Camping it up on the Black Mount
by 2manyYorkies » Fri Aug 29, 2014 10:52 am
Munros included on this walk: Creise, Meall a'Bhuiridh, Stob a'Choire Odhair, Stob Ghabhar
Date walked: 25/08/2014
Time taken: 14 hours
Distance: 33 km
Ascent: 2371m4 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).
A good forecast, a couple of days off, and permission from The Boss it was all systems go on the English Bank Holiday Monday. I arrived at the car park at 12 midday and was soon on the way, in glorious sunshine ...
The turn off to the first Munro is clearly marked and the path climbs gently at first, then more steeply after crossing the burn to head ip the shoulder to the bouldery summit of Stob a'Choire Odhair, reaching the summit in just over two and a half hours.
All had been going well until I got to the top when I suddenly felt really ropey, even ropier than lugging 10-12kg of kit up a Munro would normally make me feel. I think I'd actually got mildly hypothermic, as despite the sunshine, there was a strong wind, gusting to 30 mph, and I hadn't bothered to stop to put my shell on. At the summit I was shivering like mad until I got some more layers on. On descending to the bealach between Stop a'Choire Odhair and Stob Ghabhar my legs were like jelly, things were not good and I had to think about a Plan B.
Original Plan A was to camp high on the plateau north of the summit of Stob Ghabhar, and hope for some serious mountain porn at sunrise and sunset but the wind, developing cloud and general pathetic feeling kicked that idea into touch. Plan B was to drop down to Corein Lochain under the north-east face of Stob Ghabhar, and after much phaffing about I found a flat spot with good views of the lochan one way, and Rannoch Moor the other.
Taking an early break gave me several hours in the evening to potter about and enjoy the views with my friend Mr Laphroaig. The cloud descended over the tops though and sadly ruled out any spectacular sunset over the moor, but it was as ever always a privilege to be able to enjoy a special view in solitude.
In the morning the cloud was right down to the tent (camped at about 650 m). Well rested and feeling like normal service had been resumed, I left just before 7 and ascended Stob Ghabhar, in the clag all the way. The route north from Stob Ghabhar passes over a broad grassy plateau and as there are several ridges to wrongly go down the compass was out, which was fun(ish). I was pressing on in the hope that the clag would be lifting soon as per the forecast; there was the occasional glimpse of clearing sky but only with the fleeting longevity of an X-factor winner, and it wasn't until I neared the drop off to Bealach Fuar-chathaidh between Aonach Mor and Clach Leathad that the cloud dramatically rose and revealed the first stunning views of the day.
The route from Stob Ghabhr (for me) had been essentially pathless, odd glimpses now and then, and the steep ascent from Bealach Fuar-chathaidh up the steep south-west flank of Clach Leathad was no exception, a tough climb over grassy tussock, scree and some rock, finally becoming less sadistic on the long bouldery summit slope.
Clach Leathad is not classified as a Munro, it stands a whole one metre less in height than Creise, the Munro at the northern end of the ridge, but has fantastic views and shouldn't be missed out:
From here it was a straightforward walk along the ridge to the summit cairn at Creise, before backtracking a few hundred metres to the cairn that marked the start of the clamber across to Meall a'Bhuiridh.
Although knackered by this point, I perversely quite enjoyed the descent from Creise and ascent to the final Munro. Of the four climbs I found it the easiest as it was neither too steep, too long or too crumbly. The views from the summit were simply stunning.
By now the cloud was negligible. It was still very cold though, and I needed three layers to stay normothermic. On this trip I'd re-learnt to appreciate just how easy it is to lose body temperature in supposedly good conditions.
I managed to phone home from the summit, reassured anyone who was pretending to be bothered that I was still alive (I'd seen no-one else on the walk since the summit of Stob a'Choire Odhair the previous afternoon), then set off along the ridge to find the descent down the south-east shoulder.
