Striking it Lucky on the Dalmally Horseshoe

Munros: Stob Dàimh

Date walked: 17/10/2020

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 11km

Ascent: 1091m

ImageCruachan, Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull (just) by Anne C, on Flickr

Many moons ago, I made my way up Ben Cruachan on two separate occasions, but views were absent due to very low cloud. I'd retreated, not drawn to continuing along the ridge given that Munro bagging wasn't my thing.
A few decades later and now keen to do whatever Munros I feel capable of (unfortunately I'm poor with exposure so I know I'll never complete them all, or anything close to that :roll: ) Stob Daimh, the Peak of the Stag and the 2nd Munro on the Cruachan ridge, looked very appealing.
I've always admired the Dalmally Horseshoe, with its three peaks so clearly seen on the drive over the Inveraray road, so it made sense to include Stob Daimh as part of that round.But I wanted to hold off for a decent day - I really wanted the views this time.

ImageThe Dalmally Horseshoe by Anne C, on Flickr

A few days out, the forecast looked good for Sunday, so we settled on it, but as the day approached, the forecast changed and it looked like we’d be walking in the clag for much of it! :roll: But - the hill had got into my head and I was really reluctant to drop it, so views or not - it would be a good one to do and not too far from home either (one problem with Munro bagging, the new ones keep getting further away and need a bit more effort to plan. )

At 9.45am, there were already quite a few cars parked near the junction with the A85, but we managed to find a space. The tops all around were still wrapped in cloud - maybe it would lift a bit? Never mind, we were here and raring to go. The plan was to climb the left hand shoulder of the Horseshoe first which was described in one guide as ‘easy angled’ so that got my vote :D

ImageDescent route right, ascent ridge left by Anne C, on Flickr

We chatted briefly to an elderly chap and his son while getting boots on and sorted out then off they went. Cars were arriving by the minute - a popular round!

The walk started out on a great track with views to the lower slopes of Beinn a Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich, hills I really enjoyed last year. But their summits were covered in mist. A young couple with a black Lab overtook us quite quickly and a short time later, they and the two men we chatted to earlier, veered off to the right to ascend the right hand shoulder. Hmmm…I wondered if they knew something we didn’t? :think: But Chris always likes to walk ‘sun-wise’ which he insists is ‘luckier'; so, no deviation from the plan!

The photo below is of the approach track...

ImageThe approach track.Our descent route ahead. by Anne C, on Flickr

This took us round the base of rugged Beinn Bhuiridh where we were overtaken (again) by a younger chap going great guns. At this point, aware we had a bridge to cross (there are three in the area), I decided we had to leave our track behind as it seemed to end at a small dam rather than the bridge so we cut down to the right. As with many of my decisions, this turned out to be nonsense and just added an unnecessary boggy trudge across rough ground for a bit :roll: before we re-joined the same track which led to exactly where we needed to be. Nothing like making things more difficult when an opportunity presents itself...

ImageUnnecessary diversion from a perfectly good track by Anne C, on Flickr

The Allt Coire Ghlais - the river of the Grey/Green Corrie - was lined by birches and oaks in glorious autumn colour. I really think autumn is my favourite time to be on the hills, with the gold, amber and tawny colours and the light often really sharp. However, from the look of the clag today, there would be little in the way of good light and we’d be lucky to see a thing at the top! :evil:

Once across the river, I was slightly surprised not to find a path as I thought the Dalmally Horseshoe was so well known that the climb up would be well worn. There were vague areas where the grass had been slightly trodden down, mostly by the Highland Coos which were now watching us ( ah you can't fool us that you know what you're doing, we saw that carry on back there) but a path never did materialise until we reached the ridge. :(

ImagePoor navigation skills being watched by Anne C, on Flickr

Up we started and almost immediately, a large dark bird swept across the slopes ahead. A quick grapple with the camera and from the shot I got I'm sure it was a Golden Eagle. In seconds it had disappeared in the direction of Beinn Eunaich - the appropriately named, Hill of the Birds.

