29 December 2014

Tales from the Tarmachan Ridge

Up and out of the hotel before breakfast and before any light was shed upon the day we headed for the Ben Lawers car park where the path to the Tarmachan Ridge started.

The light was just beginning to creep in from the surrounding hilliside as we got out of the car and changed into our boots.  For the first time this year I had my winter mountain boots on as the woman in the outdoor shop in Killin said that part of the route we'd need our crampons and ice axe so out came the good old faithful Mammut monolith GTX's.  After missing breakfast we had an empire biscuit to initially sustain us and then it was on with gloves and hats and we were ready for the off.

It wasnt long before the sun was streaming over the hills and the sky was bluer than blue.  This was turning out to be a spectacular day and if the weather held we were in for a superb walk.  Ben Lawers behind us was basking in the morning sunlight and looking spectacular.

The conditions were excellent.  Some tretcherous icey patches but mostly nice deepish snow that was hard going but a pleasure to walk in.  The path was straightforward and took us gently upwards.  We saw 2 other groups of people all heading in the same direction and enjoying this fine walking day.

At the first plateau the path took us up and over a false summit and there before us was a clear path almost vertical up through the snow gully.  Ice axes would definately be required (just incase of a slip) and we could see the other 2 groups of people ahead of us making their way up the steep gully, they looked like little ants.

It was a great route up, energy sapping but the bright sunshine and clear day made up for it.  We took our time and before long we had reached the summit where a group of lads were sitting having their lunch.  After being sheltered from the wind going up through the gully it suddenly hit us full force (not enough to blow us off our feet but enough to make your face tingle) at the summit cairn so hats and gloves were back on for the obligatory pics.

 We didnt stick around long on the summit as we had the rest of the ridge to walk and conditions whilst fine in the air on the ground were a bit slippy and always harder work in the snow so as we are always concious of the time, off we went along the path that would take us to the next summit, the one with the pointy bit and the ridge...oooooh!

On our way there the 360 degree views were immense.  We could see right over to Ben Nevis and the CMD route was clearly visible.  In another direction Ben More was prominent and everywhere you looked was mounds and mounds of white peaks.

The next peak, whilst not anything tickable, was a wee pointy affair with the delight of a short ridge walk on the other side.  I love a good ridge walk, being up on an airy arrete is incredibly exciting however I was  hoping that today's ridge wasnt going to be too icy.  I wasnt dissapointed.  It was snowy and the path was wide enough to divert any dodgy icy bits.  All in all the ridgy bit was too short and over before you knew it.

The trickiest bit of the ridge was the downward scramble at the end which luckily we didnt have to attempt as there was a downward bypass route to the right.  Looking back up at the scrambly bit it was just downward sheets of rock and ice and not something that I would like to have attempted either upwards or downwards.....perhaps in the summer though!

So on to the next and last peak of the day.  Again it wasnt anything tickable but still an integral part of the ridge so off we went.  The snow was quite deep here in some parts and the upward climb onto the summit area was a complete delight.  Ice axes  still in hand aided us through the deep white stuff and as our heads peeked above the rock onto the summit area the wind just took your breath away.  Wonderful day!

Now early afternoon we knew the light would start to leave us at 3pm so we decided to make our way down so a sharp left hand turn at the plateau area took us down through a gully (which was normally a little stream but iced up today)  to the area where the quarry is.  From there we would make our way to the road that would take us back round to where the car was.   The route down was straight forward and fun walking in the snow and dodging the ice.
 The day was one of the best days out we've had in a long time.  Another munro ticked off my list and near perfect conditions.  The last of the light was just leaving us as we reached the car park, cheeks rosy from the earlier sun, legs burning from the trudging in the snow and hearts happy at another wonderful days in the mountains.

26 December 2014

Boxing Day Ben - Ledi

Boxing Day was bright and clear and to counteract the excesses of Christmas day prosecco we headed for Callender just before first light to get Chris his first Corbett.  Ben Ledi, from what I can remember, is a lovely little Corbett with spectacular views (if you are lucky)

We hoped we'd be lucky today but as the mist and fog lay settled on Loch Lubnig obscuring our view of any hill we were doubtful.  Nevertheless we parked the car at the foot of the path and set off.  The first thing that was different now to the first time I wandered up Ledi was the trees.  The start of the walk was through a thick forested area then out onto an open path but all these initial trees were gone, sadly.  The path was open from the start and almost immmediately as we started to climb up the path the views started to open giving us a glimpse of the hill ahead.
It was an eerie atmosphere with mist swirling in and out both ahead and behind.
 The path however was good and it was a lovely cold crisp winters morning.  The frost was thick on the ground and where there should have been watery boggy bits there was hard ground so that was a plus.

Onwards and upwards the views just continued to pour out from each side.  Behind, to the left and to the right.  The cloud was still sitting thick and fast on the Loch but as the sun tried to peek out we could see over to where Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin was and the light was just starting to touch them.

The sun was trying so hard to come out and when it finally did poke its head through the clouds it gave a golden hue to everything.  Shadows created and light danced upon the snowy ground.  I didnt have my sunglasses with me but for the first time today I needed them.
The conditions were great and after the notorious 3 false summits we could finally see the memorial cross that indicated the top was in sight.  It had been a great walk up and we met a few nice folks along the way.

After stopping at the top for only a few mins as the cloud had come in again and offered us nothing in the way of views I was reminded of a sunny day a few years back where, in t shirts, the summit offered views as far as the eye could see.  Not today though, the cloud was firmly settled over us and visibility was to the edge of the top and no more.

We ventured off northwards and followed the path that would take us round towards Benvane but not that far.  We'd make a right turn and follow a path downwards.  I'd never been this way before so it was a nice change from going back the way we'd come up.  The path itself was fairly straightforward and guided us round the flanks of Ben Ledi downwards through the valley behind.
Cloud was still settled in every nook and crannie and the ground still firm and icy.  The sun that tried to break through earlier in the day didn't quite make it and as the afternoon wore on there was no chance of any more sunshine.

The path down was uneventful and took us through the forest and quickly back to the road from the holiday cottages that ran parallel to the main road.   The whole walk took just over 5 hrs and it was lovely to see the Ben with its sprinkling of snow but soon we were back at the car and on our way back to mum and dads after a grand Boxing Day on a hill.