Friday, 16 May 2014

Ben Starav Circuit - 2nd April 2012

(Entry by Shona)

After heading up to Glen Etive yesterday and camping over night, we decide to do a group of 5 munros, starting with Ben Starav (1078m) at the bottom of the glen.
After a wee breakfast of porridge and coffee, we pack up our gear and drive down to the starting point at the road to Coiletir.

The first part of the hike is pretty good, when we reach the house at Coiletir, we head left around the back fence and along a very wet boggy path. When we reach the  Allt Mheuran, we stop for a couple of minutes to take some photos. The cloud is lifting now, it looks like it will be a nice day after all.

After crossing the river, we pick up the path which runs up the edge of Ben Starav and it is a stiff climb, gaining height quickly. After about halfway, the path levels a little at Coire an Fihr Leith and we walk towards the huge bowl of the upper corrie. 

We have fantastic views to the west, down towards Loch Etive. To the north we can see the southern peaks of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag, Stob Coire Sgreamhach and Bidean nam Bian with Stob Coire Nan Lochan behind. To the east, we can see down into the valley to the spine of Glas Bheinn Chaol, and over to Glas Bheinn Mhor (997m) and Stob Coir an Albannaich (1044m), two of the other munros on our route.

We take some pictures, then start heading up towards the rockier summit. It is steep here and the path is very close to the edge. There are some unexpected drop offs and deep treacherous gullies. The dogs happily dance around as we carefully pick our way along the narrow ridge towards the summit. 

It is windy at the top but the cloud has lifted and the views are amazing, so we take the time to get some good pictures. We carry on to get out of the wind and stop about 100 yards between the summit of Ben Starav and the next peak on its ridge (Stob Coire Dheirg) and have some sandwiches. It was a tough climb so we need to replenish our energy.

After passing the summit of Stob Coire Dheirg, we make our way to where the ridge drops steeply, down towards the bealach. There are a lot of loose stones and gravel on the path, so we choose or footing carefully. One slip here and we could end up hurt. A huge vein of quartz runs diagonally across the ridge and shines bright white in the sunlight. I stop to admire this natural beauty. All the surrounding rocks are grey and this stripe of white rock fascinates me. it truly is spectacular. 

We carry on and soon reach the bealach. Looking north and down into the valley, we can see the lower path which follows Allt nam Meirleach and would take you back out to where we started if you were merely bagging Ben Starav, but that is not on our agenda. We are heading south, off the ridge and towards Munro number two, Beinn nan Aighenan (960m).

The path curls round the bulk of Meall nan Tri Tighearnan and drops down towards the stone covered plateau between the mountains. The dogs enjoy a well earned swim in some of the boggy water holes before we start the hard pull up the side of the mountain.
It is steeper than it looks but we make good time and are at the summit before we know it. 

To the south we can see the summits of Ben Cruachan and its neighbours and we look back towards the eastern side of Ben Starav. What a mountain! From here, we can also see munro number three, Glas Bheinn Mhor. Lets get going! We head back down to the plateau and decide not to follow the path back to the bealach but to go straight up the south west edge of the mountain. 

The grass is long, so it acts like steps, which makes the climb a lot easier. We zig zag our way to the upper slopes and pick up the path just before the little cairn on the ridge of Meall nan Tri Tighearnan, which is a subsidiary or ‘top’. From here, the path drops down again before then heading up towards the summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor.

It looks massive but it doesn’t take us long before we are sitting at the summit cairn looking at the map and checking where our route takes us next. We have a quick bite of chocolate before we head east and down the long, wide shoulder of Glas Bheinn Mhor.
The path heads north north east from here and drops steeply down to about 700m. Looking over, we can see the steep path zig zagging its way straight up the steep side of the lower part of Stob Coir an Albannaich.

As we reach the path, it is more like stairs. I cant begin to descirbe how pleased I am at that. I am not a great fan of dropping a lot of height between mountains! We are up on the flatter part of the mountain within 10 minutes. From here we can see the summit cairn and there are two ways that we can approach this. We can either head slighty west and up a more gentle incline or we can go north and go for the steeper, more direct route. 

