My friend Ben says he has noticed a pattern creeping into our conversations about where to walk next. This year, we have regularly met for a hike and until recently I was usually happy to go wherever he had a walking route planned.
Ben has been walking Donalds and Grahams mostly, with a few Corbetts and Munros thrown in.
I have 25 Munros to walk to finish my first round but they are all many miles away from home.
While I am happy to walk Munros again, or to go for a mountain walk to suit other people’s aspirations, I have also suddenly realised there is a new long list of mountains for me to tick off: The Corbetts.
While the Munros total 282 mountains in Scotland with a summit of at least 3000ft, the Corbetts are a collection of Scottish mountains with a summit of between 2500ft and 3000ft. There are 222 Corbetts and they are more geographically spread across Scotland compared to the Munros.
I have now walked 23 Corbetts.
The Brack & Cnoc Coinnich
These two Corbetts are located above Loch Long and are accessed from Ardgartan, just off the Rest and Be Thankful road, south of Arrochar. I have walked the Arrochar Munros, Beinn Ime and Narnain, and also The Cobbler (a Corbett) many times before but I had never walked The Brack & Cnoc Coinnich.
In fact, until I started researching the Corbetts, I had not realised how many there were so close to my home.
I think that when you start to tick off a list, you can become a little blinkered and I have been pursuing the Munros for so many years that I had overlooked the Corbetts.
The walk to the summit of The Brack starts on a forest road and then climbs steeply – suddenly so – up the side of the lower slopes of the mountain. The path is muddy and a bit scrambley and it is hard work. However, steep slopes allow you to climb quickly and the views were a great reward for our effort.
The views also gave Ben and I an excuse to stop at frequent intervals to take photos (and to catch our breath).
Two brothers passed us early on while we climbed and they made much quicker progress. They said they planned to do four summits that day and having started fairly late I could see they were on a mission.
They told me they had made this big plan while drinking the night before and I wondered if they might still be a little drunk! Their plan was for a big walk and with limited winter daylight but they seemed fit and determined. (I wonder if they do their planned route?)
Ben and I were happy to be doing just two Corbetts and therefore we could go at a more enjoyable speed.
The climb on The Brack to 2582ft was almost unrelentingly steep but it was a fairly direct route and I felt like we were soon on the top. The panorama was fabulous, especially with snowy tops and the gorgeous autumnal hues of the landscape below.
On to Cnoc Coinnich
The descent route was to the southwest on The Brack, before we crossed the Cowal Way at around 1312ft above sea level, and then we started another climb, this time to the summit of neighbouring Cnoc Coinnich.
Thankfully, Ben and I have been doing quite a bit of mountain hiking lately and we also walk at a similar speed so the ascent was not too arduous.
I felt my hands becoming quite cold as the temperatures dropped and we found ourselves in shade. Brilliantly, I had a new pair of heated gloves to test. The 30seven heated mittens are amazing.
At 2506ft, Cnoc Coinnich only just qualifies as a Corbett. It was promoted to Corbett status in 2016 after it was measured with modern technology.
The views from the summit were superb (again!) and we were lucky with the clear weather. It’s possible to see Loch Long, the wider Arrochar Alps and the Firth of Clyde as well as many distance mountain tops.
The descent from the top of Cnoc Coinnich was the same as the ascent, before we re-joined the Cowal Way to head east and through forestry back towards the shore of Loch Long.
During the descent, a military training exercise seemed to be taking place only about 10 metres behind us. Of course, it wasn’t that close but the sound of the very loud gun shots made it feel like the training was near by. We later discovered, when we were passed by several military vehicles, that it was probably the Dutch army doing practice firing.
After a few kilometres of rough forestry trails we joined well-laid tracks to descend towards Loch Long. I found the trails a bit sterile compared to the rugged mountains we had just walked but the strolling was easy and we walked, talked and enjoyed the feeling of a great day in the mountains.
By the time we reached the shore of Loch Long and started walking north back to the car we felt like we’d had quite a big day out. The Corbetts might be smaller siblings to the Munros but they can still entail a fair bit of walking and climbing.
The walk was almost 10 miles in total and some 1100m of total ascent.
The Corbett: Benvane
The following weekend, Ben and I walked another Corbett. (Note: There is a Munro called Ben Vane and also a Corbett Benvane.)
I was looking for a fairly short day of walking because I needed to be home by mid-afternoon. Ben chose Benvane as a mountain that was fairly easy for both of us to reach (Ben is in Edinburgh, while I am in Glasgow) and it has the added attraction of nice cakes afterwards at Mhor 84.
Benvane is a neighbour of Ben Ledi, which I have walked several times before.
- Many of my friends walked Ben Ledi as part of my 50th birthday celebrations.
The walk starts from the end of a tarmac road at Glen Buckie in The Trossachs. It’s an out-and-back route to reach the 2693ft top and normally walkers would be able to see a well-trodden path.
Ben and I started out on this path but as we climbed higher, we reached a thick blanket of snow and the path disappeared.
I love winter walking, although the snow can make it a more difficult outing. Luckily, the weather was clear and the route finding was fairly easy. In fact, we discovered that other walkers had already created a path through the snow.
We followed the path of trodden snow, checking at regular intervals that we were, in fact, on the right route. It’s important never to simply follow other people’s steps without checking they are right.
We felt so very, very lucky to be outdoors amid superb winter conditions and with fabulous views. There was hardly a breath of wind and although it was cold it felt warmer than the weekend before and certainly warmer than the night before when I had been running in the Campsies.
Again, the views were sublime with fantastic autumnal colours of red, brown, orange, ochre and russet painting a rich tapestry below a layer of bright white snow. I don;t think you can beat this time of year for the best views.
The ascent took us less than two hours, which seemed perfect for an easy day of walking. We were back at the cars in far less time and we had time for the amazing cakes served at Mhor 84.