Archive for the ‘beinn ime’ Tag

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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Southern Highlands Weekend – Sunshine and Snow on Day 3   21 comments

EWO had been telling us that the weather forecast for the Sunday was great, but as I hope you’re starting to realise, he ALWAYS says that. The law of averages says that sometimes he’ll be right and today was one of those days. There was low cloud but it was clearly thin and out west you could see the clear blue sky. After saying farewell and thanks to our hosts at Suie Lodge we all agreed that Ben Vane down by Loch Lomond was a good choice as a shortish day on the way home for most of us.

Ben Vane, 8.6 miles, 3,100 feet of ascent

By the time we reached the car park at Inveruglas the sun was out, the sky was blue and it was a stunning morning. The views across the Loch to Ben Lomond was classic southern highlands.

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Ben Lomond across Looch Lomond - early morning

We strolled up the access road that leads to Loch Sloy in bright warm sunshine. The only down-side of this area are the strings of power lines and electrical substations that are part of the Loch Sloy HEP scheme. The upside is that Arrochar Alps as these hills are known are dramatic and rocky. I did Ben Vane on the very first of these weekend gatherings and a few of the others but for some reason I haven’t really explored them properly, surprising seeing as they are the most Southerly munros. Ben Vane itself rises dramatically as a rocky sentinel and looks pretty impregnable from this angle. Fortunately there is an excellent path that turns all the crags with only one very short easy scramble near the top.

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Ben Vane - our target for the day

The newly formed “Low-level walking and beer drinking club”, namely TBM and ED had picked another suitable route and they headed off to walk the Three Lochs Way and we guessed find a pub to partake of some beers. You can read his report of the day here

The rest of us started the steep climb towards the top.

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MM and EWO on the lower slopes

As is my style I decided a halfway stop for some lunch and a brew was on the cards and I was joined by EWO and GM. Everyone else decided it was too cold for that and carried on without a break till they got to the top. We were caught in a couple of heavy snow showers on the climb but they were pretty moderate and were adding a very flattering cap of snow to all the surrounding hills.

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GM looking across Loch Arklet to Loch Katrine

As we crested the final rocky knolls the sun came out in full force and the views were quite simply breathtaking. Across Loch Sloy was Ben Vorlich, one of my first munros back in the 80’s. Across to the west was Ben Arthur or The Cobbler, possibly my first Corbett back in the 80’s and a mountain that needs another visit on a better day than when I first climbed it

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Ben Vane - final approach

The low light, scudding cloud and snow were creating some superb vistas and I was in my element. On an isolated and steep mountain like Ben Vane it’s like walking in the sky and it makes you want to shout out loud to exclaim your good fortune that you’re there to enjoy it.

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GM and the view east

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Playing catch up

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EWO and OFS approach the summit

The summit views were equally sensational. Most of us wandered around for ages taking photos, playing name that peak, and generally taking it all in. The views across Loch Lomond to Ben Lomond were particularly magnificent. The dusting of snow had given a wintry feel to the day and as ever I didn’t really want to go down.

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Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond

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Time to leave

It would have been a superb time for a leisurely stop but Ben Vane is an isolated summit and the wind seemed to be blasting it from every direction so a summit stop was out of the question. The rest of the party were stomping about impatiently waiting to head down so we decided to find somewhere lower down, especially as some of the party had been allowed to stop for lunch yet!

The views continued as we headed down and the weather continued to clear.

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Ben Lomond and the lower slopes of Beinn Narnain

The main group disappeared and seemed intent on completing the whole walk without a pause. This is never an option for me and me, EWO, GM and OFS found a little sheltered spot overhanging the edge with excellent views across to the Beinn Ime, The Cobbler and Beinn Narnain. Time for a second lunch and another brew. A trifle cold I have to admit but a sensational spot to enjoy the situation. I’ve said many times if you don’t stop to take it all in, what’s the point.

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Lunch v2.0

Days like this in Scotland in winter are a rare commodity and need to be savoured. We’ve been doing these weekends for 7 years now and we’ve only had a couple of days this good.

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Ben Arthur/The Cobbler

Suitably refreshed and enchanted we plunged down the steep lower slopes to the pretty valley at the bottom. It would be a great wild camp spot if you could find a dry spot, I warn you it was exceedingly wet down here but it is stunning especially as the sky was now pretty much clear and we were in the full sunshine.

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Ben Lomond

We came across the rest of the party who had now finally decided their conscripts were to be allowed a rest. We all headed down together, past another small piece of HEP engineering that me and GM had some fun scrambling about on and found a rather dead sheep squashed against the outflow. Reminded me of my rather nice lamb shank I had for tea the night before

The walk back down the road to the car could have been a drag but in the clear afternoon sunshine I really enjoyed it. Even found time to ask MM some stupid questions about what would happen if we touched some of the scary looking bits of the sub-station on the way down with fairly obvious answers (he’s an engineer you know). When we got back to the car the views across the loch were as good as in the morning, a fitting finale to a cracker of a day.

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Ben Lomond across Loch Lomond - evening light

We said goodbyes to some of the crew and headed over to Arrochar to collect TBM and ED. They were ensconced in a local ale house enjoying the beers, warm fire and good food. As they rolled out they appeared to both be very “happy” – must have been the stunning views across the loch that was putting them in such a good mood.

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View across Loch Long from Arrochar

More goodbyes and it was time to head back to Berwick for a mighty fine roast dinner and pudding that Jane and her sister had prepared and a very long drive back to Hereford via Stafford. Home by 2am, completely knackered and wiped out for the rest of the week but worth every missing minute of sleep. It’s become another fixture in my yearly calendar of regular get-togethers and I’m already looking forward to the gathering of the clans in 2013. It’s great that everyone really seems to enjoy it and this year we had some new recruits and some old friends we hadn’t seen for a few years. Weekends don’t come much better. Enjoy the slide-show.

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