As Allison is currently inhabiting her role as Sick Kid and off ill, I went out myself. Looking at the weather forecast, Thursday looked as if it was going to be better than Friday, so why not head out today? Bit of an impulsive decision last night - meant I had to get up earlier than I have been of late. On the Cowal Ferry before 8 O'Clock, having enjoyed a heavy flurry of snow on the way.
I had two Grahams needing re-done in Cowal: Creag nan Capull, which we did with its adjacent Sub Black Craig last time round, and the steep Beinn Ruadh just across from Benmore Gardens. Both were up for grabs today. Cruach nan Capull would be first. I drove along the narrow road past the MOD installation and parked at Inverchaolain Church. I had my snowshoes in the boot - do I take them or not? I decided against, mostly as I couldn't be bothered attaching them to my rucksack. A short walk to the farm and then onto track into Inverchaolain Glen, where new forestry work is going on. Last time we went straight up Sron Dearg, today I thought I'd take it easy and use a more gentle gradient. I took a line up over dead bracken into Coire nam Bruch, plodding through snow that got ever deeper - about mid-calf for most of the way up. A kestrel floated by hunting for breakfast. Through a gate in the deer fence then slowly, steadily upwards onto the back of the hill. Wind was fierce coming from the west as I reached the ridgeline and the trig column (not the summit by a long way, sadly) There is a path here, but it was buried under the snow for much of the way to the summit - I concede that my snowshoes would have been useful on this section.
P2270400 by Al, on Flickr
P2270401 by Al, on Flickr
P2270402 by Al, on Flickr
P2270403 by Al, on Flickr
P2270404 by Al, on Flickr
At the top I watched another band of snow and hailstones coming in and set off south down into the coire, to follow the Inverchaolain burn back to the track. The hillside here was heavily loaded with new soft snow - lots of snowballing as I descended - glad I wasn't up higher. Snow drifts were up to waist deep in places and there was always the risk of stepping into a trench or gully that had been covered over by snow. I pressed on down to the burn and picked up the track. It felt good to have something solid under my feet again, although the snow was still six inches or so deep here. The track bifurcates, with the part going south clearly underused now - overgrown with heather. Finally back onto the main track and back to the car before 12.30.
P2270405 by Al, on Flickr
P2270406 by Al, on Flickr
P2270407 by Al, on Flickr
Bit early for this chap to be out...?Drinker Moth caterpillar
P2270409 by Al, on Flickr
P2270410 by Al, on Flickr
I was feeling the effects of wading through the snow - added to the pains in my muscles from last night's yoga class. Drove back through Dunoon and along to Benmore where I nearly got tailended by a giant lorry when turning into the parking area at Inverchapel. I had idly thought about nipping up this hill on my way back from doing Beinn Tarsuinn last month - forgetting that this isn't a "nip up hill" - it is one steep critter. The first section was on woodland paths, but these expire far too quickly, at just over 100m up the hill and it is onto steep snowy hillside. I rather abandoned the route I had on my GPS and took what looked to be the most appropriate line for the conditions, pretty much straight up.
P2270411 by Al, on Flickr
P2270412 by Al, on Flickr
One of the downsides of watching re-runs of Top of the Pops from the 1980s is that cheesy songs can get stuck in your head. Today it was those Reynolds Girls singing of how they'd "rather Jack (than Fleetwood Mac)". I had that as an earworm last Saturday too, and I barely know the words. Need something better for next outing Tough going for my poor legs, and as I climbed higher the wind picked up, blasting me with hailstones and spindrift. Eventually I paused to put my goggles on, which brought considerable relief.
P2270413 by Al, on Flickr
P2270415 by Al, on Flickr
P2270416 by Al, on Flickr
It seemed to take an age to get across the summit plateau - not that the wind was helping. Eventually I made my way to the trig column - but noticed that the ground to the north of it is higher (several metres according to my GPS, so just as well I wandered over there). Then it was turn around time and start back down. The wind had obliterated my tracks over much of the higher section - when you find a solid set of your own prints heading down it's like meeting an old friend - you know that you are going to get down without further complications as long as you can follow them. On the lower sections the combination of wet grass and soft, somewhat melty snow made for a slippy time - and a couple of falls on the bum.
P2270417 by Al, on Flickr
P2270418 by Al, on Flickr
P2270419 by Al, on Flickr
P2270420 by Al, on Flickr
I felt as if I'd had a real work out when I got back to the car - my cheeks glowing from being hail/snow blasted. I think I'll have a day off tomorrow But there's a lot of snow out on the hills, peeps, so do be careful if out there this weekend.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.