Confused on (Beinn) Chabhair

12 02 2014

March 2009
During an indecisive day from Crianlarich Youth Hostel, with pretty snowy peaks around, I aborted a trip to Beinn a’ Chleibh and Ben Lui (my compleation hills this coming May) and decided to do this hill instead. Basically, by the time I’d parked at the foot of the route up the steep corrie between my two planned peaks and then chickened out at the thought of such a steep ascent on snow and ice, I only had half a day left to bag a peak. As Beinn Chabhair is quite a short route when done on its own, it was theoretically a great choice for the afternoon.

My afternoon wasn’t helped by a total misinterpretation of the Munro book which led me to do a different route to normal. However, after squelching back along the exceedingly wet trade route from the hill, I’m not sure my outward route was such a bad mistake and I do prefer a ‘round’ to an out and back anyway – much more interesting…

On driving back from my aborted hills to Crianlarich, I’d sat for a while perusing the Munro book for alternatives and seen that I could bag four peaks on the way to Beinn Chabhair. Indeed I could – what I hadn’t checked though, was the ‘status’ of the hills and, for some unknown reason, had in my head that they were four Corbetts when, in actual fact, they are four ‘Graham tops’ – pretty much hills of no status at all! To a bagger, these points are all-important unfortunately…

I drove off down Glen Falloch to the famous, but rather dilapidated looking, Drovers Inn. The building is very ancient so I suppose I’m being harsh but I wouldn’t really want to spend the night there. They do, however, have a superb bar, great bar food (and beer) and lovely roaring fires downstairs. As I was going to park there, it was only right that I should call in afterwards for food and drink – I think it’s very rude to do otherwise. Later, after the walk I had, I was glad of the warmth and sustenance!

To start, there was a short walk up the bendy and busy main road to the track to Beinnglas Farm where a hill track rises very steeply up the hillside alongside a huge and superb waterfall. (click on photo for full size)

Beinn Chabhair start from Drovers

Top of Falls above Drovers Inn

I thought the climb was pretty steep and wasn’t surprised to later read in my Irvine Butterfield book that you climb 1000 feet in a mere quarter of a mile! I don’t really mind going up steep as you gain height quickly but I wasn’t too keen on having to descend such steep ground later. My vertiginous feelings weren’t helped by a huge stile over the tall deer fence right at the top of the steep slope – I don’t like things like that.

From there I eyed the start to my ‘Corbetts’ across a boggy interlude. A path set off in the general direction but it was one ultimately destined to return to the valley a couple of miles north of there so I had to abandon it and strike up the steep grassy slopes, working my way around the very many rocky outcrops.

It was here the weather started to interfere with a vengeance… It was generally a hot and sunny day but with a severe wind chill and sudden hail and sleet showers. As soon as I put my coat on for a shower, the sun would come back out and stew me until I took it back off again. This continued on about ten-minute intervals for the whole walk. The steep uphills were generally out of the wind so extra hot – definitely t-shirt walking – but as soon as you hit the top of a rise, it was absolutely freezing.

At the top of my first hill I got a very distant glimpse of Beinn Chabhair’s shoulder and all the intervening hills – a lot of steep up and downs over rough and pathless ground. No matter – I soon saw the very beautiful lochan – Lochan a’ Chaisteal. This was backed by the spectacular craggy little peak of Stob Creag an Fhithich so was a great photo opportunity – the sun kindly stayed out for my photo 🙂

Beinn Chabhair hill loch
My Munro is the distant snowy peak

I battled my way over every lump and bump I could see as it wasn’t obvious which were my four pointless summits and the ground was very undulating so I was getting pretty tired – what with the ups and downs and getting dressed and undressed every few minutes… I ploughed on determinedly but the main peak didn’t seem to be getting any nearer!

Beinn Chabhair

By the time I reached the col before the main event, I was pretty much knackered and soaked by both sweat and blizzard. I was also a bit grumpy – even more so when a group of lads suddenly popped up to the col from the easy valley below left having used a much easier and more sheltered route. At least they illustrated the path which I could now join. It was great to have a path at last and, although I didn’t keep up with the lads, I went much better up the main peak and cheered up considerably. There were great views off to An Caisteal to my left and Ben Lomond to my right.

Beinn Chabhair climb
Heading up the main event at last

An Caisteal fm Beinn Chabhair
An Caisteal

I was soon at the snowy summit but it was so bitterly cold up there with the snow and the windchill I had to leave immediately. To be honest, I never really stop on summits as it is usually very cold – nice sunny corries are much more my thing.

