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Stob an Aonaich Mhoir - the storm before the storm!

Stob an Aonaich Mhoir - the storm before the storm!


Postby Graeme D » Tue Apr 14, 2020 10:32 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Stob an Aonaich Mhòir

Date walked: 08/03/2020

Time taken: 8.1 hours

Distance: 29 km

Ascent: 920m

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This has been a strange report to write up, a fairly tortuous process trying to find the motivation to write it up in the current circumstances. Quite apt really, as it was a fairly tortuous process trying to find the motivation to do the walk in the first place, 5 weeks but what feels more like a lifetime ago........ :( And as I sit here at the kitchen table trying to finish off this report, I am trying not to think about the fact that in some parallel dimension where s**t doesn't happen, it is currently the second week of the Easter break, my wife is back at work having had last week off, Ailsa and her big cousin Mhairi are spending a few days with my mother-in-law in Hamilton and I am probably in a tent or bothy somewhere at the end of my second or third consecutive hill day............ :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( Enough torture of the soul, and on with the report!

Once upon a time, not that long ago at all, people used to be allowed to leave their own homes, not just to go to work, to the pub or to the shops on a whim to pick up some beer, but even to the hills. Just for the sheer hell of it. Then the world went mad and little by little, into almost total lock down. It seems crazy that the report I write about now is for a walk that took place just over a month ago, yet it took place in a very different world.

It was into the second week of March and I hadn't set foot on the hills since the week before Christmas. I felt as if the decade, let alone the year, was passing me by in a blur of crap weather, man-flu and domestic commitments. How little did I know! Had I possessed the gift of hindsight, I would have been out every weekend of the last couple of months, sh** weather or not!

But alas hindsight is not one of my magic powers, so I had allowed the one window of opportunity that had opened for me in February to pass by, swiftly slammed shut by Dennis, or maybe it was Ciara. Remember them???? What I would give now for it just being a little late winter storm keeping me off the hills! :shock: Either way, here I was a mere four weeks (or so I thought!) from School's Out for Easter time and I had nothing on the board. Having a new pup had been a bit of a tie as well. The time will come when she can join me on hill trips but at only 4 months old at the time of this walk, that time was still some way off.

With Ailsa being out for most of the day on Sundays doing rehearsals for the show she is no longer starring in at Perth Theatre in May :crazy: , there was a bit of an opportunity for me to head out on Sundays. I staked a claim to Sunday 8th and was granted a day pass. I had been bouncing a few ideas round my head but kept coming back to the notion of Stob an Aonaich Mhoir via the long approach from Loch Rannoch to the south. With the torrential rain and storms of the past few weeks most likely having turned most routes into epic bogfests, a walk in on a long stretch of tarmac with only a couple of kilometres of off-roading seemed like a blessing. But even the usual excitement of anticipating a forthcoming hill day seemed to be missing, even after such a long lay off when you would expect me to be straining at the leash. As has happened on a couple of occasions over the past 12 years or so, my hillwalking Mojo seemed to have gone AWOL! :problem: Once again, if only I had known the utter sh**storm that was about to hit the fan............. :shock:

Predictably enough, I had spent much of Thursday and Friday looking out of my second floor window at what looked like pretty decent weather over the hills to the north of Perth but then Saturday dawned pretty miserable and the MWIS forecast for Highland Perthshire on the Sunday was mixed at best. I resolved that I was going hillwalking come what may. I felt that if I didn't get out soon, I may entirely lose the will to ever walk again! But it was not with the usual great sense of enthusiasm or anticipation that I pulled a day-pack together on the Saturday afternoon. I set my alarm for 5.15 in the hope of being away by 6.00 and hopefully getting back with at least some of the day left to enjoy to myself before the Sunday night feeling crept up on me. I kind of knew that the alarm would probably be surplus to requirements but I set it anyway. Mild insomnia seems to have become a feature of my nights over the last 6 months or so and true to form, I found myself lying fully awake in the pitch dark at goodness knows what hour. I fumbled for my watch which informed me that it was 4.23. I lay and stared into the blackness, seriously contemplating cancelling the 5.15 alarm and trying to get back to sleep. The wind howling outside the window was not helping my mood and the thought of a two hour drive followed by a 13km yomp along a tarmac road for a solitary Corbett tick and probably little if anything in the way of views, then back along the same 13km of tarmac and a two hour drive back home......... :roll: Eventually I did drag myself downstairs to the kitchen where I was set upon by the devil dog as I tried to rustle up some breakfast and some enthusiasm.

