Jolly Boys (and Girls) Outing, March 2013   16 comments

It’s that time of year for the annual boys (and one honorary girl!) outing to Scotland. Our chosen home of The Suie Lodge Hotel (note ED that I got the name of the hotel right!) was booked and we were all due to gather there on the Friday night

As seems to be the case every year that the deep and even snow that had covered Scotland in full winter conditions for most of, well, the winter, had thawed the previous 2 weeks so we thought we were all going to be disappointed not to feel the crunch of snow under foot. Wrong!

I travelled up on Thursday night to meet up with GM for an extra day of fun. The mild weather that had thawed the snow appeared to have gone and it was cold and bleak when we set off early the next morning. After our regular slap up breakfast in Callander we decided some skiing in Glencoe was in order.

Glencoe Ski

Car Park Chair Lift ride at Glencoe

The whole experience can be summed in 3 words, cold, white-out, icy! Strangely there were people heading up the chairlift just as a tourist outing, quite what sort of experience they were hoping for I not sure. I think the following couple of photos sum it up more than words. Safe to say we made the best of a bad day but skiing on sheet ice in total invisibility is not really top drawer entertainment. Better than being at work though

Glencoe Ski

GM enjoys the conditions

Glencoe Ski

Picnic Lunch

We headed off to meet everyone else for the first of a couple of evenings of splendid bonhomie, looked after magnificently by our hosts at Suie Lodge. Wholesome and hearty food and few fine ales mixed well with the usual old stories, mickey-taking and catching up on news. My mate Old Grandfather Sheffield (he’s 50 you know!) is recovering from a heart attack last year that really shocked all of us but he seemed in top form and happy just to be out and about in the mountains (he wasn’t able to push on to summits just yet). We were all well chuffed he was able and keen to join us. Another regular EWO wasn’t able to make it. Originally it was thought he just had a bad case of the old “two-bob bits” but in the end it turns out he had a ruptured appendix and he was hospital having it extracted by the end of the following week. It seems that middle and old age is starting to catch up with all of us. Physically anyway, most of the conversations still betray the fact that mentally we are still pretty childish (much to the constant despair of OFS). Long may that continue I say!

Suie Lodge Hotel

Hard Man at The Suie Lodge Hotel

After the usual debates about where to go, we settled on a walk up the valley of the Ledcharrie Burn.

The Stob

10 miles, 2,600 feet of ascent

We figured that as the weather looked pretty damp and dreary there was little point heading to any of the high tops. There was an interesting looking lochan at the head of the valley and a couple of Corbetts above to tempt us if the weather improved.

How many middle aged blokes does it take to navigate along a railway line

There is a disused old railway line behind the house which gave easy access to the start of planned walk. There are a couple of missing bridges that involved some scrambling over fences and streams but better than walking down the main road or using the cars. We were treated to the bizarre sound of the stream echoing off the underside of one of the bridge arches. You could hear the stream above your head and all around you in one spot and then nothing at all a foot to the left or right. It was really quite weird

Ledcharrie Burn

Valley of the Ledcharrie Burn

From there the valley was broad and open with views to the snow patches higher up. Despite the grey and dank conditions we were all enjoying the walk and just being out in the Scottish hills and talking the usual nonsense. There were some nice small waterfalls in the Ledcharrie Burn to hold the attention and the path was well-marked and a very easy stroll.

Ledcharrie Burn, Glen Dochart

Ledcharrie Burn and Glen Dochart

Ledcharrie Burn

Ledcharrie Burn

Just before the tarn of Lochan an Eireannaich we hit the snow line and stopped for lunch (no. 1).

Ledcharrie Burn

Approaching the snow line

After we moved on it was clear that what snow there was, was rock hard even at this low altitude

Ledcharrie Burn

Into the White

As we reached the lochan we hit winter. It was completely frozen over and there was ferocious wind howling through the gap from the east (the start of the cold winter conditions that held firm throughout March).

Lochan an Eireannaich

Lochan an Eireannaich

Lochan an Eireannaich

The gangs all here

It was probably a fabulous spot with what I assumed was a huge landslide that had created a cliff known locally as the Irishman’s Leap and a huge boulder called Rob Roy’s Putting Stone.

Rob Roy's Putting Stone

GM and Rob Roy’s Putting Stone

Climbing the Corbetts of Meall an t-Seallaidh and Creag Mac Ranaich would involve walking into the teeth of the wind. Instead we walked with the wind behind us across the broad col towards the peak of The Stob or Meall na Frean.

Lochan an Eireannaich

Precarious

Lochan an Eireannaich

That way….

