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Festive Purge: Brownie Point Spend Part 2 - An Caisteal

PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:22 pm
by old danensian
Part 2: An Caisteal and Beinn a’ Chroin (Monday 4 January 2010)

No prizes for noticing the error at the beginning of Part 1. In the old days we only used to make the mistake of writing the wrong date on the first few cheques of the year. I can’t remember the last cheque I wrote – “that’s ‘cos you’re a Yorkshireman” retorts the other half. You knew the banks with a humour bypass when they returned them and refused to make the payment.

Anyway, this particular bank was still in credit with the brownie points. Given an early response to my last post, I suspect that this could be a divisive string for the general discussion part of the Forum. It’s an avenue down which I ain’t going to be travelling. Suffice to say, it’s all part of the give and take of life and I’m happy to use the concept as a humorous way of describing her acceptance of my enthusiasms – one of the others is supporting Doncaster Rovers so it’s a pretty wide-ranging tolerance.

The other half was to be challenged by the snowy sidewalk slopes of Glasgow’s southside, and enjoying the grandchildren’s last day before going back to school. I strongly suspected that retail was also going to be included at some stage during the day. On the other hand, I slithered into the lay by south of Crianlarich in the early morning light well before they had begun their cornflakes.

Sron Gharbh from A82

There was no time to hang around. I needed to get moving to keep warm, and to walk out the lethargy and the stiffness in the legs from yesterday’s efforts. It was good to enjoy the wide track on firm snow, with two obdurate sheep trotting along in front for half a mile. I thought they were just being thick, but then I branched off to the right and up the slopes of Sron Gharbh. It didn’t take too long to realise that it was the other way round.

Plodding, plunging, plugging, ploughing. Eyes switched between aiming at a target on the skyline and scanning for footsteps in the immediate vicinity. I still had that optimistic hope that they might just have provided some support before the inevitable lurch downwards. No chance. Get it over with, I thought. Once the height’s been gained it’ll get better, more interesting, and the hard work will be over for the day I mused. Such foolishness.

Admittedly, there was a pleasant surprise on suddenly coming across the knoll that marks the northern tip of Twistin Hill. I could relish the view of the day ahead that was spread across the horizon. Proper enjoyment returned with the ground along the ridge being covered quickly. Patches of snow took the reassuring bite of crampons, and in no time the castle-shaped buttress protecting the final easy slopes above was reached.

Beinn a' Chroin and An Caisteal from Sron Gharbh

The spice of interest was then added to enjoyment. A narrow fin of up-blown snow was crossed to negotiate the step across the cleft. An airy stretch of narrow path was traversed for a few metres to avoid a steeper scramble to the right. Then any technical difficulties were behind as the easy summit slope stretched out into the sunlight ahead. The book time of two and a half hours was a pleasing achievement given the thrashing around that had been experienced earlier.

Summit of An Caisteal

Views of the north west slopes of Beinn a’ Chroin opened up, revealing a potentially daunting picture of snowy ramps and patches separating a tangle of crags and cliffs. Meanwhile, away to north west, a layer of low cloud was slowly advancing. Skeins of mist were beginning to flow over distant ridges and gradually spreading across areas of higher ground. There was the impetus to move on. I’d rather enjoy the open views than the challenge of navigating unfamiliar ground. Trying to trace a route between the crags and linking the snowy stretches to the easier ground was a theoretic exercise I had to put into practice.

Advancing clouds

From the col I headed straight up toward an obvious ramp leading to the left from a couple of hundred feet above. This ended on a patch of flatter ground underneath an overhang. These rocks were passed to their left, and steeper well-consolidated snow could be followed before an easier angled ramp swung back to the right and gained easier ground. Looking back, while passing from west to east across the top of Beinn a’ Chroin, the bulk of An Caisteal had been left behind and it took on a completely different shape from its approach on the other side.

It's a bit steep round the corner - Beinn a' Chroin

An Caisteal from Beinn a' Chroin

Ben Lomond dominated the horizon from the top of the second Munro of the day at midday. As clouds higher in the atmosphere were thinning and streaks of blue sky emerged, the wraith of lower cloud was just edging round the top of Sron Gharbh and beginning to cascade across the ridge of Twistin Hill.

Ben Lomond and south from Beinn a'Chroin

A few moments spent taking in the view helped to pick out the likely route down the spur to the below. The north facing slopes were in great condition to take the bite of a crampon and so a long descending traverse ended quickly at the top of the spur. Zig-zagging eagerly down its upper reaches and across its lower slopes, I was lulled into false sense of security. Careless route finding coming off the end of the spur meant that I missed any evidence of tracks in the snow that could have lead to easier going.

The next hour I’d rather consign to the waste basket of forgotten memories. After thirty minutes that quotation about golf being “a good walked spoiled” sprang to mind. Staggering, sinking, stumbling, sinking – and I caught no sign of anyone’s tracks to take advantage of. The trees at the end of the valley got no nearer. I pulled out the scrap of print-out I’d made before leaving home. I must have missed something in WH’s route description. There it was. How did I miss that? “lovely clear pools that can be inviting on a hot day”. Dream on.

I thrashed around until I saw two parallel possibilities. And just like the sheep at the start of the day, it was the wrong choice. After plunging into an adjacent ditch and not the track, my feet were finally sucked free – black, wet and dripping.

Track? What track? North down River Falloch

There is a God, mercy does exist. The main track was finally reached – but not the final escapade into the powdery stuff. A quad bike, two dogs and a hundred sheep were making their way up the track. I was able to watch a live version of One Man and His Dog from standing deep in a snowdrift well to the side. The spectacle left the air a couple of degrees warmer and a mist redolent of damp wool and sheep **** seemed to hang above the track for ages. The guy leaping on and off the quad bike was a timely reminder that these conditions are sometimes someone’s place of work – we’ve got a choice.

Back at the car, just on six hours out, the temperature was already falling back again. The usual tired limbs were accompanied by feet starting to feel a bit damp. Yes, I’d tested my boots beyond their limit – they were definitely three season ones. But hey, what price fun.

I couldn’t have asked for a better couple of days out on the hill. Driving back down the M74 on Tuesday in brilliant sunshine was quite a wrench. Later on, the M6 was what you could tamely call “fun”, but at least I had the bizarre or surreal enjoyment of listening to the cricket from Cape Town’s scorching heat while a blizzard raged across the queue as we passed a jack-knifed car transporter at Haydock. This chapter was finished off nicely by listening to the final successfully tense overs while writing this report today and sorting out the photos.

Not checked the brownie point bank since we got back, but I might still be in credit. At least we haven’t had a family referendum like the Icelanders to decide that they won’t be paid back.

Re: Festive Purge: Brownie Point Spend Part 2 - An Caisteal

PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:32 pm
by mountain coward
You must be superfit (and everyone else managing to do hills in this snow) - I was only up on our moor today and found the moor top completely impossible - it was waist deep in places (always very sudden) - there was no sign of any tracks as the snow was too deep (even though there are vehicle tracks up there). I spent a lot of time rolling out of very deep snowdrifts coming back down. It was mostly thick porridgy stuff that you couldn't force your way through, but also a lot of powder snow (which at least you could extract yourself out of easily or plough through). It took me 2 hours and I only did about 3/4 mile each way on the actual moor (the walk up there is about 20 mins each way). All I can say was that the climb up the southern face wasn't too bad as that was all powdery stuff... It was well dark by the time I hit the track at the moor bottom. The height of the moors is probably only around 1000 ft...

So well done on your walk, just wish I had your fitness!