Eric chooses the easier option,much to my dismay. This way is long and drawn out and I feel that we are going out of the way to double back but I don’t complain, I just keep trudging on. It is cold and windy up on the summit. The cloud has closed in again and the rain has started. We get the map out and have a look to see if we can work out where we drop off for Meall nan Eun, the fith Munro of the day.

The path ahead doesn't look very clear and even looking towards where the map shows Meall nan Eun to be, we can't see anything that looks of munro height, apart from Stob Ghabhar. Of course, we only have other mountains as a guide! Hmm, we look at the map again. Both dogs cower from the wind and rain, nursing sore and scuffed paws and look up at us through depserate eyes. The rock here is very rough, so both dogs are suffering. Even Alfie with his paws of steel! 

After much deliberation, we decide that, for the sake of the dogs and us, to miss Meall nan Eun and head back off the mountain. We head back along the path the way we came, but instead of turning south, we keep heading east. The descent is steady at first and we head to where the top of a deep gully starts. We didn’t realise that it was a gully until we got to is, as originally it did look like it led to a path. Neither of us fancy trying to head down that way, so we quickly bypass that and head closer towards the edge of the mountain. 

The ground drops pretty steeply but it’s grassy, so we are able to pick our way carefully down from here, avoid various crags and gullies as we head lower. There are a few little streams to cross and I let my mind wander a little, which is just enouhg time to let me stand on a very slimey wet rock and slip into the stream. I land full force on my left hand side which hurt a little. 

Thankfully Eric doesn’t see this clumsy mishap and I carry on, feeling rather foolish. About 50 yards ahead is a preservation area ringed by a deer fence. We manage to get the dogs through a gap in the lowwer fence near the stream and it’s an easy climb over for us.
It is harder going in here because everything is overgrown and uneaten. We fight our way through Birch saplings, long grass, marsh grass, hidden streams and deep heather, it’s a wonder we made it to the other side without getting lost or stuck!

This time there is nowhere in the deer fence to let the dogs through, so Eric climbs up and sits astride the fence and I pass Bracken up to him. He lowers her and then lets her go and she scoots off out of the way. Alfie isnt as easy, he is heavier and slightly less inclined to be lifted, so he tenses himself as I pass him up. Eric lowers him a little then lets go and Alfie thumps to the ground landing on his side. Poor wee scone, he is okay though and soon gets out of the way as Eric climbs down and lets me climb over the fence. 

We are back on the boggy path that we started on and after about 100 yards we reach where the path splits next to the house. Another ten minutes on hard steady ground and we are back at the car. Tired, soggy and slightly disappointed that only four of five were done. but that mountain isn't moving, so we will get it eventually.

Total time taken – 10hrs 14 mins
Total distance – 13.09 miles
Heights - Ben Starav 1079m
Beinn nan Aighenan 957m
(Meall nan Tri Tighernan 892m – sub)
Glas Bheinn Mhor 997m
Stob Coir’ an Albannaich 1044m

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Cruach Ardrain, Beinn Tulaichean, Beinn a' Chroin and An Caisteal, Crianlarich - 25th March 2012

(Entry by Shona)

Today we decided to head up towards Crianlarich with a view to doing Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean. The car park is busy and there are a number of other hikers setting off just before us. The sun has finally burned through the mist and its only 10.20am!

We head through the muddy field and under the railway to join the farm track heading east into the valley beside the river Falloch. The group of 4 that started just in front of us take the path to the right, heading up to An Caisteal and we head further up and then go left down towards the river.

We cross a very unsteady looking bridge and stop to take some layers off. It is scorching now and the sun is beating down on us, not a cloud in the sky. The ground is still pretty wet underfoot, and we splodge our way up, following the fence line for a while before cutting across to Grey Height at 666m. From here we head east and up towards the start of the wide ridge.

We look back and see a man and his son heading up the same way. They are fast!
We push on, keeping the pace steady. As we head east over all of the little hills towards the bottom slopes of Cruach Ardrain, we pass by some amazing gullies. One is amazing and Eric takes a picture whilst Bracken dances around at the edge. One of these days she is going to fall!

The path drops a little after Meall Dhamh before it starts to get steeper and we make our way up the slopes of Cruach Ardrain. As the path nears the top, it curves slightly to the north and splits. From here we get fantastic views across Benmore Glen to Ben More (1174m/3852ft) and Stob Binnein (1165m/3822ft). Not a patch of snow on these now, which is in stark contrast to the conditions we had on them 3 weeks ago!

