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Ben Challum...ity !!

Ben Challum...ity !!


Postby naepace » Mon May 08, 2017 11:40 am

Route description: Ben Challum, near Tyndrum

Munros included on this walk: Ben Challum

Date walked: 27/03/2017

Time taken: 4.5 hours

Distance: 11.5 km

Ascent: 910m

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What an incredible weekend of weather for walking, and I had slept my way right through it ! Gotta love the nightshift. Could it last into the following week ? I hardly dare click the 'Monday' link on MWIS as I shut the curtains on the blossoming blue skies outside and climbed into my bed on Sunday morning. 70% chance of cloud free Munros and 20mph winds, not as great but not terrible either. However, when I dragged myself out of my pit some hours later the forecast had been updated to 'greater than 90%', now that woke me up ! Decision made, I was going walking in the morning. I headed off for my last nightshift, boots and rucksack flung in the back, with an unexpected bounce in my step normally reserved for the return journey home. As soon as the early shift got in I was jumping in the car and heading West along the A85 once again.
Ben Challum was a hill that had been on the radar for a while, a quick single up the sleeve. To be honest it's fearsome reputation as a bogfest had always put me off, however, I was hoping that the previous nights clear skies had left enough of a frost to 'harden' the worst of it. No such luck, more to come on that later !!
I arrived at the layby just past the turn off for Kirkton farm at around 08.15 and was on my way towards the bridge over the river Fillan by 08.30
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The bridge over the river Fillan

The initiall stage of the walk has you heading towards Kirkton farm along a a tarmac road, where I did my best to shut out the the cacophony of barking dogs coming from somewhere up ahead. I must admit that I'm not fluent in 'canine' but I'm pretty sure of the savage message they were trying to convey ! Fortunately as I tentatively approached I could see they were securely tethered and I would live long enough to at least set foot on the hill. Turning left at the farm you are actually on part of the West Highland Way, only for a few metres though as I was soon following a fainter track off to the right going uphill by the side of the quaintest little cemetery you could ever hope to see. This track heads up to the railway line where you cross at a level crossing. There is a bridge over the line a little further East but it's use is prohibited for some unknown reason.
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The level crossing...you won't miss it !

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There can't be many better spots for pushing up the daisies

Once safely over the railway I headed on up the track looking for the 'faint' path that heads off in the direction of the hill, turned out it was so faint it was invisible! I knew that if I headed in the general direction I would eventually come to the deer fence which is such a feature of the route up. To misquote an infamous movie drill sergeant "This is your deer fence. There are many like it, but this one is yours". Almost right to the summit it will stay faithfully by your side, unlike your first true love who promised she would never leave you for that older boy from a couple of years above, with his own car and the proud owner of the first pair of Reebok pumps in the town.....I'm over it now. Honestly !!
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Private Pyle's deer fence

I followed the fence upwards and after 30 mins or so reached the first of a number of high styles that you require to cross over. Whoever named them 'styles' had obviously never observed me trying to negotiate my way over one. I could only imagine it would be akin to watching Frank Spencer in his heyday trying to mount a pantomime horse on rollerskates !
From here I began to encounter the dreaded bogs, in all honesty it wasn't that bad. At this earlyish hour it certainly wasn't frozen but whether or not just the top few inches had thawed, the laces of my boots never found themselves fully submerged in the inky, black goo we all love. I was able to either step over, skirt around or dance my way through the worst sections of it with little jeapardy. Obviously that approach helps when, like me, you've been 'blessed' with a pair of legs similar to Dundee's legendary long distance runner Liz McColgan. Mine might be hairier but they are certainly as long, white and skinny. In fact the only other attribute they don't share is the reflex action bred in to those from that neck of the woods to bolt for the shop exit whenever a security guard should glance in their direction !!! Apologies to any of my Dundee followers, I'm only joking !! I love you all really, well maybe not you all....I do not, will not and have not loved any of your disproportionate number of teenage mothers looking for a name to send to the CSA....well not since the early nineties anyway !!
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Looks innocuous enough !

