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The Easains - take 2!

The Easains - take 2!

Postby Redrock » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:14 am

Route description: Stob Coire Easain and Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin

Munros included on this walk: Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin, Stob Coire Easain

Date walked: 28/01/2012

Time taken: 8.7 hours

Distance: 15.5 km

Ascent: 1306m

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This report is called "The Easains - take 2" but I had better say something about "The Easians - take 1" first.

My first attempt to climb Stob a Choire Mheadhoin and Stob Coire Easain was on Monday, 16 January. I had had such a great day on Stob Coire Sgriodion and Chno Dearg on the previous Friday and having spied these two Munros on the other side of Loch Treig, I decided that it was worth tackling them next. The forecast was quite favourable with clear skies expected until well into the afternoon and the wind was expected to remain fairly light until later in the day. But it was to be cold. However, the ragged cloud scudding over the summits as I drove along Glen Spean suggested that the deterioration in the weather had accelerated by about 6 hours overnight!

The Easains Ridge from Glen Spean

Still I started out past the outflow of An Dubh Lochan with some optimism as the summits were still clear - and cloud like this might well clear as the day went on. But it was still very cold and there was a fair breeze already blowing in the valley. I found a way over the fence by the old tramway and made my way up the ridge over Creag Fhiaclach. And in a wee while the great prow of Meal Cian Dearg came into view.

Meall Cian Dearg from the north

As I approached this looming prominence I started to wonder how I would find my way up to its top. Snow seemed to fill all the routes up the gullys to it's summit. There was no sign of the scrambley path that normally leads the way to the top.

Looking up to Meall Cian Dearg

With crampons on and my ice axe in hand I did eventually find a way up through the steep snow banks. It involved some very steep snow and near the top it was very exposed. I found a route a little to the left of centre which took me to a short stretch of steep snow. I was grateful for the already-cut steps up the snow and was soon at the top looking back over the snowy prow!

Over the prow

This route is not suitable for anyone without crampons and ice axes and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who had not had some experience on steep and exposed snow. It certainly was a bit beyond my comfort zone and it definitely made me sweat - which probably didn't help with matters later when the cold wind was on me. Once up on the high level the walk along the ridge was very straightforward, but it had taken me quite a time to climb the prow and now the wind was much stronger and I was starting to feel chilled. It didn't help that I had left my gaiters at home (by accident) and that I was lacking the lower part of my thermal base layer. As I approached the 850 metre level the wind was buffeting and chilling me quite a bit. I has used my extra layer and it was time to take stock. After a short lunch break and getting on a bit more head and hand insulation, I looked at the lowering cloud and decided to turn back and head down skirting round Meall Cain Dearg to the west.

The lowering cloud

I wasn't enjoying myself and I would see nothing. Just as I was setting off I met two walkers heading up. I spoke to them for a couple of minutes and briefly considered asking if I could join them - but then I decided my mind was made up - I would come back another day!

Which brings me to "The Easains - take 2". When I set off on Saturday, 28 January the weather didn't look a lot more promising. There was a lot of high cloud and there was cloud over some of the nearby mountains - but the Easain Ridge was, so fa,r quite clear. And there was much less wind in the valley. Two other walkers - a couple - had arrived at the start point just before I started. After chatting briefly I set off from the outflow of the An Dubh Lochan again and headed for the wooded area to the right on the old tramway where a fallen down tree gives an easy way over the barbed wire fence at the moment.

Towards the Easains Ridge

Soon I was on the bagger's path heading along the ridge discovering how hazardous icy puddles can be when covered with snow! It is still a boggy path underneath! :lol: Soon Meall Cian Dearg was coming into view again.

Meall Cian Dearg

I had determined that I would not attempt the "ice climb" on the prow again, as it had taken me so much time and perspiration last time, and plotted myself a route around the west side of Meall Cain Dearg aiming to keep to the break of slope at around the 600 metre contour before angling up to gain the ridge again. As I skirted round the base of the prow I could see groups of walkers all tackling the hard snowy slopes of the prow above me. It was taking most of them quite a time to navigate up the steep snow!

Walkers / ice climbers on Meall Cian Dearg

My route round the base of the Meall Cian Dearg proved to be quite challenging - on very rough ground and with deep heather and boggy ground to contend with along with steep slopes to the west. Nevertheless I made reasonable progress and there were some great view of the Grey Corries - now very much the "White Corries" in the bright sunshine. :D

The (very white) Grey Corries

By now a couple of hours had gone by and after a brief stop to have a snack and get kitted up I arrived on the ridge as a couple of parties of walkers passed. I couldn't help thinking that the hills are much busier at weekends. It's usually a weekday when I am out but I was quite happy with a wee bit company on the hills (but not too crowded though! :lol: ) I stopped again to put on crampons and soon they were way ahead of me heading up the sinuous ridge ahead.

