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Two self arrests on the Cruachan 4

Two self arrests on the Cruachan 4


Postby Pointless Parasite » Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:30 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chleibh, Beinn a'Chochuill, Beinn Eunaich, Ben Challum, Ben Cruachan, Ben Lui, Stob Daimh

Grahams included on this walk: Fiarach

Date walked: 29/03/2018

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Almost every time I visit the Highlands, the weather is magnificent the day I arrive and magnificent the day I leave, but awful on the actual walking days. I thought I might be able to 'fool the weather' by arriving early in the day and leaving late, giving me a couple of extra half days with almost guaranteed better weather.

Day 1

Arriving in Crianlarich at 2.15 pm was neither here not there. Not really enough time to do a big walk but too long to just sit around. I vaguely considered Beinn Chabhair (too far) and Ben Challum (wanted to save that for Monday), before settling on Fiarach, which would be my first Graham. And the weather was indeed very good.

Initially I had planned on skirting around the forest, but then read another WH report showing a more direct route through a clearing in the forest. To reach this, just take the West Highland Way trail until the bridge over the Herive Burn then turn left. I followed the burn for a while until I reached a small break in the trees I thought might extend up to the open fell.

Somewhere, a wizened old knight uttered the words "He chose...unwisely". Pretty soon I was fighting through dense branches and trying avoid having my eyes poked out as the clearing was reduced to nothing. Should have stuck with the burn all the way :roll:

Image
Fiarach trees by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

After I while I managed to get through the forest onto the open fell and complete a fairly easy ascent to the summit. The true summit is easily identified by the fences joining to form a triangle.

Image
Fiarach summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Crianlarich hills from Fiarach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Ben Chabhair from Fiarach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The views were fantastic but it was freezing cold. I was wearing just a t-shirt under a waterproof jacket. I had plenty of warm clothes in my bag, but knew I'd need to take them straight off the moment I was back into the forest.

For the descent, I followed the burn all the way down, past a number of small waterfalls, and back onto the WHW trail. It was mostly easy going with only a few boggy sections and a few steep banks where I needed to hold the tree branches for balance.

Image
Fiarach descent through trees by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Fiarch clearing by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Challum from WHW trail by the pointless parasite, on Flickr


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Back in Crianlarich by 5.15 pm, just 3 hours after starting 8)


Day 2

The first main objective of the trip was Ben Cruachan, hopefully including the other three Munros in the area. I needed to start at the other end though, as the train didn't stop at Falls of Cruachan until later in the day.

Image
Beinn Eunaich lower slopes 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Beinn Eunaich lower slopes by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Beinn Eunaich summit approach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Beinn Eunaich summit cornices by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I wasn't happy with the fit of my right crampon and was convinced it was about to come off. I had a quick check on the summit but everything looked OK.

Image
Eunaich descent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Shortly after beginning the descent, I made a bewilderingly stupid mistake. There were some nice views of the glen to the North and I couldn't resist taking a few more photos. Normally, I let my ice axe hang down by my side when taking photos, with my wrist through the leash. I was aware it was not a sensible thing to be doing, so took a few snaps and quickly put my camera away. As I was doing so, I saw my right crampon sliding away down the slope. So it was loose after all! :roll: Desperate, I dived on the sliding crampon and managed to stop it, but then started to slide down the icy snow slope without any hands on my axe. For a few crazy seconds I slid towards the edge while frantically trying to get a grip on my axe and self-arrest. I managed to stop, somehow, cursing and swearing at my stupidity. If I'd gone another 10 m or so the consequences could have been serious :shock:

Here is the photo that almost got me killed:

Image
Daft photo by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Hardly worth it :(

Image
Beinn a' Chochuill ridge by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Beinn a' Chochuill summit approach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Thankfully, I reached the summit of Chochuill without further incident.

Image
Beinn a' Chochuill view West by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Sron an Isean from bealach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I wanted to take plenty of photos of the climb up to Sron an Isean, but after the near-miss earlier on Beinn Eunaich I was much more cautious. From up on Beinn a' Chochuill, the climb looked formidable, but it proved to be relatively easy.

Image
Beinn a' Chochuill from Sron an Isean by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The first section is pretty straightforward. It should be easy to avoid the craggy sections, although still managed to head straight for the rocky outcrop seen towards the top of the grassy bit in this photo:

Image
Sron an Isean lower slopes by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I realised I was going nowhere and backtracked down a snow slope. I casually tried to slide down, but quickly lost control. Cue comical self arrest #2. This time I had a proper hold of my axe, but used the adze end instead of the pick. Don't try this; it works, but creates a fountain of snow and ice in the process.

After brushing the snow out of my hair I started on the upper section of Sron an Isean. There looked to be plenty of easy, safe routes up the various blank snow slopes. I chose a route towards the right, joining the North ridge of Sron an Isean, as this was one of the only parts of the snow slope not guarded by cornices at the top.

Image
Sron an Isean upper slopes by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Once on Sron an Isean, it was a straightforward plod along the ridge to Stob Daimh:

Image
Stob Daimh approach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Sron an Isean from Stob Diamh by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Stob Daimh by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The ridge was corniced almost all the way. Fortunately it was possible to keep a very wide berth.

