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Ben Challum - Blowin' in the wind

Ben Challum - Blowin' in the wind


Postby 2manyYorkies » Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:15 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Challum

Date walked: 15/03/2014

Time taken: 5.1 hours

Distance: 12.09 km

Ascent: 905m

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Is it just me, or does Ben Challum seem to get a fairly weak press? I got a sort of "boggy and uninteresting, but the views are good" vibe? ( Views are always going to be of slight irrelevance when whizzing up from Yorkshire on a pre-booked trip, when therefore by definition lousy weather will prevail...).
Yes, there's no doubt that there are much tougher climbs, well 'ard mountains with ridges galore, flexing their over-developed biceps etc, but Ben Challum deserves more than it's slightly snotty nosed 2.75/5 rating (now 2.8 as I've helped a bit). Blimey, it's 106/282 in terms of height alone, no shrinking violet? There's a role for the Challums of this world, and that's to provide people like me with something to climb when the weather is truly awful and I've committed to a trip.
Partaking of a 3-day special offer in Crianlarich courtesy of Trail magazine, the conundrum was always going to be what to climb when the mist is down to 500m, the gusts are up to 60 mph, rain is persistent, and the bog is glooping at loudest volume. I do envy the fact that locals can be more selective with the weather, but heigh ho, no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.
This a wordy report, just a few pics taken at the start which are too dull for publication, it was clag from the 500m line onwards, troughs of peat and slightly melting snow, and a complete white-out on the top. I took a pic at the final summit but the camera was a tad moist and it didn't come out, try and imagine a blank white piece of paper and you get the idea though.
Starting at the lay-by on the A82 (where I was the last car in at just after 9 am), I set off about 5-10 mins behind a large walking club group - presumably responsible for all the other cars there. The initial route up is clear from the Kirkton farm road- often its these initial "getting on the right path at the bottom" bits which can prove troublesome with alternative tracks flying off left, right and centre. Further route finding is very straightforward indeed, once over the railway crossing, up until the southern (false) summit, thanks to the fence line. Although described as boggy in every description, yes it is, but its not really as bad as it's made out to be in my opinion - an opinion that was forged on many days on Kinder Scout in the mist as a youth, now that is bog - and there are plenty of gloop-avoiding options on Challum. The deer fence stiles are a tad flimsy for the fuller-figured Munro bagger, but all good fun. The OS map is also a bit misleading, as this shows a forest lower down, when in reality it's a plantation of young trees so is pretty much open countryside.
Crossing a small burn requires a little care, and in my case a deal of phaffing about as it was time for overtrousers and pole deployment. After crossing this, and a small stile (one plank) to the other side of the fence. the path is a little more defined. The wind was getting up all the time, the first patches of peat-stained melt-freeze cycle snow appeared, a bit knee-sucking in parts, a bit further on I bumped into some walkers from the group who'd started ahead of me and who'd decided to turn back as the gusts were making life difficult, and the wind chill factor was high. Being shrouded in clag didn't help either. Others from their group had gone on though, so I decided to plug away for a bit longer myself.
Ok, it is a bit of a slog, but never is the gradient coronary-inducing and the fence line, which eventually downsizes to a rusty-old-post line is a great navigational support in the mist. The path was now indistinct a lot of the time, and large patches of boot-hugging snow were energy sapping to cross. It was quite easy to get in past the knee in places, always a joy.
Despite the reasonable gradient though height seemed to be gained quite quickly, but the wind was truly ferocious, gusting 45-60 mph, locally up to 70 mph according to MWIS, and when you turned into the gale you could do that thing where you lean right forward and the wind keeps you upright... sorry I digress, moving on, a few hundred metres blow the southern summit a couple of walkers plus hounds passed me with consummate ease and fitness, and were joined by a third. As I approached the cairn below the southern summit (you wave goodbye to the fence posts at this point), the three were returning. They had thought that the cairn was the top, and in the mist and general misery that was an easy mistake to make. However, as I am a keen student of the Websters' guide I remembered clearly that the true top was clearly a few hundred metres further on, and the GPS confirmed that. All four of us proceeded to the southern top, then finally found a way round the cleft in the ridge (by going through it without realising, the snow was that deep I guess). For some reason the other three decided not to proceed though and I trudged on alone. Despite the mist it was plain to see that you pass across a reasonably narrow bit of ridge, but the snow here was really soft and quite deep, very jellify-ing on the legs, unpleasant. Eventually it improved and there was a final couple of hundred metres trudge to the very top, which I defined as the bit where you couldn't go any higher, marked only by a pile of stones - looked fairly natural to me, not cairn-like - on the right hand side of the top. It seemed like mine were the only fresh tracks, so I wasn't sure what had happened to the other group.
A few yards below the top I passed a fellow summitteer (?), exchanged a cheery word, and reversed the route down. He later caught me up and we enjoyed a very pleasant chat on the way down. We exchanged names at the end, as you do, but as it takes me at least 6 months to remember anyone's name these days I embarrassingly can't remember apart from it begins with A, but I know he taps into this site so "hi" if you're there. We passed the other large group on the way down, they hadn't gone on to the summit but had their axes out so maybe were doing some alternative route or training etc.
I was pleased with the time, just over 5 hours, considering the slow going in the wet soft snow, and the route finding issues on the south summit. So, Ben Challum, not the Belle of the Ball maybe, but will take care of you (with easy route finding, aside from the summit in poor visibility) and provide you with a good workout and a blow job (it being very windy indeed).
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2manyYorkies
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Re: Ben Challum - Blowin' in the wind

Postby old danensian » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:07 am

What a difference a day or so makes.

Just about to post my own report when I saw yours - commiserations on not being able to enjoy the day I did.

And I know what you mean - Kinder Scout, Armbroth Fell - now they are bogs.

OD
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Re: Ben Challum - Blowin' in the wind

Postby londonwalker » Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:56 pm

The "A" is for Andy. Great report 2MY. It was exactly as described. Seems we were the ones with the greatest perseverance as all the others on the hill that day turned back. The guys with the dogs are well known to the owners of the Glenngarry guest house on not making summits! Always getting lost. And thanks for your company on Beinn Chabhair as well
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