Somehow I did manage to pull it together enough to get ready and jump into the car for the drive up the A9 to the Kinloch Rannoch turn off and along to the start of the walk near the far end of Loch Rannoch.

The drizzle was on pretty steady as I suited and booted and somewhat morosely headed through the pedestrian gate to the side of the vehicular gate at the end of the track as it begins its long journey to Corrievarckie Lodge on the shores of Loch Ericht.

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Looking back over Loch Rannoch from about 10 minutes in

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The north Glen Lyon hills

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Rough road ahead

Long before I had passed an empty parked up Ben Alder Estate Landrover shortly before the dam at the southern end of Loch Ericht comes into view, I had given serious consideration to jacking the whole venture in. I had tried to convince myself that I should nip the short distance further along the road to the two Sub2K hills just to the west, but a glance in their direction suggested that they might be an even less appealing prospect. So the stubborn, fatalistic streak in me ensured I kept my head down,putting one foot in front of the other on the long, winding ribbon of rough tarmac.

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Towards the dam at the southern end of Loch Ericht

As I approached the junction where I would turn right, the left turn leading to the dam, the weather took a wee turn for the better. Some decent patches of blue emerged overhead and I felt some sun on my face, albeit of the weak early March variety.

The threatening banks of black clouds rolling in from behind me to the south confirmed that the upturn in the weather was likely to be short lived, but no matter, my mood had started to lift and I was now warming to the task ahead.

For the next couple of hours, bright sunny spells would trade places with squally showers pushing in from the south and west, as all the time the track gradually meandered towards the high point just short of Loch Ericht where I would take to the hillside for the ascent up to the remote Corbett summit. Long before that point though, the track hit the snow line and the relative ease of walking on tarmac was replaced by an increasingly awkward wade through soft, powdery snow. After a while there may as well have been no track, the snow poles on either side the only indication that one actually existed beneath the drifts.

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Long straight road behind

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Long straight road ahead

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Dark skies assembling behind me

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The ruin of Ruighe Ghlas across the Allt Ghlas

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Looking back from shortly after the start of the snow

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A familiar view ahead only with snow on the road now

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Dark skies still threatening from behind

By the time I crossed the bridge over the Allt an Luib Bhain and headed down towards the narrowing between the cliffs of Carn Dearg to the west and Meallanan Odhar to the east, the going had got pretty arduous in places and the weather was becoming pretty vicious. I ducked down beneath the bridge on what little ground there was to stand on and tried to shelter while I had a bite to eat, but the increasingly chunky flakes of snow were being blown right through the bridge and there was little to be had in the way of shelter. Again I contemplated jacking the entire venture in and heading home with my tail between my legs, not for the first time in my hill walking career. Before I could give the notion any more serious consideration, I managed to pull myself away and head onwards towards the high point in the track, at which point I would have to decide on an exact point to take to the hillside for the ascent up to the Corbett summit. I don't know what made me carry on. Sure, even that early in March we knew a pandemic of some magnitude was on the way, maybe just not how radically it was going to alter our lives, including our hill walking lives. Whatever it was, I am mighty glad now that I didn't jack it in. :lol:

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The track descending to pass between Carn Dearg and Meallanan Odhar

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The bridge at 540667 where I sought shelter in vain

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Snow poles coming in useful!

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The storm clearing as the road starts to climb once more

From the high point of the track, there is a first glimpse of the water of Loch Ericht and a reminder again of how this hill walking mullarkey gives you views and angles on parts of the country that would otherwise remain unseen and unknown. Sure, you don't have to go hill walking to get a glimpse of Loch Ericht. Just drive south past Dalwhinnie on the A9. And I have seen much more than glimpses of Loch Ericht, whether it be from the track from Dalwhinnie to Ben Alder Lodge along the side of the loch, from the summit of Beinn Bheoil, from one of the Drumochter Munros on the east side of the loch, or one of numerous other vantage points that I have enjoyed over the years. But this was a different, new and unique vantage point and along with the improvement again in the weather, it buoyed my spirits and urged me on towards my first blue balloon of 2020. 8)

