Messy Mensa Moor
Tom had put the call out for a quick overnight trip to the Abel of Mensa Moor, located just off the Ben Lomond Plateau. I received his email just after hitting 'purchase' on the singapore airlines website to take the family to europe in a couple of months time. After calling out to my wife 'just bought the plane tickets' I was quick to add in 'oh and Tom and I might head off on an overnight walk next week if that's ok?'. A green light was provided and we were away on another overnight adventure.
I've spent a bit of time on the Ben Lomond Plateau over the years but had never ventured out to the corner towards Mensa Moor. We arrived at the ski village around midday, parked the car and headed off in misty conditions up the cross country ski course. It was cool but not too bad. Looked like we'd get some intermittent showers. After around 45minutes we were past Giblin and in a shallow valley through which a small creek ran. We had initially thought we'd head along over Magnet Crag but once reaching the creek and looking at the fog on top of the crag we decided to follow the creek towards the moor, thereby avoiding the higher crags (and the mist). The walking down the creek wasn't too bad as the water was low but as we progressed, the intermittent rain made the rocks slippery and the creek gradually got a bit more scrubby but overall not too bad.
We made good progress along the creek and at around 2.30pm we took a quick pitstop for lunch. We were back off again by 3pm and after another 45 minutes left the creek and popped up on to a button grass plain just below the climb to Mensa Moor. Our boots we sodden by now after some deeper sections of the creek but we were going well so plodded on. The whole time along the creek we had good views of the flat expanse of Mensa Moor and we now climbed up through forest towards a scrubby saddle that led up on to the moor proper. As we reached the top edge of the moor, the weather cleared but the wind picked up. We found a small tarn and a suitable spot to camp. Keeping this in mind we then shot off along the flat plateau to the end of the moor and the true summit. After 4.5hours we were on the cairned summit and had some great views of Ragged Jack, the central plateau, midlands and across to the Ben Lomond Plateau. After some happy snaps it was a quick stroll back to the aforementioned campsite where we setup and settled in for dinner.
We had a clear evening and a great dinner but the wind continued and next morning we awoke to pouring rain. Our campsite had also turned into a puddle so we decided to get up and get out. We packed up and headed off by 7am in the rain. Unpleasant. We decided we would head back up over Magnet Crag and across the plateau as we didn't fancy walking back up the creek. We descended from the moor, crossed the button grass and headed straight up Magnet Crag. The rain eased off a little but as we climbed the mist set in. Maintaining a steady bearing it wasn't too long before we arrived at the top but it was so misty that it was difficult to gauge exactly if we were right on top. It appeared we were so we took another bearing and headed off in the direction of the ski village, conscious that we needed to keep another peak (Coalmine Crag) on our right. We were now scooting across the flat plateau at a rate of knots but the wind and rain set in making things challenging. The mist also became thicker. After a short while along the flat we saw the peak still close to us on our right. Something felt wrong. We reassessed, slightly changed our bearing and continued. We started to wonder if we were going the right way. This mist was making it so hard to tell and after a couple more changes in direction we decided to stop and reassess our position. We had a snack, put more layers on under our gore tex and as we did this, the mist cleared, just a little bit. As it did a massive peak came into view. Now, I thought I was looking pretty much due east (maybe slightly SE) and for the life of my I could not figure out what I was looking at (later, I would discover I was in fact looking straight at Ragged Jack which was due west of my position!). Some more mist cleared in the opposite direction and we again thought we could see Magnet Crag so took off in that direction which would lead us back to the ski village. When we arrived near this peak the mist again cleared to reveal the valley below. Below us we could see the creek and a small knoll where the lunch spot we had stopped at the day prior was located. Now we knew definitively where we were and that we had been lost in the mist (for about half an hour). Having been off track walkers for some 20 years and never having this trouble, this scared us but we now knew where we were heading and once again trekked off. The mist continued to clear and it wasn't too long before we could see the distant ski tows which was a reassuring sight. We arrived back at the shallow valley and creek from the day previous followed our inward route back to the village. After 5 hours since departing camp we arrived back at the car.
After downloading our route from our watches, we were embarrassed to see that, at the point we were lost, we had done a complete circle without realising! Interesting. It put the wind up us a bit, but we did keep our cool and figure it out which was nice. Plus it made for a story. A good reminder to all of us to maintain composure in such conditions. All in all a great overnight walk which I would do again!
STATS (Using Suunto Spartan Ultra)
DAY 1 (via creek): 9.80km, 370m ascent, 4hrs 55min
DAY 2 (via magnet crag in mist): 10.36km, 1648m ascent, 5hrs 10min