Ben More & Stobinian – the Round

30 09 2012

September 2010
There is a strange bluey tinge on the sky of many of these photos – not sure what went wrong with them… maybe I need to get a filter? Wish we got it more often! 🙂

This was the first day of a week’s Munroing trip to Crianlarich with Richard… We awoke to a severe (for September) frost of -3 ! We made the short 8 or so mile drive to the layby below the end of the NW ridge of Ben More (just after Auchessan). The layby was already nearly full even though we’d set off early (for us) and it was only around 0900. The car had really only just started to thaw out so I was a bit miffed to not get the sunny places near the front of the queue to park in case it refroze for our return.

I’d recce’d the route to the hill through the forest the day before so knew how to start the walk. We set off into the forest and almost immediately there is a left turn at a T-junction labelled ‘hill track’. This is nice and grassy and makes great progress for a mile or so through an open area when it then crosses the forest road and heads into the trees up a muddy zig-zag. We chugged up that and the track levelled out and turned under the hillside… hmmm… not quite where we wanted. We followed it for a while but it started to turn away from the hill. Richard mentioned he thought he’d seen a bit of a track crossing the drainage channel by the break in the forest a short while back so we decided to go back to that.

We bumped into a largish group coming the other way and asked them whether they were doing the round anti-clockwise (like us) or clockwise – they said clockwise – we said they were probably right to follow the track then. We got back to Richard’s bit and there wasn’t really anything crossing the drainage channel after all but the open hillside was visible after a shortish, steep area of clear-fell so we went for it. It was the usual nightmare clambering over the messy clear-fell area with stumps and branches and holes everywhere – it was also extremely steep and it had started to get hot and sticky.

We eventually left the brash for the equally steep grassy and pathless hillside and headed for the top of the ridge ahead hoping it was ‘the ridge’… However, when we’d puffed up to the skyline, another much larger and equally steep ridge appeared behind and above… Repeat performance and then yet another similar ridge appeared towering above us. When we’d sweated our way up to that we found we were, at last, finally on ‘the ridge’. We could see a deer fence looming and peered about for a stile – it was back down the side of the ridge a way. After crossing the stile, a path finally appeared and headed back up onto the ridge. From there on we had a path all the way which was much better for us.

A steep-looking nose reared ahead, the Sron nam Forsairean – I hoped we would go round it. When we got there the path went to the left of the nose but then we saw an easy route back up onto the ridge so followed that. The ridge was comfortably narrow and a great viewpoint. We stopped briefly and had a quick look round at the views – we noticed the largish group were following us up our route – they must have changed their minds about the direction after all…


Sron nam Forsairean


Ben More summit from NE Ridge


Looking down Sron nam Forsairean Ridge

From the nose we could see there was another rocky looking ascent approaching… It was obvious we didn’t go to the left of it as that was very steep crag and you certainly couldn’t go up the end of it so we assumed the track went to the right. It did but of course, that was the north side and the path was extremely frosty. It was fine while you were on the earthy bits (fortunately most of it) but you really had to avoid any rock slabs as they were lethal – as I found to my cost when I trod on one.

I wasn’t totally comfortable with the steep hillside on my right purely because of the thought of more unavoidable slippery rocks but luckily there weren’t any. The path gradually traversed back up to the ridgeline where things got nice and sunny again. From there it was an easy and grassy ascent to the summit which we reached in about another 10 minutes.

We’d been watching little ants crawling up the right-hand edge of Ben More up the usual route from Ben More Farm below – it looked pretty steep. When I reached the summit and looked down on the farm, it looked horrendous to me, in fact, I found sitting at the summit a bit airy for my liking. Just to prove how tense I was, I asked Richard to try to take my flask cup from my hand – he couldn’t – I was gripping it that tight! After a quick cuppa we had a look round the summit area and Richard found a great miniature gully going round two sides of the trig point so we had a little explore… Was a fascinating place and would be a great shelter if you were benighted on the mountain.


Looking down to Ben More Farm!


Cruach Ardrain from Ben More


Leaving Ben More Summit

We then left for the long drop down to the col before Stobinian – I believe this is around 1000 feet of height loss and regain but haven’t worked it out for sure. I’ve always thought this view of Stobinian is one of the best views in Scotland – but I was about to change my mind…


Stobinian from near Ben More summit


Stobinian from Ben More Descent


Looking Back to Ben More

There was a slightly scrambly bit down a crag band on the descent from Ben More which Richard did while I went round it – the rest of the descent was very straightforward. When we reached the col I estimated around 45 minutes to the top of Stobinian but we actually made it in 40 minutes – I think this was partly because three guys were catching us up so I made a bit of a sprint for it – a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by Richard! It was pretty steady going anyway and didn’t seem particularly hard.

After passing through a little rocky gap, the summit ridge stretched ahead for about 30 yards across a nearly level and pleasantly narrow grassy ridge and there was the cairn… and of course, loads more people.

I did my usual of going immediately past the summit cairn to check out the descent – wow! what a view! It was very steep down the other side but I could see there was a great zig-zag path (albeit a bit of a loose one) down the initial steepness and then the very pleasant ridge stretched away to the top of Stob Coire an Lochain with a drop on one side into Coire Each. We took a coffee break on the grassy side of the summit ridge in the sun where I pointed out Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean to Richard as I wanted to do those next.


