Sunday 29 April 2012

Glen Etive Hills Backpack

Last weekend, Colin and I spent an excellent two days backpacking in the hills to the south of Glen Etive.  The weather was significantly better than forecast and, apart from a handful of other hill walkers on the Saturday, we saw no one else all weekend.  We had a good high camp spot in one of the bealachs with good views, and we got a view from the top of every Munro!

This post is an index on my blog posts on the trip, which I have updated to include more photos and maps of our routes, and there's also a link to more of my photos from the weekend.
  • Day 1 - Glen Etive road to bealach to N of Beinn nan Aighenan (the short way)
  • Day 2 - Bealach to N of Beinn nan Aighenan to Glen Etive road (the longer way!)
  • Photos from the trip 
Beinn nan Aighenan

Sunday 22 April 2012

Backpacking in the Glen Etive Hills - Day 2

Distance: 16km; Ascent: 1060m; Dry, mainly clear and sunny; with Colin

The alarm went off at 7am and upon looking outside we discovered that the cloud had dropped overnight so we were now surrounded by mist!  Therefore neither of us were particularly motivated to get a move on.

When we did eventually start walking it was 9:15am and the cloud was beginning to thin and lift.  We ascended up the south ridge of Meall nan Tri Tighearnan, following occasional very faint paths back into the mist.  Soon we reached the more well trodden ridge line and turned right to ascend up to the cairn which marked the summit of Meall nan Tri Tighearnan (Corbett Top).

The summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor (uploaded from my phone on the walk)
After a quick breather we descended to the east and began the snowy accent of our first Munro of the day.  At around 10:15am we reached the summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor (Munro, Marilyn), from where there were occasional views north to the peaks on the far side of Glen Etive.  Cloud kept blowing past us and intermittently obscuring the view, thus making it difficult to photograph!

View NW from Glas Bheinn Mhor
Ben Starav just coming out of the cloud from Glas Bheinn Mhor
We descended the ridge to the east on a good path to reach the bealach.  Here the path headed off down into the coire, but our way lay onwards and upwards across boulder fields and a steep ascent.  Eventually the slope angle eased and we stopped for a moment to admire the views of the surrounding hills now that they were all free of cloud.

Glas Bheinn Mhor from the NE
We took a curving line up the gently angled, snow covered, slopes to reach the summit of Stob Coir'an Albannaich (Munro, Marilyn) at around midday.

On the summit of Stob Coir'an Albannaich
It was now lunchtime, so we sat on the summit admiring the excellent views whilst enjoying our tasty lunch of wraps, spicy cheese, salami and chorizo.  Afterwards we descended the snowy east ridge for a few hundred metres before finding a safe place to descend down towards the bealach.  The snow was a good angle for glissading and so that's how we made much of our descent - far easier than walking!

Remains of old cornices on the summit of Stob Coir'an Albannaich
Buachaille Etive Mor and the northern Black Mount from Stob Coir'an Albannaich
From the bealach we ascended up to the summit cairn of Meall Tarsuinn (Corbett Top).  After a brief rest for some mango, we continued along the ridge to reach the summit off our final hill for the day: Meall nan Eun (Munro, Marilyn).  The views from here were some of the best of the while weekend and we estimated that we could see 50 Munros from here, including Ben Nevis whose summit had just come out of the cloud.

Loch Tulla and the Bridge of Orchy hills from Meall nan Eun
Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries from Meall nan Eun
Once we had finished taking in all the views, we retraced our steps for a few hundred metres before continuing down the north west ridge.  Soon the ground became steep and craggy, so we had to carefully pick our way down to the coire below.  By now the sun was back out and it was beginning to feel quite warm.

Looking down Glen Ceitlein
We crossed the coire floor on intermittently wet boggy ground, interspersed with bone dry ground.  Eventually we picked up the path, which we followed below an impressive looking gully on Stob Dubh.  The valley floor around here was very pleasant and would probably make a nice camp spot.  We continued along the path to reach a landrover track which we followed back to the car, where we arrived shortly before 4:30pm.  It had been an excellent two days of backpacking and the weather had been significantly better than forecast :)

Allt Ceitlein

Saturday 21 April 2012

Backpacking in the Glen Etive Hills - Day 1

Distance: 10km; Ascent: 1200m; Mainly dry with occasional sunshine; with Colin

After consulting the weather forecast and concluding that we had no way of knowing which hills were likely to escape the threatened thundery showers, we decided to head to Glen Etive for a couple of days backpacking.  Therefore at 11:30 this morning we set off walking from near the end of the Glen Etive road.

