I was desperate to tick off some new Munros, after weeks and weeks of bagging lesser hills. Not that I didn't enjoy Corbetts, Grahams ans Subs - quite the opposite! But the ultimate challenge is to complete the M's so with a week off in April, we had hoped to remove (or in this context, I should write remoooooo-ve) a few Munros from our to-do list.
The original idea was to do Cruachan horseshoe, but weather didn't cooperate and despite good forecast, low cloud settled well over the south-west of Scotland. In such conditions, we preferred to climb the easier duo of Munros near Dalmally. We walked the usual route for Beinn a'Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich but anticlockwise, tackling the steep slope up Stob Maol in ascent. Much easier for my poor knees this way!
Nearly three hours in the car left me a bit shaken, but I was also desperate to enjoy the day despite the cloud. We were both full of hope that conditions might improve later on and I even packed in sunscreen (never needed it as things turned out ):
We parked at a small layby just at the very start of B8077 and walked on the tarmac to the entrance to Castles Farm. A good track crosses the pastures and heads up the hillside into Glen Mhoillie:
...but before we were allowed to enter the kingdom of mountains, we had to acquire a permit from the local Moooo-nro guard:
We were nice of course, and very polite so not to upset the beast as it scrutinized us from under its long fringe... Eventually it must have concluded that we looked harmless and it suggested that we were allowed to pass in peace!
Mooo-ve on, pilgrims!
We did. There was next to nothing to see or photograph at the moment as the clag was stubbornly staying low, so we just took off and marched up the farm track:
Low cloud on Stob Daimh:
Zoom to Kilchurn Castle:
WH route suggests going up Beinn a'Chochuill first, but we agreed that the steep ascent to Beinn Eunaich was better tackled up than down, so as soon as we located a small cairn, marking the start of the ascent path, we left the easy track and faced the most annoying part of this circuit:
The slope is grassy, but very steep. It must have rained the night before because the vegetation was wet and we encountered countless balance problems, struggling to stay upright on slippery ground. Higher up, the faint path becomes more obvious but it is badly eroded and we preferred to stick to grass:
At about 500m, the angle eases off and the rest of the climb to the summit is a pleasant walk up grassy-heatherey ground. Or it would be, in better conditions. I guess, the views would be fantastic, too, if we got any, but at 450m or so we entered thick clag and saw nothing all the way to the top.
At some point, it started raining so we added wet conditions to clag. At least it wasn't windy
The summit of Beinn Eunaich was a bit of a disappointment, no views, wet and cold, but at least we bagged another Munro: no. 219!
The descent from Beinn Eunaich to Lairig lanachan was uneventful, a bit steep and rocky higher up, but on an obvious path. And still no views, but at least the rain stopped. We crossed the bealach and clambered up the well-worn path to the eastern end of the ridge leading to the summit of Beinn a'Chochuill. Visibility was down to 20-30m but the ridge is easy to follow:
In better weather, this high-level traverse to the summit must be a cracking stroll, after doing all the hard work We just had to imagine how great the views around may look on a sunny day...
But in the end, the ultimate target was to bag two new Munros which we achieved without complaining. On the summit of Beinn a'Chochuill, I posed for a happy snap - Munro no. 220!
Lucy claimed her 63rd M!
We sat down for lunch and hot tea and surprise, surprise! the clag was thinning. It didn't look like it would burn off completely but there were gaps in the cloud now, so hopefully we'll see something after all!
Looking east back along the ridge:
Sadly, the gap closed in again after a few minutes, so we decided there was no point waiting for a miracle. We packed up and started the descent:
As there was little to admire on the horizon, I studied local structures:
The gap opened up again for a short time and we caught a glimpse of what was out there:
Snow on the ridge:
We located the start of the descent path and followed it easily:
The clag was higher now but it still embraced the higher slopes so we put cameras away and enjoyed the slow descent back to the glen. The path is eroded in places but generally, very pleasant descent, much easier going down this way than risking a tumble on the ultra-steep descent from Stob Maol:
Panoramic view from half way down, Beinn Eunaich to the left:
Lower down, the ground was wet and slippery so we quickly scampered down the squelchy section to reach the safety of the farm track:
Now it was just a matter of walking back on the track to Castle Farm. At least we had some views to Loch Awe:
Looking back at Beinn a'Chochuill (right) and Sron an Isean (left):
Panoramic snap of "our" hills from back near Castle Farm, shame about the clag all day but it's Scotland so nothing unusual
Before leaving, we said thank you and bye-bye to the Moooo-nro guard:
Come back again, pilgrims!
We were slightly disappointed with the lack of views but generally, we enjoyed the outing. How is it possible that even in bad weather, we still love the experience? Maybe it's more about the challenge of compleation. Now, when we can see the finish line on the horizon (though still a far distance away), we are more likely to put up with less favourable weather just to take one more step towards the magical number 282. Hopefully, next time up on the hills will be in better conditions, I said when we returned to the car.
Unfortunately, my hopes were unfounded. The next day weather looked fine... up to a point. We set off to collect some Corbetts for a change and experienced everything, from sunshine to clag and heavy rain. TR to come soon
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