Descent from Stobinian to Stob Coire an Lochain top

After about ten minutes we headed to the drop down the steep path to Stob Coire an Lochain. Richard courteously went in front and kept stopping to check I was coping with the steep route – I was fine but taking it characteristically carefully. Just at the foot of the steep bit we stopped and looked back up – there were people looking like they were immediately above our heads clambering all over the rocky summit – great for a photo. I took quite a few photos between here and Stob Coire an Lochain as everything looked so stunning.


Stobinian summit


Stob Coire an Lochain


Meall na Dige (final top)

It was an exceptionally easy stroll to Stob Coire an Lochain where there was a lovely little lochan, calmly reflecting the blue sky, which could be positioned in front of Stobinian which now looked totally stunning! I was ooo-ing and aah-ing for ages and telling Richard this had to be the best view in the whole of Scotland. He agreed it was good but said he preferred the Grey Corries ridge.

A foreign guy asked one of us to take his photo at the summit with Stobinian behind – I got Richard to oblige as he’s recently bought a digital camera so has more idea what to do with one. While he was doing this, a guy and three ladies approached our top from the Balquhiddher side. He asked us if the peak ahead was Stobinian – we told him it was. The ladies then set up a horrified chorus that if they weren’t on the Munro yet, they were going no further and he could continue alone if he liked. I was a little amused by this but must have got distracted because I don’t know whether he continued or not – poor guy – I hate revolting walkers (as in walkers who revolt) – I was to experience similar the next day…


Stobinian from route to Meall na Dige

It was an easy route down the east ridge of Stob Coire an Lochain and we soon joined a path by a wall near the bottom. From there it was gentle and pleasant walking in the sun, passing another lovely little blue lochan, to Meall na Dige, the final ‘top’.


Meall na Dige & lochan


Ben More over lochan


Ben More from Meall na Dige Ascent

Descending from there, things didn’t go quite so well… There were awkward craggy drops to get round and the left-hand side, which we wanted to go down, was still pretty steep. I originally wanted to go across the final peak of Stob Creagach but we both got fed up and decided to descend from the Bealach na Frithe back to Coire Chaorach and the inevitable bogs.

There were no paths in the valley and the forest looked a long way off but we headed for the Allt Coire Chaorach as I always find the going easier along the side of burns and there is usually some kind of track. Nearing the forest, I spotted a gate further up the hillside across the burn and a bit of vehicle track heading across the bogs towards it. We crossed the burn and made for that in the hope we could find where the path we’d been on in the forest that morning started.

When we’d gone over the deer stile by the gate we saw the vehicle track went straight on but a walkers path crossed the bog going hard left. I wasn’t sure whether it was heading back up to the ridge of Ben More but we followed it anyway. Presently it turned right towards the forest but then petered out – as boggy paths usually do. We still couldn’t see a way into the forest but decided to head back right towards the vehicle track.

We were lucky and found that was correct and there was our path heading into the forest. I have to say I was quite irritated that there couldn’t be some kind of marker post to say where you enter the forest though – there isn’t really any indication on the map and the forest edge looked pretty impenetrable. As the path goes in at an angle, you can’t see it until you get to it!

From there it was an easy walk, on nice soft ground, back to the now-thawed car. We were both feeling pretty tired but agreed it had been a pretty good day – nice to see the sun and blue skies for a change… and especially to see where we were walking!


Sgiath Chuil from under Ben More


Ben Cheetah & his mate (as I call them)

Stats: 2 Munros, 2 Tops; 11.5 miles, 4736 feet of ascent, 7 hours 20 – me & Richard – sunny and warm and clear for a lovely change

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8 responses

3 10 2012
bob

Although they are only an hours drive away I,ve not been up these hills for 30 odd years.Your photos have put me in the mood again Carol.It will be like new mountains all over again only with older knees and less bounce.

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4 10 2012
mountaincoward

I think that particular route makes it a much more interesting day than the normal route – although I’m tempted to see just how horrifically steep that is above Ben More Farm sometime!

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2 10 2012
Paul Shorrock

Great trip report Carol, with super pics!

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4 10 2012
mountaincoward

One of the few walks I’ve had with Richard where we were really lucky with the weather – the rest of the week was dire!

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30 09 2012
chrissiedixie

You’re right, that blue tinge to the photos is rather unusual, but not exactly unpleasant…

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30 09 2012
mountaincoward

It’s rare me and Richard get such a good day but great when we do as Richard goes much better on a sunny day. On a damp, viewless day, if I can persuade him to come with me at all, he lags something shocking! LOL

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30 09 2012
fedupofuserids

Fab photos, its nice to see a bit of blue sky (even if it was from a few years ago!), something I haven’t seen much of this year 😦

I must admit I haven’t paid these hills or those around Crainlarich any attention, I usually trundle on past heading north but it looks worth stopping just for the view towards Stobinian alone 🙂 , its hard to tell which is the most photogenic side.

How are you injuries progressing, any chance of grabbing a Munro or two before the year is out ?

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30 09 2012
mountaincoward

My favourite side was definitely the ‘far’ (south) side… Don’t think I’ll be grabbing a Munro but my toe is finally feeling a bit better. Trouble will be now that I’ll be horrifically unfit. I’m going to ask for an x-ray next week but it will probably be a couple of weeks before I can get one. By then it will be mid-October. I doubt I’d get fit again quick enough for another hill this year. I’ll probably just stick to the Lakes until around next March I think.

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