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Winter in Different Guises.

Winter in Different Guises.

Postby weaselmaster » Sun Dec 12, 2021 10:32 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Challum

Fionas included on this walk: Creag Gharbh, Sgiath a' Chaise

Date walked: 12/12/2021

Distance: 47.4 km

Ascent: 2341m

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This is possibly the last weekend we'll have out this year. My only objective was to get to 100 Grahams which would need two Grahams before the year's end. And I was still hoping that my son could come along one of the days and get some winter hills experience, since he missed out last weekend. I had intended to head towards Dalmally and pick off a few Grahams in that direction, but a forecast of snow to low levels and freezing conditions on Thursday night made me wary - I don't really know many places to camp out that way. After much humming and hawing, I decided we'd head through to Comrie Croft again, a nice safe bet for a suitable camp spot in the winter months, and try our hand there for some Grahams, with maybe Ben Challum or Ben More for Sunday if Ally could join us.

Rain and darkness followed us up the road to Comrie, but it more or less went off as we arrived meaning we could get the tent up fairly dry. As the bigger tent was in need of some repair after our adventures here a fortnight ago during Storm Arwen, we had the smaller Nammatj, without the luxurious porch, so food would be Huel, despite being in a campsite. Ha! We had a pleasant evening despite the rain and slept well.

2021-12-10_0929 Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

For Friday, by far the day with the best forecast, I'd planned to do Creag Gharbh from the Glen Ogle side, and sneakily I'd put in four of the five Simms I'd written off a fortnight ago from Meall Buidhe. That would give us a walk of around 25km, mostly on forest track. It was an icy morning - after the rain last night and some low temperatures, getting into the car took a bit of effort, with all the doors frozen shut. We returned to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park car park and set off. The car park is at almost 300m and the ground was frozen and icy from the start. We were on the Rob Roy Way as it wound through the trees, past a pipe line, an old quarry then out onto some farming land. We approached the dam of Lochan Breaclaich, where there were some men in SUVs doing something at the dam control tower. The track took us right underneath Creag Gharbh, leaving only a seep 120m climb to the summit - if you are one of those fiends that uses a bicycle to get to your hills, this would be an ideal approach for this one.

A nice Xmas Card view
Image876CA6B5-EB59-4AB6-A67B-9F3808B1830B_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image1F1A2E96-2D51-4FC3-AA37-C4FE13AB490A_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Good views over to the Lawers hills from the summit - all white today. We could see the Lochan an Lairige dam. Back down to the track, then we walked over the top of the dam to approach the first of my cluster of Simms, Cul na Creige. We had axes and crampons - but what we really should have brought were showshoes. I remembered thinking about packing them and deciding no...I cursed that decision more than a few times today, I can tell you. The snow was deep in places, with that extremely irritating crust that's almost enough to hold you but then lets you break through when you put your weight on it. Snow shoes would have worked a treat. On the map, the Simms look like they are clustered closely together, but on the ground there's about 6km of distance to be covered. And it took an age. We were both locked into our own private snow-hell, swearing our heads off at each new indignity. I took us steeply off the third Simm in the wrong direction, making for what I was sure was the fourth Simm, but which was actually an outlier of Meall na Cloiche the "fifth" Simm that I'd intended to do from Meall Buidhe. And that would have added another 4k to our day. As it was, the light was beginning to fade, the moon was out and I really wanted to get back to the track by the time darkness fell.

Breaclaich Dam
Image0EC15196-49C4-41DB-8799-BC0A044CE023_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageE3149372-C151-4EBD-85DD-F6CE0E946843_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Approaching Creag Gharbh
Image5782D8C1-53EF-4DC7-955B-FF397C1867E1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image7A23B679-46A1-468F-AB59-AB893268C133_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image2303E908-C3C8-4882-8225-1857603659F9_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image070F3EEF-2981-4504-8EA8-8DEE534F49F0_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageA3E1EE96-9298-45B7-9959-8B64DC306F30_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Allison was, I believe, praying that she'd fall in a bottomless hole so that she could stop the snowy torment. My legs were struggling with the extra effort required to plunge through the snow. We got to the top of the last Simm and had about 1km downhill, over all kinds of heathery tussock/snow pits/ river crossings to get back to the track. But we did make it as the last of the light was just failing. It felt good to be back on solid ground, but we had another 6km to walk before we got back to the car. And it did seem a never ending traipse through the woods. We counted off the landmarks - little fallen tree across the path; big fallen tree across the path; squinty picnic bench...the stars we out and it was a lovely night. We got back to Comrie about 6.30, looking forward to our delicious Huel...