River Etive, looking upstream from bridge
It was warm and sunny as we followed the estate road over the River Etive to reach Coileitir, where we picked up a boggy path that traversed the hillside in a south westerly direction for just under a kilometre.  We boulder hopped across the reasonable sized river to reach a better path on its far side.

The Allt nam Meirleach
We followed the reasonable path, ignoring the fork to Ben Starav, to continue southwards above the deep rocky gorge complete with impressive waterfalls.  Soon after 1 we stopped at a convenient rock for lunch of wraps with spicy cheddar and salami.  After lunch, we continued upwards up the steepening slopes complete with snow patches to reach the bealach.

The Allt nam Meirleach, with Glas Beinn Mhor beyond     Waterfall near the top of the Allt nam Meirleach
There were excellent views from the bealach; Ben Cruachan looked very impressive to the south, and we could pick out most of the Glen Coe mountains to the north.

Looking north from the bealach into Glen Etive and the Glencoe hills beyond
From the bealach, we followed a faint traversing path south east across boulder fields to reach a second, lower, bealach.  Here it was sheltered from the wind, so we stopped for a break on some nice warm rocks.

Beinn nan Aighenan
After sufficient rest we began our ascent of the north ridge of Beinn nan Aighenan.  There were good views to the east of an impressive storm over Loch Tulla, which we hoped would pass to the south of us, and as we ascended it became clear that this would be the case.

Approaching storm over Loch Tulla
Higher up the ridge was covered in soft snow, which was quite deep in places and hence made for slow going.  We reached the summit of Beinn nan Aighenan (Munro, Marilyn) at around 4pm.  There were fantastic views from the summit across to the sunny, snow capped mountains of Argyll and the Glen Coe area.

Summit of Beinn nan Aighenan
On the summit of Beinn nan Aighenan
After admiring the views we retraced our steps northwards.  By now it was clear that although the earlier storm had missed us, there were more dark clouds heading our way.  The rain started shortly before we reached the bealach and we decided to camp around here for the night.  Therefore we ascended briefly north away from the rocky bealach to find a nice flat grassy spot to camp for the night at just after 5pm.

Our overnight pitch in the bealach to the north of Beinn nan Aighenan
I was feeling quite tired so I had an early evening nap whilst Colin went to bag some random tops on the far side off the coire.  On his return we had dinner of couscous, pepper, chorizo and cheese followed by chocolate mouse and hot chocolate.  After dinner we sampled the fine New Zealand whisky that I had brought with me, which was nice but it seemed a little strange to be drinking non Scottish whisky in the Highlands!

Evening clouds over the Ben Cruachan hills

Photo of Beinn nan Aighenan, uploaded from my phone on the walk

Thursday 19 April 2012

Not Loch Mullardoch

Due to various reasons, Colin & I will no longer be going backpacking for four days in the hills around Loch Mullardoch this weekend.  However instead we are planning a couple of days of walking in the Southern Highlands, possibly a backpack in the Glen Etive hills or possibly a couple of days walks in the hills near Killin.  We're going to finalise our plans tomorrow on the drive north with reference to the weather forecasts.  Regardless of what we decide, I plan to post updates on here over the weekend...

Sunday 15 April 2012

The Deepdale Horseshoe

Distance: 15.5km; Ascent: 1140m; Occasional sunshine, cold & windy; Solo

It had been several months since I was last in the Lake District, so I decided it was time for my first trip there this year.  I had been thinking about walking the Deepdale Horseshoe for a while and so shortly after 9:30am I set off walking from Patterdale in the warm sunshine.  I ascended up past Oxford Crag to reach my first summit of the day: Arnison Crag (Wainwright, Birkett), with excellent views back down to Ullswater.

Summit cairn of Arnison Crag
I followed a narrow path across the undulating ground to the SW to reach Trough Head, from where I began my ascent of Birks.  By now it was quite cold and windy, so I stopped part-way up to don an extra layer and my leggings.  Shortly after 11am I reached the summit of Birks (Nuttall, Wainwright, Birkett), which was marked by a small cairn and an intriguing small lump mounted on one of the rocks by the cairn; apparently this is to do with the OS and it is a type of trigpoint.

OS bolt on Birks
I followed the flattish ground to the SW before beginning my ascent of St Sunday Crag.  At the obvious path junction, I forked round to the left to reach the subsidiary summit of Gavel Pike (Birkett) from where there were excellent views into Deepdale and across to Hart Crag and Fairfield.