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This one presented a whole new challenge to my sleep deprived brain !

The ground underfoot does eventually begin to improve on the long steady pull up to towards the 'South top'. By now the views were beginning to really open up behind me, with fabulous vistas back down to Strathfillan and the fantastic peaks of Ben Lui, Ben More and Stob Binnein and the other Crianlarich Munros all crowding the horizon. I was glad to stop for a breather every few minutes and enjoy the sight. The temperature was rising rapidly and the combination of a lack of sleep, the unseasonable heat and my heavy pack were really taking their toll. Having been 'tortured' by all the amazing Facebook posts in the walking forums over the weekend I had expected there to be a lot more snow, as such I had packed the crampons, axe, extra clothing and food, and even the storm shelter...nothing like being overly prepared ! but the extra weight I could have done without.
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First views of Ben More and Stob Binnein from the hill

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Down the glen to Ben Lui

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My first view of the South top

As the sun and temperature continued to rise it was time to lagger on the sun cream, I've been burned to a crisp on a Scottish mountain in March before. I did however, resist the urge to zip off the trousers down to shorts. Not because it wasn't warm enough, I just didn't want to waste the expensive factor 50 trying to protect the square acreage of my afore mention limbs....you can take the boy out of Fife.....
The rockier path continues to climb up the South flank of the mountain and in just short of 2 hours from leaving the car I was approaching the first cairn, still a few metres below the South top which marks the start of the short ridge over to the main summit. Normally I would not linger at a 'lesser' cairn but the views back from whence I'd came were simply too good to ignore. I dropped the pack, took a load off against the small pile of rocks and marvelled at the unrivalled beauty before me.
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Ben More, Stob Binnein & Cruach Ardrain

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No words, simply wow !!

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North over the ridge to the main summit

It only took a further 20 mins to make my way along the ridge, avoiding the 'cleft' half way along. It was straightforward enough in these conditions but in thick clag you would want to be careful as you certainly would not want to find yourself taking a wrong step and ending up falling in to it and the rocks below. As I crossed the ridge, which drops slightly before the final ascent to the large summit cairn at 1025m, I was taken aback by how little snow remained, it seemed to be melting literally before my eyes. Although it was still a stunning day, the wind had fairly picked up and was gusty enough to see me having to chase my baseball cap around the summit a few times as I tried to steady myself long enough to get a few decent pics. The views were absolutely stunning, it may have been approaching 24 hours since I'd last had any sleep and the final few weary steps may have resembled something from 'The Walking Dead', but at that moment as I slumped onto the summit cairn I had never felt more alive.
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Amazing summit pano from Ben More on the left to Ben Lui on the right

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The obligatory summit selfie

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Looking South back along the ridge

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Another for the Instagram #redrucksack collection !

Summit 360 video here - https://youtu.be/JtRUWBUQ6dk

It was too windy to hang around on the summit for long so I headed back over the ridge and dropped down a few hundred metres where the wind was considerably lighter. Sheltering at the foot of a large boulder, out of the breeze I really felt the warmth of the Spring sunshine again. Time to crack open the flask and devour the most essential item of the many bits of 'gear' in the pack, the Stephen's cup cake. Such was my choice of spot for elevenses, if I tired of the view (unlikely as that was) I just had to shuffle around a few degrees to be met with one as equally spectactular. We may live in a country that spends most of the year freezing, grey and blowing a hoolie but when the weather gods shine there is no doubting we are incredibly lucky to have such amazing scenery on our doorsteps.
As I packed away the flask and contemplated returning to the real world I was thankfully and blissfully unaware of the treacherous descent that awaited me on the lower slopes of the mountain. Making good time I dropped down the rocky path like the proverbial mountain goat, the KT strapping once again doing a superlative job of holding my left knee together. However, that was all to change as I reached the start of the boggy section between me and the farm.
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Who could ask for anything More ?

