Wednesday, December 16, 2009

110-111. Stob Coire Easain (39), Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin (46). 14/12/09

The weather on the walk out from the Lairig Leacach bothy wasn't quite as perfect as the previous day, but we couldn't really complain - even at its worst, it was only drizzle, light winds and mist. We left the relative warmth of the bothy at about 9.45 and were soon plodding up the grassy slopes on the east side of the glen. The lower slopes of Stob Coire Easain were fairly undulatory and it was a while before we felt like we were making progress upwards. When we did begin to climb, however, it quickly became quite steep and due to the mist our navigation was less than perfect. All this meant that the final snow slope that we climbed was a good deal steeper than it had to be and we would probably have been grateful for crampons. Having said that, we made it to the top in one piece and it all became easier thenceforth. We didn't waste too much time at the top, since the views were unremarkable, but began the descent of a straighforward snow slope to the saddle, followed by a short re-ascent to Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin.

On the descent I came reasonably close to taking a photo of a ptarmigan, but was thwarted at the last moment. The descent wasn't too difficult and only included one interesting bit off the obvious shoulder of the hill. It was made tedious at the end however by a four mile stretch of road to get around from Fersit to Tulloch station (I think it would almost be worth risking wet feet and fording the river), by the end of which I was so fed up of my stiff winter boots that I decided to wear my bothy booties for the rest of the day. These are an excellent invention and were especially popular for the looks they got when walking through Glasgow at 11pm.

A view of Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin from across Loch Treig on a sunnier day.

The small but cosy Lairig Leacach bothy.

Returning below the cloud in the afternoon and a view across the northern end of Loch Treig.

106-109. The Grey Corries (Stob Ban (178), Stob Choire Claurigh (15), Stob Coire an Laoigh (38), Sgurr Choinnich Mor (52)) 13/12/09

Having booked sleeper trains nearly two months in advance for a weekend trip in December, we expected nothing less than to be met with gales, blizzard and drunk Glaswegian day-trippers. Much to our disappointment, we recieved none of these. Instead we had perfect weather without a breath of wind for two days and we didn't get within a mile of another human after leaving the train. We had a scare when alighting at Corrour at 8.30am when two other walkers also got off, but fortunately they felt similarly disgusted by our presence and strode off in precisely the opposite direction. Then the ten miles north to the Lairig Leacach were along terrain that would have struck fear into the hearts of even the most intrepid hillwalker during summer due to the all-encompassing bog, but this being a frosty december morning meant we were walking on top of it. In fact the only discomfort with the walk-in was the fact we had to carry all our fuel - about 5 kilos of wood each. The Lairig Leacach bothy was a cracker - one 5m x 5m room equipped with chairs, table, stove and wooden bunks. We spent the afternoon in burning wood to try and make it cosy and in playing cards and passed a remarkably comfortable night.

We left for the ridge at first light, climbing Stob Ban first - a little offset from the main ridge. The views all around were mildly noteworthy. There was a fair amount of re-ascent between this and Stob Choire Claurigh, the highpoint of the Grey Corries and the start of the ridge proper. There was snow from about 700m upwards and by 900m all the terrain was obscured by a blanket of white. Stob Choire Claurigh was reached by 11.30, where we ate cake took out our ice axes - not really necessary on the fairly broad ridge, but occasionally handy for balance nonetheless. Sunglasses were an important accessory and to raise the beachwear stakes further, I even stripped down to a couple of thin layers, since it was only about -2 degrees and there was no wind. We had a couple of miles of idyllic ridge walking with stunning views abounding and no difficulties - the last slopes of Sgurr Choinnich Mor were a bit steep, but the snow made for good step-kicking.

We then descended northwards towards Glen Nevis before turning east to Meanach bothy and then north from there back to Lairig Leacach, reaching our destination by about 5pm with only about half an hour of headtorches needed. More fire and cards ensued - I lost, living up to the saying: "he who is lucky in weather is unlucky in cards."

The seperate peak of Stob Ban

Looking west along the Grey Corries

Descending a crest on the ridge from Stob Choire Claurigh

The ridge turns south...

Looking back eastwards from Sgurr Choinnich Mor, with Stob Choire Claurigh in the distance.