Thanks to pal for braving the odds for this one

Route: Ben More and Stob Binnein

Munros: Ben More

Date walked: 10/10/2018

Distance: 12km

In June 2015 Moira and I had planned to climb Ben More and Stob Binnein by the usual WH route. But the previous day Moira suffered with the heat going up Ben Challum, which made me wonder if going up the steep ascent from the north was the best idea. Better to reduce the gradient and do something she would enjoy. So we went up the glen to the bealach and climbed only Stob Binnein, leaving the bigger brother for another day. 8)

That put Ben More high on our to do list and several times we talked about returning. In May 2017 we drove down with Ben More as our main objective, but on the appointed day low cloud scuppered it so we did a low walk and on the next day did Ben Lui and Beinn a' Chleibh instead. Why we didn't do Ben More that day I can't remember.

With 2018 being such a great summer we really should have been able to do more (and More!), but Moira was in the States for most of June and away for much of July and August too, so with a wet September, here we were in October and Ben More was still unclimbed. I could see our chances receding once the clocks changed so was keen to get down there as soon as the weather allowed. There was one window of good weather wedged between wet windy days last week, so I suggested Wednesday which, when I checked MWIS, was predicting 70% cloud free tops and little likelihood of rain. The negatives were that with all the recent rain the ground would be sodden, strong wind was forecast for the afternoon and it meant 6 hours driving. Added to that, Moira hadn't done a hill since May and worried that her fitness wouldn't be up to it. :think:

We agreed to go, but when Moira checked the forecast the evening before, it was looking less certain. She texted to say she wouldn't be upset if we pulled the plug which crossed with my text saying I thought we should just go for it, as it may be our last chance. In the end she agreed, but I knew it was with some reluctance and to make matters worse she had a busy day on the Tuesday and was the one who'd be doing the driving. With that and a few other things on my mind I only got one and a half hours sleep that night worrying that if the conditions were awful I would feel so responsible. I was concerned enough to be up at 3.00am checking forecasts for the hill itself, which reassuringly forecast sun at the top and wind levels that wouldn't affect walking! :D

The journey down took longer than it should have because we followed Google's advice and turned off the A9 too soon to take minor roads via Tummel Bridge and Fortingall. It was shorter in terms of distance but narrow winding roads don't make for speed and we'd have been quicker turning off further south and going by Aberfeldy.

We parked near the Ben More hill sign and once over the muddy stream and stile were on our way. I could see cloud swirling about the top of our target hill, but at least it was moving, which is more than could be said for the solid bank of grey above the hills further south. To the north we had blue skies and sunshine, to the south a wall of gloomy opaqueness. Ben More seemed to be sitting between the two, sometimes clear, sometimes in cloud, like it couldn't quite make up its mind which way it was going to play things today. :shifty:

Benmore Farm from start of walk

Track up Benmore Glen

We had agreed not to take the direct route up, but to go up (and down) by the bealach. I remembered that near the end of the track there was a faint muddy path going off parallel to the burn, but when we got there it was so waterlogged we decided not to risk wet feet right at the start of the walk and opted to continue to the end of the track. It was then we met a man coming down a path that went straight up the hillside from the end of the track. He said it went to the bealach and, when I asked, said it wasn't too wet. So we took his advice and went that way.

Ascent route from end of track

To start with the path was drier than I'd expected given all the rain there had been and though faint was easy enough to follow - although higher up we did lose it for a while before finding it again. :roll:


Water galore but still a dry path

Higher up the path was wetter, but not as bad as I'd expected.

Sodden path

This was the path WH refers to as the cairned path that leads above steep rocky ground which should not be followed in descent. But apart from some wet patches we found no difficulties with it and after initially seeming to head straight up Ben More it did then turn right and round to the bealach.

