Wednesday, April 23, 2008

52-53. Meall Greigh (136), Meall Garbh (35) 22/04/2008

Seeing that the weather was still good and that Uncle Pete had very kindly offered to put me up for the night, I decided to stay in Scotland for a further day after Jo went down south. I was glad to have done so, because after a murky start, the cloud lifted throughout the day, so that by the time I got to the tops they were completely clear. I decided to tackle the two hills on the Lawers ridge that had evaded us on the previous outing. The rough slopes of Meall Greigh were fairly clear of snow, since it is much lower that the others on the ridge, which made for a steady climb. There was then a gradual descent before a steep climb up the much snowier slopes of Meall Garbh. The views of Ben Lawers became more spectacular as I progressed. The wind also became stronger, so that it stung my cheeks on the final slopes. Once at the top, though, I only needed to drop down one or two steps on the leeward side in order to be completely sheltered, which provided a good place to sit and eat lunch. I could see the length of our previous walk, including the face of An Stuc, which had quite rightly deterred us. After this it was but a hop, slip and a jump down the snow slopes back into the corrie, from where I could return to the Lawers hotel for another cup of tea (which is the going rate for using their car park).
Meall Greigh from the west.

The smoky top of Ben Lawers from Mell Greigh

And from Meall Garbh

Me at the summit of Meall Garbh, with the Lawers ridge behind

51. Ben Chonzie (250) 21/04/2008

Being a little bit weary from our previous day of walking and with Jo needing to get the sleeper in the evening, we opted for the shorter walk up Ben Chonzie. We had heard an American describing it as 'Ben Chon-zee' in the pub the previous night. Heh - a ridiculous guess, everyone knows it is pronounced in the much more sensible way: 'Ben-ee-Hoan'. Most of the climb was along a nice farm track, with the last 200m or so across gentle slopes on the summit ridge. It was relatively easy going and there wasn't as much snow as on Ben Lawers, so we were at the summit cairn within 2 hours. We had a clear top, but the cloud wasn't much above us, so we could only catch glimpses of the Lawers ridge to the north. There was also a lot of wildlife on the hill. On our descent we saw dozens of mountain hares (which grow to nearly 3ft long) and lots of grouse making strange noises. A jolly nice stroll.
The top of Ben Chonzie

Jo looking south at the top

48-50. Beinn Ghlas (47), Ben Lawers(10), An Stuc (34) 20/04/2008

We set off from the NT car park (already at 400m above sea level - heh) on another glorious day, unsure quite how far along the ridge we would get, since we had been informed that the third peak (An Stuc) could get a bit icy on its descent. We rapidly picked our way up through the lower slopes of Beinn Ghlas; the well made path through the flora and fauna of the nature reserve gave way to snowier slopes on which we followed the footprints of other walkers. Climbing steep slopes in the snow is easier, since you can kick your own steps and choose your own stride length (the snow was of a superb consistency!). Bein Ghlas gave a great view along the whole ridge and of our next goal: Ben Lawers. This was completely white with snow by virtue of the fact that it has 100m on any of the surrounding hills, but again this made the somewhat steep slopes easier. The summit cairn and trig pillar had great ice formations created by the wind. Speaking of which, the wind caused considerable buffetting along the slightly more exposed ridge towards An Stuc. A little anxious about whether it was safe to descend the NE side of the next peak, we asked some other walkers and they advised against it, saying that it was possible to descend one of the more gentle slopes and then walk around 100m lower down. What he didn't realise was though this idea was probably great in summer, it was now completely blocked by a cornice and wasn't possible, so after we reached the top, we descended NW as instructed and were then stranded with no way to continue onwards. This meant we had a tiring trudge through the snow back around to where we had climbed An Stuc - on the south side. Then we were able to drop down into the Corrie nan Cat and walk down to the Lawers Hotel for a nice cup of tea. So, while not quite as successful as we might have hoped, it was still a great walk along the ridge of 3 peaks.
Ben Lawers with An Stuc and Meall Garbh further along the ridge behind

Ice formations at 1214m

Looking back to Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas from An Stuc

The NE face of An Stuc taken on another day. This is what we had contemplated descending.

46-47. Beinn Dubhchraig (175), Ben Oss (101) 19/04/2008

Having driven up after work on friday evening, staying in Carlisle and reaching Crainlarich by 11am on saturday, Jo and I began walking before midday. The weather was quite uncharacteristically gorgeous, so we aimed for a couple of hills that would give us good views. We weren't to be disappointed. Nestled between Ben Laoigh and the Crianlarich Hills, Ben Oss looks down the length of Loch Lomond and has a spectacular view of Ben Laoigh in particular. We could also see the distinctive shape of Ben Nevis from the top - some 40 miles away. A good path climbed up through woodland and then alongside the picture-postcard Allt Coire Dubhcraig, before we were kicking steps in the snow on the final ascent to Beinn Dubhcraig. I've already discussed the view: in short, it was good. After a bit of a drop along the ridge to Ben Oss, we began to climb the much snowier slopes of this hill. The last 100m or so of ascent were a bit of a battle with the wind, with gusts blowing us over into the snow on a few occasions, but we soldiered on. There was some shelter to be had at the top, which was welcome. On the way down, we saved ourselves some time by sliding down the snowy slopes, making the steep bits more fun.

Ben Oss, with Ben Laoigh behind from the top of Beinn Dubhcraig

The splendid Ben Laoigh

Looking back to Beinn Dubhcraig, with the Crianlarich Hills behind