Hillwalking

The Black Mount double



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After years and years of asking me to go up the hills with him when I was a boy, my father and I finally managed to climb a couple of Munros together.

Being the old and experienced hillwalker, I let Billy choose where we’d go and Stob Ghabhar was the choice. Never happy with taking a back seat, I done a bit of research of my own on the hill and seen there was another Munro right next to it, Stob a’Choire Odhair. We’ll be doing that too then! Can’t waste a long walk in and only go up one of them.

So off we set. The weather was supposed to be calm that day but the clouds were forming and it looked like the rain was starting too. The summit of Stob Ghabhar was hidden behind low cloud so naturally we thought we’d be in for a wet day.

Stob Ghabhar (1090m) covered in cloud.

Stob Ghabhar (1090m) covered in cloud.

We saw some walkers doing the West Highland Way for the first five minutes as we were on the same track to begin with but we cut left to follow the Abhainn Shira river up to the Clashgour Hut and were soon on our own again. Turning right just after the hut signals the start of the long walk up a mostly rocky path following the Allt Toaig. We forked right further up, to tackle Stob a’Choire Odhair first. Up until this point Billy still thought it was up for debate whether we were doing both Munros or not and that we would make a decision here but I had my mind made up well before we started that we would be doing both so on we pressed up the steep path.

Abhainn Shira.

Abhainn Shira.

Coire Toaig and Stob a'Choire Odhair (945m).

Coire Toaig and Stob a’Choire Odhair (945m).

To be perfectly honest, the first mile of the day had killed me as we done it at a fairly high speed and I had only completed Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean a few days before so I don’t think my body had quite recovered from that ordeal yet. As the path got steeper though, somehow I started to find the going a bit easier and was soon bounding up the rocky path stopping every now and then for photography opportunities as the view of Stob Ghabhar opened up more and more. We were at this point still trying to work out what way to come back down the hill as there were no obvious paths to be seen of the descent from this angle.

Stob a'Choire Odhair (945m) getting steeper.

Stob a’Choire Odhair (945m) getting steeper.

Stob Ghabhar (1090m).

Stob Ghabhar (1090m).

Then we got to a large section of boulders which seemed to go on forever, false summit after false summit! I was desperate to stop for my lunch at this point but my guide for the day was having none of it so we kept on going until we were finally greeted with the summit cairn and the beautiful views behind it looking over Rannoch Moor. It was bloody baltic though, thanks to probably the strongest winds I’ve felt up the hills so far in my illustrious career!

Stob a'Choire Odhair (945m) summit.

Stob a’Choire Odhair (945m) summit.

It was at this point I think, that I realised I had just done my twelfth Munro, which meant only one thing… the dreaded unlucky number 13 would be next. What a way to tempt fate by climbing up a steep scree ridden path and crossing a mini Aonach Eagach ridge in dangerous winds! The descent down Stob a’Choire Odhair to the bealach at 668m was a painful one for me. Quite rocky with some tricky drops for anyone with dodgy knees. We were down in no time though though and back up the other side ready for the scree slope. Not before stopping for a break and to admire the view from above Coirein Lochain. Billy told me of a couple of camping trips down there in the past which look quite good fun to me now. Although getting down and back up from there could be a challenge.

Coirein Lochain. This looks a great place to camp!

Coirein Lochain. This looks a great place to camp!

Billy savouring the moment.

Billy savouring the moment.

The scree slope up towards Aonach Eagach was pretty steep and slippery in places but the views behind us and to the right towards the summit of Stob Ghabhar more than made up for it. The further up we got here the rockier the path became until one section the path disappeared completely as we had to clamber over some boulders being careful not to trip or get our feet stuck down a great hole.

Rannoch Moor and Stob a'Choire Odhair (945m).

Rannoch Moor and Stob a’Choire Odhair (945m).

The "path" up Stob Ghabhar (1090m).

The “path” up Stob Ghabhar (1090m).

After some more scrambling up, we eventually reached the top of the ridge. Although obviously not a patch on its namesake in Glencoe it still looked quite fun. The more I see sections like this on the hills the more I want to do some proper steep, narrow ridge walks like Aonach Eagach as it’s the best fun you can have up there. It was over in a few minutes though sadly and all we had left to do was the fairly easy walk up to the summit.

Stob Ghabhar (1090m).

Stob Ghabhar (1090m).

Looking back from the way we ascended, it was pretty steep. I’m glad we weren’t going back down the same side as it would possibly be quite dangerous. The ridge looked quite good from this side though, looking narrower and scarier than it actually was. I safely reached my 13th Munro summit after all and was promptly smacked in the face by some even stronger winds. Luckily some kind souls had built a wee summit shelter out of rocks. Never seen anything like it before, it was brilliant. Completely shielded us from the wind and kept us warm while we had the last of our sandwiches and readied ourselves for the long walk back down.

Looking back to where we started.

Looking back to where we started.

A great spot for a wee rest!

A great spot for a wee rest!

The walk down was pretty standard for a while, although quite strange to be following a fence the whole way so high up. Suddenly though we spotted a herd of deer below us on the path. Instead of walking straight towards them though, we thought it would be best to sneak around the other side of the hill and see if we could pop up closer for a good view of them. We eventually stuck our heads over some rocks and spotted them as close as we were going to get. Unfortunately I left my zoom lens for the camera at home as I hadn’t used it in countless trips. It just seemed like dead weight before and now was the time I wanted it most and didn’t have it. I had to do some sneaking about in the grass to get as close as possible but obviously they seen me in my bright red clothing and bolted away before I could get a decent shot!

After getting back on track, we kept on going towards the large waterfall ahead. That was our aim, whether the path went that way or not. But it turned out it pretty much took us straight there. We stopped and dipped our feet in the water before heading back down the rest of the track. Just before we met up with the path we started the day on, we had to cross the Allt Toaig which made me panic a bit when I seen it. I didn’t think I was going to manage it without falling flat on my face but after some encouragement from the old man I was over no bother at all. It could be quite tricky to cross without getting your feet wet if the river was in spate though.

Allt Toaig crossing.

Allt Toaig crossing.

The last hour or so of walking back to the car from here was easy on the knees and feet as the ground was relatively flat and thankfully not too rocky either. All in all though, it was a brilliant day in the hills and a new favourite Munro in Stob Ghabhar. The hidden Coirein Lochain, the steep scree slope and boulder section, along with the fun but short ridge walk and a beautiful descent past the waterfall not forgetting the amazing views up north towards Buachaille Etive Mor and Ben Nevis from the summit shelter.

An awesome day up an awesome mountain.

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