November 27, 2019

Stob Ban

Scaling mountains, talking about cameras, getting old.

The local mountaineering club wanted to climb Stob Ban and needed a driver to get them there. Stob Ban is a peak near Fort William in a very scenic area of Glen Nevis — a place I always like to return to. So, I volunteered to get a bus and drive, and I decided to join the club's trip. Lately, I have focused on riding my bike and haven't done any hikes, and as I also didn't socialize much, I thought having company while hiking would be a win-win.

Another thing that faded away from my routine is that I am not as committed to camera equipment seriousness as I used to be. For most of the last decade, I had my camera with me at all times: running errands, grocery shopping, etcetera. But the meaning of "my camera" changed quite a lot through the period. At one time, I lugged a backpack full of lenses, lights, tripods... ready for anything. All these toys provided excellent image quality, but carrying the bulk all the time was a workout I could live without. I dropped it piece by piece until I ended with a compact camera. Now, I have reduced it further to an all-time low stage, and I just took my phone for this hike.

So, the trip: I went to pick up the group, and we set off. The bus I got was the new Transit passenger van, and it was a smooth drive. But when we arrived at the parking lot in the glen, it emerged that the people split in half because some wanted to climb a different mountain instead. I thought that breaking the group could get tricky in terms of getting the timing right. "But surely, they must know what they are doing," I concluded and went towards the Stob Ban together with the second group.

As the trail heads up through a nice narrow ravine; the scenery was top, and the company good. Happy times!

The western slope turned into a cliff, and eventually, the Stob Ban's summit came into sight:

The last section of the ascent was a tad steep in places, but the path wasn't challenging. Fun

When we reached the top, the mountain rewarded us with fantastic views in each direction:

From the east, thick clouds were bringing snow to the mountains in their way. The west was more clear and more colourful.

From the summit, the trail continues west to the ridge linking to another mountain, Mullach nan Coirean, and then heads back to the car park. As we set off in that direction, the snow clouds were getting closer and closer.

We found a sheltered spot for lunch when someone's phone rang with a message from the other group: one of them decided to turn around and go back to the bus and needed it to be unlocked as soon as possible. "Well damnit, there goes the rest of socializing," I thought and started a quick journey towards the bus. Not too long from here, the snow caught me.

No matter; the ridge was staggeringly beautiful.

The summit of Mullach nan Coirean offered an outlook onto the sea, and the clouds started to dissolve. Alas, being on the mission to get down with the keys, I couldn't enjoy it for long.

Then the descent started, and typical thoughts of "this would be better on a bike" arrived.

Going downhill at a fast pace, my body quickly reminded me about my past knee and hip injuries. Each step was being spoiled, the knee was clicking, and the comfort was dropping just as the elevation was. Remembering the times I hiked around mountains with ease and no pain; I wasn't very pleased about my current state. This sensation was magnified by a few situations I had earlier this fall: While working in student support at the uni, a number of people casually dropped that I look too old for the job. Being in services, I couldn't reply with the vivid language that emerged in my brain — that would be an instant bye-bye to the job. I had to smile like it was actually funny. Now, as I had the whole side of the mountain for myself, I inevitably vented my frustration about the situation.

On the plus side, the wind blew away the last bits of the storm, and the sun was colouring the hills with a stunning autumn palette.

Once down in the glen, I unlocked the bus and had hours to sort my head out before the rest of the people got down.

There are a few things I took from this trip:

  • Volunteering and being considerate deliver variable results.
  • The days I could happily run up and down the mountains seem to be long gone.
  • Cellphone cameras have gone a long way in recent years. They won't replace "proper" cameras in terms of the output, but for their intended use of selfies, food/cat photos, and social media, they perform impressively well. But to me, the phones' lack of settings, fragility, and flimsiness of operation make them far less enjoyable to work with. So the next time when going out, I will take the compact camera again...
  • ...And a bike.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, see my blog archives for more stories, such as:

Arkansas adventures

My road trip to Arkansas, where I trashed my shoulder.

Ben Oss

Climbing Ben Oss, where, for once, everything went fab.

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories


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