Thursday, 17 February 2011

Yanking thon big nasty skelf oot

Stob Ban in the Mamores has been a thorn in my side for quite some time now, and on Saturday there I finally got the wee figurative tick. I'm not one who goes into the hills to just tick them off like they are some sort of trophy to be collected before moving on to the next one. That attitude towards hill walking normally irritates me. For me it's about spending time outdoors and moving through the mountains under my own steam. The beauty and tranquility of the landscape allow me to escape the drudgery and stresses brought about by our modern lifestyle. Anyway, after no less than 3 failed attempts to get to the summit I was damn well hoping I'd manage it this time.

I've mentioned before but I'll say it again...I hate trying to come off of night shift but it can have benefits. Like being able to jump out of bed wide awake at 05:30 on a Saturday morning. Bright as a button I was as I grabbed my pack and headed for the car, still chewing my Vegemite toast. The drive up the well known A82 was effortlessly quiet and serene between the smatterings of rain. As I crossed Rannoch Moor and sped my way into Glen Coe the dark clouds began to break up with wee patches of cheery blue peeking through. I was in a good mood as I said cheerio to the two hill walkers I picked up thumbing a lift down Glen Nevis. I hope they had a good day on the Ring of Steall. I locked the car while admiring the bulk of Carn Dearg and the Ben towering above me, and shouldering my pack, I sauntered off up the track along the lower slopes of Sgurr a Mhaim.

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As I climbed up in to the steep side glen I found myself dilly-dallying along with no real purpose other than to visit the summit of Stob Ban at some point during the day. My original route had had me going around the horseshoe taking in Mullach nan Coirean as well, but the two hitchhikers I met earlier had pretty much echoed Scott's blog post from a few weeks ago. When chatting in the car, they said that they had done it the day before and that the descent was truly horrible with all the felled logs. I somehow just didnae fancy that and the prospect of a slow wander up this glen just seemed to appeal more and more the deeper into it I got.

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As I neared reaching the Coire Mhusgain the clouds began to gather overhead and and eventually burst, letting out a cold wet sleet that immediately started to go right through my windproof top and heavyweight winter breeks. Quickly I pulled on my waterproofs and climbed on towards the bealach, the wind beginning to pick up a little as I gained height.

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I was soon warm again inside my layer of Goretex and whatever it is that my ancient old Montane trousers are made of?? I was happy feeling the elements on my face as I climbed still higher and then, just as I reached the wee flat bit around 650m at the back of the Coire, the cloud started to lift out as quick as it had come in. Within 10 minutes I was feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and looking at white slopes with blue skies above again.

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I stopped for a while putting on crampons and taking far, far too many pictures. I had a bite to eat and just simply enjoyed being there wandering about with my hands in my pockets and looking at the views. It's great this outdoors lark, ain't it? I just can't get my head around those folk who say they'd rather be sitting in at home in front of the telly week in week out instead of being out enjoying what this grand country has to offer. Eventually though, I packed up my stuff and continued climbing up the ever steepening slopes to the bealach. I had a summit to tick off after all. Quickly I found myself swathed in mist again as it came pouring in over the bealach from the south.

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Once on top I took another bearing to start heading to the east and skirting around the Coire. I'd been seeing the corniced edges of the coire from below however, and tried to take this into account. I wanted to steer clear of them and in this visibility it would be too easy to find myself walking onto one I thought. As I plodded on through the murky white I slowly began to realise that I must have made an error as I still wasn't climbing as steeply as I was expecting. I stopped and thought about how long I had been walking for and what the terrain under my feet had been doing? What the angle of the slope had felt like? I consulted the contours on the map and knew that I should be heading much more to my right than I had. I turned 90 degs on the spot and headed off in my new direction cautiously as I approached the coire rim. Gradually the slope began to rise the way I expected it too and soon enough appearing out of the gloom I found the coire's edge dropping away steeply in front. Funny thing is, I was never panicked or worried. As soon as I realised my mistake I dealt with it methodically and calmly. I still had the GPS hiding in my pack as another aid if required anyway.

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Feeling slightly pleased with myself for sorting out the minor geographical embarrassment with ease and contemplating whether or not to stick it up here or not I skirted around the coire and started picking my way up the snow covered, scree strewn slopes onto the summit. The going was tough and I was finding my crampons as much of a hindrance as they were a necessity on the slippery quartz boulders just beneath the wet snow. Frequently I found my crampon points catching on the rocks and sending my feet off at ankle breaking angles for the not so cautious. Eventually I slowly cleared this tiring rough terrain and found myself on the snow covered summit. There were no footsteps in the fresh snow and I took great delight in leaving a single line of prints to the cairn.

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Tick!

I hung around stamping my feet and hoping the wind would blow the cloud out again. After all my efforts, I wanted to see something from up here. Eventually my patience was rewarded and although it wasn't the spectacular grand vistas I was hoping for, it was certainly atmospheric and as memorable a mountain experience I've had as any.

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The cold began to creep back into my bones after a while and I gave in waiting for the weather to clear. I could see the visibility improving all the time but decided to drop down off the summit to where it was more sheltered. Gradually the mists cleared as I descended, and I must admit that I was rather amused when I spotted my earlier footprints heading off in the wrong direction then stopping abruptly with a small area of snow stamped flat where I must have been reading the map before veering back on course again. As the skies cleared out further, again the camera came out to be pointed at the scenery and my pace slowed again to that of a dilly-dallyer. I cared not a jot for anything except for the views in front of me and wondered what attempt number 5 will be like?

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9 comments:

  1. Stob Ban is well known for its potential to cause navigational embarrassments - well done for avoiding them! ;-)

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  2. Nice shots matey! Only time we tried to get up there we failed, that was with you I think? That time we were staying at Inchree and we met Petesy and Bobinson half way up as they were escaping a really bad nights wild camp that tried its best to trash their Lasercomp.

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  3. I love that you are so clearly, completely & publicly converted :P

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  4. Only just Kate, only just. I'll be willing to bet there are loads of folk who don't realise they are walking down hill instead of up until they find themselve standing on the WHW.

    Aye, Jamie that was when the "Man who ought to be in number 6" made his debut ;o) It was also attempt number 2!

    Louise, I've already publically admitted that I think it not only tastes better it but has a much better spreading consistancy. I couldn't have married an Aussie otherwise ;o)

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  5. Well done that man :-D

    Took me three attempts to tick that one off then we came off the wrong ridge. Me thinks that hill has some jinx on it

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  6. I'll probably wait till the logging stuff has been cleared before I attempt Mullach nan Coirean and revisit Stob Ban again. I reckon the views would be amazing on a clear day. I particularly liked the views of the Aonachs I was getting between the clouds.

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  7. We may well join you as we got nae view from the top either as it was a very dreich day.

    All the Mamores are worth another visit due to the 360 degree view that you get from them all :-)

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  8. Thorougly enjoyed that Sandy - photies, description, sentiment, the lot.



    PS - it took me four (count 'em, four) attempts to get up Bidean nam Bian. I'm claiming the record for Munro related failure.
    ;)

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  9. Thanks Scott.

    I like how everybody is admitting their minor defeats on here. We're all friends and nobody will judge you...even if it was raining a bit or you followed a Morley path™ ;o)

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