Monday, May 07, 2018

198. Ben Vane (283). 01/05/2018.

Good weather in the morning turning bad in the afternoon, combined with slightly weary legs and a train to catch later in the day meant we chose a shortish walk by Loch Lomond. This hill also had immense sentimental significance, being in close proximity to (one of the places) where Ben dressed up like a fool in public a year earlier.

We parked at Inversnaid and decided to add some excitement to the walk by only paying for 4h of parking, even though Cicerone reckoned 4hr 20.

The rain and most of the cloud held off and we had a pleasant walk up the hill. The path in general hugged the sheltered side of the hill and we only felt the wind in a few places. A few good (easy) scrambles as we crossed the several false summits and a dramatically flat summit. The views were partial, but not obliterated.

We were in general pleased by how fresh our legs felt and comfortably made it back to the car before the meter ran out.

 Loch Lomond still pretty much visible

Loch Sloy, Ben Vorlich and Ben (doing his thing)

191-197. Binnean Mor (27), Na Gruagaichean (74), Stob Choire a'Cairn (171), An Gearanach (166), Am Bodach (99), Sgurr a'Mhaim (51), Stob Ban (140). 30/04/2018.

An early start when you're packing up camp is never quite as early as you hope with tents to stuff in packs and porridge to eat, but we were away around 8am. We had shared the plateau with a photographer who camped in the distance and was up taking shots of the stunning dawn - I wouldn't be surprised if some appear in a calendar next year!

We found some delicious snow-melt water from a stream as we left the plateau and we looked forward to a day on the ridge. Our route went a little wrong immediately as we tried to contour around a snowfield on the way up the nose of Binnean Mor's subsidiary peak. This turned quite steep and clingy, but we got around it to find a nice path up the other side(!). From there it was a simple climb to the top. We were able to leave our packs on another top before the climbing the last sweeping ridge to our highpoint of the day (9.50am). Completely still, not a cloud to be seen and with Ben Nevis only a few miles away, the views were spectacular.

The sun was beginning to warm us as we made our way to Na Gruagaichean, but not more than a few degrees above freezing, which made for perfect walking conditions. The snow underfoot also remained firm until the afternoon, which was a bonus. We reached this summit (10.30am) barely half an hour after leaving Binnean Mor and were met by more great views to the south of Glen Coe and beyond. We reckoned there would be 100+ munros in sight and I tried to count, but got a little confused by what was what in the Ben Lawers area and gave up.

There was a great little scramble to the narrow west top before descending quite a long way on the ridge to the somewhat lower Stob Choire a'Cairn. Being slightly dwarfed by it's neighbours and at the heart of the ridge, it is one of those peaks with a beautiful panorama. Another great opportunity to leave the packs ensued and we enjoyed the scrambly climb over to An Gearanach (12.25pm). The way was clear of snow, so it was technically easy, but scrambly bits are always fun.

Back to our bags for lunch and we met the first other people of the day, up from Kinlochleven. It was on the walk over to Am Bodach that I noticed my ascent slowing due to the weight of the pack, but thankfully this was the last major chunk with it. There was also quite a lot of iffy snow here on the northern slopes, so it probably constituted the most difficult section of the ridge, albeit still quite manageable. We reached the top around 2.15pm and the views were splendid (as was becoming a theme). We met another party as we descended the west flank and by now were realising that time may be against us for completing all 10 of the munros in this outing, but we didn't need to decide yet.

Another chance to relieve ourselves of packs presented itself just before the 'devil's ridge' on the way to Sgurr a'Mhaim, which was another enjoyable scramble. Again quite easy, but with a good bit of exposure thrown in to make it interesting. The top was reached shortly after 4pm and we decided to just do the one more munro in order to have any chance of finding food later in the evening. Our weary limbs didn't complain at this decision, so we returned along devil's ridge to the final bealach and even got a chance to fill up our bottles along the way from the outflow of a thawing lochan.

A large group of Germans were camping at the bealach who had been exploring the hills over the last few days. The final ascent to Stob Ban was pretty steep, but not as tiring without packs. We were there around 5.30pm and inhaled the vista one more time before tramping all the way down to Polldubh car park, which we reached at 7.15pm. 11 hours, 32km and 1800m of ascent (567 floors, according to my phone).

 Dawn from the campsite. Spot the other tent!

South from BM to NG and Glen Coe beyond

 Wall-to-wall awesome

 The ridge back from AG to SC a'C and AB

 The ever present Ben from NG

 A moment for contemplation after the Devil's Ridge

189, 190 Binnein Beag (230), Sgurr Eilde Mor (123). 29/04/2018.

