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Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber


Postby jupe1407 » Mon May 09, 2016 4:02 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chlachair, Chno Dearg, Creag Pitridh, Geal Charn, Mullach nan Coirean, Stob Ban (Grey Corries), Stob Ban (Mamores), Stob Coire Sgriodain

Date walked: 29/04/2016

Time taken: 28.25 hours

Distance: 71.8 km

Ascent: 4629m

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Every May a few of us pick an area, stay for a week and climb as many mountains as the weather (and fitness, injury) etc will allow. Last year's trip to Ullapool ended up a complete washout as near constant heavy rain limited my walks to a solitary outing to bag the four eastern Fannaichs, although to be fair we had a few good games of Scrabble and found a nice tea room in Ullapool :lol:

This year's choice was Fort William. After two years of bunkhouses, we opted for the comparative luxury of the Canalside Townhouse Apartments in Banavie. However this was only from Saturday, and in my keen-ness to make up for lost hill-time to a knee operations in March, I took the preceding Thursday and Friday off work. The initial intention was to cycle into Culra, and either camp, or risk asbestosis in the bothy for a couple of nights. "Luckily" the forecast of high wind, rain and snow ( :lol: ) put paid to that idea and I had a bit of a lie in, opting for plan B which was to spend a couple of nights and the fine Tulloch Station bunkhouse. Our walking would start on Friday.

Friday 29th April
Beinn a'Chlachair, Geal Charn, Creag Pitridh
9 hours
15.7 miles
1330m total ascent


The forecast hadn't really improved much from the predicted high winds & snow combination (it's the end of April FFS :lol: ), however we decided to take advantage of the 3 mile cycle in to take on these three munros. Frankly I was feeling apprehensive. My only walk since the op had been the easy ascent of Carn Bhac. This group had more than double the ascent with a likelihood of deep snow. Still, I had the option to bale after the first one should I not be feeling great. The cycle in was OK, though I struggled on the steep uphill section before the sharp turn right. I really need to work on bike fitness. It wasn't too long until we arrived as the lovely setting of Lochan na h'Earba and it's equally lovely beach, a potentially superb camp location, though probably not in sub-zero temps and snow.

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Beach at Lochan na h'Earba

We locked up the bikes and headed up the excellent stalkers path which heads up into the Corrie. Not long after the walking started, so did the snow :lol:

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Snow on the ascent into Coire Pitridh

We followed the path for a while then cross the Allt Coire Pitridh and wound our way through the pathless snowy terrain, making a rising traverse towards the the broad summit ridge of Beinn a'Chlachair. This was extremely bleak terrain.

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Into the Hinterland

My knee was holding up fine, my fitness however wasn't and I was feeling pretty knackered by the time we emerged on the ridge at roughly 950m. Once on the final pull to the cairn, the bitingly cold wind hit us, then thick clag descended, and the cairn disappeared. Just as the map & compass were coming out, the clag lifted completely. We were about 20 feet from it :lol: A stark reminder of the "fun" of being in the white room with a great big cornice not much more than 30 yards away.

There was little shelter from the biting cold here, so we descended the other side of the wide ridge to get a bite to eat, although this wasn't particularly sheltered either. There were however excellent views of the Alder Hills, with all of us very satisfied that we weren't having to sleep in tents over there tonight :lol:

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The Alder Range

We stayed for a few minutes but the cold was searing and we decided to move whilst still able to feel our fingers. Even with liners and winter gloves, my hands were pretty cold until being on the move warmed them up again. After a long walk back along the ridge, and some hard work in deep snow (I somehow managed to cramp up in my inner thigh here), we eventually reached the very steep descent through the crags to the bealach, at which point my knee started to occasionally complain. It's quite a setting though. with the stunning Loch a'Bhealaich Leamhain to the right.

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Descending Beinn a'Chlachair

There were some pretty menacing cloud formations heading towards Fort William :shock:

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Yikes

Resisting the very tempting trip back down to the bike, I decided to plough on through the next two munros, a decision which caused a fair degree of profanity when encountering a great deal of thigh deep snow on the way up Geal Charn. I can't say I massively enjoyed the false tops either. Still, I ploughed on in surprisingly decent time, stopping a couple of times to take photos of the breathtaking wintry hills. The view back to the previously hill with the Alder range beyond was pretty special.

