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Stob Invercarnaig & Stob Coire an Lochain

Stob Invercarnaig & Stob Coire an Lochain

Postby miles_andrews » Tue Jun 18, 2019 4:52 pm

Route description: Ben More and Stob Binnein

Date walked: 10/06/2019

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 16.1 km

Ascent: 1050m

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Well, this is very exciting! My first ever post on WH... Where to begin? The walk I'm reporting here is a relatively simple one that myself and a few friends did whilst on a well deserved post-exam break to the Scottish highlands. But before we get into the details of that and perhaps as a means of breaking the ice, I think I'll introduce myself and explain how I got into hill bagging in the first place.

I've always loved exploring the outdoors. I was born in mountainous central Wales and my grandparents have lived there for many years now meaning I've had many an opportunity to practice and perfect my hill climbing. As I'm writing this I'm reminded of the large hill that my family have always fondly referred to as "The Beacon" - it was up this hill that we would often walk/run with our trusty golden retriever Rosie. I remember the soaring feeling I'd get upon reaching and tapping the trig point before climbing on top of it and standing proudly. I make sure to tap the summit of every hill and mountain I climb now as an ode to those glorious times.

After hills, I swiftly moved onto mountains. I climbed my first two mountains (Pen y Fan and Corn Du) in my early teens and then convinced my parents to take us to beautiful North Wales to climb Snowdon. I loved that climb a lot, although I remember being mildly disappointed with the summit which was somewhat spoiled by the huge cafe and crowds of tourists who had just rode the train up!

After this, studies unfortunately took over and it was a good few years before I climbed anymore mountains (although I did manage to climb a pair of hills in Zambia which were, perhaps unimaginatively, referred to by the locals as "Big Mountain" and "Little Mountain" - go figure). It was not until the summer of 2018 that I got back into climbing mountains and this is when I would be introduced to my new found hobby and current project: Munro bagging.

Whilst on a weekend away to Loch Tay with some good friends from church, myself and a couple of others climbed Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas, our first two Munro's - little did I know at the time that this walk would reignite my love for hill bagging. It was on this walk that I first got the nickname "Mountain Goat" - almost certainly because I would constantly be marching on ahead of the others, often taking a more difficult route yet somehow making it look easy. I had tapped the summit of Ben Lawers and had been sat waiting for a solid 15 or 20 minutes before the rest of our group caught up with me. I didn't mind though, I was enjoying gazing out over what were some mind-bogglingly beautiful views from Loch Tay across to the Trossachs. I've always walked much faster than everyone else and apparently climbing mountains is no exception! It was on the way down that my good friend Andrew explained to me the concept of Munro bagging and I immediately wanted in.

Unfortunately, not living in Scotland is a bit of a barrier to climbing Munro's and once again, studies at university got in the way upon my return from Scotland. I never forgot about those Munro's though and it was soon after finishing my university studies for good in June this year that I would get another chance to bag more Munro's.

As a post-exam treat, myself and a few friends began planning a holiday travelling around Scotland. My one and only request for this holiday was that we travelled through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and went hill bagging. It's worth mentioning at this point that many of my friends are not hill baggers - in fact two of them very rarely partake in any form of exercise whatsoever. However, with a little encouragement and promises of a lunch stop at the summit as well as copious snacks they were well up for the idea. Little did they know what they had let themselves in for...

In my excitement to start climbing Munro's again, I had initially proposed we climb both Ben More and Stob Binnein from the Inverlochlarig car park nearby where we were staying in the Trossachs. My friends were well up for this... At least they were until they found out that Ben More and Stob Binnein were the two highest mountains in the entire national park... After much discussion we compromised and decided to just walk and see how far we got. I was comfortable that we would at least be able to bag Stob Binnein if nothing else.

We woke up the following morning to glorious sunshine, perfect hill walking weather and I was eager to get going early to make the most of it. However, as seems to be the case with my friends, we ended up leaving a full hour and a half after we had planned to... No matter, the sun was out, the banter was flowing and we were just enjoying each others company.

The walk began with a wade across Loch Doine, a rather painful experience owing to its stoney bed. Upon reaching the other side, the socks and walking boots were back on and we were trudging across the marshland separating Loch Doine from Loch Voil, heading towards the road that would take us to the car park at Inverlochlarig. It was here we made our first navigational error, losing the path and ending up scrambling through a ditch and over a barbed wire fence. Once over this obstacle, we looked back and saw a gate about 50 yards to the right of where we had come. Spirits were still high and we had a good laugh about it before heading up to the road. From here it was a relatively long walk-in but the views of the two lochs and the surrounding mountains made it worthwhile.

