The Black Mount, my narrow escape

The Black Mount is a series of mountains which span from Glen Orchy to Glen Coe. Rannoch Moor is a good visual marker for where you need to get to in order to tackle these hills.

The more hills I hike, the more I learn. So it was the voice of experience that told me to park at Crainlarich Train station for a toilet break before continuing on to Bridge of Orchy. The same voice also told me to have a wee roll & sausage at the train station cafe.

At Bridge of Orchy, a sharp left onto a remote single track road brought us closer and closer to the dark hulks of rock that stretch long into Glen Coe.

Suddenly out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere a mirage! A hotel (with bar) popped up in the quite remote wooded glen. Actually, it must be strategically placed to lure weary walkers from the nearby West Highland Way. Reviews are mixed, but in a storm, boy you’d be glad of it!

A little further on we changed into boots in a small car park, before a gentle walk of a few miles past Victoria Lodge and on to the foot of the two munros we were to bag – Stob Choire Odhair and Stob Ghabhar.

We began the ascent of Odhair first. As we got closer we could see the huge Zorro-style sword slashes on the side of Odhair. These marked the path upwards.

The sun came out and the wind dropped, which made it a bit of an effort. Dark clouds rolled in the distant east, out of which rumbled two fighter jets – Tornados or Typhoons,  I reckoned – cracking the air as they sliced their way past us and curved low into Glen Kinglass. We heard them a few more times during our ascent, but they never came as close again.

Once through the marks of Zorro, Odhair flattened out and it was a gentle push to a wide grassy summit.

From the top we could see immediately that there would be a fair descent before the bealach, and we also spotted slivers of a complex path, flashing in and out of view on the bumpy side of Stob Ghabbar.

On the bealach the clouds rolled in and emptied their contents on us, but it was so warm that we didn’t bother with the waterproofs at that stage.

Past the bealach, and into the scramble, a little lake in Coire Lochain came into view (sorry no pictures of it, was too busy holding on). It was the last bit of calm we set eyes on before pushing further up Aonach Eagach (FYI there is more than one AE). Its own Zorro scars had been flicked across the hill with far less discretion than those of Odhair and tracing them with my hands and feet felt perilous at times. My walking pole kept getting in the way, and more than once I nearly tripped over it.

The mist began chasing upwards too. Being anxious to escape both the weather and the scramble, I raced up at a fair pace.

I escaped the scramble onto better ground thinking the worst was over, but no sooner had I cast it to memory, a notchy-looking ridge presented a new challenge. Walk Highlands described it as “airy”. I’d edit that description by adding one consonant. That would be an “H”.

At first sight, it looked do-able. But a few metres into it both of us began to lower our centres of gravity. My thoughts turned to editing the Walk Highlands report to include the term “off-putting”. Yeah, “off-putting” works on a number of levels! I have no photos from this stage for obvious reason, so include an image below © Steve Macluskie from Munromagic.com for purposes of example.

I did my best to stay off the rockiest bits by trying to get on the side of it and shimying along, but that proved more dangerous than the alternative: to just get up on it! I felt like Mr Bean hugging the diving board. I focused on only my next step, and next available hand hold. And if seasoned munro-baggers read this & scoff – remember, a good measure of character is being able to achieve something INSPITE of being scared shitless of doing it.

I would rather have climbed another 1000 metres, than walk the ridge. But I did, and it’s done now. As the ridge widened, so did my stride. I stuck to the path all the way to the summit & avoided letting me eyes linger on the arresting drops to the North East.

As we descended we realised we were trapped between two weather systems. On our backs the sun burned our skin, and in front of us the skies were leaden.

Sonic booms clattered nearby. Typhoons? Nope. We picked up the pace as Angus’s opening riff played in my head. We’d been … thunderstruck!

My walking pole, which had already tried to kill me on the scramble, was now acting as my personal lightening rod. Great.

We made it to the waterfall in dry weather, but that was the last of it, and a proper soaking ensued.

Back at the car park, we changed into drier clothes, and got inside my rust bucket of a car.

I gave the ignition key a quarter turn. The battery light blinked unconfidently. I gave it another quarter turn.

Electricity plucked a route along my Rover 25’s infamous wiring gloom. Disappointingly, the engine gave a yawn, and spluttered into life.

There would be no overnight stop a nearby hotel, probably with a well-stocked bar, no doubt with an open fire, maybe even a sleepy dog pressing gently against tired feet.

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About RennyRambles

Running, rambling, cycling, swimming and scrambling to my heart's content. Happiest on a trail, with some jelly babies in my pocket.
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