It was a fascinating and complex collection of small knolls and heathery slopes with extensive patches of icy snow. The weather was slowly improving, still overcast but you could start to see the tops

The Stob, Meall na Frean

The route to The Stob

We stopped for lunch (no. 2) and decided to tackle the summit of The Stob

The Stob, Meall na Frean

Lunch No 2

As we climbed the snow became more extensive and as before was rock hard. The slopes were easy angled but hard going tip-toeing across with no feet metalwork.

The Stob, Meall na Frean

Walking on Snow

The Stob, Meall na Frean

Conditions become slick

I started off on my micro-spikes and gave them their first real test and on these slopes and they are absolutely the business. Alas ED was the only member of the party with no spikes or crampons so I lent him mine and went for crampons instead. The climb to the summit was brilliant. It’s rare to encounter proper hard snow these days so seeking out the little steepenings was a delight

The Stob, Meall na Frean

Time for metalwork

The Stob,

Final climb to the summit

The summit was totally wind-blasted and you could barely stand up. The cloud had lifted from the tops so even though it was cloudy we had views. I felt as much euphoria on this summit as many others I’ve been on in clear skies. I think everyone else was also thoroughly enjoying the day which always adds to the enjoyment. There was a real sense of laughter and fun as we all bounced around the summit snapping photos and messing about.

The Stob, Meall na Frean

Learning to Fly

The Stob, Meall na Frean

Across the wild moorland

The rime on the fence-posts was also pretty impressive

The Stob, Meall na Frean

Growth

It was time to head down. One look at the map showed it was along way down the valley of the Coire nam Meann and the Luib Burn. With crampons/spikes we sought out the snow slopes and romped down. Walking downhill in these conditions is a pleasure not a pain.

Luib Burn, Coire nam Meann

Coire nam Meann

The Stob, Meall na Frean

Looking back to the summit of The Stob

The river valley was splendid although by this stage we were all feeling the effects of a long day and it was a tiring stretch. We had a happy 20 minutes playing dam building in the stream while we waited for some to catch up. From there it was a long plod down the valley and back to the hotel along the railway line. What started as a damp and grey trudge turned into a really fine day in the mountains. We were back only just before dark. To celebrate we partied long and hard until nearly 11pm before turning in for well-deserved sleep. You can read ED’s post of the days fun here

Luib Burn, Coire nam Meann

Old Father Sheffield

Luib Burn

GM relaxing after Dam building

The next morning dawned with clear blue skies and the promise of a much better day. Another round of much longer arguments about where to go ended when GM, Corbett-bagger extraordinaire, convinced us to go for Beinn an Lochain above the Rest and be Thankful via the NE ridge. It suited me as I haven’t done much in that area, and it was a high start and short day to precede a very long drive home.

Beinn an Lochain

2 miles, 1,800 feet of ascent

As we parked up the views were just stunning. Snow-capped peaks under a blue sky.

Beinn an Lochain

Beinn an Lochain

Binnein an Fhidhleir

Binnein an Fhidhleir

The summit looked, well, tricky with plenty of rock interspersed with what we knew to be iron-hard snow. I was hoping that the snow patches could be by-passed, if not conditions would be serious. It’s not a narrow ridge but it is steep

Binnein an Fhidhleir

Underway

Binnein an Fhidhleir

GM and the Hardman

We set of off up the NE ridge and it was just a magnificent day although out east there seemed to be plenty of snow-storms that would surely catch us at some point

Beinn Chorranach, Beinn Ime

Beinn Chorranach and Beinn Ime

Beinn Chorranach

ED, Beinn Chorranach behind

We stopped for a very early lunch figuring that stops might be hard to come by higher up. It was cold but the situation high on a rocky ridge was superb. This may only be a Corbett but it packs a real rocky punch and was about to hit me with a body-blow as I was soon to find out

Beinn an Lochain

Another long lunch stop

Glen Kinglas

West over Glen Kinglas

Beinn an Lochain

Watching you watching me

As we pressed on most of the group took one look at the rock tower in the photo below and called it a day. Me, GM and OFS pressed on. The path traverses diagonally upwards beneath the rocks from left to right and was covered in hard snow that needed crampons for security. Just before it hit the skyline on the right it traversed a gully full of hard-packed icy snow with a very short steep climb to exit.

Beinn an Lochain

Beinn an Lochain steep section

I took one look and realised that although technically easy a fall would have been fatal. No way you could dig in an axe to arrest a fall. I’ve done much harder and much more exposed both in the UK and the Alps but for reasons I can’t define I felt unsure and uneasy. Possibly because I’m simply out of practice, possibly I have more to lose or I’m more cautious as I have a family. Whatever the reason I decided against it. Even GM, a very experienced mountaineer and climber seemed to be treating this short section with respect so I guess it was the right thing to do although admittedly I’ve been castigating myself ever since for bottling what was a pretty easy stretch. Still the mountain will always be there.

