The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Stob Coire Creagach and Beinn an Lochain

Saturday 29 April

Stob Coire Creagach (aka Binnein an Fhidhlier; NN230109; 817m)

Late yesterday afternoon we watched a chap set off up this hill and watched his progress with interest until we lost sight of him beyond the gully through the first set of crags. He returned an hour and a half later (whereupon he changed *all* of his clothing, causing a prudish "I say!" to be uttered as I happened to glance out of the window at an inappropriate moment, as I cooked tea).

We were rather slower as we made our way up there this morning. Some of the slowness was from us taking time to make sure we were taking a sensible route through the crags, some of it was the result of having tackled quite a collection of hills over the last week.

Whilst the day was very grey and seemed to threaten rain, the cloud was above the summit when we got there... us excellent views over most of the hills we've been up in the last four days:

Our steps were (more or less) retraced to get us back down and we arrived back at Bertie having covered 2.7 miles with 650m-ish of ascent.

Beinn an Lochain (NN218079; 901m)
We had caught a 10-minute shower on the way down this morning's hill, and over lunch it rained again - rather more than the forecast of 'isolated showers' led us to expect.

Mick therefore decided to sit out this afternoon's hill, which is exactly what I fancied doing too. Knowing, however, that strong wind and low cloud are forecast for tomorrow, and not wanting to sit at the foot of the hill and wait for the best part of 48 hours, I girded my loins and set out fully waterproofed.

It rained on me most of the way up and all of the way down, and cloud was shrouding the top when I reached it. That was a shame, as I particularly enjoyed the route up this one (some scrambly bits, some exposure, but not enough of either to scare me) and it would have been so much better if it had been dry, with a view from the summit.

In spite of appearances in this summit snap, the second summit is the lower of the two; the one bearing the ice axe being my objective. However, as there's only a metre difference between them, I did visit both, just to be sure.

And then I hastened down as fast as my little legs, on wet slippery rock, would allow me.

This one came in at 4.9 miles with around 800m of ascent.

Tomorrow has been declared a day of rest, to which I am very much looking forward after the exertions of the last 11 days.

Beinn Luibhean (NN243079; 858m) and Beinn Ime (NN255085; 1011m)

Friday 28 April

Having stood on Bealach a'Mhaim a couple of days ago and been very tempted by the obvious path leading the 2km, and 350m ascent, from there to the top of Beinn Ime, I can say with some certainty that there are easier ways up that hill than the way we went today. Admittedly it is quite a long walk in from Arrochar, but the reason we set out from Butterbridge today wasn't to save distance but because we were also going up Beinn Luibhean, and it seemed more sensible to combine the two from the NW side.

There is a trodden line most of the way up to Bealach a'Mhargaidh (which lies between today's two tops), but it wasn't the obvious line I expected. That may be because there's a different, better line slightly higher up from the burn, that we didn't find until our descent. I suspect people are split as to which they take, possibly depending on their direction of travel.

Reaching the bealach just as a gentle rain started to fall, we paused for elevenses* (as it had just gone 12) before plumping for the easiest hill first. Beinn Luibhean lies less than 200m above the pass, so even with the need to wind a way through crags, it was a relatively short out-and-back.

Pausing for lunch on our return to the pass, off we then set (pathlessly again) up Beinn Ime. Our ascent was badly timed, coinciding with the cloud coming in. We popped out onto the baggers' path just a couple of hundred meters (distance, not height) before the summit, and just in front of a chap doing a round including Beinn Narnain and The Cobbler. At least we were in good company in the cloud, as the rain turned to snow.

Predictably, we'd not retraced our steps very far back down before the cloud cleared. Harrumph. I reckon that summit was cloud free for over 80% of the time it was within our view today, so it was a bit unlucky to arrive when we did.

Back down at the road, we opted to cut across, via the old road/bridge, to the car park, rather than following the busy road. We knew there was bog that way. We didn't expect it to be shin deep... At least there's a river adjacent so I was able to wash our socks and shoes.

The stats came in at 6.4 miles with around 1030m of up.

(* only half a flask of coffee for me. I'd performed a manoeuvre earlier on, involving me leaning forward at such an angle that both my water bottle and my flask simultaneously fell out the side pockets of my pack. I'd already established that the flask I'd bought last week was faulty, in that the stopper tends to pop out, and that's exactly what happened when it landed - but fortunately at such an angle that only half the coffee was lost. I had to retrieve the stopper from the stream below. Alas, the flask is now a bit battered, as well as faulty.)

Ben Donich (NN218043; 847m) and The Brack (NN246031; 787m)

Thursday 27 April

With the magnitude of the gust of wind that woke me at 5 this morning, it didn't bode well for getting up a hill today. However, over breakfast (several hours later - it was a lazy start) I observed that the gusts weren't coming very often at all, and in between it wasn't outrageously windy. Slowly we pulled ourselves together and eventually we started out up our first hill.

