Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Beinn Narnain Walk. Blue Remembered Hills.

At long last Spring is finally here, forcing her triumphant and much loved body out of the frozen earth to face a gantlet of bitter daytime winds and shivering icy nights which isn't doing much for her complexion I have to say. Her rosy cheeks ( cherry blossom trees) have been stripped of colour almost instantly as soon as they've burst out on the branches, stripped off with gale force ferocity. Her amazing saffron and white coloured eyes ( each a crocus iris surrounded by a bed of simple snowdrops) have been obscured all too often this year under a falling curtain of real snow. Incidentally, ever wondered where saffron comes from? Now you know. Iranian variety mostly nowadays. The original Stigmata as the yellow/ orange central stigma can leave a long lasting stain. Picked by hand for over 4000 years and used in decorative cave art by early humans since the dawn of recorded history.
Finally, at last, the Daffodils have arrived. A full month later than last year. All hail the jet stream and its fickle, wicked ways.

As I've been writing my memoirs recently my thoughts turn back to the beginning. Where it all started. Sweet Springtime and  my first visit up Ben Narnain. Last of my original three Munro's.
 Slioch and Beinn Eighe were my first two but Beinn Narnain was my third and I've since been up this mountain over thirty times although the last was 15 years ago when JB and myself squeezed into the depths of Jam-Block Chimney and Engine Room Crack in a buttress below the summit to find ourselves being led up these fine subterranean rock climbs by a heavily pregnant female. As our bold leader thrashed and grappled in this vertical slot above our heads I had visions of her waters breaking with the effort involved  and us drowning in this latter day parting of the red sea but she completed them in good style then hauled us up the routes. This was very early on in our rock climbing career and she was our most experienced leader. The baby was nothing to do with us I hasten to add. We found her like that. Honest!    In time little Moses was delivered safely into the radiant sunshine within a climbing harness, not a basket in sight.

Above is the summit of Beinn Narnain with the wonderful Spearhead Buttress in profile. Both rock climbs can be found deep inside the base of this cliff so I can truthfully say I've not only been up Beinn Narnain but through it as well. No other Munro has had anything like this many ascents from me so it must have some strange, intangible power that draws me back.
Most of the hillwalking guide books suggest tackling this Munro from the col between the Cobbler and Narnain  by following the well used tourist path up to the Narnain Boulders under the Cobbler then heading right from the Bealach a Mhaim. Good. That keeps the masses away from the real prize. This is a very boring route to the summit which is why Beinn Narnain is unjustly underrated. Its actually a fantastic hill when you climb it direct from Succoth by following the right hand side of the Allt Sugach burn on a faint, steep path  beside, and sometimes actually in the trees, which leads you up into a superb hidden corrie nestled between Cruach nam Misseag and A' Chrios. If you climb Beinn Narnain from this direction you will treasure its ascent and mountain pedigree every bit  as much as I do.