ImageGolden eagle (zoomed) soaring across our route by Anne C, on Flickr

We've been very lucky with eagle sightings over the years whilst out walking, though these sightings are regularly questioned by my brother. I always message Ian and my two sons from the top of a mountain and also tell them if we've seen any wildlife. Ian is always doubtful and his usual reply is along the lines of 'aye that'll be right, it'll be a buzzard!' No sighting accepted until he sees the hard evidence :lol:

Excitement over, we headed up and I'll admit that the next 90 mins or so was a relentless slog up grassy slopes which never in a month of Sundays would I call ‘easy angled!' :shock: Ok, it wasn’t clinging onto to clumps of grass steep but it was hard going. I think I ignored the 'angled' part of the description and focused on 'easy.' :roll: so it was a psychological thing. Each little rise we came to, I muttered ‘ it' ll probably ease off now.’ But it never did. With hindsight of course, there’s no way anyone can walk from almost sea level to 1000m without some effort being required and it's never going to be easy. Either that or it was just one of these days when going uphill seems harder than usual!

ImageHeading up the 'easy angled' slopes by Anne C, on Flickr

Anyway, heads down, get on with it and stop moaning (well, I had to. Chris was silently stoic as usual.) Surprisingly, we caught up with the younger chap who was having a breather and told us he wasn't feeling 100% and had nearly packed it in lower down. Nothing serious he said, a bit of a stomach upset but not great when there's 1000m to climb.

From now on, I kept looking across at our descent route opposite and - the grass always looking greener on the other side - I decided it looked very pleasant indeed. Maybe that’s why everyone else went up that way!
What was heartening however was that the fog was lifting very gradually though still remaining stubbornly on the tops. At one point I noticed there was a beautiful Brocken Spectre effect, an eerie white halo of light to our right.

ImageBrocken Spectre effect by Anne C, on Flickr

During one of several stops, views back over the mist revealed Ben Lui's summit above a cloud inversion, but that was as much as we saw of it all day.The clag there was very stubborn.

ImageBen Lui above the cloud inversion by Anne C, on Flickr

Finally, around 2hrs 10 mins from the car park, we suddenly found ourselves on the ridge itself and at a superb spot (947m) with views across to a mist - swathed Cruachan. The dam below appeared and disappeared as the cloud came and went. I would have settled for that eerie changing light and been very happy, but even in the few seconds we stood there admiring it all, the heavy mist was breaking more than it was forming and suddenly, the grand pyramid of Cruachan cleared completely.

ImageOn the ridge, Cruachan clearing by Anne C, on Flickr

It looked stunning. Yet behind us, the upper section of the shoulder we’d just come up was still wrapped in fog.
The joy now of having the summit ridge ahead, the really hard part of the day over and the mist lifting all the time! It seemed almost too good to be true. The view down the very steep sides of the corrie to the reservoir were now superb, with a very silvery Loch Awe appearing as the cloud continued to clear.

But Cruachan was the biggest draw, as was the connecting ridge itself, dotted with tiny ant like figures heading for Stob Daimh.

ImageCruachan zoomed by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageCruachan by Anne C, on Flickr

Ahead, our own easier route undulated down and up again with a great path the whole way, a real pleasure to be on.

ImageOur route ahead to Sron Garbh by Anne C, on Flickr

In 5 mins we were on Sron Garbh (980m), the Rough Peak and the first on the Horseshoe, with some impressive views down craggy cliffs to the green and gold corrie far below. Opposite we could see the 3rd peak of the round, Sron an Isean.

ImageOur route continues opposite to Sron an Isean by Anne C, on Flickr

Onwards and upwards, we continued on to Stob Daimh...

ImageTo Stob Daimh by Anne C, on Flickr

The views were wonderful down to the dam and Cruachan itself...

ImageCruachan and the dam by Anne C, on Flickr

Lunch on the summit...misty tops and Loch Awe below.

ImageLoch Awe appearing by Anne C, on Flickr

I was really taken with the view over the reservoir and kept walking over to it, admiring how it was changing in the continual variation between atmospheric fog and glistening sunlight. The whole place looked magnificent.

The fog was coming and going behind us again, the ridge we had just walked along looming in and out of the wispy cloud.

ImageLooking back to Sron Garbh by Anne C, on Flickr

To the north, Loch Etive was looking just beautiful, its dark waters partly hidden by tawny lower hills.

