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

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.

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