The drop down to the the West Highland Way took me nearly two hours, over steep bouldery ground at first then peaty boggy stuff on the drop off to the left of Creag an Fhirich. All the while I was treated to sumptuous views over Rannoch Moor, and occasional glimpses of nervous wildlife.
All that was left to be done was the 5 miles south along the WHW back to Victoria Bridge. Whilst at first it seemed easy to be back on a good track, the sharp stone soon took its toll on tired feet and it was a case of head down and no stopping until it was all over.
My figures for distance and ascent are from the GPS. All-in-all I found this a tough but immensely satisfying walk. I got back home to York just after midnight. My legs hurt...
by dogplodder » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:10 am
by 2manyYorkies » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:15 am
There was enough wind to keep midges at bay when I was camping - it was quite strong up until midnight, but they had a good go in the latter stages of the WHW the following day, when it was still and warm - good incentive to keep going fast!
The chill was quite a surprise, I'm normally running hot if anything, I'd just underestimated the effect of the wind on cooling sweat - sometimes gear can be too breathable! It was, in retrospect, interesting how it made me feel relatively rough for the next hour or so.
by simon-b » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:47 am
It looks like you had better luck than some of us did nine days earlier (I'm not asking you to read all 6 pages, just the first and later bits will tell the story!)...
...but that cloud has a silver lining: we've now got your report to help us make even better plans in advance, when we get a second chance. Your the second person I know of who's mentioned erratic compass readings on this route, so that's something worth knowing.
Thanks for some great photos from a superb trip.
by Johnny Corbett » Fri Aug 29, 2014 4:02 pm
by litljortindan » Sun Aug 31, 2014 7:55 pm
by rockhopper » Sun Aug 31, 2014 10:14 pm
by AnnieMacD » Tue Sep 02, 2014 5:52 pm
Great photos of the fabulous views.
by 2manyYorkies » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:57 pm
litljortindan wrote:Quite a trip and great pictures. How long did that feeling of weakness last?
Hi, assuming you're referring to the post-hypothermia? The strangest aspect was the jelliness of the legs on the descent to the bealach. By the time I'd made the decision to go for an early camp things were starting to get better, so probably just an hour or so. So often we aim to just plough on with the plan, and not see the bigger picture, and once I'd gone against the plan and convinced myself it was sensible to stop and camp, I really felt the spirits lift. Once the mental side improves, the rest follows and anything is possible; by bedtime I was convinced that I'd be able to go ahead in the morning and complete the original route - so pleased I did!
AnnieMacD wrote:Enjoyed reading your report - a real lesson for us rookies about how one can get chilled so quickly. I often postpone stopping and going through all the faff of layering up but will remember your post!
Yes, it was a bit of a surprise - I'm normally struggling to get cool, I run too hot most of the time! The following day I was in three layers a lot of the time as a result of my experience.
I was pleased with the photos but am totally in awe of yours from your trip to the Cuillin - I feel a plan coming together ...
rockhopper wrote:Looks like you got some great weather to enjoy these hills Nice route - we also covered these hills in one trip but went from the Glencoe ski centre instead - long but you get to see areas you'd otherwise miss - cheers
Thanks. I'd read your report a couple of times whilst thinking about this route. The part of the walk that links the two WH routes is straightforward but beautifully lonely, glad I did it that way.
by macdonald_ewan1983 » Wed Mar 25, 2015 12:38 pm
by alexanderneilharden » Wed Mar 25, 2015 11:33 pm
by Alteknacker » Thu Mar 26, 2015 12:15 am
I sympathise with the hypothermia thing - I had something similar happen quite recently. I couldn't be bothered drinking or eating enough, and then got so cold my whole body was shaking uncontrollably. And like you I normally have the opposite - running too hot - problem. I really should have known better .
I'm hoping to do these hills later this year, but starting with Ben Starav in Glen Etive and traversing the ridge. This is a great catalyst to stiffening my resolve!
Thanks for posting.