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Coffee view number two

It appeared that the ground on my earlier ascent must have been at least part frozen as suspected, but now it was a total quagmire, thawed by the strengthening sun. Not only was it horribly slippy it was also on a reasonable gradient. Whilst these areas to my mind had been 'patchy' on the way up, it now felt like every step had the potential for the dreaded, uncontrollable and comedic slip that saw you land erse first in the gitters. I tried my best to avoid the worst of it, continually louping over the small fence hoping it was drier on the other side. I doubt this year's Gold Cup winner jumped quite as many hurdles on their way to glory as I did in my vain attempt to stay upright. A number of mini slides later, you know the kind where you almost put your back out as you flail your arms around for balance, as one of your feet, at lightening speed, finds itself three foot in front of where you had actually placed it. As I observed the evidence of previous slips and slides of others also fortunate enough to have run a similar gauntlet, I was beginning to resign myself to the inevitable. Getting off this hill without going head over heals would be some achievement.
But hey, what do you know, there was the level crossing just a hundred or so metres ahead of me, I'd almost made it. Then BOOM, like I'd taken a snipers bullet between the eyeballs, down I went. The cold on my warm skin making me jump up again like I'd been shot from a cannon, and there it was, the old go faster mud stripe from my left calf to my left rib cage. Wonderful. Luckily my phone and car keys had been in pockets on my right side so at least I'd been spared the indignity of seeking medical attention to have a key removed from my Gluteus Maximus ! Perhaps a must have optional extra on my next motor should be keyless entry !!
By the time I made it back to the car, the worst of it had dried off and there was thankfully no need for a repeat of the drive home in my pants scenario from a previous adventure. All in it had taken 4 and a half hours to get number 77 in the bag. Surely I'd now be able to quickly get back into the nomal pattern of the living and manage to get a good sleep tonight.....
....not a chance, come 11 o'clock, DING,, I was bright as a button ! at least it gave me the chance to reflect until the early hours on another magical day in the hills.
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naepace
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Re: Ben Challum...ity !!

Postby Mal Grey » Tue May 09, 2017 1:04 pm

Great report, love your writing. Keep 'em comin'!
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Mal Grey
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Re: Ben Challum...ity !!

Postby naepace » Thu May 11, 2017 3:41 pm

Mal Grey wrote:Great report, love your writing. Keep 'em comin'!

Cheers Mal, I'll do my best...who knows tho, maybe one day I'll just go up and down without incident :shock: :lol:
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naepace
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Re: Ben Challum...ity !!

Postby Alteknacker » Sat May 13, 2017 1:39 pm

As Mal says: a great read! And boy what a day you had for it - fabulous panos!

I must have taken a slightly odd route when I did it, because I don't remember it being such a terrible bog fest (though I did end up sitting down in one near the end...). I headed from the Southern summit directly more or less as the crow flies to Auchtertyre.
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Re: Ben Challum...ity !!

Postby Jaxter » Sat May 13, 2017 1:56 pm

Enjoyed that :lol: :lol: :lol:

I climbed this hill in the snow, which saved me a lot of your problems, except for that final steep descent to the crossing where the bog had frozen into ice...you can probably guess the result :lol:

And I think we've all done the driving home in your pants thing...the reason I always keep a spare set of clothes in the car now :wink:
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Re: Ben Challum...ity !!

Postby naepace » Sun May 14, 2017 12:03 am

Just read your report Jaxter, great stuff :clap: I'm glad it's not just me who struggles on those bloody stiles ! I once (glen Lyon I think) clumsily clambered over one without noticing that there was a wide open gate right next to it, such was my focus on the dam thing :lol:
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naepace
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Re: Ben Challum...ity !!

Postby naepace » Mon May 15, 2017 8:29 am

Alteknacker wrote:As Mal says: a great read! And boy what a day you had for it - fabulous panos!

I must have taken a slightly odd route when I did it, because I don't remember it being such a terrible bog fest (though I did end up sitting down in one near the end...). I headed from the Southern summit directly more or less as the crow flies to Auchtertyre.


Thank you. Such a shame you didn't get the full (or should that be fool) experience :lol: I think you need to go back and do it 'properly'....bring a wetsuit :wink:
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naepace
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