Lochearnhead – a couple of Corbett’s

Arriving in the car park at Lochearnhead I was amazed by the amount of activity in the car park. It was actually a 10k swim along the Loch, with what seemed like substantial kayak cover. It was interesting to see Nordkapp’s being unloaded on the shores of a Loch. This was just a distraction, I had arrived to walk a couple of Corbett’s with the prospect of some pretty good weather, something which has been in short supply this week.
Finding my way into Glen Kendrum was a bit convoluted but once I was on the track up the valley the views were great. Following my incident with the bull yesterday I was surprised to find a deer standing in my way this morning, but in contrast to the bull, the deer seemed more scared of me than I was of him and quickly disappeared.
Once in the Glen my pace increased and quite quickly I had arrived at the highest point of the pass, ready to tackle the steeper slopes, which provided a barrier to the summit of Creag Mac Ranaich.  It was here that I had my first encounter with other walkers, of the week.  Quite a surprise, although it was Saturday so could perhaps be expected.

Glen Kendrum
Looking up Glen Kendrum on the walk in. Creag Mac Ranaich is visible on the right.  The track provided an easy route on both the ascent and the descent.
Creag Mac Ranaich
The steep slopes of Creag Mac Ranaich, from the col are clearly visible. Leaving the path too soon will put you on very steep slopes.  Care is needed on the descent to avoid moving too far to the left into the areas of cliffs

The slopes were pretty steep although there was a line of old fence posts, which gave an indication of the general route.  What made this Corbett particularly special were the superb views in all directions.  Ben Lawers to the north, Ben Lomond to the south, Ben More to the west and Ben Vorlich to the east, with numerous other Munro’s in between.

Ben Vorlich
Looking east with several Munro’s in view, including Ben Vorlich.
Ben Lawers
Looking north across Loch Tay towards the Ben Lawers range.  Killin is at the head of the loch.

A quick break on the summit and an entertaining descent took me back to the pass, ready for the climb up the other side of the valley.
Every now and again there was a slight hint of a path but generally the walking was across rough terrain. The ridge along to the summit of Meall an t-Seallaidh was wide and easy going.  The trig point and small cairn confirmed the accuracy of the earlier navigation, so I celebrated the last summit of the day with lunch.  Unfortunately some midges decided to join me so it wasn’t too long before I was heading down the grassy slopes to rejoin the path in Glen Kendrum and head towards Lochearnhead.
A lovely day on a couple of stunning Corbett’s.

Cam Chreag
Looking east from the summit of Corbett Top Cam Chreag. Ben Vorlich dominates the view
Meall an t-Seallaidh
The view north from the second Corbett of the day, Meall an t-Seallaidh.
Lochearnhead
Almost back to car with extensive views along Loch Earn.

Meall nam Maigheach – a short day

Meall nam Maigheach wasn’t my initial target on what started off as a very wet day.  I decided a longer walk at lower level followed by a reasonably quick ascent of a single Corbett was in order.  Car parked, waterproofs on and a steady pace set on the road up the valley.  Unfortunately in less than half a mile I had retreated, a rather large bull was blocking my way.  I am no expert in bull behaviour but this one didn’t look friendly and there was no alternative route

Large bull
This rather large bull, with its surrounding cows encouraged me to change my proposed route.  Just after I took the photograph he moved into the middle of the road.

Due the bull incident and the weather, a shorter walk was in order. I also considered whether it was worth actually heading out for a walk. Over the years I have probably spent hundreds of days wandering around the mountains of the U.K. in the rain and have to admit it is gradually loosing its appeal. On the other hand Jersey to Killin is quite some distance and I wasn’t sure when I would be passing this way again, so the decision was made, on with the waterproofs and boots.
The one advantage of the hills around the Ben Lawers range is the height at which you start walking. There is a small parking area near the large cairn and the northern end of Lochran na Lairige, I wasn’t the first person to arrive but did manage to squeeze in, taking the last place.
The walk up Meall nan Maigheach was described as a pleasant walk to do on a sunny evening, actually doing it on a rainy Friday afternoon free’s up days with better weather for more suitable challenges.
In common with every other walk that I have done this week I didn’t see another person once I left the road but today’s highlight was the number of grouse that I encountered. Strangely there were plenty on the way up but none on the way down. They were the first grouse that I had seen all week. The path quickly faded and in places the going was rather damp under foot, hardly surprising with the rain that has fallen over the last few days. Amazingly though the cloud lifted above the nearby summits giving tantalizing views of past walks and future possibilities.