Heading up the ridge

Soon I had reached a psychologically significant point. I was past the place at which I had turned the previous time - and it felt good! After climbing a bit more the summit of Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin appeared rearing up along the ridge. I was delighted to see that it was in the clear and this time the wind was no problem! :D

The summit of Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin

The going was good on hard snow but I was taking care to avoid the corniced east side of the ridge. Snowy slopes led up to the summit plateau. I was rather expecting a more peaky top given the way the summit looked from below. However, I soon found the rather modest cairn hiding in the snow!

At the summit of Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin

Just as I reached the summit the cloud was starting to come in and as I set off towards Stob Coire Easain it was beginning to disappear in the cloud.

Stob Coire Easain from Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin

I carried on down though a rocky landscape - making the most of the snowy tracts between the rocks to make it easier with the crampons. I rested briefly at the col and had something to eat before tackling the ascent of Stob Coire Easain. I had a quick look over the corrie rim which had a heavy snow build up. It looked very steep to me - and not a way I would chose to descend in present conditions. For a moment the cloud cleared on Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin and two figures appeared descending towards the col.

Stob A' Choire Mheadhoin from the col

The climb up Stob Coire Easain was steep and rocky and seemed to go on for ever! But I think it was more the awkwardness of the climb with the crampons catching on rocks and making life uncomfortable. I'm not sure if they were better off than on - but it was definitely not ideal crampon country! :( On then way up I passed most of the parties that had been ahead of me - taking time to chat about possible routes of descent - and making the most of each rest! :D

The ascent of Stob Coire Easain

Eventually I crossed a snow bank and there I was at the summit! It was a fine summit too with drops all round, partly hidden in the mist. And I had it all to myself so I enjoyed the moment and took a few pictures.

At the summit of Stob Coire Easain

Looking around I wondered what the descent of the north ridge would be like in the winter conditions. It appeared to be a good way down into Coire Laire but I quickly decided that I had better stick with the familiar. It was getting later in the day (about 2:30pm) and I needed to stay with a familiar route back, to avoid being caught out in the dark. I headed back down and shortly after leaving the summit I met the couple that had set off just after me - along with their dog. I wished them well and set off on the descent. It was even more awkward descending on the rocky ground with the crampons - so I tried to keep to the snowiest parts! :? I made my way back to the col and met two young women at the top of the corrie waiting while others in their party cut steps down the steep snow slope. One of them said her crampons were broken so that's why they were descending via the corrie. I wished them well and carried on back up Stob a'Coire Mheadhoin. It wasn't that bad and soon I was on the descent again making good time on the snow slopes on the ridge. I dropped below the cloud and I could see that the sun was shining on hills to the north-east. Well, I'm glad for whoever was climbing those hills! 8)

Sunshine to the north-east!

I made good time on the way down and even picked up my own foot-prints skirting round the prow again (having removed the crampons by this time) - and a fine wee route it was too! :lol: (actually it was still pretty rough!). I noticed that some of the other groups had made their way down that side too - but a little higher up the slope than I had been. I glanced back for the last time at the bulk of Meall Cain Dearg. If I'm back in the summer sometime I'll happily climb up that way again - but with snow it was very challenging! :shock:

Meall Cain Dearg late in the day

The day light was fading so I pressed on along the ridge keeping to the path as much as possible - but taking great care where it was boggy (it had been thawing quite a bit by this time - I did not want to end up in a bog or go slithering down an icy and muddy slope). I needed the head torch for the last half hour and arrived back at the car by 6pm. As I changed out of my boots and got ready to drive home I could see the twinkle of head torches coming down the ridge over the tramway. I thought it might have been the couple with their dog but they didn't seem to come my way. A little later another group could be seen coming over the ridge from the west - could they have been the group that were descending the corrie. I hope everyone got back safely and without too much difficulty. I don't think many were planning to decend Meall Cian Dearg.

It was good to have climbed these two - having turned back once. But I have no regrets about the first decision. I enjoyed my day and it was goods to meet others on the way. It was hard work though. I find winter walking much more of a challenge than summer walking. There are all the extra clothes to carry, the heavy boots that feel like they are lead lined, and all the ironmongery too - if that is not to coarse a name to describe ice axes and crampons. Having said all that, the winter walking is really worth it - you get to see and experience the mountains in very different conditions from summer - exciting and often very beautiful conditions - which are only there for a time! 8)
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby Steve B » Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:47 am

Good description of what it took to achieve these. Well done on the first decision and congrats on doing these on the second attempt.
Did these in the 'summer' and that prow had a couple of loose tricky bits so choked with snow and ice would not have been fun.
Know what you mean about the amount of people about at weekends. I was up Glen Lochay again on Saturday and there were folks everywhere.
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby kevsbald » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:11 am

