In between the beast from the east (s) we headed west to try a days fun on The Cobbler. Having don Chockstone Gully a few years ago - we knew what to expect and the great (if short) route that it provides.
Leaving the shores of Loch Long, we made our way up the never ending path that zig zags through the woodland! Once the forest was left behind we soon reached the snow line - and there was more snow than expected. Heavy falls the day before had left a good dump of fresh snow! Luckily for us there had been some footfall on the path and we followed the footsteps. Not so lucky was the fact that as we approached the turn off for the Cobbler the footsteps went straight onto the Bealach nd not to The Cobbler! Breaking trail we headed into the gloom (the winds were light but the mist was in and with the snow on the ground and zero visibility, we knew finding the start of the gully may be tricky!). However we did find the gully and it was as expected - snowy but magnificently atmospheric. A good route when other gullies may be more susceptible to bad condition we found the snow in Chockstone to be super and we made up way up and eventually under the chockstone itself. This is a marvellous location and a super end to the short route under the rock and on steep ground:)
Up and over and we went for a look at Great Gully. Not as sheltered as Chockstone - there was a lot of windslab here so we backed off and set about the next adventure - getting of the mountain safely in zero visibility and drifts up to our waists!
Soon we found the path we had made on our ascent and made our way off the mountain. Another superb day :)
Heavy snow had fallen all morning but the forecast was for this to clear to blue skies by the afternoon so I headed up the A9 hoping the gritters had been out. Luckily they had and they had done a great job as the snow was lying thick at the side of the road. Leaving my wife with the decent car (i.e. the one with winter tyres) so she could get about back home, I had a rather non wintry rear wheel drive car with summer tyres! Due to this I decided not to risk getting stuck in the Balsporran cottage car park and pulled in about a km west at a layby that had been cleared.
The snow shoes were on from the start as the snow was about 20cm deep as soon as I left the car. I crossed the rail line and then the river and crossed what would have been a bog with the snow shoes on. Headed for A’Mharaconaich I quickly reached is NW ridge and started heading up. As I had started late (about 2 pm) I only had a few hours of daylight and was keen to get up and down before darkness (and the next weather front) got me!
The going was helped greatly by the snow shoes and I was soon battling a gale as I reached a flat area before the final pull. The ice axe came out here and the snowshoes were off as I battled up the final slope to the summit. The winds were blowing a mesmerising spindrift across the surface and it made for some spectacle. The sun was dropping now and the shadows lengthening so I didn’t linger. A hefty snow storm had engulfed Ben Alder behind me so I was off like a shot and soon descending the way I had come up!
A grand few hours on the hill and the snow shoes got another outing J
Bac an Eich
Last winter started so well with large snowfall in late November, and I remember thinking that it was a good omen for the season ahead. How wrong was I! Through December and right until March, mild air dominated the scene across Scotland. Frosts were rare and when winter did decided to show its hand on a selective few weekends , I seemed to have commitments keeping me from the hills!
So when this winter started the same way, with a dump of snow in November, I wasn’t getting lulled into a false sense of security! Every time I have seen wintery weather on the way I have done my best to get out at the weekend! So far so good, I’ve had some amazing days already this winter and its only mid-January as I write this… So this weekend a small weather window opened up with more snow the previous day and a blue sky forecast for the morning before an approaching weather front arrived for late afternoon.
Today I was back on my mission to get some more Corbetts done – this bagging comes and goes , sometimes I feel the need for new summits and other times I couldn’t care less and head off to Glencoe (again ;)). The problem arises when bagging hills is the point comes when all the hills within a reasonable drive have been bagged!! Lol. This has been the case for me for a wee while and today I was headed for Strathconon – a round trip of over 300 miles – with the final 20 miles or so being a torturous drive along the twisty glen road – limiting speed to walking pace !! lol As the forecast was deteriorating and the fact that I didn’t leave too early (a rare treat for me!) I chose to ascend the hill via the North West ridge giving a relatively short day. The other benefit from this approach is a large car park at the western end of the loch and not abandoning the car at Inverchoran where car parking is limited.
Driving past Milton and the skies were blue and I got the first glimpse of today’s peak. It was striking, the white top against a blue sky and some mists lingering in the glen, anticipation was growing. Last year I had been here, heading up a brace of Corbetts just past Milton and these two looked very tempting as they towered over the glen! However I continued on into the mist and soon found myself driving past the mirror like Loch Beannacharain.
Parking up and I quickly set about getting my gear together and setting off. The car park was empty and I never saw a soul the whole day!
