Saturday 6th October was supposed to be a nice easy jaunt up Cairn Gorm and a scout around the Northern Corries but the weather forecast deteriorated from 70% to 30% probability of cloud free summits. Its a long way to drive and not get the benefit of a view at least so a last minute change of plans took us to Ben Lawers and (of course) its partner, Beinn Ghlas.
I know that the Scottish Hills are continuing to be more and more popular but it felt a bit like Argyle Street both before we started off at 09.30 and as we trotted up the hills. We followed the traditional route up but decided that rather than re-climb Beinn Ghlas, we'd take the well made path through the glen. For one thing it generally speaking makes for a much quicker return to the car park and it really is (apart from one tiny stretch) all downhill and on a mostly even path.
As we set off, the clouds loomed ominously over BG (Beinn Ghlas) but I rationalised that it was early yet and the sun had still to make its might felt and off we set. The path goes all the way to the top of BG and if I remember correctly only gets a little bit unclear as it goes over a wee bit of a rocky outcrop.
As we climbed the hillside the shouting from down below reaching us at the foot of the climb up to the ridge was fierce and sounded at our distance like there was trouble but a walker who overtook us (another one!) said that the farmers gather in the sheep at this time of year. A closer look down the hillside revealed at least two men and two dogs and sheep retreating in thin stripes across the hillside before them. More later...
Anyhow the zizag path up the side of the hill was comparatively painless (except when being hit by snowballs) and soon we reached the shoulder of BG and some amazing views over Loch Tay and to the West. The summit was by this time moving in and out of wispy cloud and looking extremely attractive even if it looked an odd arrangement from where we were of three small peaks. The flat bit soon came to an end and it was back to a wee climb up to the summit which appeared to be almost without any grandeur, marked by the tiniest of cairns at the almost vertical northern edge of the hill. We stopped for first breakfast here enjoying the views over to Ben Lawers which still had some snow. It is truly a majestic looking mountain.
After a short while a farmer appeared with three dogs (who all looked ancient) and started shouting down at sheep on the Loch Tay side of BG. All this in a roaring 25-35mph wind out of the sheltered spot we had found just beneath the summit. After some pictures we carried on down the path to the col just before the 2 or 3 hundred sheep started their advance over the col to the South side of the mountain. It was a truly amazing sight and demonstrated beyond all belief of the skill both of the farmers and their sheep dogs: I had never really thought it was easy but having watched sheep scattered across 3 or 4 square miles of wilderness shepherded into one spot and then channelled across a narrow strip of land, I know now only too well how professional these guys are.
Thus began the steep and occasionally rocky climb up Ben Lawers side. The views over to the North and to Meall Corranaich, the Tarmachan ridge and BG and beyond were superb. The photos really don't do it justice and had there not been a target to achieve (ie getting to the top), I could have sat there all day - out of the wind of course!
The views over to An Stuc (which I had hoped to tackle but was too knackered to go further on) and Lochan nan Cat were superb.
The path back through the glen was good and easy though at one point - just as we were passing under BG - my brain went into switch-off mode and I felt we'd got lost (on a continuous path that only went back to the car park!). It feels along way back but at the end of a hard day's climbing, it makes for a quick return.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.