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