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Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Aug 19, 2020 7:13 pm

Route description: Garbh Bheinn of Ardgour

Corbetts included on this walk: Garbh Bheinn (Ardgour)

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn Bheag (Ardgour), Sgòrr Mhic Eacharna

Date walked: 15/08/2020

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 14.8 km

Ascent: 1375m

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I'm posting out of sync again, but this mad walk was so amazing, I couldn't wait to share it!

Garbh Bheinn has been on our list for ages, but we always wanted to do the "big round" and include the two Grahams, Beinn Bheag and Sgorr Mhic Eacharna. Several Walkhighlanders had posted their reports describing the circuit of Coire an Iubhair so we knew exactly what we were in for - a huge amount of ascent, a lot of steep up/down and mostly rough, rocky terrain. Thankfully, Kevin's knee has recovered sufficiently so we could try this monstahhh route. We agreed that if the round proved too much for our unfit, post-lockdown bodies, we would retreat into Coire an Iubhair from Bealach Feith 'n Amean. But surprisingly, we felt fine to complete the traverse, despite swarms of keds and midges trying to stop us!

Track_GARBH BHEINN ARDGOUR 14,8KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

One word of warning, this circuit is NOT FOR BEGINNERS and should be left for a clear, sunny day (what would be the point doing it in cloud anyway? Missing all the views of amazing Ardgour?).
Stalking on Carnoch Estate doesn't start until September so we were not worried about getting shot in the backside :lol: :lol:
Getting up at 5 o'clock sharp, I simply couldn't face anything to eat before the drive down to Ardgour (2.5hrs in the car) so I packed take-away breakfast to have on arrival. By the time we reached Fort William it was already +20*c and I regretted making hot tea instead of icy one!
Feeling that we'd be facing scorchio today, we took extra water bottles - 2.5 l each. We suspected that on such rocky hill we'd have no chance to refill so we had to be self-sufficient. My rucksack felt as heavy as if I had crampons and ice axe in it :lol: :lol:
There is room to park at the loop of an old road next to the old bridge over Abhainn Coire an Iubhair, also on the same old road on the other side of A86. We arrived at 8:45 and had our breakfast before booting up and heading for the slopes of Sgorr Mhic Eacharna. As many sources suggested, this circuit is best done anticlockwise to avoid the steepest slopes in descent.
Coire an Iubhair in the morning sun:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 004.JPG

The lower slopes of Sgorr Mhic Eacharna are quite steep but very grassy:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 005.JPG

We looked for the easiest line of ascent, avoiding crags. Kevin almost stepped on a big fat adder, thankfully it didn't find him worth biting, just hissed angrily and slithered away. And I didn't get my camera out on time :evil:
Five minutes later I lost my balance on a wet patch of grass, Kevin asked me if I was looking for adders? :lol: :lol:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 010.JPG

Creach Bheinn and Fuar Bheinn across the glen. The Glengalmadale horseshoe is high on our to-do list:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 013.JPG

As we gained height, more and more views were revealed. Sadly, the morning was hazy so the more distant peaks were hardly visible...
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 016.JPG

After about 300m of steep-ish ascent, the angle eased off and we were treated to a lovely view of the whole traverse yet to come, with Garbh Bheinn to the left and Beinn Bheag in the middle:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 030.JPG

The long shoulder of Druim an Iubhair is dotted with lochans and boggy areas, in wet weather it would be annoying to cross but now in dry conditions we were thankful for something less steep :lol:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 024.JPG

He Who Always Knows It All Best said we had to ration water (despite carrying five liters between us) as the muddy liquid in the puddles we passed didn't look safe for consumption. Easier said then done when you're sweating in the merciless sun and your throat is dry as a bone :lol: :lol:
Up Druim an Iubhair towards the summit of Sgorr Mhic Eacharna:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 039.JPG

One of the tiny lochans, water not fit for consumption:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 049.JPG

On the summit of the first Graham of the round, also our first NEW Graham in 2020! We had done a handful of G's so far this year but they were all repeats. A new hill is a rarity these days!
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 054 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Lucy posing with Beinn Bheag behind. Sgorr Mhic Eacharna was her 89th Graham :D
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 055.JPG

Our attention was definitely drawn to the monstahhhh across the glen. Garbh Bheinn, the Rough Mountain. The Leviathan of Ardgour. Beware those who fight monsters!
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 065.JPG

We spent some time on the summit of Sgorr Mhic Eacharna, resting and enjoying the views, gathering strength before the second stage of the round... Keds were very annoying but we tried to ignore them. Kevin complained that they liked him more than me, well, they probably found his hairy legs more attractive :lol: :lol: :lol:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 061.JPG

