Stob Creag an Fhithich - 715m
Meall nan Tarmachan West Top - 690m
Meall nan Tarmachan - 719m
Beinn Chabhair - 933m
Saturday 6th March 2010
Weather/Conditions: Spring weather (for once). Plenty snow lying about, but a warm sun today in clear blue skies. The mountains looked beautiful too, but the ground was tough with wet snow lying.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 12.8km / 1300m / 10h 20m
Accompanying: Samantha Munro, Michael Kerrigan
Inverarnan to Meall Mor nan Eag
The first time I climbed Beinn Chabhair, it was was tough. This time it was even tougher. I came along with Samantha for the trip and company but I knew the hill to be long, hard and tedious. I climbed it with my cousin Allan in August 2009 from Lochan Beinn Chabhair and we found it a long walk. The conditions and route choice today would make things harder than that, but it was a nice day nonetheless. If nothing else, I climbed the four tops of the west ridge and got my first tan of the year.
We started from Inverarnan, the weather was pleasant but a little chilly. The day brightened up as we passed the Inverarnan Falls and headed onto the hills above. Snow was lying down 300m, and today the snow cover and sunshine would make great views. A beautiful day was unfolding, but our route choice would turn out not to be very sensible. By looking through a list of 'Graham Tops', I'd been made aware of four separate Tops on Beinn Chabhairs west ridge. If I came back here, I was interested in climbing the lot and finishing off on Chabhair itself. I didn't however realise how tough these would be, especially in the conditions we had.
No doubt about it, the mountains looked absolutely beautiful, and the higher we climbed, the better the views got. But the early March sun was melting the snow. The snowfields became wet and didn't hold any weight. It was exhausting trying to climb through them, but steady progress put us onto the first top of the ridge, Meall Mor nan Eag. It doesn't have much prominence from all the surrounding hummocks, so it isn't even a mere Top. It did however signal the first high point in a long string of hummocks. These hummocks would rise upwards to end up at Beinn Chabhair, though that looked like a long way off yet.
Ben Glas and Stob Creag an Fhithich
Samantha and Michael weren't interested in climbing all the wee Tops, (to be honest, who is?!) so I told them I'd go and climb them and meet them on the other side, nearer Chabhair. The first of two Tops to negotiate was the rocky tor Ben Glas. It sits above the rough and expansive Lochan a' Chaisteil. This is a beautiful loch and well worth a visit, part of the reason I was happy to come back to Chabhair at all. I hadn't seen it close up first time around, so it was enjoyable to visit it ice-capped and enclosed between craggy knolls.
Now alone and on Ben Glas, I got my first idea of how rough these hills would be. I walked around the back of it to find a safe route up, also having to avoid potentially unstable snowfields and cornices. By the time I reached the top, I was getting behind schedule and would need to pick up the pace.
Descending towards Stob Creag an Fhithich was also tough. Again, the hillsides were steep and I contoured a long way back to get a safe descent route. Even then, the route was hairy and I faced inwards, making ice axe placements on sheet ice. Crampons would have been useful although when a section is 10 metres high, it doesn't feel worth the effort. When I got off, I began the slow plod again.
I climbed towards the top of Stob Creag an Fhithich through snowfields. It wasn't difficult but I was getting exhausted. There was nothing for it but to climb and I reached the top knackered but happy to have climbed these two Tops I'd wanted to do for so long. Another tricky descent followed, and then on a steep grassy slope I fell and gave myself a couple of cuts. Five minutes later I realised my watch was missing from my wrist. I guessed it had come off in the fall. This walk was just getting more frustrating by the minute. and I also had to work out the location of Samantha and Michael and guessed that I would probably have to catch them up.
Meall nan Tarmachan and West Top
I got to the bottom of Meall nan Tarmachan's West Top and began climbing. It soon proved to be too steep and I down climbed to find another route. As I did, Samantha and Michael appeared behind me. I was relieved, and now the mental load would get a lot easier since I wouldn't be racing to keep up.
We climbed M.n.Tarmachan West Top together, following a particularly nerve-wracking route to the top. It felt exposed extremely quickly and quite treacherous in the soft snowfields. I was happy to get on top of that hump...
But with us all now here, there wasn't far to go. All that was left for me was a quick ascent of Meall nan Tarmachan (the last of the four Tops I'd wanted) and the final push to Beinn Chabhair's summit. Route finding on Meall nan Tarmachan was tricky, crag lined much of the way. I had no luck finding a route around the north side, so contoured the southern slopes and made a quick ascent.
Now only Beinn Chabhair remained, but at this point, Michael turned around, even though Samantha and I wanted to go on. We'd already been moving for six hours and it would be a shame to miss out on the last summit. We took it slowly upwards, and feeling tired, we made the last ascent towards the top. Up on the summit ridge, we met a couple of other walkers who we chatted to for a while. The summit was close by and probably only twenty minutes away. Taking it slowly, we plodded and arrived at the top at 3.35pm, seven and a half hours after we started out.
But today the views were excellent and we'd been well rewarded for the masses of effort. I was glad to have completed a small goal of mine too - I'd wanted to climb the west ridge in it's entirety for a while, but I probably wouldn't do it again. A visit to Lochan a' Chaisteil (would maybe make a nice campsite) and a search for my watch may be in order, but the ridge had been exhausting.
Descent to Inverarnan
At least there was no more uphill though. Samantha and I headed down. Not wishing to climb back over the humps in the summit ridge, we descended straight down the western slopes in the direction of Lochan Beinn Chabhair. There were plenty of snowfields and it was great to run down each in succession. My attention occasionally turned to the prospect of avalanche, but such never occurred. An avalanche in the Campsie Fells in January had made me all too aware of how easily these things can happen and I'd subsequently developed a bit of paranoia about them. Today, the slopes were thawing with a thick snow pack sitting on top of sugary ice crystals. Ideal avalanche conditions, I thought, but we got down without incident. It was just great fun all the way to the loch.
Things didn't stay so eventful though and it was a long slog back to Inverarnan. There was, however, pink evening light cast across the Tyndrum Munros and that kept our interest in the day above nil. Then a short jaunt down the path by Inverarnan brought us back to Beinglas Farm where we met Michael again.
Went for a meal in the Drover's afterwards. Samantha told me beforehand it was an "experience" and flippin heck, was she right or what!
(0.00) 8.05am Beinglas Farm (Inverarnan)
(3.55) 12.00pm Meall Mor nan Eag
(4.25) 12.30pm Ben Glas
(4.55) 1.00pm Stob Creag an Fhithich
(5.35) 1.40pm Meall nan Tarmachan West Top
(6.00) 2.05pm Meall nan Tarmachan
(7.30) 3.35pm Beinn Chabhair
(10.20) 6.25pm Beinglas Farm (Inverarnan)