Beinn Chabhair summit

I’d originally planned to follow the southern ridge down to a col and then cut down west to the river valley and the route out. However, it was cold and I couldn’t be bothered so I set off straight down the western face among icy crags and suchlike. With care, I got down unscathed to the shelter of the valley. Of course, now I was sheltered and with a flat walk out, the sun beggared off for the day!

The river valley path was exceedingly wet and the whole walk along it was a squelch so I can’t say it was actually more enjoyable than the pathless outward route had been – just easier… There was a nice loch – Lochan Beinn Chabhair – at the foot of the peak which would have made an ideal spot for a break if the sun had stayed.

Loch a' Chabhair

Long Route to Beinn Chabhair
The long wet trade route to the hill

As the path started to descend towards to the top of the steep descent to the valley, there were some nice waterfalls to add interest to the walk.

Beinn Chabhair walk - upper falls

Then I was back at the deer fence over the steep slope. The path is a bit loose and gravelly so I made quite a careful descent back down to the pub where I gratefully got a seat near the fire and some hot soup. When I got back into my car, I had another read of the book and saw the mistake I’d made with the four outward peaks – what a numptie!

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11 responses

17 02 2014
Tessa Park

Nice report there 🙂

I loathe those deer fence stiles as I am not very flexible and find them pretty difficult to get over – as well as not liking drops. Is actually part of the reason I haven’t done either Ben Cruachan or Ben Challum yet.

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17 02 2014
mountaincoward

For Ben Cruachan, if you go up the left-hand side of the burn from the railway underpass you don’t go over a stile from what I remember – if you do, it’s not leaning over a gorge like the right-hand one is! I think there probably are Deer Fences on Ben Challum but they’re only on gentle hillsides if so and so not bad. I really enjoyed Ben Challum – did it in the snow and it was great. Managed to pick up 5 companions en-route! 😉

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15 02 2014
chrissiedixie

It’s nice when you suddenly find an unexpected path going in the right direction!
Our dogs don’t like those huge stiles either. Dixie can no longer leap over anything and needs two of us to lift and pass her over them, and Tilly actually seems to hate the height of them! We end up with 35kg of shaking Labrador stuck on the top, refusing to move! And she is heavy trying to prise her off and lift her down………

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15 02 2014
mountaincoward

Awww – poor Tilly. I’m okay with them unless they’re already over a big drop. There’s a horrific one on the way to Ben Cruachan up the right-hand side of the burn (the track which sets off under the railway underpass). It’s right over a drop into a deep gorge and leans in that direction. I had a bloody good grip of the fence top when I went over that. On the way back, I refused to use that track and insisted we came back on the other side of the burn.

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14 02 2014
McEff

“Numptie” is a great word. I’m going to use that on the granddaughter. Great walk, that, by the way, Carol. I don’t think I’ve climbed Beinn Chabhair, so I’m going to have to look it up now to see exactly where it is.
Cheers, Alen

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15 02 2014
mountaincoward

It wasn’t my favourite really – I liked An Caisteal next to it much better. There’s a lot of bog to get to that one though as well!

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13 02 2014
fedupofuserids

Looks a fine Plan B 🙂 Great photos, this hill has fallen under my radar but looks quite good.

I’ve quite enjoyed the few Grahams I’ve walked handy when the higher peaks are in cloud – I prefer a view – which of course means I’ll probably never compleat the Munros (or the Corbetts)!!!

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13 02 2014
mountaincoward

If the last few years are anything to go by, it does indeed! I’ve rarely had a view and I don’t think it’s just been all my bad luck. Is Cumbria still there after that hurricane yesterday? 😮

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13 02 2014
fedupofuserids

From what I’ve seen today it is 🙂 Nice amount of snow on the hills too 😀

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12 02 2014
bob

It’s a tough walk that doing the full traverse of lumps and then the peak Carol. I think I remember reading in one of his books that WH Murray( famous early Scottish mountaineer, author of Mountaineering in Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland- cracking books by the way) nearly drowned when he fell in messing about at the top of the falls. Wouldn’t like to go over the edge there. It’s 20 years since I last read them though and my memory is not what it used to be.

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13 02 2014
mountaincoward

I think WH Murray is one of the mountaineer-writers I haven’t yet got round to – I’ll have to have a look for some of his on Amazon – thanks for the prompt 🙂

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