Saturday 12th December 2009
Weather/Conditions: Walked above the clouds; base at 200m, top at 300m. Beautiful clear skies above, but as we walked towards the Cobbler itself, a cloud cap appeared on the summit, and I reached the top in fog. Summit cloud dissipated on descent, and cleared as we left.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 9.4km / 900m / 5h 25m
Cloud inversions had been forecast and even from dreary Arrochar, there were hints of beautiful sunshine above about 300m. We followed the winding track up the mountainside and were soon in mist. Then we were out the top of it, and had incredible views across the top of the clouds but of course towards The Cobbler, which was sitting in perfectly clear skies. We then followed the path upwards as a couple of wisps of cloud formed over the summit. The wisps thickened until the summit region was completely invisible.
That was a letdown. But we walked past the Narnain boulders (stopped for a rest here) and to the foot of the final 400m to the summit. I didn't let the less-than-perfect weather disappoint me too much (you take what you get) but I'd hoped that it could maybe clear by the time we were up there.
Something I didn't anticipate was that I found I missed these hills. Excluding one dreary day on Beinn Narnain, I hadn't been in this area in nearly two years. When I started to come here when I was younger, I hadn't seen Scotland much and although very familiar with these hills, they were all I really knew. In the time separating those days and the here and now, I'd been around a bit more and experienced the Arrochar Alps in context with the rest of the Highlands. I forgot how well I knew The Cobbler and Beinn Narnain and missed being here. Dad summed it up well when I suggested I was being nostalgic for the days when the hills were a mystery. Perhaps this is so, although on this walk I found myself simultaneously being extremely familiar with the hills yet not quite knowing them.
Shit, I'm beginning to sound old.
A few hundred feet from the summit and in the cloud, dad decided not to go on. On the steep path, he risked pulling leg muscles which was not the preferable option up here. We pondered over what I should do, and decided that dad would wait for me to nip up to the top then meet back. I headed onwards to the bealach between the main summit and north peak, then onwards to the top. I pushed hard at the last stretch, crossing snow fields all the way to the pinnacle. I should have expected it, but I hadn't: although most of the snow had melted the remaining patches were frozen hard like ice. So on the descent, I had reason enough to take the axe out, for 'insurance'.
At the pinnacle, I took a few of photos in the mist, went up to the hole leading through to the ledge on the pinnacle but went no further. I wouldn't go alone and not when I had to meet dad. I wasn't going to mess around to gain the last ten feet. I didn't climb the pinnacle this time around, but there's always the future.
Ten minutes short of the allocated time of half an hour, I got back to dad. We turned around and descended, then talk about sods law: the cloud thinned out as we descended and soon enough, the final strands were being blown off and The Cobbler was clear again! There's always the future, as I tell myself...
We took our time on the descent and I wasn't rushed at all, just happy to be on these hills on this sunny evening. I looked up at Beinn Narnain a lot, vowing to come back and climb it again. I felt I hadn't seen enough of these hills and wanted to come back to see them in a new perspective, to grow even more familiar with them and tread on old ground. Some people I know hate the Arrochar Alps. I don't know why, but I just love them. I'm fascinated by their extreme ruggedness (something I didn't realise so profoundly before) yet ease of access from Glasgow. They're popular, but wild as anything too.
Dad and I walked down the final zigzags to the car park. The low cloud we'd come out the top of on the ascent was long gone, and the sun shone across the hillsides and forests around Arrochar. I hadn't been here in a long time and one feeling dominated: You have to come back here.
(0.00) 9.50am Arrochar car park
(2.55) 12.45pm The Cobbler
(5.25) 3.15pm Arrochar car park