Image
Drochaid Ghlas by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The first view of Cruachan:

Image
Ben Cruachan by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

A few metres from the summit, there was an awkward looking section I wasn't expecting. As I approached, I could see there were two or three large rocks, topped with corniced snow:

Image
Ben Cruachan awkward step by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I know it doesn't look too bad from the photo above but in reality it looked very unsafe. There was no way I was risking going anywhere near the cornices. I had to go to the left. I managed to negotiate around the first rock, hoping I could climb up in between this and the second big rock. This didn't look safe at all and would have put me back up among the cornices. My only option was to continue skirting to the left of the second rock. The slope to the left was pretty steep and I wasn't convinced I would be able to stop myself if I lost my footing. There was no other option though. Just don't slip :wink: Slowly, I picked my way around the second big rock, driving the shaft of my axe right down to the head, giving me a stable hold while I messed around trying to get a good foothold. Eventually I worked my way past the second rock and was then able to climb the last few remaining metres to the summit.

Image
Ben Cruachan summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Everything was buried under snow. No sign of the cairn, the trig point or most of the boulders. But it was definitely the summit.

Image
Ben Cruachan descent 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Ben Cruachan descent 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Falls of Cruachan station by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Luckily, I had chosen the first day of the year in which Falls of Cruachan station was open. The advantage of getting the train is that it allows an open-ended route and thus avoids needing to walk the extra 5 km back to the starting point :D


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Day 3

The second big Munro I wanted to climb was "Scotland's K2", Ben Lui. I'd climbed Ben Oss last December and spent most of the walk fixated on Lui. Visibility was incredible that day, but the wind was too strong to be attempting a mountain with such steep craggy slopes.

I was planning on getting the train from Crianlarich to Tyndrum, but being a Sunday, the first train was not until almost midday. The alternative of walking meant a very long day (although I hadn't appreciated just how long - 32 km in all) but was better than sitting around doing nothing all morning.

Image
Ben Lui Stob Garbh by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

After reaching the top of the Stob Garbh it was an easy ridge walk up to the final summit section on Lui. This started off OK, although visibility was deteriorating. Within about 100 m of the top, the snow started to become very crusty, sometimes with as much as half a foot of thin air underneath. It didn't feel safe at all and I was concerned about a section of the crust breaking away and starting an avalanche. Luckily, the steepest section didn't last too long and suddenly I was on the flat summit ridge, eyeing some huge cornices.

Image
K2 summit cornices by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
K2 summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The safest way down was probably the standard ascent route from the West. Might as well climb Beinn a' Chleibh while I'm here :D

Image
Beinn a' Chleibh summit view 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Beinn a' Chleibh summit view 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Beinn a' Chleibh summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Ben Cruachan from Beinn a' Chleibh by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Beinn a' Chleibh descent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Ben Lui bealach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Evidence of a small avalanche, reported to SAIS:

Image
Avalanche by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Fionn Choiren by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Annoyingly, the clouds had now cleared from Ben Lui:

Image
Ben Lui summit from Cononish by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Ben Lui from Cononish by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Fiarch by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I made it to the B&B at about 5 pm, 9 hours after starting. I was so tired I doubted if I would be capable of doing anything the next day, let alone Ben Challum.


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Day 4

I had about 5.5 hours before the train back South, which would be enough time to climb Ben Challum and back, providing the snow wasn't too deep and I wasn't too tired from the previous couple of days. But after half a dozen cups of tea and a huge breakfast I was feeling fully energized :D

Image
Ben Lui from Ben Challum by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Thankfully it was easy going. The snow was frozen solid.

Image
Ben Challum ascent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Ben More from Ben Challum 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

From the South top, the snow conditions completely changed. The fairly shallow icy snow was replaced by huge snowdrifts with a few cornices.

Image
Ben Challum from south top by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Ben Challum summit ascent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Ben Challum summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Ben Vorlich from Ben Challum by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Cruach Ardrain from Ben Challum by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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An Caisteal by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Ben a' Chroin from Ben Challum by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Ben Challum descent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Back to Crianlarich with an hour to spare :D
User avatar
Pointless Parasite
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 77
Munros:84   Corbetts:5
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Location: Sunderland

Re: Two self arrests on the Cruachan 4

Postby larry groo » Fri Apr 06, 2018 6:27 am

Great stuff. Enjoyed that.

:clap: :clap: :clap:
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larry groo
 
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Re: Two self arrests on the Cruachan 4

Postby mrssanta » Sun Apr 08, 2018 5:09 pm

that looked great, two really long days though, take my hat off to you!
User avatar
mrssanta
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2944
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Location: north yorkshire moors

Re: Two self arrests on the Cruachan 4

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:09 pm

Blimey, you certainly packed in the peaks for just a long weekend! :clap:

Enjoyed the descriptions, which were very evocative of many a winter day I've had, when things feel just that little bit insecure and you move very carefully.
User avatar
Mal Grey
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2846
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Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk

Re: Two self arrests on the Cruachan 4

Postby Sunset tripper » Wed Apr 11, 2018 10:11 am

Nice one - though a bit scary :D
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Sunset tripper
 
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