GM carried on to the summit and traversed the ridge (which included a very steep ascent up the steep snow just to the left of the summit in the photo). I agreed to pick him up at the other end when I’d collected the car.

Beinn an Lochain

Beinn an Lochain

He is actually waving from the summit in this photo!

Beinn an Lochain

Between the snow showers

Me and OFS ambled down through a brief snowstorm and caught up the others having a leisurely 2nd lunch which we joined in – be rude not to.

Beinn an Lochain

Close up of the summit tower

The views of the mountains with the low light through the clouds was breathtaking and took away some of the disappointment of not reaching the summit

Beinn Chorranach, Beinn Ime

Beinn Chorranach and Beinn Ime

Beinn Luibhean

Beinn Luibhean

We trundled back to the car, another heavy snow shower briefly turning everything white before saying fond farewells and heading for our various homes down south. I drove to the other end of the pass, snapped a few photos under more blue sky, collected GM and reluctantly headed home. You can read ED’s version of the day here

Rest and be Thankful, Loch Restil

Rest and be Thankful and Loch Restil

Another fine weekend with the old gang. A real highlight in the year and regular fixture in the calendar that we all look forward too. The weather had not looked promising in the lead up but it turned into a classic. Long may the annual tradition continue.

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16 responses to “Jolly Boys (and Girls) Outing, March 2013

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  1. Am I suffering from deja vu, or have I already read about that second walk on your blog? (It could just be me being daft – it is Friday…)

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  2. It looks like a great weekend trip! Quite a change in weather from the trail head to the summit! Have to be prepared for all kinds of weather just like here in Colorado. We spent a few days on a farm just outside of Callander a few years ago – beautiful country!

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    • A typical Scottish day with very fickle weather but the clouds and storms make it really atmospheric and gives a greater sense of adventure. The Southern Highlands have some great walking and Callender is a fine gateway (with an excellent breakfast cafe!)

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  3. Am not the least bit surprised to read that you look forward to meeting up with your gang, looks a right laugh! Bet you have loadsa banter?! How much booze is consumed on these regular outings…? ^_^ Mention of perfectly blue skies clearly made my camera finger twitch (a. lot!). Have a thing for Scotland (like most of us in Wales I guess?) but I gotta admit – it doesn’t look like the best place in the world to go skiing…..?
    PS: The *how many middle aged men does it take to navigate* comment/pic made me chuckle ^_^

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    • Thanks Babs. We tend to tell the same old stories and jokes but that’s part of the fun. We’ve known each other for nearly 30 years now! Our days of heavy drinking have long since gone but we have had our moments in the past. I may tell some stories on the blog one day – be warned! I love my trips to Scotland, don’t get up there often enough although there is another amazing set of trip posts coming. Hadn’t really noticed the collective map reading photo until I added it to the post 🙂

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  4. Andy, nice trip report. I love a walk in the mountains with snow,not had much opportunity over the last year or so – even when I get to the Cairngorms. So I am a bit envious! I like the picture entitled “how many middle aged men does it take” 🙂

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    • Thanks Mark. I’ve been very lucky the past month with a few great snowy walks (more posts to come!). Nothing better than walking on hard packed snow with the crampons on. That photos really is comedy dynamite. I didn’t take it with that comment in mind but it does look daft all looking at maps on a railway line 🙂

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  5. Winter’s Gone? Not so you’d notice that weekend. A great time was had by all however. Cheers for organising it. When can we go again?
    Have you booked the weather for Wasdale?

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    beatingthebounds
    • Top drawer trip that, even had some proper winter conditions to enjoy. Lucky for you, your friendly Hereford Travel Agent will be sorting out another visit for you next year.
      Weather at Wasdale is forecast to be dry warm and sunny, I asked EWO….

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      • Well fancy him predicting that!
        Have you spoken to him? Is he fit and well for Wasdale?

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        beatingthebounds
        • I was as shocked as you are by that forecast
          I think he’s still a little delicate and recovering but he will be there

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          • Good news. That he’ll be there, obviously, not that he’s got man-flu. At least this time his injuries are not self-inflicted. Will he be up for campsite football do you think? I imagine B will be pretty keen.

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            beatingthebounds
            • Campsite football will be compulsory. EWO can play the central midfield role that Pirlo plays for Italy, just sitting and pinging passes around. Oh, sorry, I mistook him for someone who can play football

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  6. How many middle-aged men does it take to navigate?
    That depends on how many of them are trying to change the light-bulb!

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    beatingthebounds

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