[This walk took place back in March, but was such a great day out and managed some decent pictures so putting it up for posterity.]
Had a free Sunday and the night before checked the forecast - clear and 15 on the west coast. Typical Scotland - summer comes but once a year…for 2 days in March!
After contemplating cycling up to Luss and having a mooch about the hills, I decided this might be a good opportunity to get up to the Arrochar Alps and see what all the fuss was about. Beinn Narnain was definitely on the agenda, possibly Beinn Ime and maybe even the Cobbler...? Let's see, let's see.
Of course, everyone else was having the same idea. Fortunately I had the good sense to check the bus schedule one last time before leaving in the morning... and a good thing, too - the 1800 return from Arrochar was now apparently full up. Yarr! OK, a full day out it is then. But with this kind of weather that's no hardship.
By the time we got to Balloch it was clear that there was very little snow on the hills. From the shop I took my time getting over to the start - car park was full and already a few folks coming off the hill (the smart ones…with cars). In my excitement I tramped right up the ‘tourist path’, completely missing the early turn-off for Beinn Narnain! It wasn’t until I came out of the woods that I realised my error. Fortunately there is a (boggy) path at about 350m that cuts straight across Creag an Fhithich.
As I was making my way across, a trio of young men bounded up behind me, asking if I was making for Beinn Narnain - they had made the same mistake as me. I was happy to let them trailblaze - they would give me some clues as to where I was going. By the time I would make the Beinn Narnain summit, they would already be most of the way up Beinn Ime.
As can be seen from my GPS track I didn’t exactly take the shortest path…lots of wobbling around trying to avoid the bog, basically. Nevertheless the views throughout were superb, in both directions.
On my way up the Spearhead I encountered a young couple on the path ahead. They seemed to be arguing about something, at which point the young girl left the path and descended straight into the valley below. Apparently she had somehow dropped her backpack (!!?!!) and it had tumbled all the way down the side of the hill, and she was insistent on going after it…didn’t look like my idea of fun, but her young male companion dutifully set off (carefully) after her. Hmmm…take care there folks…hope to see you at the top?
At almost exactly 3 hrs from getting off the bus I made the trig point, encountering virtually no wind and just a few other walkers (who I would see several more times today, naturally) having a bit of lunch. We took in the amazing views - Ben Lomond on one side; looking down Loch Long you could see Goatfell; and north to Ben Vane, Ben Lui the Grampians and…was that Ben Nevis you could see there for a second…??
As I had lunch the summit started to get quite busy with walkers coming up from the corrie, having tackled the Cobbler first apparently. The young couple who had gone in search of the errant bag turned up as well, which put me at ease. I elected to give Beinn Ime a pass today and, instead of heading down the path all the way to the Coire Croe, tried to cut across Coire a’ Bhalachain and pick up the path up the north face of the Cobbler. It was a boggy slog but at least I had company.
By this time it was around 2pm and the Cobbler was pretty busy. On the way up to the Central Peak I was nearly lapped by a half dozen 9-year-old girls in t-shirts and their mothers...! Apparently it was the moms’ idea of a Mother's Day out - although I suspect the real aim was to tire out certain members of the walking party. But they were no slouches, and I had just a few minutes at the top (4 hours from start) before the entire party arrived.
And a party it was…quite a lot of activity but that’s to be expected for 14 degree day in March! Kids, dogs, radios, disposable grills, the works. A few guys with virtually no gear to speak of were hanging about on the top of the summit peak having “threaded the needle”… no thank you. However another solo hiker who came up about when I did put on her GoPro and did what needed to be done - afterwards she said it was rather terrifying. This of course did nothing to deter the preteen brigade, who soon began demanding that various Daddies accompany them up to the summit, much to the assembled Mommys' strident but ultimately futile protests.
The boys were soon spotted afterwards over on the South Peak.
I headed over to the North Peak but it was getting quite windy at this point so descended down the rougher, central route back to the main path. Not a lot of fun frankly - next time I’ll go back the long way.
By this time it was nearing 5pm and, though there would be light for some time still, I was a bit shocked to see people - families even - heading up the hill…and not looking kitted out for it. Not that the Cobbler itself requires any particular equipment obviously but…you might want, I dunno, a jacket, or maybe some trousers…? But then again, I’m not Scottish…
When I got back to the Succoth car park (about 6 hours’ worth of walking later, not counting lunch break or time on the Cobbler summit) there were about 4 ambulances in the car park and several more made their way over as I walked back along the head of Loch Long, accompanied by two helicopters, one of which touched down over at the foot of A’ Chrois several times over the next couple of hours, heading back behind Beinn Ime both times. Checked Arrochar Mountain Rescue [and several times over the intervening months] but there was no evidence of a call-out. Not sure what happened out there…hope everyone involved is OK.
All in all a fantastic day out, and amazingly accessible from the city. Now that I know where the 'true' path is, next time I think we'll go for the Narnain/Ime combo platter.
Bus from Anniesland to Arrochar, return: £12.60
Expensive (but well-kept) pint of Southern Summit at the pub: £4 and change
Sitting outside on the shores of Loch Long in a t-shirt in March: Priceless!
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.