Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Loch Treig and Loch Ossian: Chno Dearg (86) and Stob Coire Sgriodain (174)

Walk date: 12/7/14
My Munro #'s: 259

Pronunciations - translations - heights:

Knaw jerrack - red nut or red hill - 1046m
Stop kora sgreeaden - peak of the scree corrie - 979m

Duration - 08:00 - 12:30
Distance -  15.8 km
Total ascent -  1257m
Weather - Very wet, cold and windy!
Team - with Paul P
Other hikers: none

Day 8 - Saturday

And lo!  It had to come to an end, both weather-wise and time-wise.  As if by some sort of curse, our doomed, never-climbed hills of last year became our only soaked hills of this year!  

It made sense for us to hit these on our drive homewards as the path up the back started from the private Corrour road.   Despite the dull start, I opted to start without my water proof trousers and to stay in my Merrells, both choices meant that from 30 minutes in I was completely soaked from the waist down.  From about 400m there was no visibility, and our knowledge of the hills became a GPS line and whatever bog/tuft of grass/ rocky outcrop was immediately ahead, all the time while being blown about by the increasing wind.  Ah, I'd missed this!

Without a good view, we snaked inefficiently between small cliffs and gullies up the NE back of Chno Dearg as the long grass and bog made sure we didn't dry out.  Eventually the incline increased and we sensed a summit, but one that left us exposed to the elements full-time.  

We merely patted the summit before beginning the longer-than-expected link between the peaks, which in the cloud was cold and very disorientating, at times being confused despite many GPS and compass checks.

Finally, we reached Stob Coire Sgriodain, but thought of little but returning as quick as we could.  These hills had defeated us before, and despite it being July, we were definitely taking the hint and getting down as soon as we could.  Once finally back down, we each required a full change, and shaky retreat into a warm but smelly car for some much needed food before the long journey back.

8 days, 19 hills; we were back!

A cold summit shot on Sgriodain:
An example of the fine visibility we experienced:

Finally back down below the cloud:

Our last views of the Corrour estate before heading home:

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Glen Affric and Strathfarrar: Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais (60) [and Carn nan Ghobhar (153) and Sgurr na Ruaidhe (151)]

Walk date: 11/7/14
My Munro #'s: 257

Pronunciations - translations - heights:

Skoor a chor a ghlash - peak of the greenish-grey corrie - 1083m

Duration - 11:10 - 17:05
Distance -  17.5 km
Total ascent -  1337m
Weather - Hot day but breezy on top and a little cloudy for a while.
Team - with Paul P
Other hikers: 6 others (1 topless!)

Day 7 - Friday

Today was our furthest trip away from our base as we travelled north to Strathfarrar, a glen I had already been in twice, once two years ago on a day that Paul sat out due to injury, and once the year before with Paul, but in each case in awful weather and with grateful, beaten retreats.

Today was different, today was simply gorgeous!  Sun, minimal wind, clear views.  This was sublime hiking.  However, due to my problematic toes, I only targeted the Munro I hadn't visited, Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais, but I had given Paul the choice of continuing on to Carn nan Ghobhar and Sgurr na Ruaidhe which were the ones he had missed on his sit-out day as I battled with thick snow and gales!  

Due to the great weather today, I decided to stay in my Merrells and see how they faired.  They faired amazing!  The pain was suddenly minimal as feet my were cushioned in a flexing shell, and I sprang along on the soft ground.  Such was the improvement that after summiting on Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais and looking lazily over at the rest of the circuit in superb clarity I declared to Paul that I was sticking with him on the full tour.

Onwards we strode up onto the rocky plain of Carn nan Ghobhar which had been horrible to struggle over in ice, but today the worst it could throw at us was a topless (male) hiker.  From there Sgurr na Ruaidhe  came pretty easy, and then even the descent couldn't dent my enthusiasm.  Marvellous stuff, especially the pint and burger at the Struy Inn afterwards - I just wish I had tried the Merrells earlier!

The start of the day.  Glorious, glorious, sun:
Coming up on Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais:

On top of Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais:

Views from the two additional hills!

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Loch Treig and Loch Ossian: Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin (46) and Stob Coire Easain (39)

Walk date: 10/7/14
My Munro #'s: 255 and 256

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Stop kora vane - peak of the middle corrie - 1105m
Stop kora esan - peak of the corrie of the little waterfall - 1115m

Duration - 10:30 - 18:20
Distance -  approx 15 km
Total ascent -  1100m
Weather - Hot, hot, hot again!  Less wind than the day before; no coats even for a stop on the second peak.
Team - with Paul P
Other hikers: none

Day 6 - Thursday

After the feat of the Grey Corries the day before, Paul and I would have been up for a lighter day, but don't be fooled by this hike only having two hills, as they are extremely high ones, and take some getting to!

We parked in Fersit, the tiny hamlet which had mocked us so much last year with our failed attempts on Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg in storm conditions, but today we were heading due south instead to the western banks of Loch Treig, and we were hiking in baking sun.  

From the start my toes were giving me problems, with the very slightest downhill incline punishing me severely.  Without a defined route up onto Meall Cian Dearg, we headed up the good path to the marked sheepfold on the 1:25,000 and hoped it would lead to a good path for going further.  It did eventually, but only after a tour of the local bracken fields!  As a hint, head for the 'Pillar (Hydro)' marked on the same scale, and all will be good.

When I say good, I mean steep, but good.  The path winds intricately upwards and it's a good idea not to keep checking where you're headed, as it looks impossible, but possible it is, and before too long, you do reach some version of a lessened incline atop Meall Cian Dearg.

We had a nice rest there as we looked ahead, and enjoyed some good walking across the broad ridge.  Eventually, it does lead to a munro, which is kind of the point, and a fair push is needed to clamber upto Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin's stony top.

After that, it is fairly simple if the weather is good and your toes aren't ruined as you drop down on stony ground between the munros.  I had to take to walking sideways down the slopes, but you do what you must!

We had plotted a recommended route off the NW ridge of Stob Coie Easain, but it seemed much longer, and we quite fancied the idea of retracing our steps and getting back as soon as we could, so we could find the nearest quality pub for some much deserved grub!  By then my toes were burning, but the ale definitely helped!!

Taking a much deserved break at Meall Cian Dearg:

Looking down on Loch Treig:

Coming up on Stob Coire Easain:

Looking back on Mheadhoin from Easain:

Post-hike celebrations at the Stronlossit Inn:

Toe report:

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Ben Nevis, The Aonachs and The Grey Corries: Stob Ban (178), Stob Choire Claurigh (15), Stob Coire an Laoigh (38) and Sgurr Choinnich Mor (52)

Walk date: 9/7/14
My Munro #'s: 251, 252, 253 and 254

Pronunciations - translations - heights:

Stop baan - light coloured peak - 977m
Stop corrie clowree - peak of the corrie of clamouring - 1177m
Stop corrie an looee - peak of the corrie of the calf - 1116m
Skoor choanyeech more - big peak of the moss - 1094m

Duration - 08:15 - 19:15
Distance -  approx 29 km
Total ascent -  1760m
Weather - Hot, hot, hot!  Mostly sunny with light wind.  Only cold with greater wind on final hill.
Team - with Paul P
Other hikers: 5 others

Day 5 - Wednesday

After the success of the Carn Dearg day, we were most definitely up for this one, the big boy of the week, the epic Grey Corries.  Driving down the thin country lanes after Spean Bridge's train station, we started to wonder where on Earth we would park as every turn and passing area seemed to have a 'no parking' sign on it.  Fortunately, we were behind another car that boldly drove straight through a private farmyard and then through a private gate, with the driver helpfully keeping open the gate for us to follow on.  Thus, we soon found ourselves parked relatively far along the forest tracks, which was helpful given the scale of this walk!

The walking starts easy enough, with a long but steady march to a handsome little bothy that marks the start of the climbing toward Stob Ban, the dwarf of the day at a mere 977m!  A good path takes you up beside a stream, but it becomes thin for a while as the incline lessens before the final push up to the bealach.

The final ascent of Stob Ban is actually one of the hardest parts of the day, and was certainly bad for my bruised toes, as the whole hill seems to be made entirely of scree, and every footstep up or down seems to throw a ton of it back down the hill.  The views of the rest of the circuit are great, if not a little unnerving! 

Once back at the bealach the ascent of Stob Choire Claurigh is a slog but a straightforward one, and the rocky top made a great lunch stop with views abounding.  At this point we met a fellow hiker who I noticed was just in Merrells rather than full on boots.  I made a mental note to perhaps try this to help with the toes.

Anyhow, the circuit progressed at high altitude on an impressive but easy walking ridge.  Stob Coire an Laoigh was soon reached and we were on a total high ready to finish things with Sgurr Choinnich Mor.  However, this proved quite a tough one to reach, the link out to this hill was brutal, with boulder fields and jagged rocks everywhere, the final descent off Stob Coire an Laoigh was a total trap for unwary ankles and I was very glad we were hitting it in dry weather.  

The ascent wasn't so bad, but it had cooled by this point so we didn't hand about as we had to retrace our steps to Stob Coire an Laoigh before we could head down.  After a great day, my pain really started now, as the long gentle descent over grass was a protracted series of knocks to the blackened toes.  Finally, we hit the forest tracks and could get back to straight marching out, but it was a very long way to the car, and they was great relief at seeing it. Much deserved ales on this evening!

A protective Rev welcomes you in:

It's starting out nice this hike:

The first look at Stob Ban:

The bothy before the rise to Stob Ban:

Looking back to Stob Ban from the start up Stob Choire Claurigh:

The rocky top of Stob Choire Claurigh:

And more:

And more!!

Coming up on Stob Coire an Laoigh:
The crazy link on to Sgurr Choinnich Mor: 

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Loch Treig and Loch Ossian: Carn Dearg (98), Geal-charn (26), Aonach Beag (37) and Beinn Eibhinn (48)

Walk date: 8/7/14
My Munro #'s: 247, 248, 249 and 250

Pronunciations - translations - heights:

Caarn jerrack - red hill - 1034m
Gyal chaarn - white hill - 1132m
Oenach byek - small ridge - 1114m
Byn ayveen - delightful hill - 1100m

Duration - 08:20 - 17:20
Distance -  approx 25 km
Total ascent -  1093m
Weather - Grand.  Almost no wind all day.  No real sunny spells but mild throughout, just a few spots of rain but nothing to worry about.
Team - with Paul P
Other hikers: none

Day 4 - Tuesday

And now, time for the hike that inspired this year's choice of accommodation; the impressively remote string of four munros on the north side of the Ben Alder group.  After abandoning even the idea of it on year's week of snow, it was indescribably wonderful to start hiking from our own flat toward some of the least frequented Munros in the land.

The route meant we would stay low until the furthest point, and then return along the peaks, the opposite of our strenuous Loch Mullordoch approach in Glen Cannich, however this was very different with a good 'low' path.  This track took us past hydro plant work, and we had to avoid hard-working JCB diggers on the way.  This track also gained a lot of height before we lost it, only to have to get it back along long grassy slopes.

There was no marker to leave the well-made path that we were on, but as Culra bothy got closer, and we started to round Carn Dearg, we had to make a move, and so just randomly left the confines of the path and made a bee-line for the bealach between Dearg and Charn.  

Progress was surprisingly good along spongy grass slopes.  As we crossed a small river for a short while there even looked like there was a path, but it soon disappeared.   The incline increased slightly and we were on the broad back of one of the most remote Munros there is.  A short push and we were at its summit, looking proudly down on Culra, and wondering if we would have even made it this far if we'd have pushed ahead with the bothy-stay plan in last year's snow.

After some snacking we were off toward Geal-charn and the contour-packing east ridge, which had had me quite worried as I'd studied the map at home, but which in actual fact was a steep but very safe ascent.  However, the impressive amount of snow that remained in July made me glad we'd never made a winter visit!

After the impressive ridge, there is an unexpected wide summit plain, and it merely takes a leisurely stroll along bouncy grass to make it to the summit cairn.  From there Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn were very straightforward; indeed I was taken aback by how easy the walking became, although I also accepted that this was largely down to the weather and total lack of wind, and I also found myself imagining how unpleasant they would be with a storm raging, given their height and general exposure.

The two downsides to the day thereafter became apparent.  The first was when we attempted to rest for food on Beinn  Eibhinn and discovered that even at height, no wind and warmth meant masses of midges!  The second was that, despite much less pain without the insoles in my boots, the descents still caused me many problems and it slowed things up greatly.  Nevermind, it had been a wonderful day, and returning to our very own flat at the end of the walk meant that the homebrew was quickly poured and we were correspondingly refreshed!!

Looking up at the north side of Ben Alder from the track:
Almost up on Carn Dearg:

Approaching the ascent onto Geal-charn:

Approaching the summit of Geal-charn:

Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn ahead:
Approaching the summit of Aonach Beag:
Aonach Beag summit, just Beinn Eibhinn to go:

Looking back up from the descent:
Views down to Ossian on the descent:

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