Meall nam Maigheach summit
Looking north west from Meall nam Maigheach. Loch an Daimh is visible in the centre.

Lunch was taken on the summit and playing the ViewRanger app quickly gave an idea of what was hidden behind the clouds. Before too much criticism heads my way I know that you can use a paper map but everybody enjoys playing with new toys.
A quick return to the car and a drive to Killin for coffee and cake plus the obligatory visit to the Killin Outdoor Centre and Shop, where I normally find something to purchase.
Actually quite a satisfying day despite the weather and the early encounter with the bull. Just a small mountain, only 3.5 miles walked and 927 feet of ascent but Meall nam Maigheach is somewhere worth saving for a sunny evening or a wet afternoon.

Mountain Lake
Looking back towards Lochan na Lairige as I climbed away from the road. the water level was surprisingly low.
ViewRanger picture
If you are not certain what is behind the clouds just use the ViewRanger App to find out. Sadly Schiehallion wasn’t visible today.
An Stuc
The cloud lifted allowing views of some of the dramatic summits along the Ben Lawers ridge including An Stuc.

Two classic Scottish Munro’s

The forecast was for rain spreading from the south so we looked for a couple of Munro’s which might just be in the rain shadow of the mountains to the south.  We chose Beinn Achaladair and Beinn a’Chreachrain, two mountains just to the north of the Bridge of Orchy.
I had seen these mountains on numerous occasions when heading A82, whilst en route to or back from a sea kayaking trip on the west coast coast of Scotland.  This would be the first time that I had the opportunity to venture onto their slopes.
Arriving at the start there was an immediate change to the, the car park is no longer close to the farm as mentioned in the guide books or shown on the 1:25,000 O.S. map but just on the right as you leave the main road.  If we had read the excellent walkhighlands website before venturing onto the hills, as opposed to afterwards we would have prevented a couple of surprises!
The way onto the hills is clearly signposted from near the car park and we were soon following the route into Coire Achaladair.  The munro’s to the south and east were gradually becoming obscured but our first summit was remaining cloud free.  Perhaps this rain shadow thing was working.
Immediately to the south was Beinn an Dothaidh, where 18 months ago we had spent one of our best days in the mountains ever.  Today there was no snow, but also no people.  We didn’t see a single person from the time we left to car until we returned nearly 8 hours later.
The ridge to the south summit of Beinn Achaladair provided delightful walking with superb views but as we ascended the main summit slopes the cloud base suddenly dropped, the wind picked up and the rain started.  Fortunately it was on our backs so wasn’t too unpleasant.  The drop down onto Bealach an Aoghlain was entertaining in the rain and the mist but as we reached the col the clouds dispersed, not to re-appear on the summits for the rest of the day.
We carried on along the ridge to the summit of Beinn a’Chreachain. at 1081 metres the 61st highest Munro.  There were expansive views across Rannoch Moor but the wind didn’t encourage us to hand around so we quickly started our descent.  It was reasonably quick and easy going but we made one slight mistake when we crossed a stile, it would have been better to stay on the outside of the fenced area.
We could see the farm track on the other side of the railway line and the river and assumed that we would be soon striding out towards the car.  As we only read the up to date infomation on walkhighlands on our return the lack of a bridge came as a complete surprise.  It was a great opportunity to practice our river crossing technique but it could be a serious obstacle after heavy rain or during the winter months.
A great day out, with a couple of new Munro’s and a few surprises along the way.  We walked 13.7 miles (22 kilometres) and climbed 4352 feet (1326 metres), which was further and higher than mentioned in our guidebooks, not that we are complaining.

Mountains
Looking north along the ridge towards Beinn a’Chreachain. The cloud level was about to drop and the rain start.
Summit
Nicky heading up the summit slopes of Beinn a’Chreachain. The steep descent from Beinn Achaladair is visible behind.
Cairn
Nicky on the summit of Beinn a”Chreachain. The rain had passed but the wind continued.
Mountain view
Looking across Rannoch Moor from close to the summit of Beinn a’Chreachain
Corrie and loch
If you are not certain, just take a photograph with Viewranger, it will give you the name and distance.
Crossing a stream
Nicky crossing the Water of Tulla. The lack of a bridge came as a bit of a surprise.

