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Glorious hiking on Ben Cruachan and Stob Diamh

Written by Fiona

February 28 2016

Scotland doesn’t have the best of reputations for good weather, so when it comes, especially in winter, I feel vey lucky if I make the most of it. This weekend I rejoiced in the bluebird conditions as I walked two Munros in the west Highlands.

I have had the Ben Cruachan and Stob Diamh circuit on my Munro bagging radar for a couple of years. I’d heard about the stunning scenery and the glorious ridge-top path.

I had even set out from home to hike these Munros once before but ended up climbing nearby Ben Lui instead due to worries about the weather. Several other times I have had hopes of a day of hiking ruined by poor conditions.

Then, while researching an article for our local community magazine, I spotted a planned February outing by Milngavie Mountaineering Club (MMC) to walk Ben Cruachan.

So, I kept a note of the date and closer to the day I checked and rechecked the weather forecast. The conditions looked too good to be true for a winter Saturday in Scotland but, for once, we did enjoy a full day of blue skies, sunshine and only the whisper of a breeze.

Noelle climbs the dam ladder as we climbed towards the slopes of Ben Cruachan.

Noelle ascends the dam ladder as we climbed towards the slopes of Ben Cruachan.

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The fabulous ridge between Ben Cruachan and Stob Diamh.

14 highlights of a double Munro walk in winter sunshine

1 I was delighted by the warm welcome offered by the eight members of MMC. I find it nerve-wracking meeting new groups of people but I really enjoyed their company, chat and laughter.

2 I also enjoyed their lunches! Being a bit of a diddy, I left my carefully prepared picnic in Fern the Van and was forced to own up to my new friends when my stomach began to rumble. I was very grateful to various MCC members for a hot cross bun,  two (posh) snack bars, a delicious pork pie and more chocolate bars than I could eat.

3 I was also grateful to Steve for lending me a spare dry sock. I was a bit clumsy at a burn crossing early in the walk and ended up knee-deep in freezing cold water. My bid to defrost my numb foot by hiking fast uphill failed. Thankfully Steve happily shared his spare socks and a plastic bag (to stop the wet boot making my sock wet again).

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4 The thick blanket of snow that covered the mountains above about 450m was wonderfully consolidated this weekend. I had read the avalanche forecast and had a few doubts in my mind about hiking steep slopes. Fortunately, our route avoided the slopes in the danger zones and the snow stayed solid and easy to traverse in crampons.

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5 It was good to feel the grip of my crampons and know that if I slipped I had the ability to arrest my fall with my ice axe. These are vital tools for walking in snowy mountains and knowing that I was a fairly experienced winter hiker was a confidence booster.

drop down

6 The MCC group had no aspirations of breaking the speed record for the Ben Cruachan circuit. I had been worried that I might not be fit enough (I’ve not walked a Munro for a while) but the pace was easy-going and allowed for lots of chat and stops.

7 The views were some of the best I’ve experienced during a Munros walk. I knew, from previous hikes in this area, that the views would be a delight but with snow, sunshine and blue skies the vistas were truly breath-taking.

A summit needs a decent "man leg" pose!

A summit needs a decent “man leg” pose!

8 I introduced a few people to the concept of “man leg”. This always makes me giggle!

Some of the group learn to man leg.

Steve, Dave, Rob and Noelle learn to man leg.

9 It was a joy to hear how happy everyone was as they hiked. The sunshine had brought out lots of walkers and everyone (except one strange man) seemed as delighted as I was to be out in Scotland’s mountains.

(The strange man was encountered on the summit of Ben Cruachan. He was moaning about the hike up and said: “I’ve walked lots of Munros because a friend has made me and I think they are boring.” I guess we are all entitled to our opinion but this seems quite extreme!)

10 Two wind free Munros summits felt like a wonderful blessing. A large group of various walking people and couples were able to sit happily on the top of Cruachan to enjoy a lunch stop with spectacular views.

Rob ascends the slopes of Cruachan.

Rob ascends the slopes of Cruachan.

11 Although a big day out with lots of ascent and descent, the Munros circuit was well within my capabilities. I felt fit enough and able enough. It is a ridge walk and I had been told I might suffer some vertigo (I am not keen on heights and edges) but I felt fine. Today my legs are tired but not exhausted.

12 A day of walking allows for lots of chat and discussion. I enjoyed getting to know my new hiking friends over many hours of fabulous hiking.

Noelle on Ben Cruachan summit.

Noelle on Ben Cruachan summit.

13 These Munros take me to 199 summits bagged. I am thrilled. I never imagined I would be close to a tally of 200 Munros.

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14 I feel very lucky indeed to have walked Ben Cruachan and Stob Diamh in such glorious weather. Calm and sunny conditions might be rare in a Scottish winter but when they come I rejoice.

 

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