by nigheandonn » Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:22 pm
Route description: Ben Challum, near Tyndrum
Munros included on this walk: Ben Challum
Date walked: 14/10/20181 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
It had taken a while to find what I described as a 'Sundayable' hill, between Citylink's winter timetable, and the usual shortage of Sunday trains and buses, and the closure of the A83, and the early nights. But the early Skye bus, dismissed at first for being so early I couldn't catch it, had come to my rescue, and I settled on Tyndrum rather than Crianlarich, although with the choice of Beinn Oss and Beinn Dubhcraig or Ben Challum left for the day - both were described as very wet at the best of times, so presumably even wetter after all the rain, but there was supposed to be more chance of cloud free hills east of Tyndrum.
It was a very early start, out before 5:30 to get the first bus, but it all went quite smoothly, apart from a slight delay at Glasgow while 10 or so ticketless people tried to catch the officially full bus - everyone was squeezed in in the end, but the driver had to wait until leaving time to make sure no one else would turn up before starting to sell tickets!
The first part of my route was along the West Highland Way - when I walked it, this was my least favourite part, nothing but trees and hard tracks and sore feet, but on an autumn morning it was beautiful, and I was almost tempted just to keep on walking towards Loch Lomond.
I had made the mistake of trying to get onto the Green Welly Stop's wifi at breakfast time - not only did it refuse to work, it stole away the instructions I'd carefully loaded up the day before. So although the cloud was scattered about randomly all over the place and not at all clustered in the west, I headed on for the shorter eastern option - I was quite confused about the bridges at the start of the other route, which a stolen photo of the relevant page of the book did nothing to clarify, and also I just didn't seem to be very quick that morning, and didn't want to end up trying to hurry down over treacherous wet ground.
There's a little graveyard at Kirkton with old graveslabs in it, although most of them are covered with turf for protection - I got very wet making my way round the outside of the wall to try to see the one that wasn't, and never did see it. The start was quite confusing - having been on the WHW all along I couldn't join it briefly, so I didn't know which direction I was going in, and couldn't work out which side of the graveyard was the right that the track was supposed to be on. Eventually I went down towards to the farm entrance to start again, and produced a vague recollection of seeing a picture of much taller trees, the tips of which came into sight as I hunted around, and finally got me on my way.
Just as I was wondering if I had gone too far along the track, since I couldn't see anything in particular which looked like a faint path, I discovered I was standing beside a small cairn, which was presumably the start - with that clue I followed the most worn looking line, some of which seemed to be a stream instead, until it brought me onto a clearer path by the fence, while the hillside clouded over and cleared again.
Sounds of a train passing puzzled me by never seeming to get any closer, until I realised that it was an Oban train on the other side of the valley - I seem to keep watching trains going past from hills, but since I generally climb hills you can get to by train it's not really very surprising.
Some of this first section was moderately wet, more sodden ground than bog, and some of it wasn't really wet at all - it was all a lot better than I'd expected it to be. It was a lovely day, as well, too warm now for my winter hat, or for waterproof trousers, so if I brushed through more wet things I would just have to be wet, although I rolled my trousers up a bit to avoid the worst of it.
The hills on the other side of the valley were looking glorious, decorated with cloud without, ever being hidden by it for long, but they did look quite a serious undertaking, and I was perfectly content to be looking at them.
Towards the top of the trees I started to meet cross fences, the first with a great ladder stile with quite a gap across the top of it, and the second not so much a stile as a climbing frame, which felt a bit precarious at the top.
The ground was starting to get slightly more varied around me, assorted bumps and rocky rises, and then a nice stony burn to cross.
A broad flat place beyond that was pretty wet, enough to go crossing the fence looking for drier places, and off looking for detours and tiptoeing over stones and fallen fenceposts - never quite up to central Lake District standards, but I was glad enough to come through the hole in the next fence and onto higher ground beyond, where I found a nice spot on a rock to eat my lunch.
Higher up the fence degenerated into a line of fence posts and a mess of rusty wire, well camouflaged against mud and brown grass and sometimes out to get you, but the posts did act as a good guideline on towards the top of the hill.
I'd been glad to come onto the way up to the summit ridge, thinking that the end must be coming close, but the climb to the first top was a fairly depressing series of false summits, knowing that it wouldn't even be the real summit when I got there!
A large cairn looked like it must finally be the top, and then even that turned out not to be, although the real top was only just behind it.
An odd dip splits the two summits - not steep or difficult, just mildly confusing as the path fades. It's a case of pressing on and it all sorts itself out in a minute, although it would be more difficult in mist.
The ridge is quite narrow for a little while before dipping to climb to the main summit on a broader slope, and it all feels much quicker once the end is in sight.
The summit has a large cairn and glorious views, although clouds were gathering both to the north and the south.
With hills all around, one of my favourite views was still the great valley on the far side - I wasn't sure where it was, and it was off the edge of the map, but then I remembered that you could also climb the hill from Glen Lochay, so presumably that was it.
The closest hills are a cluster of Corbetts, but just beyond was the great three-sided ridge of Creag Mhor, with Beinn Sheasgarnaich beyond.
I didn't think I should stay on the summit for too long, because a great looming band of cloud was coming in from the north - it looked too clearcut to be bringing rain below it, but it covered the summit of Beinn Dorain, and I didn't think I was all that much lower, so set off quite quickly back along the ridge.
By the time I was descending from the lower summit the cloud had passed over without doing any harm, and Beinn Dorain was in the sunshine again, with the 'back' of the Glen Etive and Glen Coe hills behind.