With a couple of cold sunny days forecast, we had the perfect opportunity for a walk that had been in the pipeline for many years. In those days I was a little fitter, so I hoped we weren't being over-ambitious! The quantity of snow left above 900m also added an unknown amount to the difficulty factor, but in the end that had little effect.

With tent and winter sleeping bad in the pack, we set off up Glen Nevis along the 'best mile in Scotland' to the alpine meadow beside the Falls of Steall. Here we attempted to recreate a photo from 6 years earlier from a previous hill walk (to the amusement of other walkers) and then proceeded East towards the far end of the Mamores ridge. Along the way we saw many nationalities represented hiking in the Scottish hills - obviously a recommended area for tourists.

Just before starting to climb, we had a crossing of the Water of Nevis to negotiate. After searching for a little while for some steps and deciding the depth was more than boot level, we decided to wade it. It was a nice day for it and Ben made it across without a hitch. I decided that I could do with throwing my boots across so they wouldn't unbalance me (I was already a little bit precarious with a large pack). The distance wasn't great and I have prowess in the welly-wanging department, so it should have been a cinch. However, whilst my first boot easily had enough force behind it, the trajectory was a little on the high side and it was deposited somewhere near the middle of the river. I had to snap Ben out of his fit of laughter to quickly stop the boot from sailing off downstream. A sense of dread came over me as I contemplated the next two days with a waterlogged boot, but miraculously the weight distribution of my boot came to my rescue and I pretty much got away with a dry boot. Descending for its extreme height (the trajectory wasn't even close to right), the boot had managed to land sole-first in the water and then float rather than tip over and be filled with water. More boat than boot (although they are fairly similar with a Scottish accent). Needless to say, I managed to learn from this ignominious start and the second boot had no trouble in getting across (more hammer throwing technique than welly-wanging, to those familiar with highland games techniques).

The ascent up to the plateau where we would eventually camp was quite slow with our big packs, but we had plenty of time. Once at this level, we were able to deposit our packs for the final 200m of ascent to Binnean Beag, which was much appreciated and from there we enjoyed uninterrupted views of all of Lochaber. There was a little snow on the path round to Sgurr Eilde Mor, but nothing too much to worry us. Once again we deposited our bags on a prospective campsite and climbed the remaining slightly steeper section to the summit. Again, full summit clarity and not a breath of wind. From the top we were able to convince ourselves of our choice of tent pitch and the route onwards the following day.

We started setting up the tent at 5pm, around 7 hours after leaving the car. The spot was great, next to a frozen lochan and on a soft bed of moss. After some pasta and a wee dram of whisky we slept like babies for a good 10 hours. Definitely one of the most comfortable campsites I've ever found, although temperatures dropped well below freezing, so I was glad for the winter sleeping bag!

 Binein Mor from SEM

 The Grey Corries and me from BB

 Attempting to recreate our former selves

 Looking steeply down on our campsite from SEM

 Ben may have forgotten a mug for his tea...

A fantastic pitch-er

187, 188. Stob a'Choire Odhair (226), Stob Ghabhar (55). 28/04/2018.

Having not climbed many hills for a while, I was keen for some summits in this slightly adventurous long weekend in Scotland, whatever the weather. We were considering camping, but having kept a close eye on the forecast, the first night was set for heavy rain, so we booked a B&B and picked a medium-length walk on our way up from Edinburgh to Fort William.

These two hills lie up a narrow road to the west of Bridge of Orchy and with showers due to come in during the afternoon, we wanted to get walking as soon as possible. So we rented a car and with a pit stop at the Green Welly, we were climbing before midday.

One thing I noticed straight away was the joy of having a very light pack. Of course I love carrying my children up mountains, but it's nice to have a rest every now and again. We also had great visibility and the views from the top of Stob a'Choire Odhair over Rannoch Moor were superb.

The climb was straightforward along a track to start with, before a path up the nose of Stob a'Choire Odhair. Between the two summits there was a fair amount of reascent and a snow slope to contend with on the north side of Stob Ghabhar's eastern shoulder, but the walker before us had kicked nice steps which made this a good bit easier. Plenty of snow at the top, but no difficulties and we had managed to dodge the showers until we were hit by one hail shower on the descent. Initially we were quite content to weather this in our T-shirts, but as the hail got to the size of paintballs, we found ourselves emitting small yelps and armoured jackets were suitably donned.

The hail stopped after not too long and there was a nice waterfall beside our line of descent. Back to the car after 5h45 and a great first day.