ImageCAF1A4AB-414D-4F75-A5CD-0454F170AC72 by Al, on Flickr

The forecast for Saturday was crap, and that was exactly accurate. I'd hoped to do Sgiath a Chaise and then Creag Mhor from Glen Buckie. However, we were both a bit sore after the long day to Creag Gharbh and had a long lie til 9.30, so realistically we were only going to get one done now. No matter - that would bring me to the all important 100th Graham and my 2021 target achieved.

2021-12-11_1119 Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

We opted for Sgiath a Chaise and headed down in the clag and rain to the parking area at Ardchuillerie. There's a fancy new driveway up to the lodge and a fenced off track for walkers. Going up through the woods, we noticed that a number of the trees had succumbed to winds - maybe Storm Arwen, whilst much of the forestry going into Glen Ample has been harvested recently, making one hell of a mess of the track. It wasn't a day for pictures. We walked on the wet, snow covered track past the turn off for Beinn Each and followed the wall/fence line up the hillside. I noticed new forestry extraction tracks before this, which might give easier access to Meall Mor, but I couldn't see where they ended, in the clag, so don't know. Anyway, it's a steep incline, and my legs were buggered after yesterday, so progress was interminable. Eventually we got up to the broad ridge and loped along the fence line, through various bogs, to reach the summit, with its tiny cairn buried in the grass. And we went back the same way.

Image87A96638-C7E0-46D6-990B-B2D05A3AB3DF_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image8DA5B9FF-07D9-4A10-BF99-746C0CB99EF3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageA0034809-CD0E-46D9-95BC-731A4CA1E320_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageA523D902-E794-438D-A460-90758C58260D by Al, on Flickr

Made it back to Comrie Croft about 3.30, time for a peek into the shop (buying a jar of preserved lemons, mushroom pate and tofu and wild garlic fillets, as you do) then had a shower and went back to the tent. As usual for a Saturday, there was a wedding on at the Croft, and the bride was out in the car park, in the drizzle and mist, in her delicate wedding dress, trying to get some photos taken, whilst filthy bikers hared past.

Ally had indicated he'd like to meet up with us at 9.15 on Sunday morning to do Ben Challum, so we had a fairly early start to get down in time - well earlier than Saturday anyhow. Driving down the road, we were surprised at just how much snow had been lost from the big hills - I was thinking we might struggle for anything meaningful on Challum. The north sides of Ben More/Stob Binnien looked whiter, but I suspected that might be a bit too big a day for the boy.Whilst we were waiting we spoke to three lads who were getting ready to set off just before us. Ally arrived, I handed him crampons, gaiters and goggles and managed to forget to give him the spare ice axe we'd brought specially. Anyhow, we set off for Kirkton Farm, where part of the bridge is broken; past the cemetery and up the rather manky slopes of the lower section of Challum. The snow was noticeable by its absence. However there was some in the dips, which gave him a sense of what it was like to wade through deep soft snow, without having to do it for very long. Once we reached the south Top, however, there was a good amount of snow, which made the passage to the summit a little bit exciting. I got Allison to school him in the relevant techniques, as I knew she'd do it a)better and b)more accurately than I would. As we only had two axes, I stuck with my poles whilst the two of them walked ahead properly equipped. We met up with a lovely Spanish guy who'd passed us earlier on, and had a chat with him about Scottish weather, amongst other things.

2021-12-12_0944 Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Not quite the white covering I'd hoped for
Image8CFA763C-3CB9-44AE-942D-0B4D1F9812DD_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageF8679755-A01D-44C0-BE35-48AD41B1CD11_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Yes, this is snow...
Image5B5F1086-58A9-4300-BDA9-357E6A669961_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image5C79535D-C595-436B-91BC-C8E296079DC7_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image65755BC1-8D7C-416A-95F8-599BB7F85910_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageCB03C6A4-2F75-4DB7-9C6E-9362432112F0_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image607EA5F0-DF56-4D9B-9802-0F9FC706C377_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

The weather was closing in by the time we started back down, clag and drizzle. We stopped to practice ice axe arrest on a gentle slope further down the main hill, but it was difficult to generate enough speed on the granulated snow to teach this effectively. But he seemed to have had an enjoyable day, despite the weather being less than perfect and the snow being scarce and soggy. Maybe we'll manage to get him out on a cracker of a day in the next couple of months.

You can tell he's had a day in the snow
Image200BE3E8-84B4-42EE-83B8-E5C9D870DA08_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageD6A7757C-D68D-4017-9151-7ABD5739BA20 by Al, on Flickr

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