Looking down ahead of me the light was catching on water scattered over the hill, although this wasn't the wettest bit - I don't think it bothered to collect in pools there, just lay about everywhere.
Further down again, over the smaller rise and back beside the fence, the Crianlarich hills had cleared after being partly in cloud for almost all of the day - there was a more visibly afternoon light everywhere, and things so often do seem to clear towards the end of the day.
So far I had followed a path on the left hand side of the fence, running a bit above the line of the fence itself and the worst of the wet, but now I came to a stile and a path on the right hand side which seemed to lead away into drier and slightly higher ground, and decided I might as well try it - it was a good path, clear and recently trodden and much drier than the way up, but it took a long time to show any sign of turning back down towards where I wanted to go, and when it eventually did swing a bit to the left and meet a fence it wasn't any fence I'd met earlier, a waist-high grid rather than a tall grid or low wires.
The path went on, although a bit fainter, and presumably led somewhere, quite possibly down to one of the signposted tracks at Auchtertyre, but I didn't feel like risking it with a burn and the railway in the way, and decided to cut down a tiny valley to try to get back to the original fence - it was slightly rough underfoot, but nothing I'd passed had done worse than try to trip me up, although I found I had to be a bit careful of invisible half-underground streams.
I was glad to meet the fence with the climbing frame stile - there was a stile at a higher corner as well, but I headed down to the one I'd come over, and back onto the original path - both stiles seemed a lot easier on the way back.
The descent from here was all a bit slower than I'd expected - not really bog, but wet and often slippery ground - I got quite wet when one foot stayed still and the other slid downhill so that I ended up doing a kind of splits and landing on one knee, and later had a hard fall on deceptively good grass, both hands down behind me and shaken up all over, which was entirely my own fault, because I'd just been thinking that grass which didn't look wet was the most dangerous thing! But apart from sore arms and a bit of a headache there was nothing worse wrong with me than a very wet bottom, and I hoped it would have dried by the time I got to the pub.
Following the path all the way down without thinking turned out to bring me to the little bridge rather than the level crossing - the sign on it only says that it's not suitable for vehicular traffic, not that it's private or unsafe, but it was on quite a slope and covered in slippery leafmould and possibly blocked at the far end, so I headed back along the fence to the level crossing instead, only to meet the worst bit of bog all day and have to cross a burn on even more slippery rocks.
I had come over the level crossing maybe 10 minutes before a train was due, but it never did come along, although the train along the other side of the valley came along a few minutes later as it was supposed to. So I kept stopping to look for it instead of hurrying on, and didn't get going very quickly, and in this direction I could understand better why I hadn't enjoyed this part of the WHW - all the best views were behind me, and the path kept sending me uphill when I didn't want to, or onto a tiny path when I was on a good broad track, and I didn't like it very much this time either! By the time I got to the Real Food Cafe it was about 6:15, and it was packed - the instructions told me to start by reading the menu, but before I'd got more than two items in another dozen people had joined the queue, so I ran over to the quiet Tyndrum Inn and had some very tasty fish and chips there instead.
According to Scotrail's website the train from Fort William was cancelled but the train from Oban was running, as earlier, but according to someone on their facebook the Oban half was cancelled as well, so I went over a bit early to find out, and it was a good thing I did because by the time I'd hunted round the dark platform for the thing you speak to and found it out in the car park, and talked to the man, and hurried back up to the main road, and realised that when the man said that the bus stopped 'at station road end' he presumably meant the *Upper* station road end where the Citylink bus stop is and not the end of the road I'd come out of, I was only just in time to catch the bus.
But a rail replacement bus is always a sordid affair, much worse than a bus that's supposed to be a bus, and instead of going into Glasgow it left me at a freezing cold Dumbarton Central to get on a slow train which was hardly any warmer and had no working toilets - a depressing end to a generally enjoyable day.
Three Munros is as much as I've ever managed in a year so far, so I've done quite well to equal that tally within a month, but since I wouldn't be out in the Scottish hills the next weekend, beating it does depend on how the weather holds...
by Chris Mac » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:47 am
Unlucky with the transport nightmare ending, not what you need after a long wet day on the hills! At least you got a nice pub meal beforehand.
by nigheandonn » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:43 am
by jmarkb » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:27 am
nigheandonn wrote:The path went on, although a bit fainter, and presumably led somewhere, quite possibly down to one of the signposted tracks at Auchtertyre, but I didn't feel like risking it with a burn and the railway in the way
I've wondered about that path too: I guess it connects up with this https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/argyll/sheep-walk.shtml ?
by Sgurr » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:58 am
Good for you for doing it from Tyndrum.
by nigheandonn » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:21 pm
jmarkb wrote:I've wondered about that path too: I guess it connects up with this https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/argyll/sheep-walk.shtml ?
I think it must - it had definitely been used quite recently, because there were clear footprints on it. It might well have been a better way down than the one I fell on, too!
by nigheandonn » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:26 pm
Sgurr wrote:We were in our camper van, but if we opened the windows, the midges got in. We ended up lying in a river with only our noses out to avoid them....
That is an... interesting midge avoidance technique! Although it reminds me a little bit of a very warm night in a hobbit hut at Inverarnan on the WHW, where letting in any air let the midges in too - eventually I just went and sat outside with them for a while, but didn't need to resort to a river
A sunny autumn is good walking weather - I'm just not looking forward to the darkness.