Wading across Loch Doine

After about 40 minutes of road we reached the foot of Stob Invercarnaig near Inverlochlarig and downed packs to wait for the stragglers and refill water bottles from the spring. I had somehow been nominated as the packhorse for the walk and seemingly was carrying everyone's layers, water and lunches so very much appreciated the chance to stop for a long drink. The stragglers eventually arrived and as I indicated the mountain we would soon be climbing their expressions appeared to drop slightly. "It's very steep" exclaimed my girlfriend. "I know, looks fun doesn't it?" I replied gleefully whilst simultaneously hoisting my pack over my shoulder and leaping over the stile leading to the path up Stob Invercaernaig's slopes. To say I was excited at the prospect of bagging a third Munro is a huge understatement.

The ascent up Stob Invercarnaig became very steep very quickly with some incredible views opening up behind as we continued to climb. I soon hit a comfortable stride up the zig-zagging path and was away. I was in my element up here and I soon forgot about those walking with me, with the prospect of getting to the summit far too exciting. This didn't go down too well with my compatriots as I soon heard an angry shout from far below, they wanted their water. With a slight huff of annoyance I finished the climb to the nearest rocky outcrop and sat down to wait. Our group was the only one on the slopes and the views were spectacular even from this relatively low height - from Stob Breac and the village of Inverlochlarig to the south to the glacial valley and the just visible slopes of Beinn Tulaichean to the west to the glistening bodies of Loch Doine and Loch Voil to the east - glorious views all round. The temperature was rising and I had a mild sweat going but I felt alive. My friends eventually reached me and got their water before I got impatient and continued climbing. I guessed they didn't like me very much right now...

Views looking back towards Inverlochlarig (1/3)

Views looking back towards Inverlochlarig (2/3)

Views looking back towards Inverlochlarig (3/3)

A short while up the slopes and we had our second navigational error. The path plateaued and curved round to the left, a change which I missed in my haste and continued to press straight on. I realised my error when I hit the mountain stream and was confronted by a daunting boulder field. I'd gained too much height to head back down so I pressed on eventually reaching a break in the slope and locating the path which had been running just to my left the entire time. I waited for the others only to realise with horror that they had followed my route and also missed the path, I tried to warn them but to no avail. By this point they must have been convinced I was being deliberately hard on them... I pushed on up the slope hastily, not wanting to incur the wrath of my girlfriend just yet.

At about 800ft I heard another call for water. I really hate stopping part way up a slope. It makes it harder to get going again and the fact I could see the plateau and our planned lunch spot made me want to just keep climbing. I was tempted to tell them to just carry their own water if they wanted it that much but I resisted, not wanting to snap and ruin an otherwise perfect day so I forced myself to go sit on another outcrop and wait. When my compatriots arrived they pounced on the pack I'd set down and wouldn't give it back - an effort to pin me down for longer than a couple of minutes I believe. I thought about leaving them with it but I had promised to be the packhorse and didn't want to look stroppy. So we sat and caught our breath, watching a couple leave their car at the foot of the slope and begin the climb up towards us.

We wasted a solid 15 minutes sat on that outcrop and I was becoming increasingly bored by the constant breaks. When we did finally set off I snatched up my pack and marched on determined to get to the plateau before the next break. The going was still steep but I was near the top and eventually reached the fence and stile marking the plateau known as Leathad nam Fiadh. I hopped the stile and continued around to the left of the cliff in front of me. There was still a not insignificant climb up to the true plateau but with spectacular views to accompany it. I passed underneath a a series of crags which looked like the summit but stuck to the path in front of me, determined not to make a third navigational error. I hopped over a mountain stream and filled my water bottle before climbing the final few feet to an outcrop on the east side of the plateau. I could see the mound of Stob Invercarnaig's true summit looming up to the north as I approached, I wanted to climb it then but I was sweating heavily and my legs were slightly aching from the exertion so I decided to wait for the others here. The views over Loch Doine and Loch Voil were breathtaking.

Views from the plateau towards Loch Doine and Loch Voil (1/2)

Views from the plateau towards Loch Doine and Loch Voil (2/2)

My friends joined me in dribs and drabs, each asking the same question - "Is this the summit?" - and each letting out a groan of exhaustion as I pointed out the mound we had yet to climb. My girlfriend was by far the least impressed, having made the same navigational error that I had consciously avoided - climbing the vertical crags that are passed under on the way to the plateau. She was understandably exhausted and collapsed with groan when she reached us. Next came the word that I had been dreading for the entire walk, the word that kills all motivation and stops a climb in its tracks. One word.


Don't get me wrong, I love a good lunch break up a mountain, in fact it's probably my favourite type of picnic spot but I like to have it after actually achieving something. I wanted to at least touch the summit of Stob Invercarnaig before I sat down and rewarded myself with food. I relented and let those who wanted food have some but I was growing impatient again so decided to go for a mini walk around the plateau. I wandered over to the west and watched the shadows of the afternoon sun falling gracefully over Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean. As I was walking back to the others I exchanged a smile with the couple who we'd seen from our vantage point earlier. They were making much better progress than our group I thought to myself.

