Beinn Narnain - 926m
Beinn Ime - 1011m
The Cobbler - 884m

Tuesday 12th February 2008

Weather/Conditions: The best weather I've ever had on a hillwalk to this point. Cloud inversion (to the southern horizon), excellent visibility (could see the Cairngorms some 70 miles away!) and the skies were perfect blue. The relief on the mountains was excellent and there were only some snow fields lying around so underfoot, conditions were okay. A little windy at the tops, but at some points it was like summer. A truly beautiful day.
Accompanying: Solo

This was one of the most incredible days I've ever had out in the mountains thus far, if not the best. There were many aspects to this hillwalk that makes it so special in my mind: one for example being the solo aspect. Another part was the weather, as stated above. The landscape looked amazing, the lack of clouds were absolutely incredible, and the sky above was just pure, pure blue. There were some snow fields lying about yet the sun was out and it was warm at points too. I doubt you could ask for a much better day hillwalking. Last of all was the fact that I had new equipment. I walked ten miles and climbed 6000 vertical feet, which is beyond anything I'd done before, although my feet were just fine! They hurt a little afterwards, but they were warm, dry and comfortable almost the whole way. (Thanks to my new boots. At £140 they bloody well better have been good!) Gaiters also helped keep the water out and trousers clean and the trekking poles (all new stuff by the way) really took the essential weight off my legs to make it a long, yet incredibly satisfying day out. Anyway ... onwards...

Beinn Narnain

There was the first period of good weather coming through in weeks it seemed so on the 11th, I was finally dropped off at Arrochar and be allowed to set off up the hills on my own.

Dad ran me up to Arrochar on the Tuesday morning. We left at 7.35am and couldn't see more than 200 metres ahead of us. The mist was everywhere, yet I knew that if I were to go 200 feet up, there was incredible sunshine. It was miserable when we arrived in Arrochar (8.45am) although Dad dropped me off, and I began walking. My plan was to begin with Beinn Narnain and work my way around Ime, Luibhean and the Cobbler last, like in a large round trip. Mum would pick me up at 3pm so I had to time everything around that.

I began walking on the path up the Cobbler, although a bit bored at the idea of using this zigzagging path again, I took the old tramline path up. It was far more interesting, and was something I hadn't fully tried before. As I ascended out of the mist, the most incredible view was before me. This river of cloud extended all the way down Loch Long and beyond, and the hills threw great shadows onto the mist. Yet above, the sky was an incredible blue and somehow the landscape looked very rich. I continued up with these great views, never really out of breath however; the trekking pole make a very noticeable difference in my progress. I'd have to use this path again, it was quieter and was a direct way up rather than fooling around taking zigzags back and forth. Bad practice though, the Forestry Commission (I believe) would possibly hate me for using it.

I reached 1100 feet where the vertical path ended and I expected a road running around the side of Narnain to begin. However, I found nothing but a small worn path. 'Odd', I thought. there should have been a track somewhere and after searching around a bit, I followed the small path

Turned out that that was the way I needed to go, and after following it I came to the dam below the Cobbler. I continued along the valley, and passed some people (possibly in the TA) who were the first I'd seen all day. I cut up the side of Narnain and after a bit of a slog I reached the summit at 10.35am.

It took 110 minutes to reach the top which wasn't too bad going. From here views essentially blew my mind. To the south the peaks of Arran soared from the mist and it was absolutely breathtaking. The cloud in the valleys continued all the way to the southern horizon. To the north, I could see Ben Nevis and some other peaks, possibly to the north of Loch Ness. Ben Alder was there as well as Bidean nam Bian. I could see so much around about, and under the deep blue sky and low sun, the hills had a lot of form. As I said, it was an incredible day!

I had a good rest, and ate a lot of food. Tried phoning mum and even though I bought myself a Vodaphone SIM card, (better signal) I had zero signal there. I had a look to the north and took pictures of the ascent route Dink and I took back in November '07. It was incredibly steep with a lot of crags so I was probably glad I wasn't ascending by that route this time! (although there was no ice this time which was the problem before, it was still a steep route.

Beinn Ime

I put on my new gaiters as the route to Beinn Ime would be boggy and began the descent. As I began to descend I encountered a Ptarmigan. Took some photos close up, because it didn't fly away, it just hopped to the next rock as I came closer. Moving on however, I got signal half way down to the Bealach a' Mhaim and phoned mum, to tell her I was fine and doing excellently.

After crossing the bealach I began the slow ascent up Ime. It was very broad from this angle, and I battered on with it, slowly making progress. I paced myself quite nicely, and it turned out not to be even a slog. Approaching the snow fields higher up were some fun, although rather glaring which I crossed them. The snow was very icy by the point, and although I nearly fell on my bum at one point, it wasn't steep enough for me to need to kick steps.

I got to the last section where an actual path was established and got to the top at 12.15pm. There was an old man there who took my photograph before leaving. I sat and admired the views once more and although I made slower progress up Beinn Ime than I'd hoped (1 hour 15 minutes across from Narnain) I was making good time. I sat on the summit for a while, got my strength back, ate some food and had water. The views here, I'd say were even more astounding than from Narnain (however no cloud inversion) I could see the Cairngorms from here! As well as almost every peak in Central Scotland from Ben More on Mull to Ben MacDui.

Additionally, on his hillwalk I wanted to observe how far I could go with sufficient rest and food, because I hoped with new ways of keeping myself going such as comfortable feet and trekking poles to spread the load, how far could I go? I really made a point of leaving the summits when I felt good about going on.

The Cobbler

I left the summit of Ime around 1pm (approximately) and began descending down to the Cobbler. I left out Beinn Luibhean, because as much as I would have done it I was a bit pressed for time. On the descent back to Bealach a' Mhaim the snow fields made for some quick progress, yet otherwise it was a leisurely descent.

However on arrival at the bealach, I found the heel on my left foot was rubbing (dammit, those boots fitted perfectly!) so I stopped, sat in the grass, while basking in the cool warmth of the sun, I added an extra sock underneath. Did the trick and I was largely fine after that. By this point it was 1.20pm and if I were to be back at Arrochar for 3pm, I'd need to make a speedy ascent. It would take about an hour to get down from the Cobblers summit which would leave me with forty minutes to get up. I left the bealach at half past, and I surprised myself. I climbed the last section in 25 minutes! It was a fast ascent time for me but in addition, I already had 4500 vertical feet behind me. So to make that much progress after I'd worked myself so hard earlier was surprising to say the least. As I worked my way up I felt like I was going very quickly, because I held a fast pace all the way up. After passing behind the north peak, I had to kick some steps into the icy snow to prevent myself slipping. All was fine though, and I got to the top of the Cobbler, my ninth ascent of it at 1.55pm.


I briefly spoke to an old guy there although he soon left. I ate the last of my food, and packed up my stuff and headed down after ten minutes there. The descent down was also quite leisurely, possibly because the trekking pole took so much pressure off my legs. I could describe the descent as a sort of controlled fall, because I jumped down sections, and used the way I fell to get me down sections that little bit quicker. I jumped into an area of snow just after the Cobblers bealach and ended up with snow up to my waist! Happened twice as well, quite funny.

After that, there wasn't much to say, asides the sun was now going low in the sky and I needed to get back to Arrochar. Descended by the horrid zigzagging path (nice views though), and met mum at the car park at 3.15pm. It was a nice drive back home and rounded off an absolutely excellent day. I arrived back at the car with only slightly sore feet but had done so much more climbing than any other time before. (10 miles almost exactly) The solo aspect was great and the weather was absolutely unbeatable.

Unforgettable day.

Written: 2008-02-13