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Beinn Chabhair - why I climb mountains!
by Graeme D » Tue Mar 15, 2016 10:52 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Chabhair
Date walked: 27/02/2016
Time taken: 7.4 hours
Distance: 12.4 km
Ascent: 1110m9 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).
It was with this image at the back of my mind that I checked the forecast for Saturday 27th February 2016. The date had been decided well in advance - that is largely how I operate these days, certainly during term time. If the weather is fine, so much the better. If it isn't, then so be it. In all my years of walking in the Scottish hills, I've yet to regret the decision to head out in inclement weather. Even after the most foul of days (Beinn Dhamhain in December 2013 and Beinn Mhic-Mhonaidh in February 2014 to name but a couple of recent corkers, and even the Daddy of all Bad Hill Days, Bynack More in March 2010), I have returned home feeling a better person for having been out there, gone into work on the Monday with a renewed sense of vigour and spring in my stride. On good days I feel exactly the same sense of revitalisation, of exhilaration. On those really special, really good days that come along all too rarely, when you get the added bonus of the views that just take your breath away and the atmosphere that you could almost reach out and touch, I feel all of these things but also a deep sense of wonder and of, well, of............ well I guess if you're still asking yourself the question "Of what?" and waiting for me to answer, then like I said, you probably wouldn't understand the answer.
48 hours out from Saturday and they were saying that the weekend forecast was looking pretty decent. By the Friday MWIS was using language that I am not used to seeing them use too frequently and Judith Ralston was practically wetting herself live on TV at the prospect of just how good the weekend weather was looking! A good thing really, because had I not already made hill plans for the Saturday and received a clear green light, I too would have been wetting myself, only not through excitement and presumably not live on TV. As it was, my new hill buddy John (with whom I had gone out for the first time back at New Year) and I had made plans. This time we had roped in a mutual friend by the name of Bruce, from whom I get most of my supplies of firewood. Bruce had often spoken to me about his love of hillwalking and lamented the fact that it was now a rather infrequent event in his life. We really should plan a day in the hills together! Yeah yeah. We both agreed that would be great, but you know how it goes. Anyway, with John now in the fold and fired up by the prospect of a second outing this year before the month of March was yet upon us (he was even daring to imagine that this might become a monthly occurrence!!!), Bruce was also roped in.
I originally suggested Sgor Gaoith from Glen Feshie but then when I really thought about it, I remembered that I really fancied doing that via a scramble up from the Loch Einich side. This perhaps wouldn't be appropriate for this particular outing! After a quick rethink, I settled on Beinn Chabhair. Neither John nor Bruce had done it and seemed quite happy with the change of plan.
Beinn Chabhair was my last remaining red balloon in what most books call the "Crianlarich hills" section. Generally speaking, I do not like to focus on or rush through particular "sections" or "ranges". On the contrary, I like to leave a little dash of red amongst the sea of blue. Good reason to revisit areas again and again. Beinn Chabhair had been my little dash of red in the Crianlarich hills for the best part of 6 years. The last time I turned red balloons blue in these parts was in July 2010. I remember it well. It was a scorching Monday in the summer holidays, pre-fatherhood, my wife at work, the day after Spain had lifted the World Cup, and I set off up Twistin' Hill towards An Casteil and Beinn a'Chroin. Beinn Chabhair had sat in splendid red isolation ever since. I'd been saving it for just the right day - a single summit day when I didn't want to go too far, preferably in late winter with snow on the ground and a nice crust on the infamous bogs. That day had come!
John arranged to pick me up at 7am and we would then pick Bruce up on our way through Methven. John had forgotten his ice axe so we went via his house to pick it up then out to Methven where Bruce was busy chopping wood in the garden. He was surprised to see ice axes when John popped the boot of the car and asked whether we thought they would be necessary. Probably but who knows, I replied, but better to have them and not need them than need them but not have them! Bruce then proceeded to nip back inside and return a minute or two later with an axe that looked like it had come straight out of the British Museum of Mountaineering Memorabilia. Although technically not a museum piece, he did inform us that it had seen first hand action in the Alps in the hands of his father.
As it was, he decided to leave it in the car in the car park of the Drovers Inn at Inverarnan. He didn't have crampons in any case and said that if it got beyond the point where he could safely carry on without them or the axe, he would simply return to the pub and wait for us there. Not a bad plan Brucie now you come to mention it. However, that would have been to have missed out on one of the great clear blue late summer days in the hills, as I hope the photos in this report will amply testify.
There was a fair bit of coming and going in the car park of the Drovers Inn even for 9 o'clock in the morning, but few people seemed to be gearing up for the hills. We set off back along the road and across the bridge over the River Falloch to Beinglas campsite, keeping right through the stile and following the edge of the field along the river and then over to the wigwams, thus avoiding the main part of the campsite. Behind the wigwams, the gentle warm up came to a sudden end and the fairly brutal ascent up the hillside path towards the Beinglas falls began.
Crossing the bridge over the River Falloch to Beinglas campsite
John going over the deer fence - Lui, Oss and Dubhcraig in the background
Behind us a steady procession of cars came down the drive from the main road to the parking area in the campsite and it looked like quite a few hill walkers were getting out and getting togged up. Despite this however, we were to see very little evidence of others on this hill today.
Bruce set a fair old pace for a man who hadn't done any serious hillwalking to speak of since God knows when. John lagged behind, backing up his claim in the car that he had done no exercise since our Glen Spean outing some eight weeks previously.
Once up on to the more level terrain above the falls, we started to hear the noise of the diggers working below the slopes of Meall Mor nan Eag and before long we caught sight of the bright yellow and orange machines as they laboured away in the spring sunshine.
Now we had a decision to make - the straightforward lower level route that follows the Ben Glas burn up into the coire to the Lochan Beinn Chabhair and then directly east up onto the Munro summit, or the more adventurous "rollercoaster" route over Meall Mor nan Eag, past Lochan a'Chasteil and below Stob Creag an Fhithich, and then finally over Meall nan Tarmachan to approach the Munro summit from the north west.
The guys were quite happy to go with my recommendation for the "purist" route over the "tourist" route. It certainly was a rollercoaster, and definitely the hard way to the summit, but worth it given the conditions and the views that accompanied us along the rollercoaster walk.
Bruce and John pose with Meall Fhudhair
The Lui group from Cleibh to Dubhcraig
Through the snow line
Bruce casting a long shadow
The rocky road ahead over Meall Mor nan Eag
The Lui group behind John and Bruce
Loch Lomond and Vorlich
Dhamhain and Fhudhair
Approaching Lochan a' Chaisteil and Stob Creag an Fhithich
Skirting around Lochan an Caisteal
The Lui group across the lochan
The views were truly stunning and as ever in these sorts of conditions in the southern highlands, a vast swathe of the country was visible, albeit with a little imagination required at times. This is another thing I really love about hillwalking in excellent visibility - Scotland becomes a jigsaw with the component parts all slotting into place below.
Dropping down from the lochan to below the slopes of Meall nan Tarmachan
Meall nan Tarmachan
Cleibh, Lui and Oss
Bruce plodding onwards
Our trail snaking backwards behind John
Meall nan Tarmachan
We passed our only other human of the day on Meall nan Tarmachan before the final push up through a snow gully onto the summit ridge where the views opened up to a new level. Mull, the Glen Etive hills, the Loch Earn Munros, the Luss hills. You name it - the Southern Highlands laid out before us!
The Lui group again, with my old friend Fiarach in the middle of the shot
Approaching the snow gully
North to the Cruachan and Etive hills
Rimed up rock just below the summit ridge
Distant Loch Earn Munros from the summit ridge, with Beinn a'Chroin and Stob a'Choin in the foreground
North. Hills, hills, more hills and John (can you spot him?)
Ben More and Stob Binnein in the background, An Caisteal and Beinn a'Chroin in the foreground
John almost there - Beinn Dorain in the far distance
Number 187 did not give itself up easily!
Beinn a'Chroin, Stob a'Choin and Meall Mor with the Loch Earn Munros off in the distance
Loch Long from the summit
From the summit we retraced our steps to the upper reaches of the burn and followed it down to the Lochan Beinn Chabhair and the long walk back along the burn to the pub. The infamous Beinn Chabhair bogs were just about frozen over sufficiently to avoid a quagmire but it was till a relief to pick up the path that led us back to the Beinglas falls and then down to the pub for a well earned pint or two - well for Bruce and myself at any rate.
Lochan Ben Glas
Looking back from the outflow
Homeward bound along the Ben Glas burn
It took us five hours from car to summit over the knolls and bumps of the ridge, two hours from summit to car via Lochan Beinn Chabhair.
The Drovers was packed to the rafters as usual and I must say it was nice to relax with a few pints safe in the knowledge that someone else had driving duties! Those pints that Bruce and I had in the Drovers clearly just whetted our appetites as we talked John into stopping off in Crianlarich where we resupplied for the drive back home, which was interrupted by several emergency layby stops along the way!
by kmai1961 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 6:26 am
...and Judith Ralston was practically wetting herself live on TV at the prospect of just how good the weekend weather was looking!
Great read, Graeme, what a superb day out you had, and fab photos. Pretty good for a hill that's got a rather forlorn "bogfest" reputation!
by jamesb63 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:03 am
looks like a great time was had by you all and some beautiful pics
by Jeremiah Johnson » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:56 am
by Gordie12 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:13 pm
That 1st paragraph confused me though, very hip chat about something I know nothing about - we've only just got the leccy in Forfar you know......................
by teaandpies » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:22 pm
This report is a belter
by malky_c » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:34 pm
Great report, brilliant views . Quite a rough hill - must do again.
Rather than returning to work with a renewed sense of vigour after a good day out, I usually find my mind is still out there, and I can't concentrate on what I'm doing properly
by ChrisW » Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:52 am