Ben Challum was a hill that had been on the radar for a while, a quick single up the sleeve. To be honest it's fearsome reputation as a bogfest had always put me off, however, I was hoping that the previous nights clear skies had left enough of a frost to 'harden' the worst of it. No such luck, more to come on that later !!
I arrived at the layby just past the turn off for Kirkton farm at around 08.15 and was on my way towards the bridge over the river Fillan by 08.30
From here I began to encounter the dreaded bogs, in all honesty it wasn't that bad. At this earlyish hour it certainly wasn't frozen but whether or not just the top few inches had thawed, the laces of my boots never found themselves fully submerged in the inky, blank goo we all love. I was able to either step over, skirt around and dance my way through the worst sections of it with little jeapardy. Obviously that approach helps when, like me, you've been 'blessed' with a pair of legs similar to Dundee's legendary long distance runner Liz McColgan. Mine might be hairier but they are certainly as long, white and skinny. In fact the only other attribute they don't share is the reflex action bred in to those from that neck of the woods to bolt for the shop exit whenever a security guard should glance in their direction !!! Apologies to any of my Dundee followers, I'm only joking !! I love you all really, well maybe not you all....I do not, will not and have not loved any of your disproportionate number of teenage mothers looking for a name to send to the CSA....well not since the early nineties anyway !!
The rockier path continues to climb up the South flank of the mountain and in just short of 2 hours from leaving the car I was approaching the first cairn, still a few metres below the South top which marks the start of the short ridge over to the main summit. Normally I would not linger at a 'lesser' cairn but the views back from whence I'd came were simply too good to ignore. I dropped the pack, took a load off against the small pile of rocks and marvelled at the unrivalled beauty before me.
As I packed away the flask and contemplated returning to the real world I was thankfully and blissfully unaware of the treacherous descent that awaited me on the lower slopes of the mountain. Making good time I dropped down the rocky path like the proverbial mountain goat, the KT strapping once again doing a superlative job of holding my left knee together. However, that was all to change as I reached the start of the boggy section between me and the farm.
But hey, what do you know, there was the level crossing just a hundred or so metres ahead of me, I'd almost made it. Then BOOM, like I'd taken a snipers bullet between the eyeballs, down I went. The cold on my warm skin making me jump up again like I'd been shot from a cannon, and there it was, the old go faster mud stripe from my left calf to my left rib cage. Wonderful. Luckily my phone and car keys had been in pockets on my right side so at least I'd been spared the indignity of seeking medical attention to have a key removed from my Gluteus Maximus ! Perhaps a must have optional extra on my next motor should be keyless entry !!
By the time I made it back to the car, the worst of it had dried off and there was thankfully no need for a repeat of the drive home in my pants scenario from a previous adventure. All in it had taken 4 and a half hours to get number 77 in the bag. Surely I'd now be able to quickly get back into the nomal pattern of the living and manage to get a good sleep tonight.....
....not a chance, come 11 o'clock, DING,, I was bright as a button ! at least it gave me the chance to reflect until the early hours on another magical day in the hills.