There are those mountains you look at from afar time and again and hope to climb one day when the opportunity presents itself. For me that’s Ben Lomond or Buachaille Etive Mor. And then there are the ones you’ve been so very close to, but it just didn’t happen. I will never forget having to turn back just meters away from the summit platform of Ben Nevis. That was in winter when I was hanging on to dear life in the vertical part of Gully No. 3 with the snow too crumbly to carry on, so we had to retrace our steps… One by dodgy one, burying our ice axes into the white stuff as best as possible.
And then there is Stob Ghabhar. Twice I had been as far as its neighbouring peak Stob a’ Choire Odhair, I’d even been on the saddle between both. And twice I had been denied the summit due to unsuitable weather (snow) or just been running out of time.
So I had a score to settle with this one. Other than on previous occasions I was on my own today, so it was all down to me. Bring it on!
Drove the 45mins to Bridge of Orchy and parked up just at this end of Glen Kinglass. Again I was lucky to start my walk with a nice mix of sun and clouds. The view ahead into the glen is stunning every time and behind me I had the now very familiar shapes of Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaid.
Half an hour along Abhainn Shira, then I turned off right onto the path that would lead me all the way to the saddle between both munros. Stob Ghabhar on the left, Stob a Choire Odhair on the right.
Dark clouds were looming over my objective. Almost as if Stob Ghabhar wanted to keep me away. He even threw a few bits of snow or hail at me every now and then or a gust of icy wind. Funny enough, his neighbour had bright blue sky above him. Very inviting, but not today mate.
Found a sheltered spot at the saddle and had a break with some food and some awesome views. Stob Ghabhar seemed to have given up on his detergent strategy and had now the same blue sky and some clouds above him. Nice one.
But first I had to climb another buttress. Couloir Buttress. Not quite as exciting as Stuc a’ Chroin’s buttress but still a steep zigzagging path up through rock and scree. Not sure if I wanted to do this with a group though, the risk of 14 people getting hit by a loose rock is just a bit higher than a solo walker getting hit by one.
I could now see Stob Ghabhar’s impressive East face above Coirein Lochain. Behind me Stob a’ Choire Odhair looked very fine, almost as if looking out over the vastness of Rannoch Moor.
Once I was up the buttress, I thought that was it. But far from it. A not very long, but very exposed knife edge ridge followed. Oh! How awesome! It was a bit of a Crib Goch moment, but only maybe 20 metres long. Shame.
The final ascent to the summit was short. I had heard that this munro offered some of the best views of them all. No pressure then. To be honest, I tend to agree. It doesn’t get much better than that. It can’t. 360 degrees of highland peaks all around. And I mean it. Whichever way I turned, I saw all sorts of shapes of mountains crammed into my view.
Ben Nevis and the famous CMD Arete, Bidean Nam Bian in Glencoe, Ben More and Stob Binnein, Ben Starav… to name just the prominent ones. I would’ve loved to stay longer, but dark clouds and an icy wind made staying less favourable.
Had another break halfway down catching a sunny spell and just chilling sheltered from the wind by a huge boulder. Then back to the car and drove the five minutes to the Bridge of Orchy hotel for tea and cake. Then back to the guesthouse.
What nice last mountain day for me. I’ve been there three times now and the walk in was amazing every single time. The views from the top of both of those munros are spectacular. Even though they’re close neighbours, they’re once more very different mountains altogether with different characters. I like them both and wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite.
Now that’s my recce week done. Had brilliant dry weather all week and done some fantastic walks. I concentrated on the walks that were completely new for me, but I think I’d need another week or so up here to refresh my memory of the Loch Tay munros around Ben Lawers to really be able to leads groups up there.
Now finishing off this blog post with so much better WiFi at the Garth Hotel in Grantown-on-Spey where I’m for week two for my Mountain Leader training. Starts tomorrow at 9am, so I’ll head out to have a look at the little town of which I won’t see much after today, haha.