Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A game of two halves

Last November saw me and Andy head for Victoria Bridge with a view to engaging with a portion of the Black Mount. As far as I know the term/description also encompasses Meall a' Bhuiridh and Creise, which had definitely been a 2014 hillwalking highlight, so it seemed worthwhile to familiarise ourselves with the other end of the collection.

I'd been up Stob Ghabhar and Stob a' Choire Odhair before, as it happens, back in November 2006, and the trip sticks in my memory for two main reasons.

Firstly, the weather was utterly appalling. Torrential rain, and formidable winds. Not quite "knock you on yer erse" speed winds, but the genuine bitingly cold, unpleasantly rain-driving affair that makes walking up Scottish Munros less a hobby than an odd compulsion.

The other thing that was occupying my mind was the wee stretch between the two summits that's called the Aonach Eagach. Now, obviously it's not that Aonach Eagach, but even although all the guidebooks stress that it's really nothing to worry about, one or two of them used the dread terms "narrow" and "exposed". That's enough to get me fixating from the outset, and given that you don't reach the section concerned until you're about two &  half hours from the car it occurred to me it would be a fairly miserable trek back if I felt the need to turn tail. Oddly enough, the rubbish weather actually ended up kind of confirming my resolve when I reached the first summit - it was so bleak and wet that you could hardly see any steep drops even if they were right next to you, and the impressive wind speed was making you hang onto every available bit of rock anyway, so I figured I'd be as well doing it when I was used to moving slowly and carefully.

In truth, it's fine, even for someone with my degree of reluctance to engage with things it's technically possible to fall off. Wide enough, no sheer edges and it's a very short stretch anyway.

To return to the point of the post, what happened in November 2014 was that we decided at the summit of Stob a' Chore Odhair that we'd had quite enough walking for one day so just wandered down from the bealach between the two hills, affirming our intention to return some other day to complete what had been a rather enjoyable walk up good paths in good weather.

The flaw in the plan ultimately proved to be that we waited until the whole area was utterly saturated, following the traditional Scottish July downpours, and had a bit of a hideous bogtrot on the descent from Stob Ghabhar last Saturday.  The reason why we didn't do both hills this time around was an odd combination of lack of awareness of the surroundings; Jorja taking a while to decide to jump across a fast flowing burn resulting in the separation of the two-legged members of the party; me having to rake about in the rucksack to double check the map before shouting on Andy that we'd missed a path; and his new found hill speed meaning he was too far ahead to hear me. Or his tactical deafness meaning that he elected not to hear me, thus avoiding a repeat ascent of Odhair. ;)

Whatever the reasons, the journey up was significantly drier than the return. I admit we kind of went off piste on the descent, but it was something of a strength and morale-sapping hour or so altogether. You certainly get the full gamut of Munro underfoot conditions on Stob Ghabhar - landrover tracks, dampish paths, good hill tracks, steep bouldery sections, loose scree interludes and knee deep sludge-like purgatory.

So, basically, it's all better than being in the hoose.

The photos here are a selection from both days out. If you ignore the slight change in the weather and ground conditions, they'll give you a wee idea of what the whole walk involves. We'd no dugs with us the first time, so even the casual and disinterested observer will eventually notice once the second lot of pictures has kicked in.

The Abhainn Shira, and the view beyond

Clashgour Hut. Hang a right just after this.

The path up was slightly - I emphasise slightly -  less boggy the first time

The stalker's path up the ridge to Stob a' Choire Odhair 

The view towards Stob Ghabhar

Rannoch Moor

Heading down to the bealach

Looking back to Odhair

And again. From the bealach. With added dug.

Onwards and upwards

Corein Lochan

One of the many Aonach Eagachs...

Some views, recently

Looking back down the ridge

Stob Ghabhar, from the end of the ridge

And just to prove we made it...

As an afterthought, I've once again given up competing with the WBD when it comes to new Munros in the last year.

As a final afterthought, on the walkout last November, not only was it rather drier on the feet, but the descent was enlivened by the sight of some hardy souls who had jumped off a Munro a few minutes earlier...

And here was me worried about walking along a ridge.


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