Tuesday 7 October 2014

Ben More and Stob Binnein

The five o'clock Sunday alarm has been absent in my routine for too long. It's the only alarm that I don't snooze, weekday buzzing's are normally prolonged. This morning however I am removing the absence and I have my plan in place.

Back in April I blogged that I would be getting into the hills more. Basically that got stone-walled! Again life got in the way, I have a new job which means I work away during the week and home for weekends, The weekends then become quite valuable for family.

The day where I could be back amongst the mountains had finally come again. That to some may sound a bit dramatic, I can't deny that but the fact remains.

I had decided to head up somewhere I hadn't been. On the outskirts of Crainlarich there a a number of Munros I've not got to yet. Normally I turn left at the junction and push on to Glencoe. Walk Highlands gave me my options and to get back into it I chose a doubler: Ben More and Stob Binnein. As quoted from WH there is "no higher mountains in Britain anywhere further south." That's a good enough criteria to finalise the choice.

So after the morning routine of getting the sandwiches out the fridge, filling up a water bottle and getting a caffeine filled travel mug ready, I was ready to leave. Traffic was quiet and I made good time to the lay by where I'd start. There was an option to push the car up against the roadside at the entry point to the route but the lay by was only half a mile down the road. There was also a bit of a bonus which I found on my return.
As I come off the road directed by the sign, ducked under the trees and came out the other end to the first goal directly in front of me. It's good to be back!
The beginning of the walk in is a winding track up to the point where you leave that track and climb. I had some onlookers as I wound up through the track, a herd of cows watched me make my first ascent in months.
Two of them were on the path, scrutinising my movement towards them. I know they are more scared of me than I am of them, but still I know if they decided to have a go I'd be mincemeat. So I wind up the path, weaving in between the toffee cows and the waste they've left on the path. I reach the fence line which triggers the move off the path on to the incline to the summit. It's quite a formidable site, especially for my legs with lack of mountain exposure recently.
There are some, what look like, tracks. I thought I was onto a winner but it soon became obvious it was actually a dried out stream bed. It was good enough to walk on so I cracked on. It chopped between marsh, squelchy tracks and then over a little crag. As I approached the rock out crop I hoped it was the last stretch to the summit. I hoped and my legs screamed but it wasn't to be, Ben More wanted more!
 It was mainly due to my poor hill fitness but once I got to the top, looking back on it, it wasn't that bad.
The summit was clagged in with low level cloud. A vapour layer covered evertyhing exposed. No views to take pictures of, so I touched the trig point and set off following the track. 
Not far from the summit the path leads to quite a big drop, I reckon about 1.5m. A quick scan didn't show another obvious path and I didn't want chance wandering off in low visibility. It required a sort of mini down climb. I should of taken a picture of it. Some might struggle with it but there's plenty to hold on to.
The path breaks again and in the fluffy stuff I managed to become slightly geographically misplaced, so a quick nav check (map & compass, not my phone) got me back in the direction of the bealach. As I dropped in to the dip between the pair of Munros the cloud started to thin, there was a hazy light as the sun rays cut through it and the boulder that sits in the Bealach-eader-dha Bheinn cast it's huge shadow.
The massive stone was to be my brunch stop. The problem with early starts and walking up big mountains is early hunger. I had brought enough to keep me going and with the cloud lifted I tinkered with the camera. 
As I messed around and refattened myself the cloud lifted high enough that both summits were clear. This soon changed as I packed up and set off up the second incline of the day. The views were stunning on the way up and the light made the colours of the landscape stand out. 
Still I can't get my photography to show what I saw when I clicked the shutter but believe me views like that make the sore legs worth while.

As anticipated the summit was limited to a couple of breaks in the cloud giving a glimpse of what was below.
I got a couple of photos here then doubled back down the stoney path back into the bealach. The return leg gave similar views as they did on the way up when I broke through the cloud base.
From the bealach it was west, heading down to a hard track running out to where I'd started. Between here and the start of that track was an eroded path or marshy scrub on the decline, It's a choice between to evils, potentially loosing a foot into a deeper than expected bog or the path giving way under foot. I think this may be just how I was thinking at the time with tender legs, although the channel cut by water run off does make each foot fall a bit tentative.
Once back onto ground that was more level a well trodden cut through another boggy area, handrailing the Benmore Burn led to the track which will guide me back to the place I left it earlier to head to Ben More.
As I glance up to where today's conquests stood the summits were completely clear. I continued down the windy path to the road. The cows had since left the path and congregated near some farm outbuildings, so it was only their pats that I had to pay attention to before emerging back on to the roadside for the last stretch back to the car.

And the aforementioned bonus, a sandwich van had appeared in the lay-by. So I treated myself to a roll with square sausage and potato scone. What a way to finish a great day.
There wasn't to be views from the summits for me today and that's fine. When I come back in the future the walk, the scenery, the views and the company may be different. That's the beauty of "rambling" (as my knew colleagues like to call it) in these hills. It will never be the same twice over and I vow to keep coming back to check that's true.