 

50th Munro – A Scottish Mountain day.

We were heading to Scotland to hopefully tick off a few more Munro’s.  A Munro is a mountain in Scotland over 3,000 feet or 914 metres and there are quite alot of them.  As usual when we head to Scotland there seemed to be a degree of uncertainty about the weather in the week ahead, apart from Monday, where there was a high degree of confidence for dreadful conditions.
Plans were changed and aspirations modified but we settled for an early start on Ben Challum (Beinn Challuim) a solitary Munro to the north of the Crianlarich to Tyndrum road.  By 08.40 we had parked the car and were heading up the mountain, in surprisingly dry conditions.  As we knew only too well, this wasn’t going to last.
Although we have always used paper maps and continue to carry a variety of superb maps produced by the Ordnance Survey and Harvey this was the first time that I had used the Viewranger App on my phone in the mountains, I had used it before in coastal environments so was aware of its potential.
The cloud base dropped and the rain increased as we made our way up the ridge, initially to Ben Challum South Top, a Munro top before continuing to the main summit.  Visibility was pretty restricted so we saw absolutely nothing from the top.
The descent was clearly quicker but quite entertaining.  The rocks were very greasy, requiring care but even with the extra stability of our walking poles we both hit the ground on a couple of occasions.  There was so much water running down the hillside that possibly our best preparation would have been a couple of hours on a stand up paddle board, to improve our balance on moving water.
On the mountain we didn’t see another person but amazingly in the couple of hundred metres back to the car with coincided with the West Highland Way we saw 18 other walkers.  We had completed our day but were aware that many of them still had some distance to go in what was becoming heavy and persistent rain.
Looking at the Viewranger app we were able to obtain the following statistics, amongst others:
Length: 7.35 miles
Total Ascent: 3202 feet
Maximum elevation: 3344 feet
It will be interesting to see how these compare to our future walks in the coming months.

Nicky
Nicky starting up the path on the northern side of Ben Challum. Clouds are starting to drop.
Deer Fence
Crossing the deer fence. I can’t remember seeing another sideways stile.
Fence
For quite a lot of the ascent the path follows the line of a fence. Making navigation fairly straightforward.
Mountain top
Me on the south summit of Ben Challum. The rain had really set in.
Ben Challum
Taken with ViewRanger app. The Skyline feature names the geographical features which are within the field of view. Unfortunately it doesn’t take weather conditions into account because we couldn’t see anything.
Stream
Nicky descending from the south summit of Ben Challum. On the way up this had just been a gentle stream The water was rising rapidly.
River
Crossing the bridge across the River Fillan on our return. On the way out shingle banks had been visible but the rising waters had covered them.

Anything but boring – Ben Chonzie

Anything but boring – Ben Chonzie
It is obvious that some mountains are more interesting and/or challenging than others and at times the write up they receive in guide books is less than complementary.  Ben Chonzie is one of the mountains which falls into this category. We decided to ignore the written cautions, believing that any mountain in full winter conditions has to be interesting.
As we drove up the narrow Glen Lednock a red kite flew up in from of us, surely a positive omen.  Other people had clearly had the same idea as the small car park was virtually full.  The initial route followed a well defined track which gradually disappeared under a covering of snow.  The snow was largely unconsolidated as we floundered our way uphill.  The thought of breaking a trail through the snow without the benefit of walking poles didn’t bear thinking about.
Ben Chonzie is the highest point in a large area of moorland and reputed to have a healthy population of mountain hares, although we didn’t see any on our day on the mountain.   Cameron McNeish, in his book on “The Munros”, states that it has “…. a reputation of being one of the dullest Munros in the land”.  It is easy to imagine that in the summer the long walk in along the land rover track wouldn’t be the most interesting way to spend a day in the mountains but on a bright winters day, with the snow down low, then Ben Chonzie (the 250th highest Munro)  is a hill well worth considering.
Beautiful walking conditions.
Cutting a track through the deeper snow, our route had followed the line of the valley , which is discernible behind Nicky.
Heading up the slopes, using previous footsteps was no guarantee that you wouldn’t fall through to your waist.
As we followed the broad ridge towards the summit, snow was blown across the slopes and at times stinging our faces.
On the summit.  It was bitterly cold in the wind so it was a case of a quick sandwich before heading for the shelter of the lower slopes.

