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The Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal
Ben Ghlas and Ben Lawers


THE Sandah Club is a little mountaineering fraternity, and consists of about half-a-dozen members. It was in existence some years before the Scottish Mountaineering Club, and has done good work, as the following list of hills climbed shows:-Ben Lomond (twice), Ben Ledi, Ben Venue, Ben Vorlich (the Loch Earn one) (twice), Ben More, Meal! Chuirn (on the north side of the Dochart), Stobinain (twice), Ben Lui, Stuc a Chroin (twice), and Ben Ghlas and Ben Lawers. It is of this last excursion I am going to write, in the hope that the following notes may be useful to some of the members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club.

The Sandah Club left Glasgow, Buchanan Street, at 9.30 P.M. on 1st October last, and were due at Killin (old station) at 1.15 A.M., but arrived at 2.45. It was a perfect morning. The moon, which had just commenced to wane, shone in a cloudless sky. The stars glittered above, and the frost below, while the snow, which had fallen on the hills the day before, made them stand out like spectres against the dark sky. At the rapids the swollen Dochart was tearing itself into gleaming foam under the frosty moonlight. Mr Thomson of Killin Hotel had, with commendable forethought, sent a machine to meet us at the station, and by four o'clock we were sleeping under his hospitable roof. We breakfasted at eight, all feeling as if we had been in bed for nine hours instead of only four.

By 9.15 we were under weigh. On reaching the Glen Lyon road we turned to the left, and followed it for about three-quarters of a mile. Leaving the road at 10.35, we made straight for the face of Ben Ghlas. A stiff climb of about a thousand feet quickly brought us up to the first snow. It was in a melting state at this level (about 1,800 feet), and, as the slope was gradual for about two or three hundred feet, the walking here was very uncomfortable. But now began what proved to be the most arduous part of the day's proceedings. This was the ascent of the Coire Odhar. The angle is very sharp, and the snow was in many places frozen into a sheet of keen ice. Several severe falls made us long for hobnailed boots and alpenstocks. Indeed without stout sticks this part of the hill would have been inaccessible. The top of Ben Ghlas (3,657 feet) was reached at 12.10. By this time the weather had assumed a threatening aspect, and therefore no halt was made here. We had a run down the eastern shoulder, and were soon at the saddle, four hundred feet below, and the final ascent was commenced. From the saddle to the top of Ben Lawers the ground was completely covered with ice and snow, but though it looked very formidable, the angle was found to be much less acute than that of the Coire Odhar, and we were at the cairn (3984 feet) at 12.40.

The sky, which when we left the hotel had been clear and blue, was now hidden by a grey vapour, which had somehow condensed out of the atmosphere. This stratum of cloud obscured the light. It blurred far-off objects, and appeared to meet the horizon at no very great distance. Still the view was magnificent. From our great height we looked down on a chaos of mountains and deep valleys, with here and there a dark lochan. To the west were our old friends Ben More and Stobinain, the former with a suspicious cloud condensing on his summit. Ben Lomond, and perhaps the Arran hills, should have been visible in the south-west, but were indistinguishable. Turning to the north-west, we saw the huge square mass of Ben Nevis, with the Glen Coe hills and Ben Cruachan to the south of it. On the right, we could see the hollow in which Loch Rannoch lay concealed, and beyond it the foot of Loch Etive, with lonely Ben Alder rising behind. Schiehallion raised its head near to us on the north-east; and far away we could just make out a white cone, which we thought might represent Ben Macdhui or some other of the Dee- side giants. The Loch Earn hills were quite clear to the south, with little Dumgoin looking over the shoulder of big Ben Vorlich, while Loch Tay lay stretched in all its beauty at our feet. Beyond the Campsies a few grey points were hardly distinguishable from the gathering vapour. These were probably the hills of Tinto.

But the cold was now becoming disagreeable. We had got our feet so thoroughly wet in the slush below that to stay long at the top in the bitter west wind was found inexpedient, and by one o'clock we were facing towards Lawers Inn. The angle on this side is very easy, and there was not much snow lying. There seems to be a path, but we lost it after descending about 600 feet. We scampered down over the grassy slopes, which were wonderfully dry considering that there had been a fortnight of almost unceasing rain. Lawers Inn (now unfortunately closed, and never likely to be opened again) was reached at 2.15, and the steamboat pier at 2.30. Rain was now falling heavily, and we were glad to wait here for the "Lady of the Lake," which took us to Kuhn in time for tea. We left Killin by train at 5.51, arriving in Glasgow, not as advertised at 9.5, but at 10.10. The excursion was most enjoyable from first to last. In the summer time, when the early train is running from Glasgow, the ascent of Ben Lawers could be easily managed in one day. It could also be done on the spring or autumn holiday by travelling with the excursion train.

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