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Descending towards Loch Ericht

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A glimmer of blue sky above Loch Ericht on the ascent up the eastern slopes of Stob an Aonaich Mhoir

Somewhat predictably, as I gained height up the snowy slopes, I was increasingly swallowed up by clag and subjected to a howling storm that by the time I reached the summit, was barely able to stand up in. I tried taking out the emergency shelter and hunkering down in it for a spot of lunch in the hope, forlorn though I suspected it to be,of sitting it out for an hour or so until it miraculously cleared. A couple of minutes of being slapped in the face by the shelter and fighting tooth and nail to prevent it from being whipped clean out from underneath me was all I could muster. How I managed to stuff it back in my pack without the wind whipping it into the abyss behind me is anyone;s guess! :o Still, with hindsight, this was but a minor squall compared to the storm of another sort that was blowing our way at that very moment!

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There are lovely views down to and across Loch Ericht from this summit

I didn't even bother trying to take the map out to take a bearing off. I knew that a due east bearing would take me without incident back to the track and hopefully to a less hostile environment well before that point. Right enough, it didn't take much descent for the wind to drop away and for walking to become a vaguely pleasant activity once more.

Then it was just a matter of the long retracing of my previous steps back along the track to the car. About half a kilometre or so from the end, in the lashing rain, I passed the only other person I had clapped eyes on since leaving the car that morning, an old woman in full waterproofs, no pack, heading up the track. I have no idea where she was off to, or even which one of us was more surprised at the encounter.

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Out of the storm and on the way home

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As the old bloke at the gas station said to Sarah Connor at the end of Terminator, "There's a storm comin'!"

The irony of this walk is that after struggling for the motivation, and almost jacking it in at various points along the route, I drove back home afterwards with renewed energy for the hills and the spring months ahead. It was only 4 short weeks until the Easter break, traditionally a fruitful time in my annual hill walking calendar, and I had lots of possibilities mulling over in my mind for that second week of the fortnight..........

Like I said, maybe in a parallel dimension. :(


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Last edited by Graeme D on Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Graeme D
 
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Re: Stob an Aonaich Mhoir - take me to a parallel dimension!

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Apr 15, 2020 3:33 pm

Hats off for walking this one... Must have been a serious case of hill bagging addiction :lol:

I remember we cycled the 13km of tarmac road and that was boring enough. Thankfully, the views made up for the long and winding road. The summit is directly opposite Ben Alder and sidekick (sorry, I forgot the name, is it Beinn Bhudhie or Beinn Bhreac?). It would be even more interesting to see it in winter conditions...

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View from the summit across Loch Ericht


loch rannoch corbet 084.JPG
Panther unleashed


We live in tough times but at least we still have memories :D
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Re: Stob an Aonaich Mhoir - take me to a parallel dimension!

Postby Gordie12 » Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:52 pm

Good effort in the conditions Graeme.

I was looking to make this my 1st hill of the year as well but who knows when that will be.........................
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Re: Stob an Aonaich Mhoir - take me to a parallel dimension!

Postby dogplodder » Sat Apr 18, 2020 11:27 am

Mark of character you finished this one! I totally get how it gave you your mojo back and you were making plans for Easter... To rub salt in the wound we've had some stunning hill days recently. I'm holding on to the hope that when the current 3 weeks is up there will have been enough flattening of the curve and pressure off NHS to lift the hills ban. Is that too optimistic? 8)
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Re: Stob an Aonaich Mhoir - take me to a parallel dimension!

Postby Graeme D » Sun Apr 19, 2020 7:09 pm

dogplodder wrote:Mark of character you finished this one! I totally get how it gave you your mojo back and you were making plans for Easter... To rub salt in the wound we've had some stunning hill days recently. I'm holding on to the hope that when the current 3 weeks is up there will have been enough flattening of the curve and pressure off NHS to lift the hills ban. Is that too optimistic? 8)


I would like to think it's not too optimistic or unrealistic. Maybe too early then to be thinking of going to the pub or attending mass gatherings but an individual going to the hills to partake in what is essentially a fairly socially distant activity? Let's hope that gets the green light fairly soon, albeit with caveats.
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