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Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 2:27 pm
by whiteburn
A late start from home followed by a 3 hour drive, abandoning the soggy NE of Scotland for the tropical south, saw me and a 10kg pack departing the now full carpark at Inverlochlarig at around 2:00 pm. Plan was to spend a couple of nights in the hills and take in the 7 Munroes, around 35km and 3050m ascent.

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The walk west up to the end of the estate track proved pleasant enough on a sunny afternoon, noted a handful of good camping spots adjacent to the river, well up the glen but still within enclosed grazing. From the end of the track just took a straight line up the south east ridge of Ben Chabhair, a little boggy underfoot at first and some zigzagging to avoid rocky knolls but straight forward enough. The 10km walk from Inverlochlarig made the mountain seem quite remote, didn’t see a soul all afternoon, and eventually arrived on the summit at around 5:30pm with the occasional snow shower confirming the changeable forecast for the day.
Snowing over Ben Oss
Ben Oss from Chabhair.JPG

I descended directly east to a fold in the hillside at around +800m (NN 371 179) with a small stream nearby and great views, the perfect spot for the night.

The temperature dropped rapidly though the evening, helped by a few short snow showers, but by full dark (09:30) the clear skies were boding a chilly night; the lamb curry and a couple of drams kept the cold at bay though! Awoken by the sunrise at 05:30, too..... early, found the eye mask then rolled over for a couple of hours. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in bed before struggling out of the nice warm sleeping bag and into the world, blue skies and a heavy frost; packed up and on the road by 8:30.
The route north east across to An Caisteal is easy but not well trodden, just a few rocky bits to bypass before the good path up to the summit was joined. The path from An Caisteal to Beinn a’Chroin is well described in WH, today’s fresh snow made the ascent from Bealach Buidhe a little more entertaining.

Followed the ‘normal’ descent route from Beinn a’Chroin down the north ridge to around +600m and then took a descending traverse to the east to the bealach at +520m. The big lump of Stob Glas, a knot of bumpy crags, bars the way to Beinn Tulaichean.

Couldn’t see any obvious path to follow so decided upon a steep ascending line to the north before turning east to pass just north of Point 813, a continual steep slog. From Point 813 an easier traverse north-east followed, taking care to avoid the odd crag, eventually led to the easier going of the main Cruach Ardain - Beinn Tulaichean ridge.
Dropped the rucksack and enjoyed the easy stroll up to the summit of Beinn Tulaichean in the glorious sunshine.
Ben More and Stob Binnean from Beinn Tulaichean

Picked the rucksack and got to the summit of Cruach Ardain at around 3:30pm. Had originally thought to descend directly from the summit to the north-east, towards Stob Garbh, but after quick look around I couldn’t find a practical route; so it was either following the descent path west or south (my ascent route) both longer routes than planned. Decided on returning down the path towards Beinn Tulaichean, descended to around +850m and then headed off north descending across the flank of the hill to around +750m. Traversed around the east flank of Cruach Ardain, passing between the upper and lower bands of crags, to eventually get to a point directly east of Stob Garbh from where a steep and boggy descent to the bealach at NN 420 226 was made, the descent seemed to take a lot longer than the 1 hr it had actually taken! Took a bit of searching to find but eventually a reasonably dry but breezy pitch for the tent was located with some large boulders offering some shelter.

The weather changed during the evening (spot on forecast) with steadily increasing wind, cloud and the odd rain shower. Retired to bed by 08:30 with coffee, chocolate and a dram. Suffered a rough night’s sleep; tent flapping, rain lashing and wind howling. Daylight brought no change in the weather; stuck the head out at 7:00am, clag down to 600m and intermittent sleet/ rain, rolled over and snuggled down; 8:30 still no change in weather, time for breakfast in bed; 9:30 everything packed (except for the tent), showers seem to be lessening, with no further excuses it’s out into the cold; 5 mins later and the tent’s down and packed (or sort of stuffed into the rucksack).
Set off without a lot of enthusiasm up the 350m rising traverse north towards the invisible Bealach-eadar-dha-Beinn and soon entered the clag.

