For those of you that have followed my past attempts at hill walking in recent years this one was a win. For those of you that haven’t in the past we’ve never made it to the top with our full compliment of walkers and in one case no one made it. This is our story.
We swapped a Stoo for a Mook and headed off to Arrochar on time. We made such good time in fact that an hour after being picked up we were standing in the car park at the foot of the hill for 9am. The car park was busy but as we found out later in the day it was going to get busier.
The start of the walk is up a zig-zag path designed to make the beginning a little easier but in all honesty it makes for a very dreary start to the day. Not even the possible shortcuts between levels could make it any more exciting but we weren’t there to race up the hill. In fact that strolling attitude made for a far better day that it would have been had we needed to drive ourselves along to get anywhere.
Once up past the tree line you could see the summit. Usually when your out on the hills you have a fair idea about scale and distance but I think the ruggedness of peaks distorts these. Until we got to the bottom of the final scramble and seen someone else coming down it felt as though you could just reach out and touch the top. I knew a few of the hills surrounding The Cobbler could be reached from this path but I couldn’t remember any of their names so I really did think the ‘Narnian Boulders’ that dotted the path had something to do with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe rather than the fact the hill they were on was Beinn Narnain.
My knowledge of Scotland took another beating just as we stopped for a rest before tackling the scramble up the last third of hill when Alex asked if the hill in the distance was Ben Lomond to which I replied without even looking, “Nah it’s over that direction.” Willie quickly corrected me as I looked on in disbelief and realised how wrong I’d been. You only had to look at the shape and the loch at it’s feet to realise what it was. It started snowing at this point. It’s been a long while since I’d seen this kind of snow. Very light and being blown around that much that the same flake passes you three or four times before hitting the ground. It was almost as if it was fake snow.
For a hill that looked so rocky and formidable from below the scramble was very easy. The only awkward parts being those where you had to walk across the snow that was left over from the winter. It wasn’t that bad and in most cases it could take your weight easily but every so often I’d put my foot through it up to my knee. I was lucky as it got a little deeper on the way back down.
The one thing I’ll say about this walk is it brings out a lot of the wrong kind of walker. On hills as busy as this you’ll always find the odd bit of rubbish about the place but almost every hole I looked down was full of plastic bottles and crisp packets. At first the place looks clean until you start looking in the corners. To make it worse though someone left something in the middle of the path. I know that when your out on the hill s and you get caught short you sort of have to go where you can. Leaving that in the middle of the path though with a brick on top to try and hide it only meant whoever stepped on the brick would get a rather unpleasant surprise. Just saying…
The weather at this point was fantastic. As we reached the cairn at the base of the saddle between the central and north summits the weather started to change. The wind was picking up and it looked like the mist and clouds were coming back in so we decided to quickly get the north summit over and done with before heading to the central summit to see what was going on over there. It didn’t look that hard until my fear of heights kicked in as we made out way along a ledge leading to the path up to the summit. It would have been fine if the wind wasn’t picking up but everyone else found it easy enough. My legs were wobbling by the time I got passed it however. We sat down at the Cairn on the top for a quick bite to eat.
In about the space of two minutes it went from being a little breezy with the odd flake of snow to a full on blizzard which lasted about five minutes.
The walk to the central summit was almost the easiest part of the day but we got to see just what the fuss was about The Cobbler. To technically claim you’ve reached the summit you have to climb a rocky outcrop sitting on the edge of the plateau. You might think that this isn’t that hard but it involves climbing through a hole in the rock out on to a ledge on the other side with a 150 foot drop below you. In good weather it’s apparently easy if your a certain height and confidence but this day the wind was blowing hard and there was ice all over the ledge and although Willie went out for a look none of us attempted the climb like the guy below.
The way back down was almost uneventful except for my unfortunate incident with the snow. I took a slightly different path down to catch up with the other guys and ended up having to walk across a 30′ section of snow. I went through the top crust a few times down to my knee but just as I thought I was making it out without to much problem my right leg disappeared through the crust. I struggled a bit but eventually made it out and had a look down the hole I’d made. It was over 6′ deep! Lesson learned I think.
We made good time getting back down and headed home. Just as we went passed Tarbet a police car pulled out and followed us along the road and eventually pulled us over for a routine check. It seems Dave hadn’t shut his door properly so they were worried we’d lose him as we drove along at 60mph. Everything was fine though and we were soon on our way home again.
Surprisingly my legs were not that sore the next day this time around. In fact I didn’t even get any blisters which is almost unheard of with my boots! Plans are afoot to do another hill later in April so we’ll see how things go with that one.