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Eibhinn a wild Saturday night didn't stop us...
by bobble_hat_kenny » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:44 pm
Munros included on this walk: Aonach Beag (Alder), Beinn a' Chlachair, Beinn Eibhinn, Creag Pitridh, Geal Charn
Date walked: 08/07/2016
Time taken: 45 hours
Distance: 45 km
Ascent: 2350m4 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).
This would be my first wild camping expedition, and it nearly didn't happen, with the midweek weather forecast predicting some pretty severe weather with dangerously high winds for the Saturday ... However, as the weekend drew nearer, successive forecasts were looking steadily less horrendous, until by the Friday morning it was clear that the Saturday and Sunday weather would be wet but not unfeasible, and the Friday evening was actually looking quite pleasant for the long walk-in . A decision was therefore made to give it a go after all, and Martin and myself set off from work at 5 p.m. on the Friday to meet Pam & Gary for a quick bite to eat in Fort William, then set off east up the A86 to Luiblea.
It was indeed a surprisingly (deceptively ?) pleasant evening as we set off from the car park around 9 p.m.
Just as we set off southwards up the track, there was a grand view west along the River Spean towards the distant Grey Corries.
Surprisingly enough, the hills that really steal the show hereabouts are not Munros or even Corbetts, but those two impressively craggy Grahams that stand on the narrow strip of land between Loch Laggan and Lochan na h'Earba, namely Binnein Shuas and Binnein Shios. Here is a nice view of them from the bridge over the Allt Meall Ardruighe (I think), with the two Grahams lined up like Tweedledee and Tweedledum:
It was a fairly long walk in but a surprisingly pleasant one on the whole, even after the good approach track degenerated into a muddy path in the vicinity of the ruined steading at Lubvan. We had initially been worried about daylight as we got a later start than we'd initially hoped, but the clear skies on the Friday evening meant that it was still light well after 11 p.m. It might have been a different story in the next day's weather !
We eventually set camp around NN445766, just at the north bank of the Allt Cam on a nice level (Eibhinn, even?) bit of ground which proved drier than it initially looked. We spent a surprisingly comfortable night, and by the back of eight on Saturday morning Pam was explaining the route to Martin and myself while the sausages fried and Gary caught up on his beauty sleep ...
Gary is scarily fit and regularly tackles Mountain Marathons and similarly terrifying-sounding outings , so needless to say he was soon well ahead of us and able to take some nice photos of the rest of us toiling our way up Aonach Beag's northern foothills:
We cut up just to the west of the craggy lump called Meall Nathrach (Snake Knoll, as the rather unsettling translation goes!), which is the termination of Aonach Beag's north ridge. There was a nice vista back north from here towards the meandering Allt Cam:
Just slightly higher up however, we inevitably hit the Clag, where we would find ourselves for most of the rest of the day . Nevertheless, Gary managed to get a nice photo of one of the locals:
Whoever the cartographer was who gave these hills their Gaelic names was clearly a bit of a wag. 'Beinn a'Chlachair' means 'Stonemason's Hill' (because it's covered in wee boulders and stone chippings, Geddit!?! ), 'Beinn Eibhinn' is 'Dizzy or Ecstatic Hill' (because it's so remote and therefore such a prized tick on the Munros list??), while of course 'Aonach Beag' means 'The Wee Ridge' - this particular Wee Ridge being Scotland's 37th-highest mountain at 1116 metres !
However, our high starting point (we had set camp at almost 500 metres) made it a surprisingly easy stoat up the wee ridge, and before too long we found ourselves at Aonach Beag's sizeable summit cairn.
I'm not sure if Martin's lumbago was playing up here, or if he was just regretting that fourth sausage !
Pam managing to look a tad more relaxed:
The connecting route to Beinn Eibhinn was a very pleasant romp along the well-defined ridge on a good path, although the weather was deteriorating steadily with some fairly heavy rain at points. There is a fairly large marker cairn just a bit east of Beinn Eibhinn's summit that initially caused us some confusion: not the true summit however!
The altogether more impressive true summit cairn was just a hundred metres or so further west.
We met a friendly chap here who was tackling the whole ridge including the other two Munros, Geal-Charn (the big one with the hyphen) and Carn Dearg, from the more standard starting point at Culra. He kindly took this group shot of the four of us:
We set off downhill again, firstly westwards to clear Eibhinn's craggy northern corrie, then almost due north, later bending eastwards, down Beinn Eibhinn's northern ridge which is named on the OS map as Stron an Fhuarain. Before long, Base Camp Eibhinn came into view again. We stopped for a quick lunch, then de-camped and set off eastwards with our heavy packs along the north bank of the Allt Cam.
I found this by far the most challenging part of the whole outing. Although the scenery had an impressive Big Country feel, the cloud base fell steadily through the afternoon, and the wind and rain also got steadily worse. At the same time, the fairly clear path that was present initially quickly became faint and intermittent, and then disappeared altogether amidst some horrible peat-haggery just to the west of wee Dubh Lochan.