ImageLoch Etive and Inversanda by Anne C, on Flickr

Surprisingly for mid - October, we heard no stags roaring, yet a week ago the hills had echoed with the rut. I first heard them this year in mid Sept, on the top of Saileag in Glen Shiel so perhaps their mating ‘month’ runs a bit differently to our Calendar one. Still, it was sad that that primeval sound was gone for another year. :(

Chatted to a couple of guys who came up from the Cruachan ridge and I was pleased too , to say hello again to the chap who'd felt unwell, everyone full of smiles at how spectacular it all was. I sometimes think there can be few folk happier than those on a summit in good weather. :D

One thing I had noticed as we’d made our way along the ridge were quite a few couples who were obviously fell running the route – jogging shoes, no rucksacks to speak of, skipping past us at a fair old rate of knots. Oh to have young knees! I’m ok going up hill but my pace slows going downhill these days as I feel the need to be more cautious in case of a slip. My balance/flexibility has taken a bit of a nosedive (and may result in one of course :wink: ) which I didn’t really notice until we started doing more hillwalking again a couple of years back. I thought I was doing alright as I still run a few times a week, but I've also learned that running over the years without proper stretching shortens the muscles/fibres and can lead to really inflexible joints. :shock: :shock: Mine at times feel like they need a bit of WD40 because they feel as stiff as a board! As they say, there’s aye something! :crazy:

On a brighter note, the light was improving again and Beinn Trilleachan was now appearing above Loch Etive , as was Rum beyond Glenfinnan.

ImageRum appearing by Anne C, on Flickr

Yet to the south, all was thick gloom, a pall of low dark cloud blocking any view of Jura.

We spent about 50 mins on the summit, so glad we’d ignored the gloomy-ish forecast and just got on with it and - luckily - reaped the rewards. But after nearly an hour of inaction, we were both feeling the chill so time to get going again. I’d had a look down at the ‘steep descent’ described off Stob Daimh and at first, when fog hid most of it, it looked alarmingly like stepping off into the abyss. :shock: But it had cleared now and in fact, it was perfectly straightforward with a good, deeply worn track, the kind that is about knee height in depth (I like these going down although I know they are the result of erosion so not so good really).It wound its way down steeply but safely with no exposure (always my main worry, wimp that I am.)

ImageHeading down from Stob Daimh by Anne C, on Flickr

Great views too on the descent into Coire Lochain and also further west as the clarity improved again. Way
out on the west coast, the south end of Lismore sat serenely in the calm waters of Loch Linnhe. The quarry at Inversanda was a white scar on the otherwise lovely hillsides of Morven. Below, lay Glen Noe, wild and lonely.

ImageLooking towards Morvern by Anne C, on Flickr

Looking back up the descent from Stob Diamh...

ImageDescent route from Stob Daimh by Anne C, on Flickr

At this point, the elderly chap and his son were making their way up and we chatted about what a lovely day it was. We'd already passed the couple with the black Lab on Stob Daimh.

Sron an Isean ahead and Chris begging me to stop taking so many b****y photos :D

ImageOn the col - hurry up you're taking too many photos! by Anne C, on Flickr

A short pull up onto Sron an Isean (964m), the strangely named ‘Cub’s Nose’ and we were on another superb viewpoint with Cruachan’s northern cliffs looking very grand. Now the Glencoe hills were starting to appear – Buachaille Etive Beag very distinctive, Ben Starav just becoming visible too and – possibly – Am Bodach on the Aonach Eagach.

ImageTowards Glencoe - Buachaille Etive Beag and Mor/Am Bodach by Anne C, on Flickr

Another difficult place to leave and the angles were that bit different again, giving a different perspective. And then a bird swept across the corrie, at an incredible speed. From its pale underparts and arrow like shape it must have been a Peregrine - another lucky sighting! Not a great photo but it has that arrow sharp look about it...

ImagePeregrine falcon by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageCruachan's handsome twin peaks by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageCliffs of Cruachan by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageAutumn colours and the sea by Anne C, on Flickr

Cruachan and cliffs , zoomed...