 SG from S a'CO

 Just before the hail shower

 Rannoch Moor

A nice waterfall

Thursday, September 07, 2017

186. Ben Klibreck (194). 09/08/2017

For Elodie's fifth Munro, we were joined by her uncle Oliver. Staying in Lochinver, this was a slightly long drive away, but that gave the dodgy weather a chance to lift a bit. It was still drizzling when we started and for the first hour or so, but it did improve and become quite good towards the end.

We started off with a river crossing, which can always be a bit treacherous in the rain, but once the correct crossing point was found it wasn't too bad. Then we had a boggy but quite easy walk across moorland to the foot of the climb. From here we went straight up the side on a small path, but in hindsight we should probably have continued a bit further SE to where the slopes eased off because the route we took was pretty steep. Not only was it tiring, I was also a bit worried about my balance with the pack. Anyway, with due care we got to the ridge and found the path along it to the summit. 

It was much nicer on the ridge, particularly since the mist was just starting to lift and we were beginning to be able to see some of our surroundings. The final pull up to the summit was quite windy and cold, but instead of this bothering Elodie, she promptly fell asleep - obviously quite snug enough dressed in her sheepskin.

Halfway back down to the ridge, the cloud lifted completely and we were able to see our way down more gentle slopes from the ridge and back across the bog to the river crossing (which was now dry). Elodie was a little less happy with this section of bog and made her opinions heard, but all in all she had done pretty well. Back to the car in 5 hours.

 A variety of reactions displayed at the summit

 The clouds lifting off the ridge as we start our descent

Looking back to the summit

184, 185. Conival (158), Ben More Assynt (141). 06/08/2017.

During my paternity leave stint, I took Elodie to the far north of Scotland for a look at some hills. It was a very successful trip and for this walk we were joined by Chris. It looked like being our best day weather-wise and so, since Elodie seemed to be happy in the backpack for at least 5 hours, we thought we'd attempt one of the more ambitious walks in the area and see how we got on. The guidebook put it at 6 hours, although in the end we took a shade over 7, but Elodie was happy all the way until the last half an hour or so. Even then she was pacified by numerous rounds of 'Old MacDonald had a farm...' (little did she know it was more likely to be Old Mcleod in these parts).

We anticipated the odd shower, but in the end only experienced about 10 minutes of drizzle - the rest of the time the cloud was clear of the tops. And it really is a great location for views. We had unimpeded views of all the famous hills in this part of the country. Suilven and Quinag being particularly impressive.

The walk starts with a long approach on a track through a glen that becomes a path further up and only after an hour do you really start to climb. There was a good dry path the whole way up the side of Conival and onto its summit ridge. From here the ridge was great. The ascent over the top of Conival and all the way to Ben More Assynt is quite gradual, although the fact you have to retrace your steps back over Conival makes you think this should count as 3 Munros. Elodie particularly like the rocky top of Ben More Assynt, perhaps because we seemed to arrive there at the same time as several other walkers. The rest of the time she did some babbling and some sleeping, but generally had a good time. Thanks to Chris for his assistance in entertaining and pacifying when she laterally became slightly less happy.

 Babbling on the approach to the summit ridge of Conival

 The ridge from Conival (R) to BMA (L)

 Elodie pleased to reach the top. Chris in the background calling a cab(?)

Elodie enjoying views across Assynt, including Quinag

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

183. Ben Vorlich (229). 17/06/2017.

On the event of Ben's (a frequent walking partner) stag do, the best man gave me the remit of 'sorting out some Scottish stuff', so it was off to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond for hills, haggis and whisky.

Frequent readers will recall an episode from 2013 where Ben helped organise my own stag do, but where we ended up climbing the wrong Ben Vorlich (some 40 miles away by Loch Earn) from the one he had planned. By a cruel twist of fate (and pure chance), this time we decided to climb the right one. This of course caused Ben huge embarrassment and he opted to climb the hill in disguise so that nobody would recognise him.

Trying to find a hill that caters for all abilities and is accessible on a weekend trip from London is a delicate operation, but this one ended up a fairly good choice. It was perhaps steeper in parts than the easiest munros and with more ascent, but we could find accommodation right at the foot of the hill and a good chunk of the distance was along a tarmacked track.

The weather couldn't be helped, but at least the persistent drizzle did fade later on and the high winds we were expecting on the top were more manageable than expected. The fog was pea soup from halfway up though, as promised.

