I mark out the hill walking days of my summer carefully, because there are always so many other things going on to fit them around. In this case I was spending Sunday travelling to Skye, for a week at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, but that left me with a nice clear Saturday for going anywhere I liked. The only problem was that anywhere I wanted to go was up the same train line I would be travelling the next day, but I decided that didn't really matter, although it did put me off going as far as Crianlarich.
I'd had Beinn Ime on my shortlist for quite a while, since I left it behind after climbing Beinn Narnain - it always just felt untidy. And I'd come up with a good plan then for starting with Beinn Luibhean above the Rest and Be Thankful, because I didn't really want to walk the big Cobbler path both ways - and the Cobbler was always there if I had time or changed my mind about Beinn Ime.
So an early start for a 7:04 train from Haymarket and the 8:21 from Glasgow - this is the only time in my life when I have ever gone wrong and caught a train or bus *before* the one I meant to catch, because I really meant to get the 7:19 and got my sums wrong. I could have got the bus right through from Glasgow, but the train is nicer and has better views, so I had time in Arrochar to walk down to the village and buy lunch from the shop and a bacon roll and a cup of tea from the cafe, and admire the view over the loch while I ate my (second) breakfast.
I had thought about trying to get the bus to let me off at one of the parking spots on the way up the Rest, but I decided in the end that I wanted to see the marker stone at the top and the view down the valley more than I didn't want to walk a mile back down the verge.
I think it was the original marker stone, erected by the soldiers who built the first road around 1750, which gave the pass its name, rather than recording a name in use - any local name then would presumably be Gaelic. I'd read that the original marker had crumbled and a replacement had been put up, which is essentially true, but the replacement itself is more than 200 years old, marking the transfer of the road to the Commission for Highland Roads and Bridges in 1814.
The road verge is in decent condition at least, and although it was quite tight at first, after squeezing round a rocky outcrop there was enough flat ground that I could walk on the far side of the barrier. Still, I was quite glad to reach the bridge over the River Croe and the tiny parking spot where the route begins.
I wasn't really expecting a path, and was so pleased to see one that I think I let it lead me astray from the start, because I thought that the footbridge was only access to the little plantation, and followed the path uphill instead. I knew that I was on the slopes of the Cobbler, but thought at first that I was climbing to a col between the two hills - by the time I realised that the col was much further back, between Beinn Ime and Beinn Narnain, the burn between the hills was way down in a narrow but deep valley, and the far side was thick with trees and bracken, so that I had to climb quite a bit further to find a plausible crossing place.
Even further up it wasn't a very pleasant crossing - the slope down to the burn was very steep, and although there were several possible rocky crossing places the water was swirling through them disconcertingly fast.
But I made it across, and up the equally steep banks on the other side, and on to plain toil up the grassy slope. The only real entertainment here was watching the changing shapes of the hills around - the Cobbler in particular as the north summit came into view.
On the other side of the valley I was looking along the gap between the hills which is the start of the little road to Lochgoilhead.
But I was glad to meet the first rocks towards the top of the slope, because at least they were a change - and there was a chance that once I was back onto the main ridge rather than going up the wrong way I would meet a path again (I was disappointed in this hope, but at least it kept me climbing for the moment).
Over to the right now the back of Beinn Narnain was rising above the top of the valley, which was very creased and rumpled and looked like it could do with being ironed.
The weather forecast for the day had been so random - one hour blazing sunshine, the next dark cloud, then sunshine again, then hail - that I had really just ended up ignoring it, or at least taking the view that since extreme forecasts rarely turn out to be true, the weather would probably all be in the middle.
But from being mainly sunny the weather changed quite dramatically, first persistent but gentle highland rain, and then heavy rain which, if not quite hail, definitely had the sting of sleet in it. And then just as suddenly it was off again, although the hills which had been clear not long before now had their heads in the clouds.
At least I had just bought a new waterproof jacket, feeling that I couldn't go to Skye with the old one which leaked in several places, but my legs got very wet due to not thinking about waterproof trousers until it was too late, as usual. And more annoyingly I lost my sunglasses, which I shoved in my trouser pocket when the heavy rain came on and which must have jumped out again somewhere.
I toiled on again towards the rocky edge of the ridge - and, half an hour on, towards bright blue skies again.
Coming over the edge did bring me onto a different part of the hill, a broad terrace with a view over to Beinn Ime and Beinn Chorronach behind it, but it was not nearly as close to the summit as it looked at first like it must be, and there were several wide grassy ledges still to go.
I wandered on across a grassy slope, and climbed up through some rocks, and wandered on, and climbed up through some rocks, and each time seemed like it must be the last, and wasn't, although there were some nice rock formations and little pools along the way.
But one band of rocks had to be the last, eventually - that nice feeling when the sky starts to be in front of you as well as above.
The summit itself is not particularly distinguished - a tiny cairn on a rock - but I was pleased to finally reach it.
And the little summit plateau did have the promised dramatic views, if a bit hazy again - down to the tiny loch at the top of the pass, and the Big Bend in Glen Croe which is another of the landmarks of my childhood journeys to Tarbert, and up Glen Kinglass and over to Beinn Ime and the Cobbler.
As I left the summit heading towards Beinn Ime the sun came out, and a rainbow spanned the slopes below me.
As I started to drop down I was on a path for the first time on Beinn Luibhean itself - a tiny faint one, but at least a sign that other people had been here once. And it did turn out to be quite useful, helping to convince me that I didn't have to climb down a very steep place just because I thought I probably could - the path had indeed wandered off an easier way.
There was obviously no way up Beinn Ime from this side, or at least no easy way, and although I could easily have cut up to the main path a bit further along it was decision time - I had plenty of light for Beinn Ime, and enough energy, but after lots of slow toiling over rough grass I didn't have time to do it and catch the 17:56 train, and I didn't really want to wait for the 20:06 and not get back to Edinburgh until half past 10 when I still had things to sort out for the next day.
So I turned my back on Beinn Ime for the second time - some hills seem to get like that, although it possibly means that I have to do a determined straightforward attack some time soon or never climb it at all - and just slanted up enough onto its lower slopes to contour round and meet the Cobbler path heading down.
But although I thought I had climbed up far enough, my contouring was a bit too low, and I ended up going in and out of the tops of several of the creases at the head of the valley - interesting, but hard work. I did climb up a bit to dodge the worst of it, but when I could see the good path ahead of me at the same level there didn't seem to be much point in climbing too high just to come down again.
I met the path just before the gate in the fence - a complete change from rough ground and isolation to a well worn path and groups of people everywhere.
The only event of note on the descent was that it poured with rain for a while again (this time I put my waterproof trousers on), but I do quite like that path as a quick way down, at least until the endless zigzags through the forest, and the Cobbler does pose very dramatically above it.
It was turning back into quite a nice evening as I followed the path back round into the village - it gives a good view of one bridge from the other, as well as a good view down the loch.
The only problem with Arrochar is that there's no good pub in the main part of the village (if there is, please enlighten me!), and although I just had time for a pint I didn't have time to wander down the Tighness end. So beer and dinner had to wait until Glasgow, before I headed home to pack up the last odds and ends for the next adventure.
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