Memorable Mountain Day – Bridge of Orchy

Memorable Mountain Day – Bridge of Orchy
The last few weeks have seen some superb conditions in the Scottish mountains and we were fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of some of them.  There are two mountains, which dominate the A82 above the Bridge of Orchy and are a familiar sight to those people who drive along this trunk road.  Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh were selected as our target for the day.
The forecast was perfect for a day in the mountains so it was a matter of packing the rucksacks and heading up.  Conditions couldn’t have been much better.
What followed was probably the best day I have ever spent in the mountains in the UK, at least I can’t remember any which were better. I suppose any day when you wear crampons for six hours has to be a good day.  At the end of the day it seemed as if we were the last people off the hills, making full use of available daylight, before heading off for our celebratory pint.
 Leaving the Bridge of Orchy.  Our route took us right from the col initially before dropping back down and heading up to the left.
 On the ridge towards the summit of Beinn Dorain.  Views of distant summits were starting to appear.
 Looking along the summit ridge of Beinn an Dothaidh.  At this point the wind had dropped completely.
 Nicky approaching one of the summits along the ridge.
 We left the summit just after 3.00, we were the only people remaining up apart from one other person heading down the snow slope.  He is the black dot just below the ridge.  Apart from him we had the mountain to ourselves.
 Nicky on the descent.
A summit photo taken by somebody who isn’t used to using an iPhone, judging by their finger in the bottom right hand corner.

Wildlife sightings by kayak

Over the years I have seen numerous species of bird, animals and other wildlife at quite close quarters whilst out paddling in my kayak.  In common with many other sea kayakers I thought that paddling in a sea kayak was the ultimate green vehicle.  The one form of marine vehicle, which was going to cause the least amount of disturbance to wildlife, either along the shore or on the water.
On reflection though I am not so sure we are as environmentally as friendly as we think we are.  I remember the indignation I felt when a wildlife watch boat off Shetland approach us and told us we were disturbing the birds.  I then watched the boat approach much closer to the cliffs than we had been with no visible impact on the thousands of birds, which were in the area.
On another occasion I recall paddling off the south coast of Skye.  There were numerous seals hauled out on the rocks and although we paddled out from the rocks there was some disturbance with a number of the seas entering the water.  One of the small boats which operated out of Elgol passed reasonably close to us before approaching the rocks so that the passengers could get a better view of the seals.  Surprisingly although the boat was closer than us the seals weren’t at all concerned.
Thinking of other meaningful interactions with wildlife of various shapes and sizes many of the closest encounters have been whilst have been sitting still in my kayak.  Puffins swimming close by, seals approaching the bow my my kayak, whales surfacing nearby, the list could go on.
So why didn’t these larger boats with engines disturb the wildlife?  One theory is that we are not a fixed shape, our paddles are rotating and at times the sunlight catches the blades.  We are a moving image and perhaps the wildlife concerned becomes confused whereas a boat is a fixed shape and so the animals become accustomed to the shape and less agitated.
Of course this might be complete rubbish but I think that it is worth considering the impact we have on wildlife, our environmental credentials may not be as robust as we think they are.  With the winter approaching be particularly thoughtful about those small wading birds who have traveled thousands of miles to find a regular food supply along our shoreline and then we paddle along, passing close to where they are roosting, causing them to take flight and wasting some of their hard earned energy resources.
Seeing wildlife in all its forms is one of the most memorable aspects of sea kayaking but lets slow down, give a bit more space and reduce the anxiety to those animals which call our seas and shoreline home.

Paddling in Shetland.  There were literally thousands of gannets plus numerous other species such as Puffins and Great Skua’s.  We didn’t need to approach the cliffs as we slowed down the birds came closer of their own accord.
This was a memorable day heading south along the west side of the Sleat Peninsula in Skye, for several miles we were accompanied by dolphins.  We didn’t follow them or chase after them, they just decided to be with us.
Basking Shark off Wiay.  Sitting and watching this magnificent creature swim alongside and underneath the kayaks was a very special experience.
 Whilst launching after lunch two whales appeared alongside us.  We sat for 30 minutes watching an amazing display and then as if they had had enough fun they just disappeared.  One of the reasons why kayaking off the west coast of Greenland is so memorable.
 This beautiful bird just swam past whilst waiting for some others in the group to launch.
It is always worth experimenting by pointing the camera down.  This was just a lucky shot but there were so many sea lions in the area it was worth trying a few underwater shots even if I couldn’t see what the camera was pointing at.