Great effort - your report really describes that well. I turned back on the summit of Mheadhoin a few years ago, even though I knew the 2nd summit was perhaps only 1.0km away. I'll return via Corrour and take in the Graham en route.
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby Alastair S » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:13 am

Good one. That Meal Cian Dearg is pretty steep & the path is very eroded (not that you could find it) so bypassing it was a good call.
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby skillinabottle » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:26 am

That's a good read Redrock, I'll keep in mind your alternative approach if I do these in winter.
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby EwaMH » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:03 pm

Well done Redrock! Tackled these in November minus any snow and it was tough enough then, with snow and ice to contend with it would've taken quite some pep talk to keep me going I'm sure..especially the last trudge up Stob Coire Easain! Well done again for getting them!
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby amaciejk » Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:13 pm

It looks like the direct way up Meall Cian Dearg is classed as a hard exposed winter grade I: http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=151549. So well done on taking it on during the 1st attempt and well done on the 2 Munros on the 2nd!
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby Fudgie » Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:25 pm

You did well doing those two in those conditions so you should be proud of yourself :thumbup: I did these two about 15 years ago on a summers day and it's my favourite hillwalking experience so far. I'll need to go back and do them again.
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby Redrock » Wed Feb 01, 2012 12:21 am

Thanks guys - it's great to get encouraging feedback. It certainly was a challenging route - but I imagine in good weather in summer it could be a very pleasant day out. It's interesting to hear that Meall Cian Dearg direct is classed as a hard exposed winter grade 1 - it certainly seemed hard and exposed to me! :shock: Having said that I would personally have preferred attempting to descend it rather than descend the corrie between the two summits if I had no other choice! I'm always happier when I have seen the climb on the way up! :D

kevsbald wrote:I turned back on the summit of Mheadhoin a few years ago, even though I knew the 2nd summit was perhaps only 1.0km away.

That second summit may only be about 1km away - but in tough conditions it might seem more like 10! It's a rough though descent / ascent / descent / ascent! :lol: All the best, kevsbald, for your next visit there! 8)
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby scoob999 » Wed Feb 01, 2012 7:55 am

Great report redrock, it looks stunning up there and on my to do list this year :D
Well done
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby Bod » Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:37 pm

Great double report Redrock, and a superb effort just getting straight back there to try again. Robert the Bruce would have been very proud of you! :D :D :lol:
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby Johnny Corbett » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:36 am

Good effort Redrock, i gave up on these two in December, the problem? Meall Cian Dearg and it's snow. Kim didn't fancy it so we did the Graham instead, we did notice that it's west side had no snow on it as we headed round for the Graham but had allready decided to leave them for another day. Very good report :D
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby pppppeterplantsman » Thu Feb 02, 2012 2:23 pm

Thanks RedRock - I'm 1/3 of the couple + dog who followed in your footsteps. It was my wife's second attempt at these hills too - beaten back my midges last time. Thanks too for shining your car headlights in our direction to indicate where we'd parked - much appreciated. We followed the party of 12 with the broken crampons down the coire headwall to avoid reascending Stob a'Coire Mheadhoin - my dog wasn't too happy about the descent despite his two pairs of crampons :)
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby Graeme D » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:08 pm

Another great report there Redrock. I always know I am going to enjoy reading one of your reports - they are always very readable and well written, in adversity as well as where everything goes according to the plan. I thoroughly enjoyed these two hills as well, which I did as the first day of a two day overnight trip a few years back. Definitely the right thing to turn back if you weren't enjoying them - they're too good to waste like that! :D
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Re: The Easains - take 2!

Postby Redrock » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:13 pm

Thanks RedRock - I'm 1/3 of the couple + dog who followed in your footsteps. It was my wife's second attempt at these hills too - beaten back my midges last time. Thanks too for shining your car headlights in our direction to indicate where we'd parked - much appreciated. We followed the party of 12 with the broken crampons down the coire headwall to avoid reascending Stob a'Coire Mheadhoin - my dog wasn't too happy about the descent despite his two pairs of crampons

It's good to hear from you, Peter, and good to know that you all got back to base safe and sound. :D I had guessed that you and your wife had maybe linked up with the corrie group - there seemed to be a lot of head-torch lights coming over the hill! I had a look over that corrie and decided to go with the route back I knew - I don't blame your dog for being a bit apprehensive about the initial descent. (even with multiple natural crampons!) It must have been pretty steep! :shock: My route past Meall Cian Dearg seemed so much easier going back down - following my own footsteps back! :lol: Cheers. 8)
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