After the fabulous discovery that I had a midday finish on Friday, the obvious thing to do was to make for the hills a day early Inspired by Rockhopper's report, I planned to defeat a nemesis of over a year ago
The unfortunate downside of this plan was that to leave straight from work I would need to take the car through to Edinburgh....
After a 2 hour battle with the M8 and a morning of teaching (more often feels like babysitting) a lot of small children, I felt pretty done in. Finally on my way, more misery in the form of the city bypass delayed me further, but at last I found myself at the layby by Ardchullarie farm next to Loch Lubnaig.
Bearing in mind I had been at work this morning, I was hardly dressed for the hills....so a classy manoeuvre of a complete change In a layby on a busy road ensued... As I was lacing my boots, I felt a few spots of rain; the weather had looked fairly murky on the way over but this didn't concern me as the forecast was for great weather from about 2pm.
Setting off from the car at 2.30, I assumed the sun was just running late... I followed the WH instructions round the garage, through the gate and up the path. And wow did it get you going straight away.... perhaps it was a heavy week of running or perhaps I was just being a wuss, but this path was tough!
I soon met a group of people coming down - they had been up Ben Each, my first target, and said it was uber-clagged at the top, which didn't bode well for Stuc a'Chroin....still, views are nice but not everything so on I went.
Soon I made my first (and actually, believe it or not, only) navigational error of the day. On reaching a track, I turned right which ended up bringing me back on myself. Actually it wasn't the right track to be turning onto at all and I should have gone straight on.... Fortunately I realised very quickly that something wasn't right, did a quick check and corrected my mistake via another track with very little inconvenience, just a little embarrassment
Now feeling more awake, and on the right path, I marched on in the mizzle. I stopped to put a hat on (didn't want to mess up my hair, see ) but hoped the weather would come good soon as it was way too hot to be adding layers, even waterproofs!
The Beinn Each footpath
I reached the well signposted path to Beinn Each and could see the path winding up into the clag...as I began to climb (this one was another steep little bugger ) I met another man coming down who told me it got steeper....encouraging
As I reached the top of a steep section, I realised i was going to have to put on a jacket, but decided to forgo the leggings unless it got heavier. My views were rapidly disappearing as I climbed and as I made the final push up to the top, I was walking in pea soup. But I had reached the top of what I think is my second ever Corbett so figured a summit picture was in order, despite the lack of views.
Focused on the grass....I'm a bit fuzzy but cool effect
Now, I would be lying if I said that a part of me wasn't thinking of saving the Stuc for another day. It was raining and I couldn't see anything, and I was pretty tired. But I don't give in easily, and I had faith in the forecast....
I could see a path heading off in what I thought was the right direction, but I've made enough mistakes leaving summits (even when visibility was good ) to make double sure; taking a bearing I confirmed what I thought and headed off the summit.
It was a steep drop initially with some scrambly sections but well marked by both the path and the fence posts which were marked on the map all the way to the Stuc and I fully intended to stick to them religiously!
Suddenly this happened....
Soon after leaving the summit, I started to make out shapes ahead of me, parts of hills began to clear and I could feel it brightening slightly.... As I began to make my way along the ridge, the whole thing cleared and I could see my route ahead of me until it disappeared into the clag still hanging over Stuc a' Chroin.
Looking back to Beinn Each
Looking down Gleann a'Chroin
The curse of Stuc a'Chroin
Towards the Lawers range
The ridge itself was wonderful - really knobbly and rocky but the way was clear, as were the views. The sun even came out and I laughed at having left the sun cream in the car.
The Stuc clearing at last
Looking back before the final ascent
Beinn Each - a long way away!
Eventually there was blue sky above the Stuc and it was clear - I thought I could see the summit (although I think it probably wasn't quite the top) and the steep pull up to it. This last bit felt like it should have been hard work but I was so excited to be nearly there that I didn't notice
Finally coming over the top, I was at a cairn although looking ahead the next one 10 metres on looked higher. I visited them both to be sure, but the second definitely had the better views. I was now looking down what I had been looking up at when I had to abandon this mountain in April last year. It was pretty craggy....
Stuc a'Chroin - beaten at last!
Ben Vorlich topped with cloud and the top of the prow
Looking back towards the previous cairn
Despite the sun, it was pretty nippy so I snapped some pictures and continued on - there was a cairn on top of the prow that just had to be visited! This was also a fine viewpoint, and Ben Vorlich kindly decided to clear just as I went to photograph him. Donald Stuart, founder of the Falkirk mountaineering society has a plaque there; I've no idea of the history of it but is a lovely spot to be remembered.
Standing atop the prow looking towards the summit
I was enjoying the early evening light now that it was clear and I realised I'd not eaten anything since I'd started walking so had a quick break for a twix with a view
I still had a long way to go back so taking in the view one more time, I headed off the prow towards a path I could see winding its way down the ridge. I came past the top of the scramble up the side of the prow that I was heading for last time - it looked pretty epic so I decided that I'd have to come back again to do that route!
Vorlich back in the clag and the prow of Stuc a'Chroin
The prow again
The ridge back to Beinn Each in the evening light
Once on the path it was easy, almost too easy as I had to be careful not to miss my cut off point. Consulting the map, I could see that the best place to drop down would be just before the craggy bit, so, gritting my teeth I plunged downhill. This was not the most enjoyable part of the day - it was very steep and path less for the most part
Looking back up to Coire Chroisg
Again from further down
Looking across, I could see that to avoid crossing the deer fence I would have to detour round a pine forest which looked difficult and time consuming. Having a moral dilemma, I elected to attempt the deer fence option near the stream as there might be a gap.
As it turned out, there was an obvious place where others had got through, so it was a case of feeding my pack through first and then rolling under myself. Next was the small matter of following the gorge down to the path; I probably made things more tricky for myself by trying to climb down the gorge itself to start with. I soon realised that I'd be better a bit higher up although I did keep getting pulled back down to the mesmerising waterfalls.
Looking back up the gorge
Eventually back at the track, I had a long cool drink from the last waterfall and refilled my platypus - it would save me having to boil river water later.
The way back....
Feeling refreshed I started the long march along the track down Glen Ample. This really did seem to go on forever as it was very undulating and my legs were feeling quite tired Fortunately the views were fabulous and there were plenty of cold streams along the way to drink from - I love the taste of mountains, always tastes better than tap water
Nice evening stroll
Finally sighting the Beinn Each hill path sign was a relief and from there it was easy downhill back to the car. Another nemesis banished!
Loch Lubnaig in sight - nearly there!
I drove up to Bridge of Orchy and found a spot down the river to camp. Enjoying the last of the sun:
Sitting eating my dinner, wearing all of my clothes and watching the sunset....ahh you cannae beat it
Sun setting over the Black Mount hills
Time for bed
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