November 27, 2019

Stob Ban

Scaling mountains, talking about cameras, getting old.

Lately, I have focused on riding my bike, and I haven't done any hikes in a while. A few weeks ago, I changed that — members of the local mountaineering club wanted to climb Stob Ban; I volunteered to drive them there and joined the hike. My recent social life has been poor, so I thought having company while hiking would be a win-win.

There's another thing that faded away from my routine. I am not as committed to photography as I used to be. I dropped to an all-time low stage when it comes to equipment seriousness. For most of the last decade, I had my camera with me at all times: running errands, grocery shopping.. anything. 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 for excellent image quality, but carrying the bulk all the time was a workout I could live without. I dropped a piece by piece until I ended with a compact camera. Now I reduced it even further, and for this hike, I just took my phone.

So, the trip: the Stob Ban is a peak near Fort William in a very scenic area of Glen Nevis. To get there, I drove a new transit passenger van, and it went smooth as butter. But when we arrived at the parking lot, it emerged that the group split in half, with some people wanting to climb a different mountain instead. Breaking a group can be tricky in terms of getting the timing right, but "surely, they must know what they are doing," I was thinking, and together with the second group, I went towards the Stob Ban.

As the trail heads up through a nice, narrow ravine, the scenery was top, the company good, happy times!

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

The last section of the ascent was a tad steep at 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 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, there goes the rest of socializing, damnit," 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 descend 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, inevitably, I vented out my frustration about the situation.

Anyway. 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 went away 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 delivers 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.

If you enjoyed the article, you might also like some of my previous 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.

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Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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