It seemed obvious to me to combine these two hills into a single walk, and it apparently seemed equally obvious to the author of the Cicerone guide to the Corbetts. The evidence on the ground suggests that we are very much in the minority.

A nice view, Bertie included

Setting out from just along the B road from the Rest and Be Thankful, the going up the NE ridge of Ben Donich was very well trodden (and, apparently, often much wetter than it was today). That trodden line took us all the way to the top.

First trig of the day

Backtracking a little to head down the east spur, via a pause for lunch, we had expected some sort of trodden line, because surely with so many people treading a line up Ben Donich, many of them must continue to The Brack. They are both Corbetts after all. But no, it was just a cross country yomp, avoiding crags as we went, to drop the 500m to the bealach between our first and second objectives.

We couldn't see any trodden line up The Brack either, so it was a surprise, part way up to stumble across one and even see the occasional boot print. It was but the faintest line, though, and we lost it repeatedly.

I suppose, in view of the lack of tussocks, bog, bracken or heather the description of this ascent line as being easy was accurate, but it was also unrelentingly steep.

Second and final trig of the day

An about turn was performed after admiring the views from the top (which were excellent, but really wanted a blue sky for perfection), and back down to the pass we went.

The path we wanted to find to lead us through the forest turned out to be well marked with posts painted white and soon we were striding back towards our starting point on a forest track, although we couldn't resist a pause to finish off our flasks at a handy picnic bench, which boasted a clear view over to where we were yesterday.

The stats were 8.15 miles walked with 1100m of ascent.

The Cobbler (NN259058; 884m) and Beinn Narnain (NN272067; 926m)

Wednesday 26 April

I had intended for us to walk this circuit in the opposite direction, visiting Beinn Narnain first, but a failure to navigate at the very start led to a change of plan. Leaving the car park on the shore of Loch Long, we merrily skipped up the very obvious, engineered path. It's quality, combined with a signpost saying it led to both of our objectives, caused the schoolboy error of not checking the map and it wasn't until we had gone around a few switchbacks that it occurred to me that we were supposed to be going straight up the hill, not wiggling around. We could have put ourselves right, but the easier option seemed to be to reverse our route, albeit with a bit of trepidation as our descent route would now involve some scrambly bits that I would have preferred to tackle in ascent.

With hindsight, I'm perfectly happy with how the day went.

Almost the entirety of our ascent of The Cobbler was on well-designed engineered path, which made the going a breeze.

Talking of breezes, we were well sheltered until the bulk of the climb was done, and goodness, it was warm work. Then suddenly there was ice on the path, the sun went and we caught what breeze there was, and, by gosh, it was nippy! By the time we got to the top, small flakes of snow were gently falling on us - the first of a few such showers during the day.

The very top of The Cobbler is a rock pinnacle of which, at a glance, I said "Not a chance!". Then I went for a closer look, made my way through the hole in the rock and from there it didn't look so horrendous - except for the bloomin' big drop off the side. Being not a fan of sheer exposure it was a set of ginger manoeuvres to get myself up the next section. I confess I didn't stand on the top. I crawled to within walking-pole touching distance and called the job a good-un.

I thought Mick would skip up to the top, as he has a much better head for heights than me, but he's not collecting summits so couldn't see the point. Instead, he waited at the bottom of the final climb, thus making sure that if I slipped then I would take him with me!

A small backtrack, via a chat with an older couple (small world, he grew up very close to where we live), took us to the path down to the pass to the north, where lunch was had sheltering behind a large rock. It seems that our descent route is popular for ascents and quite a few people passed us, heading up that way. The only person we spoke to, beyond greetings, was a chap in shorts; when, in the way of general hillside discussion, we told him our plans to head down direct to Loch Long from Beinn Narnain he did that plumber-esque thing of sucking air through his teeth and telling us what a dreadfully steep descent it was. He didn't help my existing misgivings about going down that way.

Nevertheless, onwards we went and up Beinn Narnain (resisting the temptation to nip up Beinn Ime whilst we were so near). That wasn't an engineered path, but the legs and lungs were in a happy place today and before I knew it a trig point was before us.

There were four scrambly bits on the way down, only one of which I didn't much like, although in my case I only did three of them. It was just before the fourth that we met a couple of chaps at the side of the path, one with a measuring wheel, who greeted us with the words "Excellent - some volunteers!". They were surveying for a new path to be constructed to omit the final scramble, which is considered dangerous (particularly when wet, when it turns into a waterfall). The task they had for us was for one of us to go down the path, the other to go down the newly proposed route, and compare notes at the bottom. I went with a chap called Martin on the new route (which, even in its current state of tussocks and bog, was easy), whilst Mick went with Gordon on the existing path. Looking over to see where Mick was descending, I gave a definite thumbs up to the proposed new route and the construction methods they described.