The next couple of kilometres or so were truly nasty, with fairly continuous peat hags: so nasty, in fact, that I actually found it a relief when the ascent started again, since that was at least an escape from the Slough of Despond ! The other three are all unquestionably physically fitter than me, and I was trailing well behind by now .
To our relief, a clear path emerged again around NN483775, which greatly eased the ascent towards the distant Bealach Leamhain. It was still a Real Slog, though, or maybe a Real Sog! There were several mountain streams to ford en route, all of which were needless to say in full spate by now, but we were all so wet by this point that it didn't make much odds.
I was pretty knackered by the time we eventually got to the path over the bealach that runs high above the very scenic Loch a'Bhealaich Leamhain down to the northeast. However, the scenery in this section has an epic, Lord-of-the-Rings sort of feel to it, which was at least some distraction from the miserable weather and wet feet. Eventually we reached our target at around NN490800, and set camp. Not a minute too soon, either ! Just as we managed to crawl inside the tents and change out of our wet stuff, the wind and rain really got wild, and it all started to feel quite Himalayan (well, to a lightweight like me anyway )! Base Camp Pitridh was at an elevation of 740 metres, and the weather was feeling more like November than July... Nevertheless, camping stoves were gamely set up in the mouths of the two tents, and Martin and myself enjoyed a veritable feast of steak followed by M&S chilli and pitta bread, washed down with a cheeky wee Merlot (Gary had brought a wine bag ). I was soon feeling much more human again...
Sunday morning duly dawned, and thankfully the wind had completely died down, although it was still a bit wet and miserable. Gary had surprisingly good phone reception and he checked the www.mwis.org.uk forecast for the day. Depression reigned as he announced the chance of cloud-free Munros would be 'almost zero' - I don't think I've ever actually seen that before on the mwis website; they normally hedge their bets a little, but today it was a confident 'Nae chance, mate' !
Fortified by yet more sausages, we set off gamely for Beinn a'Chlachair, the first of the day's three Munros. The initial ascent was rather good fun , up a steep and scrambly wee path that climbs the northern shoulder of Chlachair's NE ridge, just before some seriously big crags further south. Higher up, however, this Munro provided a prolonged slog up through the Clag over piles of boulderfield. All the same, the Stonemason's chippings actually didn't prove to be as challenging as I had expected - the boulders are smaller and less jaggy than the ones at the top of Schiehallion, for instance, although they are definitely a bit slippery when wet ! It was definitely a relief to reach the sizeable summit cairn.
We went back down exactly the same way we had come up. Once again, the most enjoyable section was the scrambly wee path down the northern shoulder of the NE ridge, with the Clag clearing for a fantastic view of Loch a'Bhealaich Leamhain far below:
We stopped for a quick lunch at Base Camp Pitridh before tackling the other two Munros which were in the opposite direction from the camp.
A stalkers' path rose roughly northwards from our campsite, to reach a high bealach between Geal Charn and Creag Pitridh. From here, it was straightforward first to head east to bag Geal Charn, then to head back to the bealach and continue westwards to bag Pitridh. Geal Charn is a sprawling big lump of a thing (as ever, I can empathise ), but it does at least have a very impressive, well-built summit cairn.
Creag Pitridh is a much more shapely wee hill, and the fact that it is much lower than the other two (actually only just achieving Munro status, both in terms of absolute height and in terms of relative height from the bealach with Geal Charn) meant that it was just about Clag-free. 'Almost zero' chance of cloud-free Munros, eh? Well, we found one all the same ! This was the view across Lochan na h-Earba towards Binnein Shuas:
Sadly, things were spoiled somewhat by this bunch of hooligans:
It didn't take us too long to get back down to Base Camp Pitridh, where we quickly de-camped and set off northwards downhill on an excellent stalkers' path towards the distant Lochan na h-Earba. This must be Scotland's largest 'lochan', actually a very sizeable double loch with a startlingly beautiful white-sand beach at its western end. It is a truly special spot, fringed with craggy peaks: the Grahams Binnein Shuas and Binnein Shios to the north, and Creag Pitridh and an impressively craggy minor peak called Creag a'Mhaigh to the south.
We eventually got back to the Luiblea car park at 6 p.m., so the entire outing took us some 45 hours. A bit of an epic, this one, but well worth the soaking !
by kevsbald » Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:10 pm
You'll need to apherese some of that sausage fat out of your system though.
by bobble_hat_kenny » Fri Jul 15, 2016 6:40 pm
kevsbald wrote:Well done Kenny, you'll have the wild camp bug now.
You'll need to apherese some of that sausage fat out of your system though.
Cheers, Kevin! An interesting suggestion, and I have admittedly taken cell separators to some unlikely places over the years... I suspect the Bealach Leamhain might just be a step too far though .
by Cairngorm creeper » Sat Jul 16, 2016 7:14 pm
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