. Occasionally I’d have to put my bad knee down to balance myself, and I’d howl in pain, sometimes falling down.
It was a miserable situation. And as I hobbled down, I was foolish enough to think of another man who once faced a similar, if considerably more dangerous and painful experience in the hills. Joe Simpson’s “Touching the Void” is one of the great mountaineering stories, and I found myself thinking of how he didn’t have Karla for company, how he didn’t have any food or water and how there was never any hope of rescue for him. I knew that this was nothing compared to what he went through, but by thinking about him, I only made things worse. For, like Joe Simpson before me, I was struck down by a curse on the mountain, one that could destroy my spirit and any hope of survival.
Yes, I had “Brown Girl in the Ring” stuck in my head. I was going to hobble back to the car to Boney M.
It invaded my every conscious thought, so much so that the banality of the lyrics could have been an effective painkiller, if only they hadn’t been so damn stupid and annoying. As the rain and cloud descended above us, we pushed on, down the mountain, desperately hoping for the sight of the track that runs up the glen.
Eventually Boney M relented to “The Vicar and the Frog” by the Corries, and with this new, if even more insane, song came a sight of the track. The walk became less steep and firm underfoot and quick progress was made. The last mile back to the car seemed never ending, but we made it eventually, arriving almost exactly twenty four hours after we left.
I’d been after Ben More Slog for almost a decade, and never quite managed to get to it. As painful as it was, I was very, very happy to have bagged it.
Driving back, we both felt disappointed at how little time we'd spent nude, especially on Ben More. We vowed that we'd get a lot more nude on our next mountain...
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