The next stage looked much steeper than on the map! The bealach between the two Grahams sits at 480m, so we faced 260m of reascent just to Beinn Bheag, not to mention more later to Garbh Bheinn :shock: The monsters don't come easy!
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 066 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Panorama of Garbh Bheinn and Beinn Bheag from the slopes of Sgorr Mhic Eacharna:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 072.JPG

On the start of the 260m push up the second Graham, Sgorr Mhic Eacharna behind me:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 073 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The second ascent is surprisingly rocky but no scrambling needed, all difficulties can be avoided. Still, it was a sweating experience in the given circumstances...
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 078.JPG

About half way up the second hill, Coire an Iubhair behind me:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 083 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The summit was a relief! I discovered that we were 40 min ahead of schedule so we could take another longer break, but in the end, we just posed for a few pictures and swallowed a quick snack, before moving on. Keds were getting even more annoying, the wee b****ds can squeeze in every gap in your clothes, not to mention long hair. I was glad I was wearing tight leggins so they had no access to my underpants :lol: :lol: :lol:
Beinn Bheag, Graham no. 114 for us, no. 90 for Lucy:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 098.JPG

Kevin on the summit:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 298.JPG

The next stage of our traverse...gulp...
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 109.JPG

Sgurr Dhomhnuill dominates the northern pano. We climbed it the previous weekend and we really enjoyed it (the day wasn't as hot and ked-infested). My TR is still pending at the moment.
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 095.JPG

The delightful rocky ridge continues from Beinn Bheag over the lower top (696m):
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 121.JPG

Upper Glen Gour:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 124.JPG

He smelled fun, now he's going for it! Or is he just running away from keds? :lol: :lol:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 312.JPG

Looking back to Beinn Bheag from the western ridge:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 131.JPG

The monstahhhh!
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 143.JPG

From across the bealach, Grabh Bheinn seems impregnable, but we knew there is a way up avoiding the bare rock, in a shape of a narrow grassy gully, so steep and slippery that it is not recommended as a descent route and the whole circuit is always done anticlockwise.
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 329 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The descent to Bealach Feith n'Amean is another steep experience and should be always done with care...
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 331.JPG

The best is yet to come...
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 325.JPG

From the bealach, the ascent route doesn't look as bad, it reminded me a bit of the northern side of Sgurr na-Hulaidh (when ascended via Meall Lighiche):
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 147.JPG

When we set off to tackle the monster, we were so pumped up with adrenaline (we love a challenge!) that we completely forgot about the nightmarish keds and midges. But the reality hit us soon. The gully is not only damp, it is also permanently in the shadow as it faces north, so it serves a s a perfect place for anything little, black and bloodsucking!!!
Kevin in the gully:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 334 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
At some point, I glimpsed behind me, to the south side of Beinn Bheag and I couldn't believe that we descended it without problems :shock:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 337.JPG

Fun in the gully:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 167 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
I'm sure there are other lines of ascent (possibly involving some exposed scrambling) but we preferred to stick to the route tested by other Walkhighlanders!
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 168 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Higher up the gully narrows down and in a couple of places hands are needed to grab rock for stability, but generally the devil is not as black as painted!
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 173 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Looking down from the top of the gully:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 178 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The gully experience lasted for roughly 150m and then we emerged onto flatter ground, thanking all supernatural powers in the universe for the breeze which freed us from keds and midges!
View back to Beinn Bheag, now this is a photo to show to our non-hillwalking friends and say "Look, we descended this slope!" :lol: :lol: :lol:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 181.JPG

But if you think that the top of the gully is the top of the monstahhhh... Nah, not even near! It's still another 180m of ascent, not as steep as lower down, but very rocky and route finding can be tricky, especially in misty conditions. There are two obvious lines of ascent: the grassy slope on the right and the less steep rocky gully to the left:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 183.JPG

Panoramic version with Panther on the rock in the foreground :lol:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 186.JPG

We took the shallow gully to the left hand side as we spotted a faint path there, it turned out easy enough:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 191.JPG

It's a rocky world up there...
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 349.JPG

About 50m below the summit Kevin decided he was fed up with easy traversing and decided to go straight up a scrambly section even though he could have skirted it to the right:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 350.JPG

He gave me no choice but to follow! The scrambling was very easy and at the time I didn't even notice bleeding scratches on my knees :lol:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 197.JPG

Madness... madness... They call it madness!
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 204 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Sgurr Dhomhnuill and Sgurr nan Cnamh from just below the summit of Grabh Bheinn:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 208.JPG

On the summit of her 114th Corbett. Wee Lucy celebrated with style :wink:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 216.JPG

