Ben More - 1174m
Stob Binnein - 1165m

Sunday 6th March 2011

Weather/Conditions: Colder day than the Saturday, and windy on the ridges. Instead of thawing, the snowfields were now solid.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 12.2km / 1300m / 6h 10m
Accompanying: Dougie and Brian

Dougie, Brian and I were staying at the Inverardran Hut for the weekend and while I'd gone off to Ben Cruachan on the Saturday, they'd climbed An Caisteal and Beinn a' Chroin. On Sunday, Ben More and Stob Binnein was chosen, so we started out from the car park by Benmore Farm. The hills were cloud capped today and the air temperate had gone down a notch. It wasn't so warm today and I didn't think we'd get a repeat of Saturday's wet snowfields.

When I've done these hills in the past, I always climbed the north face of Ben More, crossed to Stob Binnein and carried on to Ardrain and Tulaichean across the valley. As my third time on these hills, it would be the first I did them on their own. By Dougie's recommendation, we headed up Benmore Glen to the Bealach-eadar-dha Bheinn and then out to either summit and back.

I'd passed across the top of Benmore Glen twice, but had never walked through it. Pylons at it's foot and commercial forestry asides, the thing that struck me about this glen was the volume of house-sized boulders scattered about the place. It would provide endless days of bouldering and for a while, I wished only to stay in the glen and search out 'problems' on their faces.

But we headed up on a steady plod to the bealach connecting the hills. I was wearing shorts but those we saw descending from the bealach were well dressed for colder conditions. It was probably pretty windy up there too. When we reached the bealach (at nearly 3000 feet) the wind blew and it became very cold, quickly. We took a break on the east side of the hill, partly shaded on the hill and continued dressed more for winter...

We headed for Ben More first, but it was wasn't stimulating as it's ever been. Put the head down, gain the height and enjoy. It was a good hill, but nothing to write home about. I enjoyed scrambling up the final step before the summit and sat in the summit cleft (packed to the gunnels with snow) to keep out of the wind and warm. With Ben More in the bag we headed on downwards to the bealach.

Stob Binnein was a slightly different story - unlike the southern slopes of these mountains, the north faces held more snow and Stob Binnein became a challenge in linking up the snow-free patches without 1. slipping, or 2. bringing the axe out. We all agreed on the summit that it had been more enjoyable than Ben More, although I brought the axe out on the last 50 metres prior to the top. Steps kicked into snow often provide secure footing, but I'm not usually willing to chance my stability when the stakes are high. After all, Stob Binnein is one of these mountains that you just wouldn't stop if you started falling. But our ascent had been without incident and safely on the summit, we turned around and headed back to the valley.

On the way down we took a break behind a boulder at the bealach, then headed on back to Benmore Glen. Less altitude made more warmth and I was boiling up when we got back to the 4WD track. So a stop was needed, I put my boots on the back of my rucksack and changed into sandals. They make all the difference in situations like this and I only carry them more often now, despite feeling the continual need to keep pack weight low. The walk out was enjoyable - Dougie and Brian had spent the day trading stories about the Alps and Chamonix because they both know the place well. I haven't been, but what a place to go. And some of their stories, too...

We got back to the car and stopped in at the hut to pack and tidy up. Brian gave us a lift down to Glasgow and I headed home from there. All in all, Ben More and Stob Binnein were (I hesitate to say!) unspectacular, but I'm of the opinion that any day out in the mountains is a positive thing. I'm also not convinced that the approach by Benmore Glen is easier - the route up Ben More's north face has the advantage of allowing rapid altitude gain. The approach between the two mountains is easier on the gradient but longer in distance and time. If there was any advantage though, it was to discover the boulders of Benmore Glen, whose size was one of the great pleasures of the day.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 10.40am Benmore Farm
(2.35) 1.15pm Ben More
(3.55) 2.35pm Stob Binnein
(6.10) 4.50pm Benmore Farm

Written: 2011-04-13