Last March, during our annual weekend get together, based at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, The Tower Captain and I climbed Stob a’ Choire Odhair in fairly inclement weather. We had intended to continue on to its higher neighbour Stob Ghabhar, but were discouraged by the raging wind. So this year, on the same trip, when the Saturday morning gave clear blue skies and sunshine, we were all set to make good on our unfinished business.
My photos make it look like we were a party of four, me, TC and our daughters, who were back for more punishment after joining us for a wild, wet and windy weekend three years ago. This was their first time with us since, Covid and their increasing independence having interrupted in the meantime, and the glorious weather felt like payback for the ugly conditions on their previous visit. As I say, it appears that we were just four, but in fact, at the start and end of the walk, along the valley of the Abhainn Shira, we were a much larger group, joined by friends who would go on to bag both hills, whilst we single-mindedly focused on the top which had eluded us last time out.
Thanks to the generosity of old friend MM, I was kitted out in ‘new’ footwear, high-ankled Meindl boots, which he’d found a little too big, but which, after several outings, I now know fit me to perfection. This was a very timely piece of luck, because my faithful Altberg boots, after many years of heavy use, are falling to pieces.
As if to prove that even dodgy weather has its compensations, the waterfalls we passed weren’t half so spectacular as they were last year in the rain. Having said that, I’ll settle for sunshine and muted waterfalls every time.
On the other hand, crossing the Allt Caolain Duibh dry-shod was a good deal easier. That’s the rest of our party you can see approaching the skyline, already disappearing into the distance on their ascent of Stob a’ Choire Odhair.
As we sat for some lunch and to enjoy the views and the company, I attempted to persuade the others that we should switch our allegiance and follow the long and inviting looking ridge on to Stob a’ Choire Odhair. I was feeling lazy and Stob a’ Choire Odhair would have been a considerably shorter climb. I also fancied the views over Rannoch Moor from there. What’s more, from our new vantage, the very steep and snow covered route to Stob Gabhar looked a bit intimidating, and as if it might be capped by a sizable cornice: given that we were without crampons and axes, I wondered about how tricky it would be. A couple came past who had been that way earlier and I asked about the cornice, and they assured me that it hadn’t presented any difficulties and that they hadn’t needed their crampons at any point.
In the event, I needn’t have worried; the girls led the way and really relished finding safe passage through the sometimes icy boulders. Here we are above the top of the steep part, having easily bypassed the cornice.
I could tentatively put names to a handful of the myriad hills we could see receding in every direction, but TC and I couldn’t even agree about relatively nearby Ben Lui and, the truth is, outside the Lakes, I’m never very confident. I do know that the low horseshoe to the right of Loch Tulla is Meall Tairbh and Beinn Inverveigh, which we climbed on another ropey day a few years ago.
The next, all too short, section of our route, another Aonach Eagach – ‘rough ridge’ – was terrific fun, not especially narrow, but exposed enough to add a little excitement to our day.
The weather was closing-in rapidly; it didn’t feel like the time to linger on the summit, and indeed, it was soon snowing.
We retraced our steps slightly so that we could take the broad ridge of Stob Maol down.
If anything, the snow didn’t detract from our fun, just added another element to the day.
We found a reasonable path down the ridge, but it kept drifting left and I worried that it was taking us toward the crags of Creag an Steallaire. We had a quick conflab; I advocated heading further right, whereas TC thought the easier walking the path offered was worth sticking with. In the event, ironically, it was TC and S who went right and A and I who stuck with the path. My fears were partially confirmed – the path brought us right to the top of the falls on the Allt Coire na Muic, but then continued, steeply, but safely, down beside the stream.
Back at the path beside the Allt Taoig we met up again with TC and S and with most of the rest of the party.
After a little drama and an anxious wait for two of the party to return from the hill, the evening meal at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel was as fantastic as ever. All the old stories were no doubt brought forth to be admired and repolished one more time. In short, a splendid time was had by all.