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5 Munros on Lawers range
by tomyboy73 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:08 pm
Route description: Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas
Munros included on this walk: An Stuc, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Meall Garbh (Ben Lawers), Meall Greigh
Date walked: 21/04/2013
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 18.9 km
Ascent: 1755m15 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
(*NB remember this bit for later)
We were ready to walk for ten and as it was lightly raining, we had our waterproofs on from the start. There was already low cloud around and we couldn`t actually see much of Beinn Ghlas. We walked through the wee nature reserve at the bottom, but all we saw was a tiny lizard hiding in a footprint in the snow. As we gained height the wind began to pick up and the rain had turned to snow, blowing horrizontaly but lightly, in our faces. The hill was still covered in cloud as we began to pass others on the way. There were patches of snow all the way up but now at about 800 metres pretty much everything was covered in it.
Just before we got to the last steep section, about 100m from the top, we both had a laugh as out of the mist appeared hunners (slight exageration) of walkers in front of us. They were all preparing or resting before the steep climb up the deep snow. It was a sight to behold for me, and it began to feel like a real adventure. It was like watching a documentry about Everest or something We were covered in clag, and in front of us people slowly walked up, one by one, following in each others footsteps, taking care not to slip. I paused for a bit to take it all in before following a good 30 metres or so behind Jim.
By this point i still wasn`t wearing gloves, but a few falls on the way up had caused my hands to get cold really quickly and i stuck my "wee" gloves on (a pair of my wive`s, i stole years ago). I also had one little worry, I was experiencing severe chaffing in the nether regions ,(any advice on preventing this would be much appreciated) It took as 1hr 40mns , to reach the point were those who had gone before us had gathered around in their groups studying their maps and gps, and we all decided that this wee cairn was indeed the top of Bheinn Ghlas.
Some kind fella took our pictures and we moved on quickly, leaving everyone else hanging around the summit. It was to be the last time we would see anyone again for ages. We walked down the ridge which had a bit of a cornice built up one one side and it was a pity we had no views from here as i think it would have looked great. We did get a little break in the cloud and we could see Meall Corranaich to our left Lawers briefly appeared in front of us.
The wind and snow got stronger the higher up we got and despite the snow, i think the path was still pretty clear.
I saw Jim reach the crooked trig point, and no wonder it`s like that with the wind up there. We struggled to stay on our feet as we were blown about and after a quick pic, we sought shelter. We could barely see in front of us and i was apprehensive about moving anywhere because i just couldnt see anything but white around us. (This is the point were we didn`t check the map properly and in our haste to get out of the storm headed right, or east of the trig instead of north. ) We needed to get down out of the wind and we trudged through deep snow to find ourselves somewhere to eat.
We ate our sannies and made boiling hot chocolate, which had to be drank quickly as it cooled very fast. Again we had a "quick" look at our map and thinking we knew were we where, followed north on the compass to get us out of our camp and back onto the ridge. Easy peasy and down we go. I had great fun sliding down the slopes and practising my ice axe arrest technique, with Jim, acting like an adult, walking ahead of me. Still in the cloud as we reached a level point, I began to wonder when we would see An Stuc or even the Munro top Creag an Fhithich, which should have been right in front of us. Just then the clouds lifted, dissapeared even , leaving nothing but blue skies all around us and a couple of cracking looking hills in front of us, their snowy tops glistening in the sun. It really did change that quick, just as well I hear you say. It was Jim who made the connection first, "We should be over there" he said pointing to them, and looking back up to Ben Lawers which was showing us all of it`s white majesty behind us. It looked feckin awsome ! We had our first great views of the day but we were in the wrong place. What were we gonna do ?
We pondered walking back up and round or sliding down to the bottom of the corrie before deciding to drop just a bit and skirt round the side of it to An Stuc. The snow was deep in places and once i sunk right in and couldn`t move my right foot which had become stuck under the snow, Jim walked on thinking i`d get myself out quickly. A couple of minutes later he turned to see me digging away at the snow with my ice axe trying desperately to get out, which i eventually did. It was a wee wake up call to how dangerous deep snow can be however soft it is, it just kept falling in and filling in the gaps i was hacking at. Once out i couldn`t believe the mistake we made but couldn`t help admiring the surroundings, it was beautiful and my happiness made up for the lapse. We were crossing beautiful alpine-like terrain and although tired and adding extra time and more difficult walking conditions the goal was in sight and we had plenty of daylight left. The cross over to An Stuc was challenging in places with rocky outcrops to negotiate and more deep snow to wade through.
But we got back on track and we met a couple of guys coming off An Stuc, who i`m sure gave us a "silly boys look" when Jim told us which route we had taken. Anyway as i said we were back on track and no one was lost or hurt and we scrammbled up the initial steep climb. Again the path was good and clear although there wasn`t as much snow on here as Lawers, and as before the wind picked up again and i think it was here that we got pelted with hail for 5 minutes or so. We got onto An Stuc`s summit just about 3pm and the views back to Lawers were great and indeed all around, but the wind was hard and after a phone call from my wife we were to head off, down on to the most difficult part of the walk.