With every step up the visibility seem to get worse and the wind stronger, finally reckoned that I’d travelled far enough north and turned directly up the hill (east) to gain the bealach. The climb seemed to go on for ages until I finally crested the ridge, visibility here was at best 4 - 5m with a bitter 40-50 mph wind. Continued to slowly plod up the snow covered ridge in worsening visibility (2-3m) and getting battered by the wind until I finally found a little shelter by some rocks where I could take a break. Dug out the ‘bothy bag’ from the rucksack and crawled in, once inside and I rigged the walking poles to reduce the flapping and the world seemed a lot nicer place. The GPS was retrieved from the sack and I ate some snacks while it was ‘warming up’; found I was 0.5km south of the bealach and 150m higher; somehow I was heading south ascending Stob Binnean NOT north and Ben More!
Decided that Ben More was no longer a good option for the day and continuing over Stob Binnean was the new plan. Getting the ‘bothy bag’ packed was impossible in the wind so it just got stuffed under the rucksack lid (lucky it didn’t end up in Glasgow). It took a ½ hr battle to reach the summit of Stob Binnean (much more preferable than trying to bail out east or west with all the crags around) and the spirits were definitely lifted just by starting to head down hill even with having to probe ahead with a long walking pole while watching the compass; once past Stob Coire an Lochain the going got noticeably easier with every 100m and eventually was glad to be below the clag on reaching around Stob Invercarnaig.
On finally reaching Inverlochlarig the day was markedly different from how it had begun, the wind had dropped significantly and the cloud had broken, and I enjoyed a late lunch sat in the sunshine at the carpark.

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 2:39 pm
by pigeon
A right adventure there whiteburn,sounds like the conditions on stob binnien were horrendous :( Never thought of tackling chabair and an castiel from that side,i will do now if i ever take the notion to do them again :thumbup: Great report, well done :D

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 2:54 pm
by Banditman
Very interesting report. Good to see a new approach to these hills. :)

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 3:08 pm
by Fudgie
Thats a great effort there and well done on fighting through the conditions on Stob Binnien. You've given me an idea about tackling four hills at once there :D

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 5:04 pm
by Dave Hewitt
Lots of good options in that bunch of hills. I know what Hamish Brown meant when he wrote that they “just fail to fire the imagination”, but they’re better with a bit of snow on them (although you might not have thought that on the third day of your trip…) or, particularly, if combining them in ways other than the standard 3:2:2 groupings – there are interesting bits in between, as you’ll have seen. Local knowledge helps, as ever, and the various four- or five-Munro options are worth doing as day walks from either the Falloch/Dochart or Voil side.

All seven in a day is a good outing but probably worth waiting until settled summer weather allows very lightweight travel. I’ve only done all seven together once, from the Inverlochlarig side as you did, but the other way round: Stob Binnein first, Beinn Chabhair last. At some stage I’ll give them a bash west-east, although it’s always looked to be marginally easier, in terms of getting back to the start, to do them from the Falloch side if going that way.

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 8:19 pm
by jonny616
Great report. To many for me carrying all that gear 8)

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 9:45 pm
by Jockstar
Very adventurous and entertaining account of a BIG walk. with all conditions thrown in it makes good reading especially with the mention of Drams and warmth and food,clag and snow and wind. All together makes for good reading. Well done on a great hill trip :D

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 6:40 pm
by Tomsie
Good report and nice photo's.
What food do you bring with you when staying out in the hills??

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 10:58 am
by whiteburn
Tomsie wrote:What food do you bring with you when staying out in the hills??

I think you could devote a whole forum to backpacking food and recipes but here's the basics:
Breakfast: Porridge and coffee
Lunch: A selection from cheese (primula tube), pepperoni sausage, salt biscuits (home made), oat biscuits, oat flapjack (homemade), fruitcake, sorreen, chocolate and boiled sweets.
Tea: usually start with soup (cuppa soup or Heinz squeeze & stir): Main coarse, I have a variety of recipes based around the following ingredients; rice (quick cook), pasta, smash, dumplings or cous cous + dehydrated veg (Whitworths do a veg. mix, onions, peppers and mushrooms) + sauce (cuppa soup, curry paste, pesto, dried herbs, chilli, garlic) + meat; precooked meat (OK for 3+ days), pepperoni, tuna (in foil pkts), grated cheese. Afters: what evers left from the day's snacks + coffee and a dram. I usually sort out menu for the trip and then wrap individual portions in cling film, also I throw in a few extra cuppa soups + instant chocolate + appropriately sized nalgene bottle of scotch.
All my recipe have been tested out before hand using the actual stove and pots used in the hills e.g. I use a 1 liter titanium pasta pot with a pot cosy and 'know' that dumplings will cook by bringing to boil for a couple of minutes and leaving in the pot cosy for 15mins. It not funny screwing up 15k+ from the nearest chippy!
Usually my rations are worked out for 2500 calories/ day and weigh around 600g/ day, very similar content/ weigh ratio to commercially dehydrated meals but far cheaper, just requires a little more thought and pre-preparation and messing about on the day. On a trip longer than 5 days I'll throw in commercial dried meals (large size = 800+ calories) as a back up if I'm not certain of a food shop + spare gas (I find a 230g cartridge only lasts 5 - 6 days).

Re: Ben More or Less

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 10:27 pm
by Tomsie
I like that you dont forget the scotch :D