Ben More is a Munro, meaning it is one of Scotland’s numerous climbs over 3000 feet, a substantial undertaking that varies with weather and terrain. Ben More is 3196 feet and is certainly one of the more challenging walks because it is uphill all the way. You start climbing as soon as you hit the trail; there are no level paths at the beginning to warm up on.
An experienced climber told me once, “Start your climb early in the morning so that you can get off the mountain before it gets too late in the afternoon. The weather can change really quickly and if you get stuck you want plenty of sunlit hours to work your way back down.”
So, arriving at the base at 9:30 AM we thought we’d done fairly well. The parking lot was empty save a few campers who’d obviously spent the night along the shore of Loch….
However, at the outset we found that we’d been bested when we met a guy coming off the trail.
“Have you been all the way to the top?”
“How long did it take you,” I asked, incredulous.
“About four hours.”
“You mean you started at 5 AM?”
“Yes, I’ve got a busy day today and needed an early start.”
He was one of those hardened mesomorphs who walk straight up and down the mountain without stopping. The guy probably ate a bowl of roofing nails for breakfast.
“Well, we don’t want to slow you down…seeing that you’ve got so much to do today.”
He was already gone.
We took a bit longer to do our climb, not so long that we would be ashamed to tell you, but longer than the mesomorph.
Along the way we were rewarded with some truly spectacular views. The top of the mountain was covered over in clouds and so we saw the world beneath us only in glimpses. But a few hundred feet from the top, at the floor of the clouds we were able to see everything including Loch Na Keal, Loch Scridain, the Scottish mainland, and the islands of Ulva, Iona, Staffa, the Treshnish Isles and even the shores of the Inner Hebrides. It was like looking at the ocean from an airplane. Our guidebook said on a clear day from the top you can see Ireland.
It was the guidebook that our pathway “the tourist route,” the easier of the two routes. The other more challenging route is to climb A’ Chioch (don’t ask me about pronunciation) next door, then up to Ben More and down the tourist route. We felt more like tourists and decided to leave A’ Chioch for another day. We figured the mountain has been there for thousands, maybe millions of years and will likely be there when we next venture back to Mull.
A highlight for the boys was catching one of the sheep that dot the hill like tiny clouds. They’ve been dying for a cuddle all week and so, when they came across a stray lamb, they couldn’t resist. I have to admit he was awfully cute and had a wooly coat that was at least four inches thick. Ben wanted to take him home as a pet, but I cautioned him that sheep rustling was serious matter in these parts.
“Just let him go. He needs to go find his mummy.”
Only tourists try to keep the sheep.