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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.

Beinn Narnain western ridge, winter underfoot

Beinn Narnain western ridge, winter underfoot


Postby BigT » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:55 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Narnain

Date walked: 20/11/2013

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 12 km

Ascent: 926m

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Eager to pop my winter walking cherry, I aimed to capitalize on a great looking forecast with blue skies, low wind, and fresh snow underfoot. I'm a cautious type, so I decided not to tackle Narnain head on or be greedy and pair with Ime, I was going to take the long way around and ascend Narnain from the west.

Starting at 9 am, I walked up the cobbler path to kick things off. Ben Lomond visible from the path.
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The walk up was fine, although I could swear I heard the thud thud thud of automatic gunfire... :shock:
I crossed the track and again followed as if heading for The Cobbler, eventually breaking the treeline about 20 mins later.
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Following the path I had to step aside as two columns of squaddies carrying big guns were descending the cobbler \ An t-Sron path and crossing at the dam onto my side. I continued north, staying to the right to head for Narnain boulders reassured there was not a nutter running around the Coire a'Bhalachain with a gun :crazy:

Until now the path had a light dusting of frost, but from here it was iced over on ever flat section. The views of the cobbler are pretty epic, the picture below shows it well along with the underfoot conditions.
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The direct route up Narnain was visible, one for summer for me. And a little further along a clean look at the south face of Beinn Narnain.
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Once under the shadow of the cobbler i got my first view of the west ridge of Narnain.
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Still below the snowline, but concerned with the path, i was not sure about using my crampons in such conditions or just nimbly nipping along the sides. At what appear to be a junction for The Cobbler and Ime, I cut north along a feint path toward the bottom of the western ridge just west of the lochan. I think i may have been better sticking on toward Ime and awaiting the split for Narnain as this feint path got....ehm...feinter.

Whilst the skies were blue all around, only Ime refused to show herself, with a thin clag covering up her summit.
Image.

The cobbler just likes to show off some times :clap:
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By this time there was plenty of the white stuff on the ground. The boots were handling it fine, so again I held off putting on the crampons. Occasionally I would have to kick a step in a steep section, but all in, the rocks poking through the snow were providing good balancing points for the next step forward. What I will say is that if like I did, you do this on fresh snow, forget about picking the path out. Fortunately it's a big wide ridge and I can't see what difference it makes in reality as the target is the top. So up I went, sometime following what could have been a path, sometimes directly up and around the 2 boulder fields. You have about 350 m to cover to the plateau below the summit, so it's over quite quickly. The first half to the first boulder field is less steep than the second half. I ascended to the north of the boulder field.
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The ascent flattens out after the second boulder field and you are faced with a 100 m walk across the flat surface to a large rocky bump which is the final 100 m or so climb through a boulder field. The wind hit me now, and it got cold very quickly. I was happy to meet a walker coming the opposite direction, and made a note to see if his footsteps better matched the alleged path than mine. On plateau the path is ok until it is not and disappeared into a snow covered bolder field :shock: it felt like it should be easier, but with time marching on I took the adventurous route up and through the boulders.

This pops you out on a large flat summit area, all small boulders and rocks, plus the cairn. Views are very cool, a now clear Ben Ime and The Cobbler particularly. Views down Loch Long were probably the pick on the bunch.

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I had time to get sheltered and have some porridge, hydration pack had frozen which was a pain - it was nearly 400 m down before I could have another drink.

I sort of forgot to take a photo of the cairn, closest i have is a hurried selfie where I was holding onto it at the time :D

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The decent back the way I came was similar to the ascent, it felt like it could have been a path, but if it turns out not to be you won't be surprised. My gut feel, looking back, is the crampons should have went on for the descent to as the snow felt more slippy moving downward. Looking down you can see the path you are aiming for so it was just a case of picking the best route. I came down south of the boulder field as I lost the path again very quickly. Also enjoyed an intentional bum slide down about 10 m of snow covered heather. The quickest 10 m of the day for sure. Once on the path the second half of the decent was quicker, and a more direct route could be picked out. Eventually I was back at the lochan and ready to get moving east back past the cobbler.

This was nasty, as the ice was a darn site easier to walk around coming up the way than going down. I took two impressive falls, one minor which I laughed about, and a second not so funny when my weight fell against my knee in a bambi on ice moment. At this point I just slowed it right down, and accepted it was better to walk the last 1/2 km in fading light if it came to it, than rush and fall and end up needing one of those special helicopter flights. So a little pained, I continued on carefully, gradually the ice dissipated and the path became more visible more often than not. Further research since the walk has revealed microspikes, and these have arrived today!

Retracing my route I got back to the car a little after 4.20. It was a satisfying day, which started with enough time to enjoy the scenery, but was a fail in my hope to pull on the crampons. I lost an hour to my alarm not going off and the A82 being closed at renton in the morning, and you can't under-estimate just how important that hour is this time of year. I need to break the habit of not being at my start point in good time. All in an enjoyable day, a little rougher I suppose than anything else for me so far given the visibility of the route up Narnain being varied. Even now, 2 days later, my calf muscles are sore as heck and feel rock hard, so a decent work out for sure.
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BigT
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Re: Beinn Narnain western ridge, winter underfoot

Postby Graeme D » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:30 pm

BigT wrote: Further research since the walk has revealed microspikes, and these have arrived today!

Retracing my route I got back to the car a little after 4.20. It was a satisfying day, which started with enough time to enjoy the scenery, but was a fail in my hope to pull on the crampons.


Nah, you don't want to have crampons on unless you really need them. Microspikes though, they're the business as long as you're on flattish, well consolidated snow.
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Graeme D
 
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Re: Beinn Narnain western ridge, winter underfoot

Postby electricfly » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:00 pm

If you had postponed it for a day BigT, there was an extra layer of white stuff on Thursday morning. There were a few folks in full crampons on Beinn Ime, I was fine with just my Salewa instep crampons. With a few more hard frosts Spearhead gully on Narnain will be good to go up with crampons. :D

Beinn Narnain and the Cobbler from Beinn Ime, Thursday 21st Nov.

Image
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Re: Beinn Narnain western ridge, winter underfoot

Postby BigT » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:56 pm

Graeme D wrote:
BigT wrote: Further research since the walk has revealed microspikes, and these have arrived today!

Retracing my route I got back to the car a little after 4.20. It was a satisfying day, which started with enough time to enjoy the scenery, but was a fail in my hope to pull on the crampons.


Nah, you don't want to have crampons on unless you really need them. Microspikes though, they're the business as long as you're on flattish, well consolidated snow.


I used the microspikes today. Absolute revelation.
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BigT
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Re: Beinn Narnain western ridge, winter underfoot

Postby BigT » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:58 pm

electricfly wrote:If you had postponed it for a day BigT, there was an extra layer of white stuff on Thursday morning. There were a few folks in full crampons on Beinn Ime, I was fine with just my Salewa instep crampons. With a few more hard frosts Spearhead gully on Narnain will be good to go up with crampons. :D

Beinn Narnain and the Cobbler from Beinn Ime, Thursday 21st Nov.

Image


Looks great, I'd have been up there every day this week if I could have. Unfortunately, Tuesday was my only option!
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