Sunday 7th June 2015 was the first day of decent weather after 3 days of rain. Blue skies abounded, although tempered with a strong and gusty wind. I’d almost decided to head back home to Leicester as I was bored and cold and had already wasted enough time experimenting with how many pot noodles I could eat in one day or considering the comparative joys of chocolate versus carrot cake, (chocolate obvs).
Anyway, upon seeing a day of promise i bounced out of the tent and packed my rucsac noting that some of my stuff was still a bit damp from the previous days dousing on the attempt of Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawyers, aborted due to a 400 mile per hour wind that tried to urge me off the path. Then I headed to Ben More and Stob Binnien
There were about half a dozen cars parked up along the A82 near the start point at Ben Moore farm. I spotted a group of 4 people setting off up which is always helpful to me as I’m rather adept at getting mildly lost in a “I’m sure there must be a path somewhere” type of fashion. I followed them for a while before catching them up and having a bit of a chat on the lower slopes where I passed them and carried on up the obvious path over the damp grassy bit then onto a more defined stone path. I trudged and pulled upwards, on and on and on. And on and on. Its definitely a steep slog going up that way. Head down, focus, 20 steps then a quick stand to ease the legs then on again. Then you’re at the top, not the most interesting walk up but at 1174 m, there is a psychological advantage that the hardest work of the day is done. The highest point has been reached.
And of course there are the views, the vista opening up further and further as the height is gained. Although the day was generally bright and warm, banks of cloud rolling in from the north west accompanied by a strong gusty wind obscured the hills for a time before continuing on their path. The cicerone book describes Stob Binnien as an elegant peak but I couldn’t see it much at all in the cloud as I set off to the Bealeach, a descent of about 300 m.
Then suddenly the wind swooped and rushed up the glen and over the bealeach, blowing the clouds away and tearing that side of Stob Binnien with a fierceness that was unexpected from the manageable blow of Ben More. I tried to use the angle of the wind to push me up the hill, successfully in places but then as the steep stony path switched back I pushed head on into it and struggled as it took my breath away.
I carried on upwards beating my way through the wind in fashion somewhat resembling an Olympic swimmer doing a very slow free style race and reached the summit of Stob Binnien at 1165 m not long after. The cloud had pretty much cleared away and a sheltered area on the north east side of the summit got me out of the wind and into some strong sunshine and heat. It was so sheltered that i was able to role a cigarette and in the calm conditions could get both the maps out of the cover and spread them out to identify landmarks in the view.
I noticed a Landover track in the Inverlochlarig glen below, snaking its way up towards Glen More. The map also depicted a land rover track coming through Glen More and although they didn’t meet by about 2 miles I was confident that there would be a path through that i’d be able to find. And it was considerably less windy on that side of the hill. Mind made up I struck on down over the shoulder of Stobinnian to the south and into Glen Voil.
I’m very glad that I took that route as it was my favourite part of the day. The path goes over a lovely, grassy, wide section high up on the mountain so i could wander along and relax, checking out the views regularly. The final slope down to the road is predominantly a steep grassy one with a path and a few sections where its more stony or rocky. There was no wind so in the sunshine it was very much warming up. By the time I got to the bottom and out onto the road next to the car park I was boiling and required a reorganisation of clothing, took a drink and a break and headed up towards the LRT in Glen Inverlochlarig past Rob Roy’s house although he wasn’t in.
In this beautiful peaceful quiet glen, with few signs of life, it was a bit of a surprise to suddenly come across a convoy of 20 or so 4x4’s heading up the road towards me. It turned out to be the Scottish off road society on a trip out. I moved out of the way for them, waved at a few people and said some hellos and made it to the track heading back towards Ben More.
Land rover tracks are rather irritating. From 1000meters above they look completely flat, well surfaced and an anticipated joy to walk on after the incline and descent of the hills. Needless to say, they are not like that at all. They swerve upwards very steeply, they seem to go on forever winding round more corners and up over more rises and then they run out in the middle of no-where.
I had a smoke as I walked along, dragging my feet on the stony ruts until the track ran out and I vainly sought to find a path. Nothing doing but it’s an obvious direction in which to go, even for me with my qualifications in getting lost, so I followed the burn and headed for the pass between Creagan Dubha and Creagan Liatha. It was a very pleasant, secluded and peaceful walk. A bit boggy but my boots were holding up fine and the grandeur of Stob Binnien from the ground was impressive. Blimey, I was up there earlier!
Eventually it occurred to me that I needed to be on the other side of the burn. There had been a lot of rain the day before, to the extent that community events around Scotland had been cancelled, and in a country as used to rain as Scotland, that means a lot of rain! Now this rain was rushing off the hill and the burn was in spate. I have a problem with fast moving water and stepping stones. Actually I have a problem with slow moving water and stepping stones. Actually it’s fair to say that I just don’t like stepping stones. Even if the worst that can happen is that my foot will get wet, the whole process of crossing water in that way sets me off into a nervous flutter rather in the manner of an old lady who’s trying to use the internet for the first time.
So I dithered my way up the banks of the burn assessing all potential crossing places, hmm, maybe here, er no. What about here? No and definitely not here. After about 20 minutes of peering and assessing I gave myself a stiff talking to “for f’s sake Claire, just stop arsing about and get over it”. So I plucked up my courage, went for it and of course I didn’t fall in, I didn’t break my head or anything more generally useful (like my phone), I didn’t get swept away by a freak tidal wave or eaten by a passing shark, I didn’t even get my boots wet. However I did have a minor heart palpitation, but terrifying challenge successfully dealt with I ascended the beleach and continued down into Glen More briefly pausing to belt out that well known song “the bonnie blue bonnets” at full volume to celebrate the view and experiencing high levels of disinterest from the local sheep population.
I could see the Glen More track in the distance so I carried on towards it realising with sinking heart that once again I was on the wrong side of another small but invigorated burn. Another 10 minutes of painstaking path finding and muttering found me an acceptable crossing point and with much deep breathing and concentration I breached this practically impenetrable gushing river that bought to mind the Mississippi in flood and then basically I was home and dry.
Onto the land rover track which lead back to the start point with a smoke to see me back to the road and the conclusion a long, successful day out culminating in foraging for the remnants of food in the tent.
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