Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Guest Blog: Summits in the Sun: Meall nan Eun and Stob Ghabhar

Following a Twitter conversation in where Richard was thinking about starting to write his own blog I offered him the use of mine to write his own post. I know he has been working on it for a while, although I think choosing his photos has taken the longest part of that. I am not surprised as the exposures he has to choose from are excellent. 

Since the discussion he has now fully decided to start his own blog and is now using this opportunity to show a sample of his writing and associated pictures. I hope you enjoy it, as I have already, and give some good feedback. 

So the rest of the post, ladies and gentlemen, I will pass you over to Mr Richard Flint...

Having joined in on the wonderful world of Twitter just over a year ago, I have become accustomed to the names and blogs of those who enjoy the hills, mountains and other great remote places of this fine country.

So, here I am, on yet another long train journey, writing my first blog about my adventures for you to enjoy. Indeed, this is the first piece I have written for pleasure in a very long time, my normal diet being technical reports and instructions crafted methodically, but without personality, in the third person.

I take you back to May and one bright, hot yet unremarkable Friday. Unremarkable, because nothing particularly out of the ordinary was happening at work. Unremarkable even though we had a small gathering to wish a colleague well as he moved on to pastures new. As I walked back to the office, I decided to do what I had been thinking about for a couple of days. A quick glance at the MWIS forecast confirmed I should be in for a treat. So, after a brief telephone call, sleeper tickets had been bought and it was time head home and pack. I was off to Scotland.

Having done three wild camping trips already this year, I had got packing down to something quick and methodical. I knew what I was going to take and where it was. I can’t say I’ve mastered it yet. There’s still weight that I’m sure I can shed, but I no longer take up time trying to locate those small essentials, which previously I could hide in the most bizarre nooks and crannies of my flat.

That done, I could eat, wash and then finalise a route. At the back of my mind, I remembered seeing something in an issue of TGO  about weekends in Scotland. Having dug it out, I selected my route and marked it on the map. I tend to buy the Active Map versions of the OS Explorer series. I find them extremely versatile and I have taken to marking my routes on them in non-permanent marker.

The hour-long journey into Marylebone was uneventful, as was the bus from there to Euston. I boarded the sleeper and, with a berth to myself, set about getting ready for bed.

After an enjoyable night’s sleep, I was approaching Glasgow Central, enjoying a coffee whilst the sun-baked scenery flashed past. Once there, I bought my return ticket to Bridge of Orchy and set off on the pleasant walk to Queen Street station. The buildings of Buchannan Street looked magnificent in the sun, the outdoor shops looking particularly inviting.

I enjoyed breakfast, bought in Glasgow, on the train. As industrial Glasgow disappeared behind me, my thoughts turned to my walk. The TGO inspired route seemed short, so I pondered making it longer. Once at Bridge of Orchy,  I watched my train vanish into the distance then spread my map out over the platform.  After ten minutes or so, I had plotted another, much longer route.

I set off from the station and headed along the West Highland Way, past the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and onwards towards Victoria Bridge. As I left the wooded area, Loch Tulla and the hills to the west came into view, Beinn Dorain and the hills to the east of Bridge of Orchy dominating the landscape behind.  After stopping to chat to a young lass walking the WHW, I set off to Victoria Bridge, in awe of the landscape under clear blue skies.

Once at Victoria Bridge, I left the WHW and continued along the track beside Abhain Shira towards Clashgour Hut. Here, my original plan would have seen me leave the track and head up to the Munro of Stob a' Choire Odhair. Instead, I continued in the heat of the sun along the track towards Loch Dochard.

Once there, I enjoyed sitting beside the shore, the sky completely cloud free, Meall nanEun looking very inviting. As I set off to head along Coire Chaorach, I left the gravel path and started along a boggy track along the shore of the Loch. As I looked back, a group of youngsters which had been walking the same route arrived at the Loch. As they enjoyed the refreshing water, I had an inkling of envy at their banter and camaraderie.

I turned back to focus on the way ahead, in the shadows of the surrounding slopes, I headed up the corrie, deer scampering in the distance. As I reached the top of the corrie, in the shadow of Stob Coir' an Albannaich, the Etive mountains came into view. Still with a view of Loch Dochard to the east, I decided that this would be a good place to pitch. Enjoying the sunset, I set up my stove so that I could enjoy my evening meal, in anticipation of the day ahead.

I awoke to a windy but clear start, all that surrounded me being illuminated by the rising sun in a clear sky. I made a leisurely start and, after some photography and packing my things, I headed to collect some water from the slopes of Stob Coir' an Albannaich.

My first destination of the day was to be Meall nan Eun, and from where I started, there was an obvious path. Going over Meall Tarsuinn, Meall nan Eun became ever more imposing. Stob Coir' an Albannaich was ever present in the background. Once I’d got to the summit, I felt a sense of relief having bagged my first Munro of the trip.

My descent of Meall nan Eun towards Coire nan Cnamh was a bit more tricky, being more rocky, so took some time. Once there, I had a steep ascent onto the ridge that led to Stob Ghabhar. Under the increasing intensity of the sun, it was tough and was a relief to get onto the ridge.

I then set about my journey to Munro number two, enjoying the unhindered views of the mountains all around. My progress was not as rapid as I had hoped, sweat pouring from my brow with every footstep.

My route then took me over Stob a’Bhruaich Leith and Sron a’ Ghearrain until I reached the summit of Stob Ghabar. Here I decided to rest and eat. Ahead of me was Stob a’ Choire Odhair and Coirein Lochain, clear views of mountains further afield in all directions. Suddenly, the summit became busy and, in the sky, paragliders seemed to appear out of nowhere. Making the most of the weather, I took my boots off and relaxed for what became an hour, before I decided to head down and make my way to Bridge of Orchy. Despite the weather and lure, Stob a’ Choire Odhair would have to wait for another day.

I made my way from the summit, heading for the ridge to the east before taking a path that follows a fenceline on Stob Maol. Descending was still hard work in the heat but, once past a waterfall, the ground levelled out somewhat before meeting the track back to Clashgour Hut. From here, I retraced my steps back to Bridge of Orchy, first heading towards Victoria Bridge and Loch Tulla, continuing once again along the West Highland Way, with Beinn Dorain looming more with every step.

The Bridge of Orchy Hotel provided a pleasant and welcoming sight and, after stopping off for a cold pint of lemonade, I headed to the station for my train back to Glasgow, from where I would get the lowland sleeper back south.

After a chat with a former railway worker staying in one of the cottages on the platform, I boarded my train, having enjoyed one of the most satisfying weekends in the mountains that I have experienced.