The walk starts from the Ben Lawers hotel car park as there is no suitable parking alternative nearby. There is a charge of £5 for this, payable on return to your car. As my mate was working an early shift this was to be an afternoon/evening walk. The relatively quiet drive up the A9, through Aberfeldy and Kenmore saw me arrive around 15 minutes earlier than our agreed start time of 14.30 It was extremely hot and I used the time to lagger on another layer of factor 50...I'm fair skinned, blue eyed and half ginger. I suspect it would be difficult climbing hills in a wetsuit and divers helmet so this was the best protection I was going to get !!
We walked back along the main road towards the horn carver's cottage which marks the start of the track and made our way up through the short forrested section. The path is well signed and after crossing a couple of well constructed styles we found ourselves at the sign marking the start of the Lawers reserve.
I should add at this point that we had an extra member on this walk, Brian the Beaver, who is the mascot of my son's Beaver troupe. Brian spends his weeks with different families having his adventures documented in his diary which is then shared with the group at their next meeting. It seemed perfectly sensible as I left at lunchtime to carry a stuffed beaver up a Munro or 3 !!
It was at this point my mate decided maybe he should answer his phone that he'd ignored the previous 4 times it had rung. No emergency, just his wife checking on his progress. As the conversation continued it became apparent that his wife had become aware of the nature of the climb ahead on An Stuc. I was staggered to then hear that as usual I was the one responsible for dragging him up these hills and therefore entirely culpable should any disaster befall us !! I would like to take this opportunity to categorically state that this walk, including the scramble of An Stuc was entirely Paul's idea and that there is therefore absolutely no justification for Mrs Paul to skelp me round the jaw for endangering her hubby the next time we meet !
We stopped to finish off the last of the packed lunches, intently hoping that my last mouthfuls of banana had been laced with copious amounts of courage as I began stowing away the walking poles. Throwing the packs on our backs it was time to begin the climb up. As I was responsible for us finding ourselves in this position, as previously described, I of course was awarded the dubious honour of going first.
Wouldn't you know it ! after all the stress and anxiety on the way to An Stuc the scramble itself was actually pretty straightforward, conditions of course were absolutely perfect which clearly helps. I did reach one point where I couldn't quite work out where to head next, the direct route up had become too steep, with no obvious foot or hand holds to assist. As I looked to my left it seemed there was a path continuing unseen around a narrow ledge. It was a little unnerving taking this step into the unknown but as soon as I was on the ledge the slope beyond had become much less steep and more grassy and was very easily negotiated, the summit beckoned. With Paul following closely behind I was delighted to tell him that we were up.
We arrived back at the car at around 21.20 and with a quick change out of our boots we headed in to the very nice hotel for a well earned shandy. As we reflected on our day the focus was of course on An Stuc and how different the reality had been to the preconceptions. I guess the lesson learned is you have to experience these things for yourself, reading walk reports is like reading hotel reviews you will inevitably get the good, the bad and the ugly. Everybody's perception of difficulty or risk is completely different, ultimately it's what you think that counts, and I think I've just had another fantastic day in the hills !