Glorious hiking on Ben Cruachan and Stob Diamh
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
8 I introduced a few people to the concept of “man leg”. This always makes me giggle!
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.
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.
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.
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.