On the contrary, after all that gully-squeezing and rock-clambering, I was on the brink of losing it :lol:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 231.JPG

...whereas Kevin just admired the beauty of Ardgour with stoic calm:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 365.JPG

Panoramic view of the long ridge of Sgorr Mhic Eacharna seen from across the glen:
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 220.JPG

The northern end of Loch Leven:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 210 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
We hoped for a proper break on the summit of the Corbett, after all we deserved it (and we were still half an hour ahead of schedule!) but the wee black army came back and wouldn't let us enjoy our sandwiches in peace. What is it with keds this year? Were they affected by COVID and switched from deer to humans???
Reaching the top of Garbh Bheinn doesn't mean the end of ascent for the day. On the way down, we still had to traverse the south top:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 238 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
We dropped to the col between the two tops and as we stopped here to re-apply sunscreen, we spent a good while admiring the cliffs of Garbh Choire Mor:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 236 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The monstahhh:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 379 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The final ascent was OK, we found a faint path...
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 375 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
...but of course Kevin had to make our lives more difficult. He found another gully!
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 381 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
At least this one wasn't filled with bloodthirsty keds :roll:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 256 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
On the southern top, posing with The Leviathan of Ardgour which proved hard work but not as tough as it looked from across the glen. Even on a hot day with keds chasing us, we enjoyed it a lot. This is why we climb mountains.
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 264 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Panorama of Garbh Bheinn and the two Grahams as seen from the southern top of the Corbett:
Image2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 276 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The descent from the southern top was long and tiring. Our legs took nearly 1400m of ascent today so we took time on the way down, enjoying the sunny weather and the views around us. Lower down keds and midges were less vicious and we returned to our car smiling like two Cheshire cats, after eight and a half hours of rockhopping madness. We still had over 2 hours of journey back home, but nevermind, it was SO WORTH IT!
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby Gordie12 » Wed Aug 19, 2020 8:34 pm

That looked really good - apart from the adder at the start..............

Things are getting a bit embarrassing now, Lucy has done 72 more Grahams than me :shock:
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby Tringa » Thu Aug 20, 2020 10:03 am

Excellent description and photos from what looks like a superb, if tough, walk.

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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby malky_c » Thu Aug 20, 2020 11:07 am

A great day out 8) . Was also unfortunate enough to have midges high up last time I was up there, although probably not as many as you! This is definitely one of the best circuits in the area.
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Aug 20, 2020 12:08 pm

Mad, mad, mad! Or: wild, wild, wild - Garbh Bheinn looks absolutely superb. I wasn't aware of this quality hill 'til reading this report. A cracking round - and even a scrambling option :D .
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby PeteR » Thu Aug 20, 2020 12:37 pm

This is possibly one of the best circuits I've ever done on the hills. You really do get some superb views from start to finish.
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby jmarkb » Thu Aug 20, 2020 12:42 pm

Lovely! A little-known gem, must do it again sometime.
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Aug 20, 2020 1:12 pm

What a fantastic looking mountain, and that looks like as good a day out as many of the best Munros.

Need to train the adders to eat keds. :lol:
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:26 pm

Many thanks, everyone :D This circuit doesn't need much advertising, photos speak for themselves :D We hoped to do the Creach Bheinn-Fuar Bheinn circuit this weekend, but car has flat tyre, so it will be sent to garage on Saturday :(

Mal Grey wrote:Need to train the adders to eat keds.

Great idea. They could eat all the ticks, clegs and midges, too!
I find adders fascinating but always respected them and stayed safely a few steps away. The ones I used to see occasionally in northern Poland were much smaller than the Scottish ones (maybe they were juveniles). The individual that scared Kevin on this walk was big even for Scottish standards, looked healthy and well fed! Shame it disappeared in the grass before we grabbed our cameras.

Gordie12 wrote:Things are getting a bit embarrassing now, Lucy has done 72 more Grahams than me

I don't wan to embarrass you even more, but she surpassed you also on Munros and Corbetts :lol: :lol: :lol:
She's currently on 128 M's and 114 C's!
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby Graeme D » Thu Aug 20, 2020 9:21 pm

That was nice. Looks like a brilliant round on hills of great character (i.e. craggy buggers). I was on Sgulaird and the neighbouring Corbett that day and can vouch for it being off the scorchio scale! :shock:
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby rockhopper » Thu Aug 20, 2020 11:46 pm

That did look good and so much better than the out and back for the corbett - cheers :)
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Re: Madness... Madness.. They call it madness!

Postby lakapajama » Sun Aug 30, 2020 10:58 pm

Superb report, thank you. I know you have a couple of munro bagging followers that I'm looking for, so hoping if they read your beautiful report, they might find me for more hill walking adventure!
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