I took on all the facets of a mountain guide by walking too fast, demonstrating navigational errors, helping members of the party solve their maths puzzles, answering everyone's questions about the local flora and fauna, providing gentle encouragement in the shape of turkish delights, safeguarding the group with 9-year-out-of-date midge repellent (that seemed more to engage the midgies' curiosity than repel them) and outright lying about how little there was left to climb. But all 10 of us made it up and down in one piece (and in more or less good spirits), so some of my methods must have been a success. Our porter (Ben) had very kindly offered to carry a couple of cans of beer to the top for each of us, so we made sure we cracked these open in the mist for some well earned rehydration.

Those who hadn't done a lot of hillwalking coped very well and maybe one or two may even climb again in Scotland. Other walkers on the hill seemed amused by our antics, but hopefully not offended - we of course got Ben to carry away all our empties!

 A moment of clarity on the descent for a victory shot

A possible yeti sighting at the summit

The atmospheric Ben Vane across the glen

181, 182. Beinn a'Chleibh (281), Beinn Laoigh (28) 31/05/2017.

After being in danger of spending a week in Scotland without climbing a hill, I was pleased to be able to find a day of cracking weather and a willing companion to take Elodie up her first Munro (and her second too).

Hilde and Hamish were off to the Scottish Sealife Centre and practicalities would be simpler if we were down off the hill in 5 hours so they could pick us up again on the return journey, so we didn't dawdle (or kept it to a minimum at least - a small amount of dawdling is inevitable with a baby).

Hamish had been very happy in the backpack at a similar age for up to 4 hours at a time, but there was no telling whether his sister would be similar. It turned out if anything she enjoyed it more, keeping very quiet for most of the walk (a mixture of absorbing the scenery and taking naps after all her hard work) and there was barely a whinge until the last 20 minutes or so.

This walk starts with a fairly interesting river crossing - I mean it's relatively easy without a baby on your back, but boots off wading followed by limboing under a 4 foot high bridge under the railway kept me on my toes (although not literally). After that there was a slightly damp walk through the forest, although it was by no means bad and then a good path up the corrie to the bealach between the two peaks. We could have gone to either peak first, but chose Ben a'Chleibh to break up the ascent slightly. Only just a Munro, but with great views of its neighbour and beyond, Chris and I couldn't quite understand when we later found it had been ranked one of the least popular in Scotland.

The walk along the ridge and up the additional 200m to Ben Laoigh was pleasant in the afternoon sunshine and conditions were very good underfoot. We were back in time to meet our lift back down south. Apart from a few stops for milk and pureed fruit (all for Elodie), the backpack didn't slow us much, but with 1100m of ascent I think this was the most I'd done carrying a child, so I felt it in my legs the next day!

 Chris congratulating Elodie on her first Munro

 Ben Laoigh, somewhat higher than Beinn a'Chleibh

Elodie admires the steep drops between naps 

Rambling back to the bealach

Monday, May 09, 2016

178-180. Beinn a'Chlachair (56), Geal Charn (81), Creag Pitridh (264). 01/05/2016

Ben and I wanted to try a longish walk, since we had the luxury of a whole day to spend. The guide books quoted this as 8 hours, but in fact we managed it in just over 7, which for 28km wasn't bad going.

The first hour was along a track and because of the wind and snow, we decided to go all the way along to the end of the western ridge of Beinn a'Chlachair before ascending. Whilst not the most direct route, I think this was a good decision, since once climbing we had the wind and rain at our backs and the extra kilometer was all along a track. There wasn't as much rain as forecast and in fact we had clear views for much of our time on the tops and ridges.

The walk to Geal Charn is quite a distance, but the terrain is easy and it seemed to pass in no time - the only slow bit being a bit of clambering over large scree near the summit. Geal Charn in particular had a lot of snow at the top and more than once when the mist came in we were left unable to see our onward route and relying on footprints in the snow.

To get to Creag Pitridh, we had to retrace our steps slightly to avoid ending up over crags, but soon we could see the top. With only about 100m of reascent, this really felt like a freebie. From the ocky top we headed west down nice springy grass to the path and the path took us north back to the track. We didn't see another person all day, so this did feel like quite a wilderness walk.

 The still snowy summit of Beinn a'Chlachair

 Sheltering from the wind at the top of Geal Charn

Creag Pitridh - the rocky 'freebie' on the way back

176, 177. Beinn Achaladair (94), Beinn a'Creachain (61). 30/04/2016

A great afternoon in the hills. Having been travelling in the morning, we couldn't start before 1.20pm, but this walk filled the gap between then and dinner nicely.

We started by heading south from the car park to the bealach with the Bridge of Orchy hills. According to one walker, we could have climbed up the side of the ridge, but it was still pretty snowy, so we thought the longer route was more prudent. It did at least mean that the climbing wasn't too steep and that the mist had almost cleared when we reached the summit. The wind was strong and there were a few showers, but fortunately we were able to turn our backs to them as we made our way along the ridge to Beinn a'Creachain.

There was a fair amount of reascent between the two, but we had made good time. From here we had a surprisingly wintry panorama of hills as far as the eye could see. The snow wasn't a problem and in fact it aided our descent in a couple of places. I have to say that the initial descent to the railway was one of the most gentle I can remember. Instead of the hard jarring rocks that can be found on a number of munros, we had a mixture of glissading and striding down soft springy grass. Unfortunately, once the railway had been passed and the river forded, we still had nearly three miles of track back to the car just to make sure the joints didn't get away without a little bone-jarring.

 Approaching the summit of Beinn Achaladair, with the 
Tyndrum and Crainlarich hills in the background.

 The mist lifted just after we left the top...

 Looking back along the ridge

At the top of Beinn a'Creachain. Nice socks!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

175. Ben Lomond (184). 17/08/2015

With the previous day having gone well for Hamish in the pack for 4 and a half hours, I thought we would try another one today with Grandma. Ben Lomond involves a little more climbing, but is all along an excellent path. The weather was set to be excellent.

We were off around 10.30, before the crowds and some of the trickiest terrain was actually near the start through the forest. Fortunately the ground was dry so it was no problem and at 200m we were out of the trees and from there it was a steady climb up the side of the hill to about 600m. Then there is a mile of plateau before the final climb to the summit. It took us 3 hours to get to the top and mum only needed a small amount of encouragement. Hamish was happy and even had a couple of naps. At the top we had hoped for a chance to relax, but unfortunately the air was warm and still enough that there were quite a few midgies, so our time was limited. Hamish got a chance to crawl around and get some food and we took in the spectacular views of Loch Lomond.

There is the option of descending to the west, but it is a little steep at first, so we opted for retracing our steps given I had the backpack. Hamish was much chattier on the descent, partly because of the hundreds of walkers we passed, some of whom had dogs with them (which Hamish found particularly exciting!). Mum's legs always find the descent taxing, so we had to go steadily, but we got down fine after a round trip of 5 and a half hours. I was expecting this to be a bit too long for Hamish, but he seemed fine with it. More munros for him then!
The summit ridge and Loch Lomond in the background

Eat/crawl multitasking

Looking north

The three generations at the top

174. Sgiath Chuil (270). 16/08/2015

This was arguably my third attempt of this hill, although I had more optimism this time due to the lack of winter. It was also another chance for me to carry Hamish up a hill, which he was jolly excited about! Here's him doing his stretches in preparation.

My friend Joe was part-way through his LE2JoG cycle and wanted a 'day off' climbing hills. He had gathered together Blaise and Nick from Stirling and Alex from Dundee. We all met in Killin at 9.30 and were climbing shortly after 10. Having done most of the walk before, navigation was simple especially since we could see the top. The grassy slopes were pretty straightforward even with the backpack, although the steep section at the end was felt by my legs!

Half way up

Hamish managing to find a moment for a nap

At the top we met a few people and had clear views of the Arrochar Alps and the hills up to Rannoch Moor. Hamish gobbled down a jar of food and I put a few more clothes on him. Having been very happy all the way up, he decided the stop at the top wasn't nearly so much fun and whinged until I started moving again. He was then very chatty for the rest of the descent, which was refreshingly gently on the joints down grassy slopes.

Pit stop 

Ben More and the Arrochar Alps

Getting a bit fed up with the delay!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

173. Stuchd an Lochan (197). 08/05/2015

Our first munro with baby Hamish! We chose the best day for weather and a short walk to give ourselves the best chance of success. With Hamish packed in the carrier, along with a ridiculous quantity of bits and bobs for him, we set off from the car park by the dam. At least we didn't need to take much for ourselves due to the nice conditions. The climbing starts from 400m and within an hour we were at 900m, leaving the rest of the walk as a pleasant stroll along the ridge to the summit. We tried a stop just before the ridge to feed the baby, but this produced tears, so he obviously wanted us to keep moving. Once on the ridge it was slightly cooler with the wind - probably just above freezing, but for some reason this encouraged Hamish to sleep. In fact he slept almost until we reached the top, when his father jolted him awake by stepping through the snow. We could see for miles at the top and spent some time taking photos before making our way back. We were back at the car well within 4 hours and Hamish was still in pretty good spirits, so it was a success all round.

 The start of the summit ridge.

 The summit with the grey corries in the distance.

 Looking north-east from the top.

Hamish enjoying his first summit