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Return to where it began, 22 years on
by Ranger » Sat Oct 05, 2019 9:25 pm
Route description: Stob Ghabhar and Stob a'Choire Odhair
Munros included on this walk: Stob a'Choire Odhair, Stob Ghabhar
Date walked: 18/11/2018
Time taken: 7 hours
Distance: 16 km
Ascent: 1230m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Despite the best summer in living memory, I'd not been in the hills since April, so a return to the high tops was long overdue. My first Munro, Stob a’ Choire Odhair, was climbed on a late June evening in 1996, and the novelty of heading back there with my sister Emily - who'd not made the summit that day - sounded like an idea. She travelled down from Fort William, having moved there in late summer, whilst I had the long trek over from Banchory. The forecast was superb, an easterly airstream bringing cloudy skies to the east coast but golden conditions out west.
A 5.30am alarm call had me over at Bridge of Orchy to start the walk at 10:30. Emily had broken in her new winter boots on a walk up Cow Hill the previous day, but any early season snow had been stripped off the peaks by a mild spell. The view westwards beyond the Black Mount towards the peaks of Glen Etive never fails to inspire, and looked superb under the blue skies and sunshine. Following the track north after the Clashgour bothy, we could pick out the dots of climbers ahead of us on the chestnut-brown grass slopes of Stob Ghabhar, a handy reminder of the path to follow once across the Allt Toaig.
Two steep ascents were to follow, firstly alongside the waterfall, and then a sharp pull onto the east ridge of the mountain, where our momentum picked up on the easier gradient. Having talked up the Aonach Eagach section of the ridge, there was an edge of anticipation, Emily not relishing the associations with its famous namesake in Glencoe. This notched ridge is of course far tamer and shorter, with a clear path to follow and the exposure never too severe. Emily tiptoed along carefully, but with assurance, and we were happy to stop for lunch and take in the views at the far end.
The views from atop the final summit pyramid – reached after 3 hours of walking – were staggering for their clarity, a horizon of a hundred peaks from Cruachan to Mull – Ben More 44 mils away - to the north-west highlands beyond Ben Nevis. It was now 13:30, and I was unsure whether time would allow the continuation to Stob Coire Odhair – every other walker we seemed to pass had already crossed from the neighbouring Munro – but retracing our steps along the Aonach Eagach would keep the possibility open.
From the grandeur of that lofty, sun-lit crest came the least enjoyable part of the walk – a steep, rocky descent following a winding gravelly path, into the chilly shade and – in parts – icy ground besides Coire Lochain. Almost 1500ft of elevation was lost and the path back down the glen homewards was on offer, but having overcome the severest of the day’s challenges and with the golden sunshine warming the west ridge of Stob Coire Odhair was too tempting a prospect, so we pressed on. The Emily of old had now returned, and she drove up to the summit that alluded her 22 years ago without breaking stride.
We only had an hour before sunset, and the pyramidal shadow of the peak was stretching out ever further across Rannoch Moor, much like my first visit, albeit the opposite time of year. I’d rung up Dad hoping to hear they were ensconsed in the cosiness of the Bridge of Orchy, but was staggered to hear him say they had just left to go to the carpark – even though we were still 1 hr 30 mins getting there! Were they mad? Swathes of cloud were bubbling up from the moor, condensing around the summit of Stob Ghabhar, and the solo bellow of a stag marked our departure home. A solo wildcamper was getting a nice evening for their escapade. We found the zigzag path down but were in a hurry so cut across from the directest route. Emily was giving me updates on her work, I joked that she’d had one transfer window but like a football manager could only be judged after three.
We said goodbye to the sun just before joining the main path alongside the Allt Toaig, and were heading well into darkness before we saw three shapes emerging out of the gloom. To our amazement it was Mum, Dad and niece Isla who had walked along to meet us. I immediately threw Isla up on my shoulders, my legs were tired and I didn’t want to be any further delayed returning home! Mars and the moon were bright in the sky as we returned back to the car park, after a little short of 7 hours, to find Grandpa waiting patiently in the passenger seat under a blanket. We said our goodbyes and Emily, Dad and Isla headed north to Fort William, whilst mum drove us back south, dropping me off at Broxden besides Perth. I got a MacDonalds on the drive home, returning in time to help put the children to bed at about 8.30pm.
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