Image
Alder Hills from the tiring ascent of Geal Charn

I forgot to take a photo of Geal Charn's bizarre nipple-like summit on the way, as I was too busy swearing at the frequent occasions my feet disappeared into deepish snow holes on the way up. A quick bite here, and I mean "quick" as I was bloody freezing. Much to my annoyance my mobile phone photos of the summit didn't save so you'll have to take my word for it :lol:

There was then a fairly straightforward descent to the bealach beneath Creag Pitridh. The reascent here is less than 100 metres, which must be one of the smallest re-ascents to any of the munros.

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Creag Pitridh

Though it seemed easy, my thigh cramped up for the fourth time that day, leading to more expletives. The rest of the ascent was straightforward though, and the views from it's summit of the twin "Earba's" and the hills beyond were breathtaking.

Image
View from Creag Pitridh's Summit

We lingered here for a wee while as the cold wasn't so bad at almost 100m lower than the previous summit, and picked our descent line. Aiming for a band of crags, before cutting left through a lot of wet grass, heather and occasional hags to eventually rejoin the outward path just after it fords the Allt Coire Pitridh. Unfortunately for much of this descent, the weather decided that snow, followed by wind and hail would be fun. This was shot just before it came in

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Yikes again

It was a big relief to hit the path and some decent terrain, and the walk back to the bikes was straightforward. The cycle back out was also a joyous freewheel with only a couple of uphill sections. I was absolutely wrecked after this walk, but overall, it had been thoroughly enjoyable. After all, the only way to get hill-fit is to climb hills.


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We retired to Tulloch for our second and last night there, before moving to our posh digs in Fort William. However, not before making the mistake of having a few beers and knocking off a bottle of Sloe Gin between the four of us :lol: The next day's walk would be fun.

Saturday 30th April
Stob Ban (Grey Corries)
6.5 hours
11.2 miles
1033m total ascent


On paper, this would (or rather should) be a straightforward day, especially with our non-purist approach of taking the bikes into the bothy. However I'd failed to take into account my lack of fitness, it being a warm sunny start to the day, and being pretty hungover thanks to our annihilation of beer and sloe gin the night before. There was also much more ascent on this cycle in than on yesterday's hills.

We duly arrived at Coirechoille's car park, having somehow survived the apocalyptic track in, unloaded the bikes and got going. I had to push mine on several stretches, feeling absolutely dreadful and swearing blind i'd never drink the night before a walk again (obviously this was sheer fantasy). We all stopped at the Wee Minister, as nearly everyone does :lol:

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The Wee Minister

The cycle in seemed to take an age (and probably did), I wasn't enjoying it at all and at some stages would have been happier to launch the bikes into the trees and just walk :lol: However, some tantalising views of the Innses and Grey Corries certainly helped to pass the time.

Image
Cruach Innse and the track in

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Stob Coire na Ceannain

We stopped at the Lairig Leacach Bothy for an early bite to eat and locked up the bikes, and before long started the ascent of Stob Ban, fording the Allt a'Chuil Chorean and started following the wet and boggy ascent path. Somewhere shortly thereafter we missed the turn off to follow the actual route and ended up slightly detouring up a wet grassy and very steep slope, before re-joining the route at about 600m. A few showers were now coming and going, making for a quite dramatic viewpoint, especially back to the Innses.

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Back to the Innses

We reached the snowline at about 650m and followed the slippery route up. The snow was beginning to melt and becoming that annoying almost slushy texture which made it quite slippy and irritating. Finally the fullness of Stob Ban came into view. It's a quite tremendous peak.

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The wonderful peak of Stob Ban

We followed a traverse path to the north side of the 769m point and began ascending the peak itself, grassy and wet at first, soon becoming steep, rocky and slushy. The upper slopes were a fun-packed mix of steep quartzite scree and slushy snow. However the top was soon reached, and lunch taken with glorious views all around.

Image
Lairig Leacach

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Grey Corries and the Mamores

We decided to leave the summit as the snow was coming in and followed the (initially) steep and rocky descent path down. My knees did not like this :lol: We met a nice couple further down who were heading up, and who'd luckily found my camera lens cap, which i must have dropped on the way in. Huge thanks to them for that :D We spoke to them again down at the bothy, they'd summited just as the snow properly hit, saw nothing in a mini-whiteout and come down.

The return route was much easier. We found a massive long stretch of snow to slide down then followed the actual path all the way out, which although steep, rocky and rough in places, was infinitely better than the slippery, steep and grassy way we'd come up. Another quick snack at the bothy and a quick chat with a couple of guys who were going to stay in it and then we headed out. The cycle out was glorious in comparison to the route in, with only a couple of uphills and a massive amount of freewheeling. We were soon back at the cars and on our way to the digs in Fort William. I would be taking a couple of days off though as my knees were hurting a fair bit after two consecutive days and some dodgy terrain. Also the weather was horrific. The others went to do the Loch Lochy pair and Gulvain, and I spent a couple of days with my feet up and an ice-pack on my knee :lol:


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Tuesday 3rd May
Stob Coire Sgriodain & Chno Dearg
6.25 hours
8.51 miles
926m total ascent


After a couple of rest days, my knee felt OK to walk again. Four of us decided to tackle the two hills on east side of Loch Treig from Fersit, which usually give a straightforward, if boggy day out. Further discouragement was had in the form of an absolute downpour as we parked up at Fersit :lol:

We were not to be disappointed. Two days and nights of intermittently heavy rain had reduced the initial stages of this walk to a quagmire in places. Indeed the first few hundred yards of this walk are a mess of bog, mud and farming debris. We followed a faint ATV track as far as we could then decided to branch off and make straight for the first hill, Stob Coire Sgriodain.

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Lovely

A fairly wet and boggy ascent continued until we reached the foot of the grassy rake mentioned in the WH route description. This was also wet and boggy, in case your were wondering. We stopped here for a bite to eat and got going again once the rain hit (again).

Image
The Obvious Grassy Rake

Above the grassy slope, the gradient eases onto a flat plateau before a steeper pull up through a series to crags and bumps. It's quite an interesting wee ascent once onto the actual hill itself. Just as the summit appeared in the distance we were hit by a near horizontal hail storm, necessitating a dive for cover behind a big rock to don ski goggles etc. Once on the final approach to the summit, the views down Loch Treig are quite fantastic.

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Loch Treig & The Easains

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Stob Coire Sgriodain Summit

We had lunch at the summit before traversing round to Chno Dearg. This was a reasonably straightforward section. There's a path for much of it, with a couple of minor bumps in the plateau to go over before the final, gentle pull up to Chno Dearg.

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Ascent of Chno Dearg

This is a much less interesting hill than Stob Coire Sgriodain, and after a bit of a plod up it's slopes, the large summit cairn is soon reached. The views east are excellent, over to the Creag Meagaidh group and the Ardverikie Hills which we'd climbed a few days before, though now with considerably less snow capping them.

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East from Chno Dearg Summit

To our pleasant surprise, there were considerably snow patches on the descent, meaning we managed to lose about 250m in height in about 5 minutes :lol: All good things must come to an end though and we soon reached the boggy lower slopes. The views were still decent though, especially to the Creag Meagaidh group.

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Blue Sky!

We followed numerous burns back down to the farm, the snow melt and rain giving them more flow and interest than would normally be the case. This was a really enjoyable section of the descent, not too steep and with plenty of interesting water features on the way.

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One of many waterfalls

After this, we reached the farmy bit, managing to dodge the worst of the mud and got back to the car park with seconds to spare before the heavens opened. Perfect timing.


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Thursday 5th May
Stob Ban & Mullach nan Coirean
6.5 hours
8.37miles
1340m total ascent


So it was time for the final walk of the week for me. Fitness-wise i was feeling much better, however the knee wasn't overly strong. It was great on ascent, but not so much on descents, and would be put through the mill here. Just me an Rob on this one as the other two opted for two of the Glenfinnan Munros. We started from the usual car park just after Acriabachach and headed up the stalkers path that also doubles up as the ascent/descent off Sgurr a'Mhaim. This is quite a gradual height gain as the path heads up to Coire Mhusgain on a rising traverse after a tougher first half K. Early views opened up of the glorious Glen Nevis.

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Looking up Glen Nevis

The route ahead, however looked a bit grim and unsurprisingly the rain started, thankfully not heavily.

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Into Coire Mhusgain

The path, although damp in places, is excellent and slowly got us up to 450m without us realising it. We did have a slight faux pas when scrambling over a fairly exposed waterfall instead of heading hard left up the hill. Arriving at a low featureless boggy section, we noted the path higher up and went up to rejoin it. A lovely and entirely unnecessary 60m of boggy ascent :lol:

The path continues into the upper corrie, before zig-zagging up to the bealach. The forecast had been for 50mph winds so we decided to lunch just below the bealach before trying to avoid being blown off the mountain.

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View from head of Coire Mhusgain

Once onto the bealach, the wind was strong, but not as bad as feared and we easily progressed to the base of the final ascent.

Image
Stob Ban's final and fantastic ascent

The ascent of over 200m looked pretty steep and intimidating, especially on a windy day, however neither were nearly as bad as I expected. Stob Ban is an excellent mountain, with plenty of interesting rock steps and mini-scrambles on the way up. I thoroughly enjoyed this climb and felt pretty good in terms of fitness going up it. Just before the final 50m ascent, the path levels off to circle round a "bite" of the corrie into the mountain. The views from Stob Ban are quite wonderful.