After a good chat, we left them to a tea-break, whilst we picked up the path we had originally intended to ascend, taking us a very direct route back to the car park. Aside from the scrambly bits, I wouldn't describe the path as being notably steep, in the context of descending Munros, so I'm glad I didn't let the opinion of Mr Shorts-in-the-snow put me off.

The outing came in at 7.4 miles with somewhere around 1100m of ascent.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Cruach Tairbeirt (NN312058; 415m)

Today dawned lovely and bright, with all of the surrounding tops clear (we’re sitting in Arrochar, looking up, most notably, at The Cobbler), but per the forecast it was a touch on the breezy side. A lazy start to the day was thus had, and eventually we decided to extend our stay at the campsite for another night.

By lunchtime the gusts were becoming less noticeable, the sunny intervals were still good and long, and we needed to go for some sort of a walk, so I suggested that we go and try a route up Cruach Tairbeirt, which sits immediately next to the campsite.

Everyone who has described their route on seems to have approached this hill from the south, and there’s a repeated theme in the reports of the impediment of blow-downs on the route through the forest. As we didn’t happen to be sitting on that side of the hill, and as the route that side didn’t sound like a stroll in the park anyway, I decided to see if there was a route that would go up west side, from Glen Loin. The map shows the conifer plantation giving way to natural woodland, a distance up the glen, and it’s often possible to walk relatively unimpeded through such woodland, so it seemed worth a look. With little optimism of success, we set out early in the afternoon.

Well! Not only was it feasible to approach from Glen Loin, but it turned out to be unexpectedly easy. Steep, certainly, but through well-spaced trees, on grassy terrain. There was an unmapped band of conifers at the top (beyond the edge of the woodland shown on the map), but first fears that we were going to be faced with a bash through nasty dense pines proved wrong – there were thin spots where we were able to push easily through.

This was one of the most sparse areas of the natural woodland, but none of it was difficult (taken on the way down).

It was then just another steep pull up some mildly tussocky stuff to the excellent viewpoint of the summit. Loch Long, Loch Lomond, the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond were all strong features of that view; well worth the ascent.

Mick loitered at the trig point, whilst I visited the other two lumps on the summit, which looked equally high

In a couple of places on the way up we’d stood a stick in the ground to give a visual marker of our route for the return leg. There was one other place we should have done the same, but didn’t. The gaps through the band of conifers, through which we had so easily found a way on the upwards leg, weren’t so obvious when descending, but after a bit of back-and-forth thrashing around and a few questions of ‘do you recognise any of these trees?’, the way was found.

A surprisingly agreeable little afternoon jaunt, it came in at almost exactly 4 miles, with around 430m of ascent.


Very sadly, my Garmin Gadget has stopped talking to my laptop, so I can’t download my recorded routes. I did, however, use my phone to record various waypoints on our ascent, which I’ve copied across into the above representation of our route. We possibly didn’t take lines between those points quite as straight as shown above! After following the waymarked ‘Cowal Way’ along the track up Glen Loin, we struck off uphill at the gate at approx. NN307065.

Mid Hill (NS322964; 657m)

Monday 24 April
Mid Hill was our objective today; a close neighbour to yesterday’s tops, the difference in the underfoot conditions was remarkable. Not a single tussock did we encounter, and only occasional mildly squelchy bits. This hill is obviously more popular than some of its neighbours (no doubt because of its accessibility; it has a signed path starting from the foot of Glen Luss), so whilst our route was surrounded by tussocks, our passage was mainly over compacted bare earth or worn-short grass.

The forecast wasn’t great for today, but neither was it awful, although it did temporarily feel that way when the first snowy squall hit us somewhere between the first summit (Beinn Dubh) and Mid Hill. By the time it had passed, I’d completely lost the feeling in the left side of my face. In between the wintry showers, it was lovely and sunny (and even warm, lower down), but the wind was noticeable both in its strength and chill – and by the fact that it was in our faces for the outward leg.

Fine views were had from the top, but we didn’t linger long. Second breakfast was had hiding behind a peat hag on the way up, and elevenses was had hiding in a dip on the way down. A flask of something hot would have gone down nicely at either or both of the stops.

A suitably easy walk after yesterday’s efforts, this one came in at 7.1 miles with a little over 700m of ascent.

The other four hills I had earmarked in that area are now going to have to wait until another time. The weather forecast for tomorrow is such that we decided that reading books and crocheting will be the order of the day. As our attempts to stay at the Caravan and Camping Club site at Luss were a failure (footnote 1), and as we didn’t want to spend a day and a half sitting in an exempt-from-the-outrageous-camping-management-bylaws layby (footnote 2), we’ve had to move further north to find a campsite, and we won’t be backtracking on this trip to return to pick up those hills (footnote 3).  