We head left, northeast, and after another few minutes of walking across a short col, we get to the summit cairn on Cruach Ardrain, where there are a group of people enjoying the views. One woman asks if it is okay to take a picture of the dogs. We don’t stay up here for too long as we have another mountain to climb.
We head back down to where the path splits and then head south towards Beinn Tulaichean. The path drops down onto lower slopes and we and enjoy a more level walk before a slight incline to the summit. We have uninterrupted views south from here and are cooled by a gentle breeze as we chat to the man and his son for a while. We study the map to see how we can get across the valley, avoiding the steep craggy side of Stob Glas.

We are hoping for a bealach or at the very least, an adjoining ridge but no such luck. We head back down the path towards Cruach Ardrain and the drop off to the west and towards Stob Glas, which sits at 815m at its highest point. We navigate our way over the top of this and down the steep grassy west side and onto the valley floor. As we were coming down, we could see various other hikers making their way down the paths on the slopes of Beinn a’Chroin opposite. This gives us the chance to gauge distance and time for our ascent.

We decide that it is still early in the day and we have plenty of sunshine and clear skies left, so we don’t want to walk out with only 2 summits reached.  We make our way up towards the slopes of Beinn a’Chroin, setting ourselves a goal to reach the first summit cairn by 4.15pm.

Wow, the going is hard here, I am struggling with this one, Its pretty steep and a stiff climb. I’m too hot with all my thermal layers on and now struggling to keep moving. Eric gees me on and everytime I stop, he pushes me to keep climbing. We get to the first cairn ahead of our target time, 4pm, that’s a good 15 mins off. Eric tells me that the official highest point is this one but the real summit is the one furthest to the west.

We stop for 5 mins and I regain my energy and spirit before we drop down a little to a small lochan where the dogs enjoy a paddle to cool down. From here, the path heads up and over a few rocky outcrops and we pass by the middle cairn. Eventually we reach the final cairn and the path snakes to the south.
I’m slightly confused because An Caisteal is now behind us but as we head further down, we see that the path drops to avoid a high crag on the southwest edge of Beinn a’Chroin.
The path then circles back towards the bealach and Eric and I use the short descent to get our muscles ready for the last push up the side of An Caisteal.

We have another 5 min stop to wipe our noses and gather our energy. We have both run out of water and we are suffering the effects of mild dehydration. The sun is still beating down on us, with the occasional breeze bringing much needed relief. Eric said that he saw someone coming down towards the bealach from An Caisteal but they never pass us and we don’t see them. Strange.

We start the very steep scramble up the rocky path and take our time as the ground is loose and we know that tiredness can cause accidents. We are in no rush, so carefully make our way up and finally we reach the rounded edge of the summit. I can’t wipe the smile from my face as I see the cairn! An Caisteal – The Castle!

Eric takes my hand and we walk to the summit together… im so happy and full of a great sense of achievement. these arent the most technical mountains I have climbed but it has been one of the most draining, energy sapping and mentally challenging days on the mountains so far.

After a short stop to enjoy the views and the beautiful evening sun, we start our descent in a northern direction, down Twistin Hill towards Sron Gharbh. We will have the sun all the way to the car, as it sets along side us. It seems to take forever to reach the end of the wide ridge to Sron Gharbh. Along the way we pass a patch of snow that must be about 10 feet deep along with some pretty dangerous cuts in the rock. Would be dangerous in winter. Sounds like a challenge for next winter season!

From Sron Gharbh we start zig zagging our way down the path which soon fades and we go ‘offroad’. It’s boggy and pretty slippery and we make it almost to the bottom without incident. However, I manage to slide onto my backside, again. We laugh about it but both realise that our muscles are aching, so we stop laughing. Before we know it, we are back on the farm track and solid ground.
Now for the slow walk back towards the railway line. We let the dogs have one last swim in the river before we get back to the car. Feels good to get the heavy boots off and put some comfier, softer shoes on for the long drive home.

Total distance – 13.43 miles
Total time - 8 hours 51 mins
Munro Heights – Cruach Ardrain 1046m/3432ft
Beinn Tulaichean 946m/3104ft
Beinn a’Chroin 940m/3084ft
An Caisteal 995m/3264ft

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Beinn Bhuidhe, Loch Fyne - 18th March 2012

Pronunciation: Beinn Bhuidhe - Byn Voo-ee (yellow hill).

(Entry by Shona)

There are a few Munros that are often forgotten, or left until later on ‘the list’ because of their location and Ben Bhuidhe is one of these. I think the walk in is what puts people off, but Eric and I do enjoy long walk ins every now and again. It gives us time to reminisce about other mountains and experiences we have had.

Eric decided that Ben Bhuidhe would be the one to climb today and we woke up to beautiful clear skies and sunshine. After parking the car in the carpark, we check the map and head back over the bridge and up the road towards the Fyne Ales Brewery.

The road is tarmac, so we enjoy the walk along it until we are met by a large herd of Highland coos. We put the dogs on the lead as they still have a lot of un-used energy just now and we don’t fancy their chances against a massive cow, we make it through with only a few glances from the beasts. Dogs let loose again, we pass a small group of houses in the valley before heading on towards the power station.

From here, we head north, leaving the tarmac road behind and following a good dirt track north on the opposite side of the river to the power station. A female hiker on her bike passes us. We reach the deer gate and notice a few more bikes locked up on the rail. We are not alone today. The valley starts to narrow a little here and we are getting close to the Cottage where the path up the mountain begins.

It starts to rain as we reach the cottage, so we have a quick change of jackets and put our gaiters on. After the gate, there is the choice of two routes. We head up the gorge along a steep and narrow path which follows the stream upwards. Eventually we see the waterfall and head south of this along a very wet and boggy path. The path heads out onto a beautiful plateau, with the jagged east flank of Ben Bhuidhe splitting the skyline.

The going slows a little here as once again we are skipping through very wet bog. We pick up the path and see the gully that it leads to. This should be fun. I love scrambling and scree, so the wet rocks clatter as I pick my way up the near vertical path. Eric is always leading but I take my time and make sure I look around me to enjoy the views to the east towards Ben Ime, Ben Lomond and Ben Vorlich.

As we reach the ridge, there are 3 other hikers looking slightly puzzled. Eric shows them where we are on the map and then we discuss the mountains we can see. To the west Ben Cruachan (covered by clouds). To the east we can make out Ben More and Stob Binnien, slightly south of these two is Ben Chabhair, Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps.
To the south we can see a little bit of Loch Fyne.

From here, we head south west along the ridge and up towards the summit cone. Snow patches are scattered across the west side of the summit, which pleases Alfie no end! He loves frolicking in the snow. A small cairn and broken trig point mark the summit and we spend 10 mins enjoying the clear 360 views.

The sunshine doesn’t last and before we know it, we are being pelted by hailstones. Time to get to lower ground. We follow the ridge back to the top of the gully and head north around the end of the ridge and track our way down the more gentle side of the rocky outcrops.

We have gone super lightweight today with day packs and lighter boots, which means the very wet and hailstone covered ground makes for some interesting slips and slides.
We zig zag our way down the grassy slopes on the opposite side of the gorge that we ascended. The sun comes out for a little while but the ground is still boggy and slippery. I laugh at Eric as he slips but stays upright, however 10 minutes later I slide and land on my backside. Eric and I laugh about how wet my bum now is. My comeuppance for giggling at him sliding.

It’s all part of the fun, after all and I can laugh at myself. We follow the fence line further down and enjoy the late afternoon sun as it lights up the valley in front of us. Eventually we are back at the track next to the cottage, not another soul in sight.

We eat our rolls as we walk back along the track to where the other hikers’ bikes are locked up. Still 4 bikes there, which means we were the first off the mountain. We plod on and soon the rain starts. It’s only a small shower though and we see blue sky ahead.
We soon pass the power station and are back onto the tarmac road. As we walk past the highland cows, we decide the dogs are too tired to cause mischief, so we keep them off the lead.

Bracken looks as though she is contemplating jumping on the back of one of the cows that is lying down in the rain. I think the last thing it would expect is a dog jumping on it, so I call her in and keep her close until we pass them by.

The female hiker passes us by on her bike but there is still no sign of the 3 guys. Who needs bikes when you can enjoy a stroll!

Total distance 13.33 miles
Total time taken 6 hours 33 mins
Height of Ben Bhuidhe 947m above sea level