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Back to White

Back to White

Postby weaselmaster » Sun Mar 10, 2019 11:57 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Mam na Gualainn, Stob Dubh

Grahams included on this walk: Tom Meadhoin

Date walked: 10/03/2019

Time taken: 16 hours

Distance: 31.5 km

Ascent: 2912m

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Both of us were smitten with the cold during the week - my recuperation beginning a couple of days before Allison's. So the weekend plans were to involve short walks, no deviations for Simms or other such delights, just straightforward Corbetts. The area around Glencoe seemed suitable - so I planned for Stob Dubh in Glen Etive, Mam na Gualainn and Garbh Bheinn for our three days - nothing much over 10k although, being West Coasters the starting elevation would be basically sea level. Forecast wasn't especially promising, suggesting the return of that bloody white stuff that I hoped we'd seen the last of for the season.

Up to Glen Etive for a wild camp on Thursday night - pleased to arrive before darkness fell. Beside us the river roared away, always a pacifier (unless there's a chance of it flooding the campsite, in which case it's an agitator). There was very little wind during the night, which - coupled with the cold air - mean the sleeping bags were damp - not the best for two cold-recoverees. Breakfasted healthily and got the tent packed away, venturing out into the cold damp air. It was only a mile or so to Alltchaorunn - we parked in a large layby near the bridge. I was following the WH route for Stob Dubh - last time we tackled it from the Glen Ceitlein approach which was very steep and involved a fair bit of crag-avoiding. This looked gentler.

The approach takes you past the cottage, on a boggy track, not the road, then over the Allt a'Chaorainn using a sturdy bridge, thankfully. Another muddy ATV track leads through the forest plantation for a bit, until a line is taken West, aiming to go round the south of the craggy cliffs of An Grianan. Just a steady pull up wet grass and we reached the col between An Grianan and the beginning of the long, rough ridge up Beinn Ceitlein. The hillside was not lightly plastered with wet snow and more was coming every second. No views, alas. We meandered our way over outcrop and dips, making for the summit of Beinn Ceitlein. Descending from here, the route takes a bit of a dog-leg. In poor visibility we managed to loose direction and started ascending the hill we'd just come down :oops: It was a little tricky finding the right line, with crags to either side, but before long we sere sorted out again and began the 100m ascent to the summit of Stob Dubh. That took longer than I'd imagined it would and i had underestimated the amount of snow we'd encounter high up - having chosen not to wear my winter boots, my toes were a bit cold. Did have crampons (not required) but not axes, which to be honest weren't required either. We traced our footsteps, where the wind hadn't obliterated them, back the way we'd come, noting the water level in the river had risen substantially during our outing.

An Grianan ahead
ImageP3080437 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3080439 by Al, on Flickr

The ridge to Beinn Ceitlein
ImageP3080440 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Ceitlein
ImageP3080443 by Al, on Flickr

Getting lost
ImageP3080444 by Al, on Flickr

Stob Dubh summit
ImageP3080445 by Al, on Flickr

Allt a'Chaorainn
ImageP3080447 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3080449 by Al, on Flickr

My plan was to head to Blackwater Hostel and camp there - we arrived about five, just as the heavens opened, having stopped off at the Co-Op in Kinlochleven in a fruitless search for fresh coriander. No tents. Hmmm. No one at reception either - and when I phoned the number provided the campsite wasn't open. Apparently the pitches were "waterlogged". Well, not from where I was standing, looking at them. The same happened to us last March, and - as then - we drove along to the MacDonald Hotel to their camping ground. Which was waterlogged, but they clearly didn't give a toss as long as we paid up. The "cabins" (which I think look like somewhat posh sheds - were doing a rare business, most of them seemed occupied. When did the idea of going to stay in a shed for the weekend take off? Who am I to talk :lol:

We pitched in about the only non-flooded section of grass available and got started on the tea. The rain didn't let up - it continued through the night too. It was quite nice knowing that the next day's walking would only be short, not having any pressure to get up early. Surprisingly when we did arise, the sun was weakly shining and most of the grass seemed to have dried out (at least there were not the huge puddles of the night before). We drove the few miles along to Callert Cottage, using a route of The Rodmeister's which takes the easy way up Mam na Gualainn, up the old coffin road to Lairigmor. We'd used the northern part of this track last time, having traversed Beinn na Caillich/Mam na Gualain east-west then used it to drop down to the WHW.

callertx.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The track starts muddy, but takes a steady and relatively gentle ascent to the bealach with Tom Meadhoin. Views across the loch, to Beinn a'Bheither in particular, were impressive. We encountered a raven sitting on the cairn, who flew off with a malcontent air having spied us. The snow began after 450m but didn't really get thick all the way up then hill. The wind was strong however, and very chill. Lovely views down the loch from the top - the light constantly changing as bands of sun and snow cloud passed along. We started to trace our steps back to the bealach, Allison noting the rescue copter hovering near the summit of what we thought was Stob Dubh on the Aonach (although that seems curious given that they were out looking for the climbers avalanched on Boomerang Gully, as we later learned). An impressive feat to hold the craft hovering at the peak of a mountain for minute after minute in what were very strong and unpredictable wind gusts.