We headed off the summit looking for Cat Gully to descend our third Munro. We poked around looking for a safe way down. We saw the snow filled gully and thought if we can get onto that , we can maybe slide down the gully. It was difficult getting to it as it was steep and the grass was really slippy, so we hunkered down and made our way slowly forward, taking slightly different routes. There was dirt, stones and rocks falling from wherever we placed our feet. This was beginning to feel a bit dodgy. The closer the supposed snow slide appeared the more obvious it was that there was no way we could just slide down it, it was very steep and i didn`t fancy falling. Jim got onto the snow first and slowly dug his way in to it and climbed down. I held back a bit and moved over to my right keeping out of Jim`s line as everything was loose and i was constantly shouting at him to watch out for debris. I kept thinking, once i get onto the snow I`ll be alright, but once i got there i couldn`t believe how dangerous it was. It was getting really treacherous. Time for the serious head to be put on. I thought about getting back up and putting my crampons on. I`ve had them for months now and carried them on a few walks without the need to use them, and wasn`t sure if they`d do me any good, so i left them off. I slowly made my way down to where Jim had kicked his steps in the snow and started using them to get down. But the difference in leg lengths made it a bit hard for me to reach his and sometimes when i did get into them, they gave way, causing my heart to skip a beat for that split second that i slipped before regaining my composure. I had shortened my walking pole to dig in with my left hand and used the shaft of the ice axe in my right. Keeping 3 points of contact at all times i got myself into a rhythm and slowly worked my way down, and keeping an eye on Jim below me, who was doing the same.I`m not ashamed to say i was bricking it a bit now. It was slow progress and i eventually reached an "island" of grass and rock to rest on for a bit. By now Jim had got out of danger and was standing waiting for me below showing me pointers and encouraging me to keep going. My heart was racing, and i took a good drink of water before getting myself back on it. There was only about ten metres of steep snow left to negotiate, before i saw a snow chute i could definitely use to slide down and i made my way across to it. Once on it i just let myself go, occasionally digging the axe in to slow me down. What a relief it was to be off it and i followed Jim over to the base of the climb up Meall Garbh. I told him i needed a rest and we stopped for a bite to eat.
We sat and looked back at An Stuc and laughed at it. It just looked impossible for us with our moderate climbing experience to even think about a way up or down that slope. If we had been going the other way i don`t think i would even attempted to go up it ! We joked that we weren`t just hillwalkers anymore, we were mountaineers !
But we couldn`t sit for long as it began snowing before turning to hail and back to snow again as we climbed our way up onto the path of Meall Garbh. Knowing that the hard parts were out the way I could relax and didn`t mind too much about the wind or hail until we got to the top. Where the wind was just incredible. I`ve never really experienced spindrift before and it was mental up there, the snow was blowing in all directions and although we had great views in all directions you couldn` keep your face pointed in one direction for too long. I could hardly even take a picture of Jim at the summit, because i couldn`t face him for the snow/hail smashing into my face.
From here we could see our final summit of the day, Meall Greigh, which looked like a long, slow, gradual walk up what looke like a few false summits. As we headed down, the spindrift danced around alongside us like white tornadoes, spectacular to look at, but painful when they passed through you.
We walked towards our last Munro of the day practically following fenceposts all the way, first down through snow, then some boggy marsh grass on the flat, before heading uphill again through crusty snow. Jim spooked a couple of ptarmigan on the way over who were then kind enough to pose on some rocks for him.
As the old legs got tired, false summit after false summit, i wondered if this hill would ever end, supposedly the easiest one aswell But there it was at last, the final summit, our fifth Munro of the day
We celebrated with a firm manly handshake and then a big girly hug, before sitting down for a bit before the final descent.
Now all we had to do was get down the hill and find some way of getting back to the carpark, 7 miles away !
We popped into the Ben Lawers hotel to enquire about a taxi....you would have thought we were a couple of weirdos, going by the looks we got when we asked. It turns out it`ll cost you 40 quid to get one, if anyone would answer the phone that is. But, our luck was in as a guy, Dougie, overheard us and offered us a lift back and all the price was to be that we would listen to him blabbering on about rock art and cup markings along the way
He was an archaeoligist studying the area for ancient ruins, but once was a keen hillwalker. If you`re reading this Dougie, you know i`m joking about the blabbering, because we did find it interesting and are eternally grateful for your kind offer.
Thanks for reading.
more photos and route here
by jogilv16 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:46 am
by Tomsie » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:47 am
by flipside » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:54 am
Excellent report made me look normal
by coachmacca » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:46 am
Amazed how much snow there still is if I'm honest but I can empathise re your downwards descent in the gully.. reminds me of going up Spearhead Gully a few weeks back and finsging it pretty nerve racking (to say the least)!
Well done for the 5 !!
by lomondwalkers » Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:20 am
by Fudgie » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:26 pm
by dogplodder » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:12 pm
by gammy leg walker » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:52 pm
by simon-b » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:48 pm
by tomyboy73 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:19 am
by pollyh33 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:23 am
I still have the 3 eastern hills to do, so I think I'll go anti-clockwise and that way I get to go up the dodgy face of An Stuc, rather than down
Cheers for posting such great photos too, they really help a dafty like me visualise what I have to look forward to!
by JB likes a beer » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:58 am
by old danensian » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:50 pm