Journeys in the hills and mountains
Our annual trip to the Scottish Highlands this year went to the Kirkton Farm, half way between Crianlarich and Tyndrum. Enduring the coldest winter on record, we were unsure about whether we would make it, but in the end the only stretch of motorway that proved tricky was on the M6 over Shap Summit! That said, driving over ice up to the cottage required some delicate steering and braking… I was looking to use this trip to clear up a number of munros around the area, and the trip did not disappoint. The first day was the worst of the weather, and so we climbed Ben Challum from the cottage. There was not much of a view, unsurprisingly, but there was some nice snow through which we ploughed our way.
The second day did not look significantly better, but the weather was sufficiently good for us to attempt a big day out. We drove over to Bridge of Orchy, and climbed Beinn Achaladair and Beinn a Chreachain. We descended in the dark with a walk along an overgrown path needed to get us back to our cars. The next day proved significantly better. I drove over to Glen Coe and, from the Ski Centre, we climbed up to do Meall a Bhuiridh and Creise. Most of the way up was in mist, but, as we approached the first summit, the clouds fell away around us, and we reached the summit in glorious sunlight. The ridge between Meall a Bhuiridh and Creise is exposed, particularly in the snow and ice, and provided some spectacular views in all directions. After reaching the summit of Creise the cloud once again set in, but we nevertheless had what was probably the best day of the trip.
On New Year’s Eve we decided to complete a shorter walk to ensure that we had plenty of time for cooking and festivities in the evening. A rather isolated munro, Beinn Mhanach, was our objective. The route in did not promise to be exciting, involving a long slog up a glen, a quick ascent, and then back again. In the end, our pleasant exploration of the glen proved a nice walk, in both directions, and the sheet ice on top of munro provided further interest. We celebrated the New Year that evening and, with slightly groggy heads, we set off on New Year’s Day to climb Beinn a Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich. I had previously done Beinn Eunaich (my fifth munro) when I wasn’t bagging, and so had stupidly missed out on the second summit on the horseshoe. The weather was good – if rather windy – and we quickly overcame our hangovers. We were rewarded with excellent views of Ben Cruachan.
The final day left me with a slight quandary. I had now bagged almost everything within easy travelling distance of Crianlarich. In the end, I decided to do Ben Vorlich from Ardlui. This proved a straightforward ascent, though the descent was less easy involving patches of snow, ice and rock that slowed us considerably on the way down. We did stop at times for stunning views down Loch Lomond. All in all, an excellent week of walking, and far more productive in munro terms that the previous year!