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Towards the Ballachulish Horseshoe

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Back down the ascent route

The summit was reached after a quick ascent of the remaining 50m. I knew the cairn was perched on the edge of the cliffs and was surrounded by the remains of a cornice so we were carefully made our way to the cairn. The views from here are tremendous.

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Stob Ban Summit

It was pretty cold and exposed up here so Rob and I decided to head down to the ridge to find a sheltered spot for lunch. Due to the wind direction this was nearly impossible, however the ridge (after an unpleasant descent on quartzite boulders) is quite tremendous. The sky had nicely cleared in most directions and the views from the ridge between the two munros were magnificent.

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The Ridge ahead to Mullach nan Coirean

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The mighty Ben Nevis

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Ridge back to Stob Ban and the other Mamores

The ridge turns to reddish rock (I'm assuming sandstone) halfway along, and seemingly with little descent and reascent, the large cairn atop the summit of Mullach nan Coirean was reached. It was blowing an absolute hoolie here so we opted to drop down a few hundred metres to get some shelter for a scran stop.

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Ben Nevis from Mullach's summit

The rocky and in places, steep, descent was horrendous on the knees and I was quite pleased this was the final walk of the week for me. We eventually reached the deer fence and stopped for some food, and to take in the fabulous views.

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Nice light on Glen Nevis

I checked the height and was somewhat disheartened to discover we were still above 550m, and had to drop to around 50m. The map suggested an unpleasantly steep descent to the deer fence/stile above the felled forestry, and it was entirely correct, and also extremely boggy in places. Awesome.

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The nasty final drop to the stile/deer fence

Once over the fence however, things improved dramatically. An excellent path then lead down to the main forestry track which was then followed down to a trail/path directly through the woods to the road below, which was quite a relief to reach, and was dotted with sheep wandering about with their lambs.

Nom Nom-1.jpg

Awwwww

What a day. Stob Ban is one of the finest mountains I've yet climbed, and a return trip is definitely on the cards.


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I was extremely pleased with both the week's tally and the conditions, although extremely varied, we were overall fairly lucky with some awful forecasts turning out not too badly, and I got a bit of a tan, so not a disaster. We had another full day at the digs, so whilst the rest of the guys tackled Creag Meagaidh, I decided to head up past Loch Lochy to Glen Garry for some photos with the big camera, which had spent most of the week in a cupboard.

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Loch Lochy

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Just beyond the mobbed Glengarry Viewpoint

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Loch Loyne and the Mountains of Kintail

All that was left was to decide on a venue for a last night of holiday meal. We headed for Spice Tandoori in Fort William and demolished 4 curries, 3 nan breads, poppadoms and much lager.

Ruby Murray-0110.jpg


A great end to a superb 9 days in Lochaber. Thanks to my walking buddies Graham, Lee, Rob and George for several days of great walking, good laughs and a fairly good re-enactment of Men Behaving Badly.

Next May can't come soon enough :lol:
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby jacob » Mon May 09, 2016 7:53 pm

Amazing quality of pictures, both technical and artistic, of a week+ that must have been great. Very nice post :clap:
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby jupe1407 » Mon May 09, 2016 8:15 pm

jacob wrote:Amazing quality of pictures, both technical and artistic, of a week+ that must have been great. Very nice post :clap:


Thanks Jacob, it was indeed a terrific week :D
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby Gordie12 » Tue May 10, 2016 8:36 pm

Still to do all of these hills so this was interesting.

Great week, great weather and great photos (especially that last one) :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby Sick Kid » Tue May 10, 2016 9:42 pm

Well done the knee! :clap:
Looks like you had a great time and as usual some fantastic pics there. Really love the scary weather ones! :D
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby Alteknacker » Tue May 10, 2016 10:05 pm

Wow! Some sensational pics there, Jupe. It's invidious to make choices, but I particularly like the Loch Lochy (Lochy McLochface???) one - definitely lots of pic of the month candidates!!
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby 2manyYorkies » Tue May 10, 2016 10:28 pm

Epic trip and fantastic photos, thanks for sharing.
Interestingly (or not maybe, depending on your perspective), I often get cramp in my inner thigh after bouts of hard effort on the hill, and it's only the right leg .... ? Hmmm. I don't buy the lack of salt theory for cramp, it's just down to muscle fatigue in my opinion.
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby BobMcBob » Tue May 10, 2016 10:51 pm

Alteknacker wrote:(Lochy McLochface???) !