1. Luss C&CC site is for members only, and you have to have been a member for 24 hours before you stay. As this prevented us from staying yesterday, we tried to join on the spot to book a pitch for today, but our membership request was apparently too difficult for the staff to administer. That’s twice I’ve tried to join the C&CC in the last couple of years and twice that the campsite has been confounded by the request.

2. Plus there was the fact that we only left home with 60 litres of water on board and, a week later, are feeling the need to top up the tank.

3. Not again, anyway. There was a backtrack on Saturday when we realised that we didn’t have as much LPG as we thought and searches of LPG location resources suggested that we’d passed the last LPG station on our entire route two days, and 20 miles, earlier. Doh!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cruach an t-Sidhein, Doune Hill and Beinn Eich

Cruach an t-Sidhein (NS275975; 684m), Doune Hill (290971; 734m) and Beinn Eich (302947; 703m)

It's three years later that I'm adding this map snippet in and, whilst I know that I recorded the walk from Doune Hill over Beinn Eich, and separately the bike ride up and down the road, I cannot find the files for those tracks.

That was novel! We set out on a circuit to visit 3 Marilyns - and that’s exactly what we did, but with the twist that we only visited one of our intended hills. Here's how the day evolved:

Plan A: The original plan had been to visit four hills in this area by way of a linear walk. We would start out together, from the west of our first objective, then Mick would turn back after the second summit and drive around to meet me in Glen Douglas, to the north.

Plan B: I decided last night to do as almost everyone else seems to do and set out from Luss (to the east) instead. With the outing now being a lollipop, Mick could do the whole route, but due to the length of walk-in, and the lie of the land, only three summits would be visited (three of the four from Plan A).

Plan B, Version 1: A minor modification. To save us the long walk in/out along Glen Luss, I would cycle up to the end of the public road and Mick would walk. On the way back, Mick would cycle and I would walk (for the avoidance of doubt, we only have one bicycle).

Plan C: Another quite minor mod. For reasons I can't quite remember it seemed sensible to reverse the intended order of our route from clockwise to anti. Without this mod, our day would have been quite different.

Plan D: I had started waivering by the time we stopped for elevenses. The going up the Glen was a bit rougher/wetter/wiggly than I had anticipated, but the big factor was that I could see the lie of the land by this point and I wasn't sure I really felt like that hard a day. Various options were discussed and we decided to start as intended but potentially omit the final hill.

Plan E: when we finally reached the point where we were going to start climbing out of the glen (3 hours in!), we could see that by far the nicer looking outing was to do our first intended hill, then nip over to the lovely looking ridge above us, to return via Beinn Eich. A good compromise: an easier outing than intended, but a lovely looking walk.

Plan F: Atop Cruach an t-Sidhein, I looked at the map and confirmed what I thought I could see. If we were going to return via Beinn Eich then really would have been silly to omit a quick jaunt (180m extra ascent) up Doune Hill.

Plans finally stopped changing at that point - except for the return cycle ride. Mick insisted on walking and thus it was me who got to zoom down the glen (with just three sneaky uphills thrown in).

Except for our changing plans, other occurrences of the day included:
-A French man showing us through his neighbour's garden and over his back wall because he misunderstood where we were trying to go. I didn't have the heart to backtrack and tell him of the communication error, so we took a little detour to pick up the track further along.
- Mick slipping off a rock into a deep stream (fortunately remaining on his feet) only for us to have to backtrack and recross a few minutes later when we reached another, less easily crossed, ford. By then we could see the bridge a little way upstream (don't you just hate it when that happens?). To make matters worse, I had actually noted, before we forded, that the map said that the path didn't cross, yet we assumed that as the obvious track went that way, it was the way we should go. If only we had spotted the nearby waymark sooner...
- A woman being so surprised when I passed her on my bike that she staggered across the road ans fell in a ditch! I was oblivious to this, but as it happened right in front of Mick, and as he stopped to help her up, I learnt of it later. In my defence, I did ding my bell repeatedly before passing, but as she wasn't actually in my way, I didn't shout (lesson learnt - I will in future). Happily, she was uninjured.

In spite of everything, it was a fine outing, with superb views, on a pretty fine day, coming in at 10.5 miles (for me, nearer 15 for Mick). I've not calculated the ascent. Here are some snaps:

It was a long walk along this glen, with the constant quandary of whether to wiggle around following the burn, or follow a straighter but undulating line a distance away:

Atop Doune Hill - where our plan said we weren't to be:

Atop Beinn Eich, Loch Lomond behind:

Mick, somewhere in between the two photos above, with lots of pleasing lumps behind him: