Every now and then, the weather forecast looks just right. Even more unusually, this sort of forecast coincides with a weekend! And maybe once or twice a year, it coincides with a weekend when I am not doing anything. Joy. Friday was a usual day at work, but for checking the forecast and realizing it was going to be nice. Well, actually. It was going to rain. But only on Saturday, Sunday was set fair. I decided to go to Arrochar, somewhere new for me! A few minutes on the internet and I had train tickets and a night of accommodation booked. Route maps printed, and saved into the phone, and soon it was home time.
The hills from the train, an inviting walk for the next morning.
I had opted for a fairly leisurely start on Saturday. and made my way down to the train station at around mid day. A couple of hours (and trains) later, and I was standing on the platform at Arrochar and Tarbert, which, it turns out is neither in Arrochar nor Tarbert. Great. The mountains had been visible from the train, and had a light dusting of snow clinging to the upper slopes. However, that was a job for tomorrow. Today's job was simply to find Arrochar. It turns out that there is a path leading out from the train station straight into the woods. I took this path, and within 30 seconds of getting off the train, felt myself to be away from it all, in a lovely woodland - totally away from it all (apart from the well-made path. And the occasional signpost. And the couple of benches. And the traffic noise. And weird head things...). Ok, maybe not entirely away from it all, but certainly away from some of it.
Wandering through the woods towards Arrochar.
I find these very peculiar.
Nice autumn colours.
Lots of weathered carvings around the loch.
I particularly liked this one.
The path was very pleasant, and, being in no particular rush, I branched off the path and up the hill a little to catch the view. However, I didn't want to go far, and it had also started to drizzle (see, I said the forecast was for good weather!). I soon got to Arrochar, and wandered around the loch a little, past the fun sculptures that dotted the side of the loch, and to the start of the path. I wanted to quickly investigate the start of the walk, just to see what it was like and to make sure I knew where to head tomorrow. The path I wanted branched off the main path about 10 meters down it, and looked rather wet and overgrown. Well, at least I knew where to go the next day. I headed back to the hotel. I don;t have a TV at home, so staying in a hotel brings some TV watching. A rugby game, some midsummer murders, dinner and a drink, a film and I was ready to sleep.
The next morning I was up well before dawn. A long shower and a hasty breakfast, and I was checked out and ready to go! Ah, there it was, my lovely day full of blue sky was dawning. Everywhere was perfectly still and beautiful. Of course, following my investigations the previous day, I knew exactly where to go. SO off I went, messing around a little on the way as I felt the conditions rather demanded capturing on camera.
A lovely, still morning dawns.
The upside down world.
The path, which had looked overgrown at the start was overgrown beyond the start too. And badly eroded in places. I wasn't sure to what extent it was supposed to be a stream, and to what extent it just was a stream. Nonetheless, it went up, and that seemed to be the right direction to me, so I went with it. It was steep and tough. I took it slowly, walking alone leaves no pressure to keep a decent pace. I was a fair way up by the time the sun peaked out above the hills, with views to Ben Lomond opening up with every meter I climbed. More impressive still were the views down loch long.
Loch Long. No points for working out where the name comes from, I think.
As I climbed, I realized that the snow, which had looked like a mere dusting from below, was rather more, and seemed to extend much further down the slopes than it had looked. The cloud also seemed to be building, certainly there was far more cloud that I had expected, but one could hardly call it a cloudy day!
A ma with a lovely young dog caught me up as I slowly made my way up the steep slope. We stopped for a long chat, and more or less ended up going together most of the rest of the way up. I was glad of this, as it got tougher. The final climb in particular was in some serious snow, with plenty of steep, icy ledges to navigate. I followed the other guy, and he followed his dog. It was a good system, and then, we were there. On the unexpectedly large plateau summit of Ben Nairnain.
Hmm... This snow is rather lower than it looked from below!
Yes... there were some clouds, but the sun was always going to win!
The Cobbler comes into view. That was on the list to do today!
Starting to feel the excellent rocky, icy character of this mountain.
Great views across to The Cobbler.
Feeling surprisingly good on the summit!
I ate a sandwich and chatted some more to the guy who I'd climbed with. He was heading back to Glasgow soon to get on with things. I was being a far more useless human, and spending the day mucking around in the hills. I started my descent down the back side of Ben Nairnain. I had origionally planned to go up Beinn Ime too, but as the day went on, I thought probably best not to push it, and just be content with Ben Nairnain and the Cobbler. However, as I walked down the hill, I realised I was feeling rather fresh still. By not pushing too hard on the first hill (as I usually do), I was in good nick! A look at the time confirmed that I had a lot of daylight left still. Even if I went at a very gentle pace, I'd definitely have time for both Beinn Ime and the Cobbler. So why not!? It was only an extra 400ish meters up and down. The deciding factor was how beautifully snowy Beinn Ime looked. Up I went. As I reached the snow level again, a woman told me to get off the path, and head 30 meters to the right of it. "The path is horrible, trampled and boggy, go walk on the fresh now, much easier" So I did. I don't know what the path was like to compare to, but the fresh snow certainly seemed to be the best option! Although it was ankle deep in places, going was pretty easy, and I loved the remote feel of trampling new prints, away from all the people on the main path! The summit was soon reached, and was unexpectedly beautiful. Wheras Ben Nairnain had been a spectacular fortress, Ben Ime was more of a landscaped masterpiece, all the slopes at just the right angles, and the rocks just plentiful enough and in just the right places. The sun dipped behing a cloud for a while, and the mountain was lit only by the light reflected off the sea, leaving it far more beautifully golden than it had any right to be in the middle of the day.
Golden light, bounced off the sea.
Looking back up the slope.
On my way down I relayed the fresh-snow route path advice to people going up, and happily rejoined the relatively low path between the three peaks. The Cobbler was next.
One more mountain for the day!
Unsurprisingly, the path up the Cobbler was very busy. In fact, this made it the worst path, as the snow had been trampled into smooth ice. Again, some creative navigating off the path provided a much better route, watching people slip and fall over as they resolutely stuck to the path. It wasn't a long climb and I was soon there, in the mad mess of a summit that is the Cobbler. It is justifiably famous; a sprawling mess of giant, cracked slabs. The conditions did not exactly invite threading the needle, so I contented myself with wondering around and between the summits for an hour or so. Allowing the sun to get lower, and the day to draw to an end.
There it is.
Trying to keep warm!
The sun gets lower and lower...
Ben Lomond stands guard nearby.
Groups of people came and went from the summit.
Eventually I decided to start heading down. I definitely wanted to be below the snow level before it got too dark. All the mountains turned increasingly golden, then orange, then blue as the shadows fell over them. It really was a beautiful display.
I started heading down before the sun had set... see... I can be sensible!
Colours dancing across the landscape!
Night draws in, on the end of an excellent day.
A herd of deer ran past in the dwindling light, far too dark now to attempt a photo of them. Very irritatingly, my head-torch seemed to be broken, so I was resigned to actually holding a torch - how barbaric. It was a good path back, being well constructed to cope with the vast numbers who climb the Cobbler. It was soon pitch black, but I was nearing the road, down the gentle, well made track. Rather irritatingly, about 10 minutes from the road my foot landed badly and my right foot went over on the ankle. Fortunately, the boot absorbed some of it, but it was still rather painful to walk on the rest of the way. Typical, all the tough icy steep stuff, no problem, then a fall on the home straight! Oh well. After 5 minutes it was no longer a wincing pain, more of an inconvenience, and I was soon at the road and headed for the pub. Dinner was plentiful and a cold beer is a good medicine for most ails. Another 30 min walk took me back to the train station, and I was soon whisked away. Tired? Yes. In pain? A bit. Happy? Definitely... Most definitely.
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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.