ImageCruachan by Anne C, on Flickr

Loch Etive and Inversanda beyond. Ben Hiant on Ardnamurchan visible on the far horizon beyond Inversanda.

ImageLoch Etive..Ben Hiant in far distance by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageInversanda and Ben Hiant, Ardnamurchan by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageLoch Etive and Loch Linnhe, Morvern and Beinn Resipol (or Ben Hiant) by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageMyself by Anne C, on Flickr

The descent route ahead looked very gentle, undulating downwards very gradually, a real joy to be on and with a good path.

Looking back to Stob Daimh...

ImageThe ridge up to Stob Daimh from Sron an Isean by Anne C, on Flickr

Beinn Sgulaird/Fhionnlaidh (I think) beyond an emerging Beinn Trillechean above Loch Etive...

ImageBeinn Sgulaird/Fhionnlaidh and Beinn Trilleachan (just) by Anne C, on Flickr

Our route so far across the Horseshoe...

ImageLooking back to Stob Daimh from Sron an Isean by Anne C, on Flickr

Nice easy walking on the main descent...

ImageNice ridge off Sron an Isean.Stob Daimh behind. by Anne C, on Flickr

Then out of nowhere to our left, a youngish guy appeared as if from nowhere and when we stopped to chat, he told us he had just come from Beinn a Chochuil and Beinn Eunaich - impressive! When we left him we took a look down at the route he had taken up the incredibly wild, rough terrain of Corrie Noe. It looked doable but what seemed worse, was the very steep descent off Beinn a Chochuill. :shock:

ImageGlen Noe and the descent off Beinn a Chochuill by Anne C, on Flickr

I noticed directly opposite us, the descent route off Beinn Eunaich which we did last year and which looks vertical from here! Very steep - I remember slithering down on my 'hin' end' at times :D

ImageThe descent path off Beinn Eunaich by Anne C, on Flickr

A fine afternoon now...lots of autumn sunshine.

ImageNice terrain on the descent. Looking towards Ben Lui(cap of cloud) by Anne C, on Flickr

Not that it mattered but I kept looking across to our ascent route on the opposite ridge, given this one was so gentle and with a good path and wondered again whether we’d done it the wrong way round? The path would certainly have made things easier but then it disappeared for the last half hour, when the ridge steepened and we stood above the convex craggy slopes of the final section. That was fun and games :roll:

ImageShort craggy section by Anne C, on Flickr

I had spied the crags with my beady eye on our ascent, noting them as something to be avoided but somehow, my suggestion about ‘heading further left’ was ignored by Chris and before I knew it we were bottom shuffling down through rocky outcrops and rivulets of black slime. There were two of these little craggy bands to wiggle down, quite shallow though and not a problem as such. Easier to ascend because you could see the best route through, but slightly more awkward from above, when the slope hid what lay below. Another reason perhaps for going up this way first! :D

But then we were down and onto some rough flat ground and back to searching for a different bridge across a different river - the Allt Coire Chreachainn. It was impossible to spot the bridges until you came upon them, as the river bank was so wooded. The light now was quite incredible – the long grasses a deep yellow, the bracken deep bronze, birches shimmering as if their leaves were dusted with gold, catching the light. I often feel I can’t soak in enough of the beauty of the Highlands, it goes beyond words.

ImageWhere is that bridge? by Anne C, on Flickr

The good old OS map locator on my phone worked really well though and suddenly the bridge was visible and we were crossing the rushing river. Then onto a good track again, which in a few minutes, joined the path we’d started out on earlier. In 20 mins we were back at the car, buoyed up by another great day on the hills.

ImageBack on the track.Descent route in full sunshine. by Anne C, on Flickr

We struck it so lucky that day in terms of atmosphere, views and wildlife – a Lucky Horseshoe indeed (though Chris is claiming a bit of credit too :D )

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Anne C

User avatar
Activity: Walker
Pub: Any wild camping spot
Mountain: Quinag
Place: North Uist
Gear: Zamberlan Boots
Member: john Muir Trust;NTS;RSPB;Historic Scotland
Ideal day out: Mountain beside the coast or coastal walk with lots of wildlife spotting

Munros: 139
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Distance: 119 km
Ascent: 5135m
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