Once clear of the deep minty smell of the pine forests lower down a small dam is reached then you follow this connecting stream up past waterfalls and alpine meadows filled with tiny perfect flowers like dog violet and water forget me not's.
The long lasting snow fields have recently melted leaving behind the usual comical passageways of furry mice and voles as silent evidence of their yearly struggles for life under the insulating blanket of the pack above, eating, sleeping and carrying out daily trips for food under a metre or more of snow and ice. You can see in this photograph some neatly chewed ends of grass nibbled to keep them alive until the snows departed.
One of Ron above the corrie with Ben Lomond behind.
Substantial waterfalls on the journey up the corrie between Cruachnam Miseag and A' Chrois. This was Narnain at its finest with all the melting snow pouring off the hillsides.
Usual crap day in blue-sky-scot-land. Signs and portents in the azure sky above our heads.
One of Beinn Ime from the upper slopes of Narnain. There were several para gliders flying above here. The children of Icarus reborn. A perfect day for it with a warm sun and light winds in the upper thermals above the mountains.
 They must have had two cars as they took off near here then drifted away into the far horizon over Loch Lomondside until they disappeared from sight roughly 6000 feet up. Beautiful to watch. Omens of the end of days flying towards the sun? So high I couldn't get a clear shot even with a zoom as there was nothing for the camera to focus on apart from sky and tiny shrinking dots. Were they consumed by solar flares or did they land over the rainbow... or maybe just in Callandar village?
One of the summit cairn with the familiar great pyramid of Ben Lomond behind. Egypt or Scotland?
A zoom of the Cobbler and the central summit block which I always think resembles an elephant  pushing a log, seen from this angle. India perhaps? In contrast to the hordes on this popular favourite Beinn Narnain was its usual quiet self with only two folk met on the entire round trip. We returned via the summit of A' Chrois  by way of the connecting ridge then back down easy slopes to re-join the dam and the same empty path we came up. By the lack of footsteps this path gets rarely used nowadays and hasn't changed its character in 45 years since I wandered up here as a teenager with my very first outdoor club. The Golden Dawn. How many times can you say that about a path up a Munro these days? That it hasn't changed in 45 years. The 'discoverie of witchcraft' perhaps.... Or 'Frazer's Golden bough'... or  just one of Scotland's best kept secrets... Until now.
 Beinn Narnain.   Its a magic mountain. Enjoy.

In keeping with the nostalgic theme here's another man looking back at life. A great reworking of an already classic song about love, redemption and regret for failures in the past. When this video was recorded both Johnny and his wife June knew they were ill. Its their epitaph. They both died a short time later.
Written by nine inch nails, singer/songwriter- Trent Reznor.


Alistair said...

My first Munro Bob. Thanks for the post, brought back many happy memories!

blueskyscotland said...

You're welcome Alistair.
Getting a good soaking up there now by the looks of it. That'll help to top up the reservoirs again and fill up the rivers.

Paul said...

Love the profile pic' of the Cobbler, refreshing from the same old, same old.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Paul.
I try my best to capture unusual viewpoints and sights. Keeps the dust from settling on me if I'm active once a week.

Robert Craig said...

One of my favourites - and my preferred route too! Shh don't tell everyone!

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Craig.
Not told anyone for 40 years about it but this time I noticed it was getting very overgrown and hard to find with any trace of a path missing in places. Its all about trying to maintain a balance with this post. What's in vogue currently seems to play a part. Already lost two fabulous walking paths around the Lochgoilhead area as they are never used nowadays and are totally overgrown as new purpose built mountain bike paths have replaced them over the last fifteen years.
Also heard recently that Craigmore Crag near Carbeth Inn is rarely used these days as a rock climbing venue which is a tragedy of the highest order. Craigmore Corner HVS is a classic of its kind and the whole cliff has starred high quality routes on it. A run of wet summers or just too many indoor walls to blame? My generation were never away from the place.
Moan, moan, moan...In my day...:)

Carol said...

That was very early on in my Munroing career too. Lovely hill. Don't think we quite did the boring route you mention most people doing - think we came back down that. It was exceedingly misty when we did it. I remember seeing buttress shapes in the mist and we definitely passed the Spearhead Buttress on the way up via that rocky gully.

I'm hoping to explore more around the A' Chrois area so I'll have a look to see if I can see some of the great views in your photos - like that superb waterfall.

The route we took was to just about the top of the normal zig-zags on the way to the Narnain boulders then we just headed up the side more or less to a crag on the shoulder - something like Creag am Fhithich or suchlike? (my map's buried somewhere). Then we turned hard left and headed up a little easy gully in a crag and onwards into the mist along the craggy ridge.

On the way back down we followed an old pipeline route or something straight down to the road.

I hate to see the old routes disappear too :-(

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
If you are doing A, Chrois itself you cant beat the path up from Succoth just described. Its a hard steep slog from any other direction.