View up Glencoe
ImageP3090451 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3090452 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3090453 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn a'Bheither
ImageP3090454 by Al, on Flickr

Mam na Gualainn
ImageP3090461 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3090462 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3090465 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3090466 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3090468 by Al, on Flickr

Rescue copter hovering
ImageP3090469 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3090469 by Al, on Flickr

Tom Meadhoin
ImageP3090471 by Al, on Flickr

Back at the bealach we met a couple of guys on their way up, and stopped for lunch, building the stone wind shelter a little higher to keep the wind off. Tom Meadhoin had been scoured of snow by the fierce wind, although sadly had plenty of bog/morass to deal with - Wellingtons would have been more suitable than winter boots. I had spotted a probable Simm about 1km past the summit of Tom Meadhoin when looking at the map over lunch (4 contour rings, likely) and asked Allison how she was feeling as we neared the Graham summit. Thankfully well enough to venture another km along the ridge - although with fine views to Beinn a'Bheither it wasn't too much of a hardship. Actually the view over to Ardgour and down Loch Linnhe from the top made the extra walk worthwhile even if you don't wish to sully yourself with Simms.

ImageP3090474 by Al, on Flickr

Bidean nam Bian
ImageP3090476 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Meadhoin
ImageP3090479 by Al, on Flickr

Simm summit
ImageP3090481 by Al, on Flickr

We backtracked and returned down a parallel track that ended at Callert House - as this is the track on the OS map, I suspect this one is the coffin road. Got back to the campsite and tried to sit outside for a bit, but the wind was too cold. And then the rain came on again. And didn't stop. We had checked the forecast for Sunday which didn't make good viewing - lots and lots of snow along with high winds, peaking around lunchtime - fab!

Strange memorial tree to Munro family members
ImageP3090485 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3090486 by Al, on Flickr

garbbenalt.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

After a long night, punctuated with assorted and amusing dreams, it was time to get up again. I was not brimful of enthusiasm to get out of my warm sleeping bag into the rain and misery that awaited, but it had to be done. We drove to Blackwater Hostel and parked by the power station, having decided to go up Garbh Bheinn from the north (originally planned when I thought we'd be camping at Blackwater. Anyway, I don't think I'd recommend this route, particularly. We took the WHW as far as Bac an Nid, then followed the fenceline for what seemed like many miles in thick wet snow until we turned straight uphill before a small gully. The going was tough - snow over knee deep in places, spindrift making visibility very poor and the icy wind getting stronger with every step uphill.

We eventually neared the top of the ridge at around 700m, but up here there were patches of solid ice underfoot which, coupled with the wind's efforts to send us back down again in double quick time, did not make for pleasant walking. The lack of visibility and the fresh, unconsolidated snow, already forming windslab, didn't bode well. I decided to call it quits - we could have paused and switched to axes and crampons, but - with over a kilometre of ridge to cover before gaining the summit and with the wind set to continue to increase for the next couple of hours - it would have been foolish and deeply unpleasant to try. We dropped several hundred metres until we could find some shelter from the worst of the wind and had lunch inside the orange shelter.

Garbh Bheinn's somewhere up there
ImageP3100487 by Al, on Flickr

Follow the fence
ImageP3100488 by Al, on Flickr

Follow her
ImageP3100489 by Al, on Flickr

Follow white in a sea of white...
ImageP3100490 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP3100491 by Al, on Flickr

Not a very productive weekend - 2 Corbetts, 1 Graham and 1 new Simm - damn the white stuff, damn the fact that it's to continue on the hills all week. :evil:
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Re: Back to White

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:31 am

Well, it takes all sorts, and I'm REALLY looking forward to my first sally into what I hope will be the white stuff next week!!

Notwithstanding the tough weather, you managed to get some pretty fine pics among the ones featuring white on white... :D
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Re: Back to White

Postby goingforawii » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:24 am

Lovely report. I think I might have been tempted to stay in one of those sheds in that weather... :lol:
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Re: Back to White

Postby baggervance » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:44 pm

Hi Weaselmaster

I noticed you mention the Simms. Are you attempting to get all the Scottish ones - BIG target :shock:

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Re: Back to White

Postby weaselmaster » Tue Mar 12, 2019 7:47 pm

baggervance wrote:Hi Weaselmaster

I noticed you mention the Simms. Are you attempting to get all the Scottish ones - BIG target :shock:


I suspect I won’t get all the Scottish ones as some are quite awkward and need a bit of climbing ability. Currently have 1529 of 2191 done, will be happy to get to 2000. May take a while :roll:
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Posts: 1974
Munros:245   Corbetts:73
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Sub 2000:383   Hewitts:31
Wainwrights:15   Islands:28
Joined: Aug 22, 2012
Location: Greenock

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