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Garbh Bheinn: winter season open!
by BlackPanther » Wed Nov 08, 2017 10:46 am
Route description: Garbh Bheinn, Loch Leven
Corbetts included on this walk: Garbh Bheinn (Loch Leven)
Date walked: 06/11/2017
Time taken: 5 hours
Distance: 7 km
Ascent: 829m6 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).
Mother nature decided to give me an early gift and delivered some snow for me to celebrate on the higher ground. I didn't really expect the white stuff in the first week of November, but weather forecast for Sunday was decent, so we decided to visit a half-day Corbett neat Kinlochleven. I always thought it was too short a walk for summer time and kept this route for winter conditions, despite the hill being very steep Having done it now I can say, for anybody with a pinch of experience, it's a perfect November treat
Garbh Bheinn looks so steep and formidable from any direction, but there is a breach in the fortress up Torran na Crann ridge. I remembered somebody say that the bottom half of the climb was a quagmire but it didn't put us off. The morning was cold so we packed extra layers of clothing just in case - proved useful later on!
The route starts from the bridge on B863, where there is a rough layby for 3-4 cars. The ascent is straightforward if very boggy. On the descent we took a detour to Gleann a'Chaolais:
I was surprised to see snow on higher ground. A bit worried 'cause we didn't pack crampons, but as we found out later, there was no ice under the snow, just a nice, crispy layer of fresh white stuff. That's how I like it!
Mamores white in the morning:
We started up the obvious path which soon became a muddy trench, so as soon as we could, we left it and headed straight for the steeper section. It was easier to walk up wet vegetation than to drown in mushy tatties. Yuck.
Looking down to the road and Loch Leven:
We were gaining height quickly till we reached the first rocky section. Here, we met the path again, as it passed below the crags. It must have rained the previous night 'cause the ground was waterlogged, water dripping down the slopes - and the muddy path was a nightmarish experience. We had a few near misses, balancing on mushy tatties, before emerging on somewhat flatter ground... I didn't like the whole experience at all and neither did Kevin. Indeed, he suggested we should try finding an alternative route of descent. Anything to avoid this gloompy-squelchy haven!
Not happy at all... Steep, wet and "strictly come mud balancing"... Mam na Gualain ridge in the background:
The path (more a boggy stream that day) and the view west. Despite the splodgathon, we knew that we were in for a treat. And the best was yet to come!
The Torran na Crann ridge consists of a succession of rocky lumps and bumps. The path becomes a bit drier higher up and it avoids all difficulties. The sight of snow near the summit cheered me up
As we marched on, we met another walker on his way down, he confirmed our suspicions that conditions higher up were good, a decent path up the steeper section and only a dusting of snow, no ice.
As we traversed the ridge, my attention was drawn to the unnamed waterfall cascading down the slopes on the other side of Gleann a'Chaolais:
View down along the ridge, Pap of Glencoe prominent to the left:
Having passed a boggy dip, we faced the steepest section of the climb. There was a well-worn path and the ground became dry underfoot - at last! I didn't even mind the acute angle...
...and some scree here and there... as the views were worth the effort! the sun came out and we knew we were heading up for all the beauty of winter wonderland
Mam nan Gualain and reflections in Loch Leven:
Zoom to Pap and Beinn a'Bheithir behind:
The path up the steep section bypasses three rocky bluffs, one could attempt scrambling up directly as they don't look that difficult but we didn't fancy anything too brave (or stupid) when the rock was wet and slippy. Higher up we entered the snow zone and suddenly the world transformed into winter wonderland
We took a short break on Stob Coire Sgoilte for some panoramas. To the north of us, the Mamores proudly presented their white-topped summits:
Another Garbh Bheinn on the opposite side of Loch Linnhe - still to climb one day:
At the moment we concentrated on reaching the summit of "our" Garbh Bheinn. The snow was soft underfoot and I was ready to sing Jingle bells
Aonach Eagach entered the stage... Seeing it so close and covered in white reminded me, we still had this monster to defeat (gulp)...
The final 100m of ascent can be as easy or as difficult as one wishes. The easiest way is to avoid the rocky pinnacle to the left past a small dip in the ground or one can scramble over it. The path avoids the direct scramble but still one has to take a few awkward, handhold-requiring steps up the right side of the pinnacle. Which way did we choose? Guess what. Ha ha ha.
We somehow managed to clamber our way over the pinnacle, carefully checking every step. In summer time, dry conditions, it would be nothing, but the snow made everything slippery. A nice rush of adrenaline though
Looking back at the pinnacle:
Panorama north - the Mamores in their full glory:
Past the pinnacle, the rest of the climb is formality:
We took countless stops for photos of this magnificent landscape, so much nicer with the cover of snow:
On the summit, as we wandered about, in places we sank into fresh, soft snow up to our ankles:
Birthday Panther happy on the summit of her 133th Corbett
We spent some 20 minutes on the top despite the cold, simply couldn't get enough of the winter wonderland. Garbh Bheinn is a fantastic viewpoint and the white topping on the hills just made the landscape more magical - like icing on the cake
Loch Eilde Mor and eastern Mamores:
Western Mamores (Ben Nevis in cloud):
The iconic view west along Loch Leven:
Lucy the Lamb posing on the top of her 55th Corbett:
But it's Aonach Eagach that steals the show... We were mesmerized by the rough beauty of the knife-edge ridge, the dark bare rock contrasting with the virgin whiteness of fresh snow. Simply stunning:
Climbers on the AE ridge. There are always a few madmen about
There are 3 cairns on the small summit area, Kevin of course had to check each one with his GPS and eventually passed his verdict on which one was the highest... Lucy didn't argue
We snapped photos till our fingers went numb, then eventually started descending back to Loch Leven. We skipped the pinnacle by taking easier ground to the right (as we descended) and continued down past the line of snow, still admiring the grand views in front of us.
More Loch Leven reflections:
To avoid the wet, waterlogged slopes on the northern end of Torran nan Crann, we dropped from the col at 400m straight into Gleann a'Chaolais, where we could see a stalkers track leading back to the road. The slope was steep-ish but nowhere near as wet as the initial path, mostly grassy. I'd recommend this detour as a safer option of descent in slippery conditions.
We reached the track just below the waterfall:
Finally, it was easy if squelchy walk back to the road and the layby by the bridge Just short of five hours (including stops) of fantastic fun. Well, maybe apart from the squelchy trudge at the beginning, but it was a small price to pay for all the treats higher up
Fingers crossed weather holds for the following weekend. We'll be re-visiting Ben Tee and meowing all over Laggan
by rockhopper » Wed Nov 08, 2017 2:42 pm
by Graeme D » Wed Nov 08, 2017 2:54 pm
by Mal Grey » Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:12 pm
Hopefully I'll get a week of similar conditions when I next get up there, hopefully Feb or March. After all, we've had similar good weather on at least 5 weeks of the 25 or more we've done in winter up there!!!!
by BlackPanther » Thu Nov 09, 2017 5:35 pm
Maybe "pinnacle" is an overstatement, it's more like a rocky outcrop, and yes it is very easy to avoid. I just liked the sound of the word
by Cairngorm creeper » Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:04 pm
by katyhills » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:35 pm
Enjoyed seeing those pix.
It's a great hill for autumn/winter time as it's not a long day, so no need for a mega early start on dark mornings!
I did it in January this year, on a glorious day. There was less snow than you had! Nice wee bit of scrambling, although you can avoid it if you don't fancy it, and cracking views too. Wh at's not to like