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Stob Binnein: should I have gone the day before?

Stob Binnein: should I have gone the day before?

Postby Emmanuelle » Sun Dec 11, 2016 12:52 pm

Munros included on this walk: Stob Binnein

Date walked: 26/11/2016

Time taken: 7 hours

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Scotland has been enjoying the best spell of autumn weather in years and I have largely been missing it! Stories of Brocken Spectres, fog bows, inversions, frozen burns, blue skies accompanied by beautiful photos were plaguing me and I couldn't look at them without feeling bottomless envy. I was enraged! Full of hope, I had earmarked this weekend for some walking and I was monitoring the forecast. I even invited a friend to join me. I was pretty confident. But then the forecast started to look a bit grim, Sunday being marginally more clement than Saturday, so the dithering began! I plumped for Saturday, then changed it to Sunday because the met office forecast was very promising, whilst pretty grim for Saturday. My friend didn't notice my change of plan and she invited other people for Saturday. By Friday it was clear we were talking at cross-purposes. She tried to persuade me to walk on Saturday, but no, I didn't fancy a day spent walking in fog and mist. I stuck to my guns.

After all, the first time I went up Stob Binnein, one Sunday in August 1995 (yes, 21 years ago), the weather was abysmal. Part of my post-compleation plan is to return to iconic hills that I did in bad weather. But I didn't manage to compleat this year because I've been really unlucky with the weather - I've been chasing the good weather all around Scotland and Europe this year, leaving Scotland in sunshine to go somewhere rainy in Europe and swapping weathers on the return flight. Grrrrr. So I never got to do the Fisherfield, despite trying for two years! I decided to action my post compleation strategy now... Stob Binnein from Loch Voil is only a 70 minute drive from home, it's an iconic hill, the forecast was for sun and low temperatures - perfect winter conditions. Good training too.

I arrived at the car park by the River Larig quite early (for me) in drizzly conditions. However the forecast was for a big fat sun on the summit from 9am. So I was confident that I would emerge out of this clag further up and get an inversion. :lol:

It's a short sharp trudge up to the fence, then a sort of right turn around Stob Invercarnaig. The path got lost in a bank of snow covering the upper reaches of a burn, so I took a bearing and walked straight up, reaching less steep ground, still in clag. It was also pretty chilly in the gusts. So I stopped by Creag Artair to put on my shell. As I looked up again, the clouds had cleared revealing Ben Vorlich, Stuch a'chroinn, Ben Ledi and more! :clap: I got quite excited. I thought, this is it, this is it. The good weather starts now. And I laughed manically :crazy:

Image2016-11-27 10.23.04 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 10.23.16 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

I looked north, up towards the ridge and there was still cloud but it was thinning. Southwards, sunlight was piercing the cloud and throwing a glow down Glen Sgionie. Very very promising I thought. So with a spring in my step I started walking again, but not tooooo fast. There'd be absolutely no point rushing to the summit before it had time to clear properly, would there? I'm glad you all agree with me. :roll:

Image2016-11-27 11.07.40 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Anyway, advancing at a glacial pace (well, it was nippy), I noticed that the clouds were not behaving as I'd hoped. This wasn't some linear march towards progress. The clouds were behaving like a voile curtain fluttering in an open window, bobbing up and down, down and up in a ripple effect. However as I gained height, the curtain was clearly getting heavier because it rippled mainly down, and only feebly up. And so it was that I got to the summit of Stob Binnein in cloud. On the way up the ground had become much harder, a thin covering of barely visible ice rendering the going quite slippery, especially on the last climb to the distinctive mini plateau. It was safer to walk on the frozen grass, the iced up grass blades like razor clams!

Full of resolve, I decided to wait as long as was needed to get some views. The cloud thinned and thickened. Only fleeting glimpses of views towards Glencoe told me I was too far south! And then I was treated to a fog bow spectacle and that was enough to keep me happy :clap: As people began to emerge on to the summit, I would point out the phenomenon and photos would be taken.

Image2016-11-27 12.22.40 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 11.49.46 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Eventually after more than half an hour of waiting, I had had enough. There was no chance of either this summit or Ben More's clearing and I was getting quite cold. So I put on my micro spikes, got my ice axe out and started my return. Once I got to Stob Coire an Lochan, I decided to do a loop and headed down its easter flank to head up to Meall na Dige and return via Am Mam and Meall Monachyle. This proved to be a good decision. As I was picking my way down, the clouds began to lift and the whole of Na Staidhrichean cleared up. I could spot small figures walking up and down this well known ridge. So not being on it, I got great views of it. Stob Binnein almost cleared but even at best it kept a covering of misty cloud on its flat summit. As to Ben More it never cleared. However I got some great views of the Bealach eadar-dha Bheinn separating the two hills. Elsewhere, the weather improved and views to the Ben Lawers group, Sgiath Chuill, and hills much further north beyond Loch Rannoch greeted me. To the south, Ben Lomond with all the Munros in between were set out against the lowering sun, tinged with a palette of grey and gold.

Image2016-11-27 13.37.32 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 13.16.17 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 13.16.01 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 13.03.35 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 13.16.49 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 13.38.11 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 13.40.26 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 13.39.11 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

The wind had also abated and walking due south I was very warm, the snow collecting under the soles of my boots and hemmed in by the spikes which I had not yet removed. The walk down the south western slopes of Meall Monachyle, towards Glen Carnaig, is steep and moderately relentless, enlivened only by the fact that it's quite a short descent and views of Loch Doine and Loch Voil misting up again, the ice cover looking as if it had been drawn on the water with a ruler.

Image2016-11-27 13.38.32 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 14.43.20 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

I eventually reached the road and looked forward to the mile or so on the tarmac to loosen up tired quads. Three hinds grazing on the moor followed my progress for a while and soon enough I reached my car in pretty good spirits.

Image2016-11-27 14.43.43 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

Image2016-11-27 15.15.04 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

I didn't get the full sun experience but it turned into an excellent day with improving weather, sub-zero temperatures and a fogbow. What's not to like?

Postscript - I learnt later that Saturday's weather had been glorious, sunny all day and exceptionally warm. Pah! 8) Maybe I should've gone on Saturday :lol:
Munro compleatist
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Re: Stob Binnein: should I have gone the day before?

Postby rockhopper » Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:57 am

Nope, think you picked the right day - rather atmospheric at times - nice set of photos and some interesting weather phenomena into the bargain - cheers :)
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Posts: 6692
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Location: Glasgow

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