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Topping Up the Black Mount

Topping Up the Black Mount

Postby aaquater » Sat Jul 15, 2023 6:00 pm

Route description: Stob Ghabhar and Stob a'Choire Odhair

Munros included on this walk: Stob a' Choire Odhair, Stob Ghabhar

Date walked: 13/05/2023

Time taken: 8.25 hours

Distance: 21.6 km

Ascent: 1298m

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This time, J was the boss. Who'd be invited, where we'd go, she had the final pick. I just gave her a few options for possible walks - with a significant bias towards the Black Mount. In the end, that was the chosen walk, so I could deem my persuasion skills effective. :D

As J had stuff to do early in the morning, we didn't get to Victoria Bridge until almost 12, and by the time we somehow found a place to park and put sunscreen on, it was the afternoon. 'But no matter,' I thought, 'Naismith only counts 6 hours for the planned circuit...'

The walk started on an easy track

Which, after the foresty start, opened up to views to the Munros we were aiming for

As well as hills further S and W of the glen, such as Beinn Suidhe

By the green shed, we turned right onto a smaller path, as detailed in the walk description. What was also described and we experienced was the initial bogginess of this path. The bogginess came and went, and the side of the path was usually reasonably firm, but I still couldn't wait until the path turned - as promised - 'excellent'.

One aspect of that was definitely the temperature. Down in the glen, it was quite hot, with hardly a cloud in sight - yet on the boggy path, we'd begun picking up altitude. Not that rapidly thus far, but the temperature was still felt more intensely.

That changed after we crossed Allt Caolain Duibh and started heading up the slope of Stob a'Choire Odhair

By that point, though, path bogginess was a thing of the past. As we walked uphill along the path that sometimes zig-zagged, sometimes went straight for the summit, clouds started appearing as well, providing further reprieve from the roasting conditions. And for me personally, not walking alone meant I was prevented from dashing up the first hill short-sightedly and tiring myself out too soon. So overall, checking our altitude against Beinn Toaig occasionally, Stob a'Choire Odhair made for quite a pleasant walk.

From the summit, we had views E towards the Rannoch Moor and the Bridge of Orchy hills

While the surroundings to the W, dominated by Stob Gabhar, Creise, and Meall a'Bhuiridh, were much less distant

Honestly, I'd thought of bagging Stob a'Choire Odhair together with those three, probably starting from the Glencoe Ski Centre. Pointing out this possibility to the others, it didn't sound like they understood the appeal, especially with Bealach Fuar-chathaidh in sight... Nevertheless, that plan had been born before I found out about Tops, upon which changes had been made, resulting in the walk we were currently undertaking. :lol:

After disposing of a few snacks, we thus steeled ourselves for the next bit of ascent. First, though, the 668 m col had to be reached. And it was a bit further than it seemed, though we were following a good path down Stob a'Choire Odhair's W shoulder, with a handful of (probably avoidable) scrambling maneuvers along the way.

In the col itself, around the several lochans, we actually lost the path for a while

But we regained it as the ascent started again, and (to J, long-anticipated) views down into Coirein Lochain were gained

Turning left, we started heading up a steep, scree-covered slope. The path was usually well visible, though, except for one larger patch of scree. But when it was loose - which it often was - I rather walked on the grass next to it anyway.

Eventually, the ridge was reached

Like the official route says, the ridge had its exposed and scrambling parts, but nothing that felt dangerous. Rather, it was a fun section taking us to Stob Ghabhar, the highest point of the walk.

From there, we had views either S towards Ben Cruachan

E over Stob a'Choire Odhair towards the Rannoch Moor

Or W towards the Glen Coe hills

Stob Ghabhar is where the official route stops and heads back, down a 'steep and eroded' path. But I had two more hills in mind - and while J especially didn't see the point in making an effort for mere Tops, the description of the descent path was leverage enough to convince her to try an alternative route.

As shown on the last picture above, there was a scree field to be crossed just NW of the Stob Ghabhar summit. Afterwards, we followed a grassy path running alongside some very securely-positioned fenceposts to Sron a'Ghearrain, the first top.

Well, to be factually correct, its actual summit was a few metres away from the path, which kept following the fenceposts

But to continue to the second Top, we had to abandon the path at that point and set off across the grassy hillsides anyway

The W side of Sron a'Ghearrain was fairly boggy - although that might've been because we went for a shortcut to Bealach Coire Laoghan instead of following the ridge all the way. A short ascent then took us to Stob a'Bhruaich Leith, a somewhat endless hill - at least for those who didn't care about bagging Tops. But eventually, we did find a cairn-like structure at a place that felt like it could be the summit.

Although the ridge went on and on

However, my innocent suggestion to follow the ridge until Meall nan Eun (or more like Stob Coir' an Albannaich, as the SE side of Eun didn't look too descendable) wasn't met with much enthusiasm, despite it presenting the opportunity to bag two more Munros, so we turned on our heels and went back over the long summit of Stob a'Bhruaich Leith, veering to the right and descending from the ridge once the terrain there was less steep. It was getting close to 6 pm anyway; the days were long, but there was no need to risk staying out past sunset.

The S slopes of the two Tops were grassy and fine to walk - definitely better than what the loose scree on Stob Maol sounded like - though care was needed when crossing the many burns, which often featured smooth and all-too-slippery rocks in the middle of the streams

But overall, we were just heading sort-of for Meall an Araich and looking for the promised path we were meant come across even before the saddle

Paths like that... sometimes, they actually continue further than the map suggests; other times, they don't even exist. But this one did and was appreciably distinct and clear. Lower down, as it got close to Allt Ghabhar, it even turned into a track. A forest, confidence non-instilling bridge, and muddy farm stretch later, we were approaching the Clashgour Farm buildings and came across a track junction.

I was following the offline map from the app. The map didn't show any junction, so I thought the left track only led to the buildings themselves. Taking the right track, I expected it to bend left soon, because that's where the track on the map was meant to go. But it didn't bend anywhere; instead, it crossed a wider but shallow burn and, a minute later, a much more substantial one that we had no way of crossing with dry feet.

That's when the gears in my head started turning, as we seemed to be heading west, which we really shouldn't have been. So I studied the map properly, and realised:

1) That we'd just crossed Allt Ghabhar and were trying to cross Abhainn Shira

2) That we were on the track we were meant to be on, just heading in the completely opposite direction

3) That we should've gone around the Clashgour buildings

We didn't have to return to Clashgour, though. There was meant to be a smaller path next to Abhainn Shira that we could take until we met the track again. So that's what we did after crossing Allt Ghabhar once again.

The path was overgrown and tick-infested in some places, boggy in others, but mostly fine and led us to the correct track

Hunger prompting our feet to move, we then crossed Abhainn Shira at the most appropriate place (Victoria Bridge) and reached the car park, finding it much emptier than before. The walk had taken us more than 8 hours, though - and so, after driving to Crianlarich to find restaurants already closing, we had to wait until Crieff to solve our overdue dinner. Thinking more clearly on a full stomach, I then came to another revelation.

If the others had listened and carried on all the way to Stob Coir' an Albannaich, we would've followed the same track back in the glen - and found ourselves forced to cross Abhainn Shira at the same uncrossable place that made us turn around now. :shifty:
Posts: 114
Munros:74   Corbetts:38
Fionas:40   Donalds:23+12
Sub 2000:52   Hewitts:18
Joined: Jul 8, 2019

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