Traversing side of Ben More to the bealach

Stob Binnein in cloud (M's photo)

Bealach Eadar da-Bheinn (the pass between the two hills)

The ground at the bealach was wet but not as bad as I was expecting, given that even in dry weather it has a reputation for wetness! Looking south from the bealach to Stob Binnein didn't look too inviting, whereas north to Ben More had blue sky above. We were going the right way then! :wink:

Stob Binnein from bealach

Ben More from bealach

What could be seen of Ben More from the bealach isn't the full picture. The photo I took from half way up Stob Binnein in 2015 gives a better idea.

Ben More from Stob Binnein (June 2015)

The wind hadn't affected us much during the climb to the bealach, but now we were feeling the full force of it. I asked Moira what she wanted to do and she said she hadn't come all this way not to finish the job! So we set off up the path which was easy to follow and dry underfoot. The wind was behind us so wasn't too much of a problem until we were above the scrambly bit, when it became quite fierce. We were also in thick cloud meaning we could only see a few yards ahead and with crags looming up behind and ahead and an abyss opening up to one side it had all become a little bit spooky. :shock:

In cloud above scrambly bit

As we moved nearer the summit we couldn't see a thing then the cloud thinned to reveal a crag straight ahead with a trig point on top. It's strange how exciting it feels to go from seeing nothing to seeing something like that so of course we had to photograph it - although you had to be quick!

Sudden revealing of trig point

I climbed up to the trig but had to hold on to it as the wind was gusting so strongly. We couldn't see the cairn from there but knew there was one, so walked a bit further and there it was. As we arrived the cloud parted to give a view west and then just as quickly closed in again. The wind was blowing so strongly I was sure we would just have to wait a bit until it cleared again. 8)

Standing there in the wind and the cloud we didn't have much sense of how high we were, but Ben More at 1174m has the distinction of having no higher points in Britain further south. So a significant one to climb. Stob Binnein is said to be the finer summit but with its cragginess and precipitous drop to the west I really liked BM and felt it had character to match its size.

Ben More summit (M's photo)

Waiting for cloud to clear

There it goes

But each view was fleeting and you had to be quick

Stob Binnein

On the descent we were facing into the wind and had to concentrate more on foot placement with strong gusts threatening to knock us off balance.

Crianlarich from the descent

View back to scrambly bit - and blue sky

Cruach Ardrain with feather hat on

We waited until we reached the partial shelter of the bealach before finding a rock to sit down for a coffee. We had decided to follow the straight down route from the bealach to the glen and expecting it to be waterlogged put on our spikes to give extra grip. This worked well and despite much steepness, wetness and erosion (normally a combination to guarantee a slip) both of us remained upright on the descent.

Different descent route

We followed the path down the left side of the burn (not the same burn we went up) until it led to a crossing point and then over level grass to reach the Benmore Burn running down the glen.

Early evening sun on higher slopes

The path along the burn was seriously wet but by this stage we weren't bothered if we got wet feet and just ploughed through it. Since my friend Mary broke her ankle slipping on mud I've had a healthy respect for mud but again the spikes averted any mishaps.

Soggy burnside path led back to track

Once back on the track we took the spikes off and and knew that if the light went quickly we would be fine. Eyes adjust well to failing light but because we had them we put on our head torches and got some startled looks from sheep at the side of the track as we marched along. The darkness closed in quickly and before we reached the road we were glad of the torches. It would have been tricky crossing the stile and the plank over the burn without them. :lol:

Once debooted and in the car we drove east as far as Killin where we went in for a bowl of very good homemade soup, a warm bread roll and a long cold drink of Orange and Passionfruit J2O - just what we needed before the long drive home, this time via Aberfeldy. We were both very chuffed to have finally climbed Ben More and I was more than grateful to Moira for agreeing to do it with me, despite being initially unsure. The weather on the hill didn't turn out to be as spectacularly good as predicted but it didn't rain and we did get some very atmospheric views through the shifting clouds. I'm happy to settle for that. :D

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Comments: 1

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