Thanks for that, I just spat wine on my screen :D

Anyway - jupe that's one epic report and that photo entitled "Yikes" would hang very happily on my wall. Nice one.
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby jupe1407 » Wed May 11, 2016 12:32 am

Gordie12 wrote:Still to do all of these hills so this was interesting.

Great week, great weather and great photos (especially that last one) :clap: :clap: :clap:


Thanks Gordie, that curry was an absolutely brilliant way to end the week-and-a-bit. Decent portions, to the extent that it was quite hard work to force down a couple of pints afterwards :lol:

Sick Kid wrote:Well done the knee! :clap:
Looks like you had a great time and as usual some fantastic pics there. Really love the scary weather ones! :D


'twas fine Allison :D Are we joining forces for more Torridon walking in September? Looks like you're well on the road to recovery!

Alteknacker wrote:Wow! Some sensational pics there, Jupe. It's invidious to make choices, but I particularly like the Loch Lochy (Lochy McLochface???) one - definitely lots of pic of the month candidates!!


Thanks Alteknacker ... I quite like that name for it, given it's current, seemingly uninventive moniker :lol:

2manyYorkies wrote:Epic trip and fantastic photos, thanks for sharing.
Interestingly (or not maybe, depending on your perspective), I often get cramp in my inner thigh after bouts of hard effort on the hill, and it's only the right leg .... ? Hmmm. I don't buy the lack of salt theory for cramp, it's just down to muscle fatigue in my opinion.


I was the same, only in the right inner thigh. I just put it down to being out of action for a couple of months, and having to drag the legs out of deep snow, esp on the Arverikie walk. I now use High5 Electrolytes every walk, which seem to help.

BobMcBob wrote:
Thanks for that, I just spat wine on my screen :D

Anyway - jupe that's one epic report and that photo entitled "Yikes" would hang very happily on my wall. Nice one.


Thanks! It looked even more dramatic in person. It looked to be heading to Fort Bill. Wouldn't have fancied being up Ben Nevis when that hit!
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby Arthurs Eat » Wed May 11, 2016 8:15 pm

Hi John, great report and even better pictures! Glad to see you back in the saddle.

Calum
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby simon-b » Wed May 11, 2016 8:46 pm

Plenty of great views around that area, JP. And a good place for getting up and down lots of hills.
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby Jaxter » Wed May 11, 2016 10:41 pm

Nice report - lots of hills climbed :D :clap: and a well earned curry :thumbup:

So strange seeing the Pitridh hills covered in snow, we did them months ago but there was barely anything on them :shock: Crazy weather. Glad you got better views from Chno Dearg though....saw sod all that day :lol:
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby jupe1407 » Wed May 11, 2016 11:08 pm

Arthurs Eat wrote:Hi John, great report and even better pictures! Glad to see you back in the saddle.

Calum


Cheers Calum, good to be back :D

simon-b wrote:Plenty of great views around that area, JP. And a good place for getting up and down lots of hills.


Thanks Simon, yeah it's a great area and plenty of options. Still got a few left there, so plenty of excuses to return :lol:

Jaxter wrote:Nice report - lots of hills climbed :D :clap: and a well earned curry :thumbup:

So strange seeing the Pitridh hills covered in snow, we did them months ago but there was barely anything on them :shock: Crazy weather. Glad you got better views from Chno Dearg though....saw sod all that day :lol:


Thanks Jaxter. We were quite surprised by the depth of snow on both Beinn a'Chlachair and Geal Charn, lots of lovely snow holes amongst the rocks waiting for the ankles :lol: We were on Chno Dearg and SGS about 4 days later and there was very little left on the Ardverikie 3. A week of "interesting" weather to say the least.

You didn't miss much from Chno Dearg's summit really. The views down Loch Treig from Stob Coire Sgriodain were much, much better.

I think i might implement some sort of "must have curry" rule after every decent walk. It was fantastic :lol:
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby pollyh33 » Fri May 13, 2016 4:07 pm

Excellent stuff as ever JP. :D :D

Glad to see you are easing your way back in gently to this hill walking lark! :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Nine Amazing Days in Lochaber

Postby jupe1407 » Fri May 13, 2016 5:34 pm

pollyh33 wrote:Excellent stuff as ever JP. :D :D

Glad to see you are easing your way back in gently to this hill walking lark! :clap: :clap: :clap:


Thanks Polly. Not sure my Physio would agree that 8 in a week was sensible, but I don't seem to have had any ill-effects from it. Yet :lol:
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