Hart Crag and Fairfield above upper Deepdale
By now I was ready for lunch, so I found a nice sheltered spot between Gavel Pike and St Sunday Crag, just off the ridge but with excellent views into Deepdale.  After lunch, I crossed a few small snow patches and soon reached the summit of St Sunday Crag (Marilyn, Nuttall, Wainwright, Birkett).

St Sunday Crag from the SW
I descended down the easy ridge, with occasional jogging, to reach Deepdale Hause.  I took a direct line up the north ridge of Fairfield, with occasional scrambling, to reach the small subsidiary summit of Cofa Pike (Birkett).  Again there were excellent views down to Grisedale Tarn and across to many of the surrounding hills, including the Helvellyn range to the north.

Seat Sandal and Grisedale Tarn
Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn from N ridge of Fairfield
It was strangely sheltered from the wind as I continued up the north ridge of Fairfield (Marilyn, Nuttall, Wainwright, Birkett) to reach the summit, where the wind reappeared with a vengeance!  The summit was busy, so I only lingered long enough to admire the views before heading onto Hart Crag, where I found a nice sunny spot out of the wind to rest with views towards Windermere.

Summit of Hart Crag
From the summit cairn of Hart Crag (Nuttall, Wainwright, Birkett), I descended to the north west towards the ridge of Hartsop above How.  On several previous occasions, I had looked down to the ridge from here and concluded that it looked like a nice way up or down the hill so I was quite excited to actually be about to walk it!

Looking down the ridge of Hartsop above How from Hart Crag
From the top of the ridge there were excellent views along the ridge and beyond to the hills to the north of High Street.  The first section of the ridge was quite steep and I choose a direct line down the rocky sections with some easy sections of scrambling to descend. Once the rocky section was over, I jogged down some of the easy grassy ridge as I needed to get some practise in for the Saunders later this year!

On summit of Hartsop above How
Soon I reached the little rocky outcrop that marked the summit of Hartsop above How (Wainwright, Birkett).  I was now out of the wind again and it was beginning to feel quite warm, so gloves and hat were no longer necessary!  I continued down the pleasant ridge to reach the little summit of Gale Crag (Birkett), before continuing down, with occasional jogging, to reach the woods of Deepdale Park where the trees were pleasantly green with new leaves.

New leaves on the trees in Deepdale Park
After passing through the woods and crossing a field, I met the A592.  I followed the road northwards back towards Patterdale, with the pavement crossing between sides of the road every few hundred metres.  I passed the youth hostel, where I stayed on my very first hill walking trip to the Lake District some 12.5 years ago, and soon reach the post office where I bought some very nice caramel shortbread.  I got back to the car at approx 3:30pm after an excellent 6 hours of Lakeland walking just as a shower started, which was good timing!

Saturday 14 April 2012

Shining Tor from Pym Chair

Distance: 6.5km; Ascent:180m; Initially sunny, but then cold & windy; with Lynsey & Isabel

It was bright and sunny in Stockport when we woke up this morning so we decided to go for a morning family stroll in the Peak District.  We set off from Pym Chair at around 10:30am with Isabel on my back in her rucksack carrier.  After just under a kilometre we reached the summit of Cats Tor (Dewey), from where there were excellent views south towards Shutlingsloe.

View towards Shutlingsloe from Cats Tor
View north from Cats Tor
We pressed on along the good path as the sky clouded over, although it did remain dry but there was a cold wind.  We reached the summit of Shining Tor (Marilyn, Dewey), and nearby trig point, at around 11:30am, where we had a bit of break before retracing our steps back to the car, which we arrived at around 12:30pm.

Shining Tor trig point
Summit of Shining Tor
Hopefully the weather will be good tomorrow as I'm off to the Lake District for the day to walk the Deepdale Horseshoe.

Friday 6 April 2012

Easter 2012: Past Backpacks and Future Plans

Last Easter, I spent 4 days backpacking in the central highlands between Rannoch and Corrour stations.  However this year I won't be off for an Easter backpack as Lynsey will be backpacking instead.  She has a nice route planned from Corrour station to Fort William over the Mamores in preparation for her TGO Challenge route in May.

But it's not just going to be Lynsey having some backpacking fun as I have at least two backpacking trips to the Highlands planned in the next few months.  In two weeks time, Colin and I plan to have another go at the Loch Mullardoch round that we had originally planned  to do back in October last year.  Then I'm also planning a 5 day trip over the jubilee bank holiday weekend in early June; no plans yet for where yet but it's likely to be somewhere in the north-west highlands or possibly the Cairngorms.

Corrour Station (taken on Easter Monday 2011)