The first part of the walk was the most treacherous – the tarred road had a verglas layer and I almost went head over heal before I even started!!
However I soon left this behind and made my way past the small cottages and estate houses being watched all the time by about a million deer and also a few highland coos! Crossing the bridge I was soon at the start of the ascent at the ruins of Corriefeol. I wasn’t sure if this would be a pathless ascent (as a lot of Corbetts are) however I soon discovered an old stalkers path which made its way up Creag Achadh an Eas. It zig zagged up the southern flank of the ravine and a couple of wooden posts have handily been placed to mark the crossing point for getting over the ravine. Beyond this an area of moor/bog is crossed before the steep climb onto the ridge starts. I was lucky as the ground was frozen but can imagine this part to require gaiters at other times of the year!!
The views were now opening up behind me, with the north west highlands looking sublime under the white coat. The Fannichs appeared to the north whilst the majestic peaks of Torridon were dominating the western horizon.
I had to stop and get the crampons on and axe out now, as the ground steepened to gain north west ridge. Some good areas of neve gave nice purchase but in some steeper sections the snow turned to a chosy. Crumbly mix! Had to be careful! At this point I still hadn’t seen the sun, although the moon was rising over Meall Buidhe. As I gained the ridge the sun hit my face and it’s amazing the psychological uplift this can give. I was soon striding along the top taking in all the snowy peaks – fantasticJ Here the snow was fresh and perhaps the snowshoes (left them in the car!) may have helped. I wasn’t caring as this as grand, only a slight breeze and lovely views J
A halo round the sun was a good indicator of approaching weather and as I turned to have a look back out west I could see that the cloud was coming in with the Torridon Hills now having a cloud cap. Time to get cracking!!! The breeze was also picking up and by the time I reached the summit its effects were being felt!! A few snaps and I was soon retreating down the hill back the way I came! The blue skies were now retreating to the eastern horizon as the grey filled in from the west. Back down and the vast lands between this area and Achnasheen/Kinlochewe looked remoteand loney. This glen doesn’t see too many visitors I think and certainly hill goers may frequent its southerly neighbours more often to bag the Munros. This maybe a good thing, Strathfarrer, Affric and Mullardoch are amazing places and maybe have their place in keeping Strathconon a little more secretive;) A grand place, and especially in these conditions ….
Ben Lomond by Kayak
Gathering dust, my kayak had been in hiding for way too long, so we came up with an adventure to get the big orange piece of plastic back active again! We had talked about this for some time and when some beautiful calm weather arrived, it seemed appropriate to give this a bashJ
The hills were going to be busy and Ben Lomond would certainly see lots of footfall today but our route was “around the back” and as such we didn’t expect to see many other enthusiasts until later in the day. Setting off from Tarbet, the weather was looking ok – unfortunately the Loch wasn’t flat calm but was calm enough and we enjoyed the paddle across to Cailness with the sun occasionally showing itself. The rain also made an appearance and this certainly wasn’t forecast, however it was a fleeting shower and as we scoured the eastern shores for a place to leave our transport it fizzled out and the breeze died with it.
After finding a little bay to leave the boats, we quickly changed and set about heading up the hillside. Initially we had planned to follow the track up from Cailness and cut across the face of Cruinn a’ Bheinn, but as we crossed the loch we decided to take a more direct route and follow the southern shoulder that runs beside the Cailness burn. Gaitered up, we broke trail through the dead bracken (note – nothing really to recommend this route and in the summer it may be a nightmare with ferns (and ticks!!)). The best thing about his route was the views behind us. The Arrochar Alps towered above the loch and looked fine with their winter coat on! Higher up and we soon got a view of our intended destination, the sun was shining now and Ben Lomond looked great. The bracken was now a memory, however it was now replaced by a mixture of knee deep heather and when that didn’t hinder our progress the bog certainly did . Progress was tiresome and to say we were happy to reach the snow line would have been an understatement. Our packs were heavy as we had all our tools and rope in case we found a route in the corrie, it was slow and a lot of jelly babies were required !
Crossing the norther spur of Ben Lomond and the views was fantastic. A little cloud sat on the summit and we could see the shafts of light through the cloud were people were standing on the top , probably looking at their own Broken Spectres. The snow was ok and as the terrain steepened we got the crampons and axes out. The next section was fun, but care was required as we were now on steep ground, making our way to meet the Ptarmigan Ridge nearer the summit.
The sun and a grand vista welcomed our arrival on the ridge and the loch sparkled in the sun to the south. The path had been trampled to a solid neve and the going was great. Through the pearly gates and a final few scrambly moves saw us reach the crowds on the summit. Not a breath of wind and everyone was having a grand time. A short descent down the Ptarmigan ridge then f llowed and we found a lunch spot with a view. Neither of us wished to leave our picnic spot in a hurry as we knew what lay between us and the boats – lots of rough ground!!
Anyway heads down and off we tramped, back down the northern spur and re-entering the bog ! However as we descended by the Cailness Burn, we could see the Loch now resembled a mirror and we were relishing the kayak back across. An extremely fine paddle home and a fine way to end a grand adventure J
Sgurr an Utha
My legs were a little weary after a long hike in the prior days, so I was after a shorter hill day, and after some map analysis I opted for a Corbett I had yet to climb – Sgurr an Utha. Located just west of Glenfinnan it was a bit of a journey to get there, especially given the recent overnight snow. The roads were a bit dicey but I eventually rolled up at the parking layby and started to get ready.
The forecast was for snow showers but the skies were blue as I headed through the forestry plantation towards my target. My initial plan was to just blast up the SW shoulder and back down again but looking at the amount of snow and the pathless, snowy rough terrain of the SW shoulder, I decided on the easier option. A land rover track runs in an easterly direction up towards Druim na Brein-choille, and to be honest gives easy walking and gains you a good bit of height before it stops around 450m. This part of the walk was glorious as I was still in the shelter of the hills but as soon as the track stopped the 15-20cm of new snow made things a little more arduous!! The going between Brein – choille and Fraoch – bheinn was slow and I can recall a least three occasions where my leg disappeared down into an unseen bog or burn – giving rather soggy boots (that’s with two sets of gaiters !!). The location was now a little more exposed to the wind and the spindrift was whistling around me and making some lovely shapes in the snow. I was really wishing I had packed my snowshoes now but I carried on with the summit of Sgurr an Utha pulling me on. Every now and then it would disappear into the cloud but I had been lucky, only a few flakes of snow and the majority of the showers had skirted round meJ The views towards Streap and the Loch Arkraig hills was fantastic and in the other direction there was a fabulous view down Loch Beoraid. As much as I wanted to linger on the summit, the icy gales soon saw my getting the crampons on and axe out for the decent down the rocky and knobbly South West Ridge where care and concentration was most definitely needed!! A grand few hours on the mountain and certainly more tiring than expected, although this was probably due to the underfoot conditions J Hope you enjoy the video…
Ben Vorlich – Loch Lomond
Another fine sunny winters day and a group of four of us met up at Inveruglas for a festive leg stretch up Ben Vorlich. The weather was looking fine as were the snow covered hills and we really just followed the usual route up the hill i.e. round towards Loch Sloy and then up onto the ridge and along to the summit. As always grands views with grands company and even managed a few snaps along the way. A fine day on the hill…
The last time I had visited this hill was away back in the early noughties when myself and my dad went up on a glorious autumnal day. We had started in the cloud but soon emerged out of it and the rest was spent enjoying a fantastic inversion that lasted all day.
This trip was the opposite!! The weather wasn’t looking great but we had packed carefully and headed out. Down at The Drovers Inn and things were pretty benign to start with. We wanted to have a look at the falls (Gerry had climbed these during the freeze of 2010) and they looked pretty spectacular (even when not iced up!!)- well worth the small detour.
We were soon headed on our way- as was the approaching weather front – directly towards us ! The snow soon started to fall and the clag moved in around us. The normally boggy ground was frozen , which was a bonus, however as we got higher the snow was slowing us down – deep wet, unconsolidated stuff- not the stuff you want on any sort of slope!! So we erected the emergency shelter and took stock of our situation over a sandwich!! Time to turn around. We were over 700 meters and with the gale blowing the blizzard into our faces we also didn’t fancy heading round the shoulder and directly into the wind… Right decision and the hill isn’t going anywhere… Back to The Drovers then an interesting, snowy drive home!!
Snowshoeing for the first time….
The winter so far had been good and I had taken advantage of this fact as much as I could , you never know when the latest dump of snow will be the last dump of snow!!!
For climbing the conditions and snow hadn’t been great but for walking adventures it had been greatJ The two weeks prior to this trip had seen significant accumulations of snow to low levels and after a number of wading trip this year I had decided to purchase some snow shoesJ I did a bit of research and the MSR shoes were given good ratings , however given the fact that I may not get too much use out of these I decided to opt for a middle of the line pair (cheaper and easily available;)). The Chinooks were ordered online and arrived a couple of day later, perfect timing for a test drive on this trip.
Given I couldn’t get away until 13.30 due to family commitments, I chose to explore an area close to home and not far from GlenAlmond where I head for lots of outdoors fun J
A few weeks ago whilst exploring Buchanty Spout I had noticed a nice hill above the Sma’ Glen with a Cairn near the top. This had taken my interest and scouring the map on Friday I noticed some Landover tracks leading towards its summit- this maybe perfect if there was enough snow cover….
Turns out I didn’t need to worry about that!! Initially I followed a track to a farm that had been compacted down by a plough and farmed but I could see there was a good amount of snow on either side, and it was the fluff powdery kind too. Looked like the snowshoes would get an outing at least!!
As soon as I left the farm track the snow was shin and sometimes knee deep and I hadn’t even started gaining altitude!! I finally gave in and put the snowshoes on. What a difference this made, instantly it felt easier and I was off , taking to the new shoes like a duck to water! It was great fun but was still hard work (not as hard as without them I must say!!). The snow was getting deeper and it was all unconsolidated powder. Given the low height of these hills it had all fallen in the last week or so and it wasn’t until just before the top that I reached anything like neve (the crampons on the underside of the snowshoes worked well on this too!).
I finally made it to the Cairn just before sunset and it was biting cold. The batteries in all but one of the camera died pretty quickly so I didn’t hang around and set off down the hill following my tracks. On descent the snowshoes were even better I found them super useful here and was making good progress homewards in the gathering gloom. I made it back to the car without the need for the head torch, but I wasn’t far away from requiring it!. A grand adventure and I’m already looking forward to getting the snowshoes back on!!
Stob Coire nan Lochan
Last winter didn’t really seem to happen, I don’t seem to recall many snowy outings and winter mountaineering was limited to say the least… A brief cold snap at the start of that winter perhaps gave me false hope and I waited and waited on some nice snowy conditions to get out and about – then spring came and I was all over!!
Perhaps this is reason I have been trying to take advantage of any cold snaps this time around!! The same pattern started at the turn of winter and withy what happened last year I was perhaps thinking that every cold snap maybe the last of the winter!! Hence I have had the luck to enjoy quite a few snowy outing this season already, in fact some of the winter walking has been absolutely superb already – Garbh Bheinn on Skye being a highlight. This is also as close to mountaineering as I have got but with a decent dump of snow this week and temperatures plummeting I was hoping some of the snow pack may consolidate! The week before we had trudged half way up Beinn Chabhair before turning back as the storm closed in. The snow was unconsolidated and relatively deep and wet – something a freeze may help!!! So a few days later I met Gerry at our usual rendezvous point and we headed up the A82 towards Glencoe.
The drive up was glorious, white mountains and a clear sky promising a grand day…. We had considered curved ridge but the busy car park and thoughts of queuing made our minds up to go and have a look further down the glen… Any thought of finding a quiet spot were (understandably) quashed! All the car parks were full and we just go a space in the upper car park as we headed for Stob Coire nan Lochan (SCNL). The pink of dawn was now replaced by blue skies and as we head up the sunlight lit up the top of SCNL and across the glen the Aonach Eagach ridge was slowly lighting up as the sun rippled across its serrated top and started to make progress towards the floor of the Glen J
The path was busy and soon we were donning our crampons and getting the axe out for the final pull into the corrie. It was looking superb!!A line of teams were heading up Broad Gully and a few teams could be seen on the harder buttress routes. We had discussed an amble up NC gully so headed over to have a look at it….. The snow was deep and the trench we were following indicated that there was about a foot of snow either side. Assessing the situation we soon discovered the snow t be of poor quality for a steepening gully. Most of it seemed to have fallen at once and although it at first seemed fine when we were following footprints, as soon as we left them it became apparent its wasn’t yet consolidated enough… certainly not for an ascent of NC…. So we stopped had a bite to eat and saw some footprints heading up to the west of Pinnacle Buttress to a steepening scoop. This was going to be our route to the rim of the corrie. Usually we’d have diverted to broad gully but decided on this route as neither of us had come up this way before. Unnamed but felt like a nice Grade 1 and in the upper reaches it was a grand adventure. Topping out and the white topped peaks to the west came into view. Always great to top out to a cracking view…. The weather was great and time was on our side so we took a leisurely stroll to the summit of SCNL and had another bite to eat along with many others. The views were superb as always. Iven the traffic on Broad Gully, we decided against descending the gully but took a nice walk back along the corrie rim and back down to the car. It was great to meet so many people up on the mountain today, having long chat with many… great to be able to do this without having to shout over the wind!!!
Another grand day out – much fun J
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...