Shadows on Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean

By the time I made it back to the group they were just about ready to go, although they still needed a little encouragement. I felt a little bad at this point for not doing any of the climb with my girlfriend so walked the mound to the summit with her. I did have to sacrifice being the first to reach the summit and had to settle for joint third instead but we were finally at the top of Stob Invercarnaig! I tapped the cairn as I usually do and added a stone to mark it as bagged. Then it was time for a well deserved lunch. The midges were eating us alive at the cairn so we descended downslope a little to escape and eat in peace. The views from the summit were even more breathtaking than from the plateau. To the east we could see Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean, to the south I think I could see the distinctive flat top of Ben Lomond, to the east the hills of Meall na Dige and Meall Monachyle as well as stunning views of the lochs and to the north our next destination, the Munro top Stob Coire an Lochain with the distinctive pointed summit of Stob Binnein peaking out from behind. We sat and ate a while before packing up, taking selfies and heading onwards.

Me on the summit cairn of Stob Invercarnaig

Summit of Stob Invercarnaig

The climb to Stob Coire an Lochain was easy going as we had already gained much of the ascent on the climb to Stob Invercarnaig. We hiked up the ridge and soon reached the summit where I dutifully tapped the cairn and added a stone. My first Munro top in the bag. How exciting! The views from the summit were predictably spectacular.

It was getting late and I got the sense that everyone was wanting to turn around by now. We hadn't made nearly as much progress as I thought we might - I was hoping we might be able to descend off the ridge and bag the summits of Meall na Dige and Meall Monachyle to complete a circular walk but by now that was looking unlikely. Another day perhaps. Saying this, I was still all up for bombing up to Stob Binnein and back so I could bag another Munro. As I was explaining to my compatriots that they could all turn around and head back the way we came whilst I bombed up to the summit and back the heavens decided it was a good time to open up. The downpour was heavy and we were soaked through in a matter of seconds. It was over soon but followed almost immediately by an icy blast of horizontal hail. Don't you just love Scottish weather?

On the summit of Stob Coire an Lochain with Stob Binnein and Ben More in the background

I decided to leave Stob Binnein for another time when the weather was more favourable and when I could combine it with Ben More to bag a double. So with our tails between our legs we headed back the way we came, slipping and sliding all the way. We reached the bottom and trudged back to our hostel, crossing over the marshland - this time using the gate - enduring the painful wade back through Loch Doine and heading back to the house where we all subsequently collapsed on the sofa.

Walking back

Despite the disappointment at the end of not reaching Stob Binnein and bagging my third Munro, the walk was still an incredible one and a route I would happily do again. The views from Stob Invercarnaig and Stob Coire an Lochain were better than any I have seen in a long time. If anything, not reaching Stob Binnein has given me an excuse to come back to the Trossachs and to try and climb these Munro's then - perhaps this time without the grumbling of my unfit friends and with enough time to tick off more than just one or two. Now that I am free of university studies I should in theory have a lot more time to start bagging more hills and build up my tally. But what a way to reignite my love of mountains than this wee walk!

Over and out!

P.S - The photos were taken on a smart phone hence the poor quality, hopefully for future walks I will have my actual camera with me!
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Re: Stob Invercarnaig & Stob Coire an Lochain

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Wed Jun 19, 2019 12:41 pm

Great photos!

I must admit that I have spent many years in both camps. That is, I have walked with people who are faster than me, and people who are slower and want more breaks.

When with the former, it is discouraging to lag behind and only catch them up when they are stopped. You finally catch them up, puffing and panting, and they immediately set off again...

When with the latter, there is a kind of building frustration and the temptation to look at the watch every five minutes. Plus the growing realisation that you are not going to complete the planned walk...

Mostly, I walk alone these days because so few people have exactly the same agenda when going into the hills.

For instance, I like the early morning light - often, the most dramatic features on the hills face north or east, due to the pattern of glaciation.

But getting out of bed at 5am, just because a particular corrie will be in the shadows after 10am, seems a bit pointless to most people (that includes many keen walkers!)

By the same token, I have walked with people whose primary aim is to reach as many summits as possible in a day. That's not for me either.

I'm sure you and your friends will find some good compromises - maybe some lower Munros, or sub-3000ft hills, with the aim of doing them one peak at a time?

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Re: Stob Invercarnaig & Stob Coire an Lochain

Postby miles_andrews » Mon Jun 24, 2019 2:18 pm

Thanks Tim!

It's definitely a bit of a struggle for me trying to adjust my pace when out with slower walkers - I'll probably be doing a lot more walking on my own in future so I can go at my own pace without worrying about my comrades!

Definitely looking forward to climbing more hills in the next few months - I'm hoping to get a range of heights done so hopefully some of my friends can join me for the easier ones!

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