(Written by Stuart and Karla)
Karla - That morning we left a campsite at Ullapool and drove East for about an hour and a half hoping that we would manage to avoid the bad weather that was forecast to come in later on in the day. The mountain can look quite boring when seen in a book, just a little pointy thing in the distance. But when we finally saw it for ourselves, it reminded me a lot of its neighbour to the north, Ben Hope. Unfortunately there was more cloud cover than I was hoping for, but on the other hand, at least it wasn't starting in the same way that our day on Ben Hope did. On that day, fluffy white thermic clouds had developed in a clear blue sky and turned into a thunderstorm.
Stuart - I'd seen Ben Klibeck at the back of the Munros book and it had the same remote mystery that Ben Hope had. Ben Hope remains one of my favourite Munros, so now that we were in range, I wanted to give it a try.
Karla - On leaving the car it soon became clear that clegs, or horseflies, were a nuisance here. We quickly packed and left. For some reason I tend to be particularly troubled by them so I hurried on ahead to reach higher ground where the wind would make them less of a problem. I soon realised just how humid the conditions were.
Stuart - Although annoying, I found the clegs weren't as bad as the heat and the humidity, so before long Karla was pulling away ahead of me, making little yelping noises every time a cleg went for her. It was a bit of a slog up the ridge, but only because of the heat. On a cooler day we would have bounced up it.
Karla - We eventually reached the first cairn that marked the start of the ridge. I was particularly keen that we took some photos rather than just wait until we reached the summit. This spot showed off the mountain nicely. I stripped off and was thankful for the opportunity to cool down.
Stuart - It was a wonderful place to take a break. The views across the magnificent desolation of central Sutherland were a wonder to behold and I was looking forward to the views from the summit perhaps more than I had on a mountain in a long time.
Karla - I decided that it would be a good day to try and climb the mountain naked all the way up. We normally wait until we have warmed up and reached the summit before descending naked. But Ben Klibreck is quite remote and it was mid-week so the chances of meeting anyone else were minimal. Besides, the hill-side is barren enough to spot anyone in the distance and this would give me plenty of time to get dressed again. It took me a while to relax, it felt weird not being completely naked because I was still wearing my hat, boots and bag. The breeze was bracing and it felt much better than the humidity and heat from earlier on. I felt confident that I could ascend and descend naked!
Stuart - I was getting nervous by this point. The weather was developing a nasty look to the east and I knew that several rumbles of thunder or a lightning bolt meant an instant descent and we weren't interested in repeating the Ben Hope experience of being inside a thunder storm.
Karla - Unfortunately events started to transpire against me. First I noticed some rain falling in the distance. I tried to figure out if it would miss us, and if not, it didn't look too bad, maybe I could just stay naked and dry off afterwards? Although I knew from experience that the risk is that the rain does not stop and you do not get a chance to warm up afterwards, instead the rain just gets worse. I heard a sound that I at first thought was some kind of rustling of plastic sheeting. I quickly realised that it was thunder. My heart sank. Still it might not get any worse I thought. I quickly realised that the storm was approaching. But then the matter was settled as I spotted two small and distant specs ahead. Other people! We couldn't yet see if they were going up or descending and would be passing us but I decided that I would put the clothes on for now and get naked again as soon as I could. I decided that I didn't really have time to attach the lower halves of the trouser legs, I'd just wear them as shorts. But first I asked Stuart for a photo of me before getting dressed again.
Stuart - There was a rumble or two of thunder. But I wasn't concerned as it seemed far away. Besides, it could easily have been the RAF, we'd already been buzzed by a few planes. But the thunder got louder and I became concerned. We considered finding a hollow to take shelter in if a storm hit us, but then I saw something terrifying. A bolt of lightning emerged from the clouds at a similar height to where we were and struck the ground well below us. Within two seconds the loud thunder clap hit us. There was no discussion, no debate and no search for shelter. We were getting off this mountain, and we were getting off it now.
Karla - I heard a loud roll of thunder and Stuart told me in his sternest voice that we had to get off the hill as soon as possible. He had seen a bolt of lightning. I realised that not having seen the bolt of lightning myself I might not appreciate how close it was and that my own sensory experience would not change the reality of the situation. So I trusted Stuart's judgement. But then I looked around. How quickly do these storms pass by? Probably in about 15 minutes. How long would it take us to get down? Longer than that. And in the meantime we would be the highest thing on this barren hill-side. It was not like further down was immune to strikes. There were some very small occassional indentations and dips in the ground that we could curl up in and wait for the storm to pass. Would they help make us less of a target? There was no way to know so we started descending as quickly as we could, spread out so that if one of us was struck the other could come and help. The other people ahead were still ascending but they had to make their own decisions.
Stuart - Looking back, it was all a bit exciting for a minute or two! We were running down the steep slope as the weather rolled over our heads and the torrential rain poured down on us. There was a real sense that lightning could hit us at any second, and it was giving me a real adrenaline rush. We were bouncing down the mountain at a pretty high speed thanks to this adrenaline, and it didn't take long to reach the more level terrain at the bottom. Looking back, the mountain was now becoming enshrouded in mist. Our decision to descend had been the right one, even without the lightning, as we would not be getting the photographs at the summit of the wide expanse of Sutherland I wanted from this mountain.
Karla - The rain actually felt quite refreshing. I was beginning to suspect that I could have stayed naked. I couldn't easily look behind me as otherwise my glasses would get rained on but I could see that white whispy cloud was coming in. I decided that I wanted some more pictures of the new conditions, but we'd have to wait for the rain to stop. It eventually eased off and I took the opportunity to get undressed. As I did so, I realised that it hadn't actually stopped raining, it was just no longer torrential. It felt OK though. Putting the clothes back on felt horrible horrible. They felt clammy and stuck to my skin but we were soon going to get near the road. In hindsight, I would have been better keeping my clothes dry in my backpack.
Stuart - I thought I was being nice by leaving all my gear behind so I could get to the car quicker, but it was further away than I thought and Karla just got colder standing around as I walked back to it.
Karla - I was waiting around, soaked to the skin in torrential rain by the side of the road for Stuart to return in the car. I picked up a rock and was surprised just how warm it felt to the touch. That meant that I was getting cold. Eventually Stuart drove up and I threw all the bags in and got in. Absolutely everything was wet!
Stuart - Driving to Durness afterwards we hit the weather front that brought the lightning again and emerged on the other side of it. When we arrived at the campsite at Durness the weather was sunny and warm, but we quickly built the tent as we knew the thunderstorm was coming, and it arrived moments after we finished the tent. Its not often you get hit three times in a few hours by the same weather front!
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