Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Streap 909 metres. Glenfinnan Viaduct. Ben Nevis. Sgurr a Mhaim. Scottish Mountain Views.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
With a period of good stable weather over Scotland Alex suggested a day trip to do one of his remaining 7 Corbetts. Hills falling between 2,500 feet and 2,999 feet. Above is Ben Lui, 1130 metres, a shapely Munro near Bridge of Orchy and a hill labeled the "Queen of the Southern Highlands" due to its magnificent central corrie crowned by a sparkling white tiara of upper cliffs, that often lasts into early summer before melting completely
Contrast that with Beinn Dorain, 1076 metres, passed in the car just a few miles to the north and bare of snow on the same day.
Rannoch Moor followed next and the Bridge of Orchy big four dominating its southern edge: Beinn a' Chreachain, 1081 metres, Beinn Achaladair, 1039 metres, (seen here) and then running southwards into Beinn an Dothaidh, 1002 metres, and Beinn Dorain in the one long chain of peaks over 3000 feet.
The entrance to Glencoe and a different view of the Buachaille Etive Mor, 1022 metres, profiling the back ridges running down Glen Etive, with the famous Etive Slabs as a climbing venue at the dead end road, a short walk from the bottom of this glen. ( a pertinent fact for the end of this post.)
Ben Nevis. Scotland and the UK's Highest Mountain at 1,346 metres or 4,414 feet. An early rise at 5:00am to get ready for this trip meant excellent early morning views without the slight heat haze of midday. It was supposed to be the warmest day so far this year with 26 to 27 degrees C predicted.
Hardly a cloud in the sky over Ben Nevis, viewed here from Corpach.
Although we made good time on empty roads and reached Glenfinnan just after 9:00am the car park was already full of tourists, which surprised us until we remembered the Harry Potter effect. Glenfinnan Viaduct  has been used in the films for years now with a Hogwarts bound train heading for Wizards School. We just managed to squeeze in and not wanting to miss out on a golden opportunity with a captive audience I started handing out small white business cards promoting my own photographic guidebooks and comedy novel featuring Scottish scenery to bemused, Japanese, Dutch, English, German and Polish tourists.
Having recently obtained 1000 of these little cards for £30 quid I was determined to shift them over the summer and at least try to get my investment back.
Whether they wanted one or not :o)
As we intended cycling into our mountain of choice we unpacked the bikes from the back of Alex's car and set off up the smooth tarmac ribbon into the interior of this rugged area. We soon left the Harry Potter tourists behind around the viaduct  and continued on with just the early bird Munro baggers as companions, me still handing out cards.

Between photography, blatant book promotion, and trying to catch up with a driven committed corbett bagger on the hunt to capture his prize I was already knackered by the time we reached Corryhully and was left far behind. It's hard work being an unappreciated author! Bet JK doesn't get blank expressions, sullen looks, or complete apathy when she brings out her latest opus. Or nervous strangers backing away hurriedly when you bounce enthusiastically towards them with all the charm of a friendly Rottweiler. Some of the fitter cyclists were determined not to be caught, despite my best efforts to force a card on them. Rejection can be cruel.
Alex heading over to this estate bothy.... read somewhere recently it might be MBA maintained now but it's not down on the MBA bothy list if that's the case so maybe not.
Inside the "electric bothy." Spent many a happy night in here but as it is so well known by now on the internet I'll name it on the blog. We met one guy in here so not that busy this time. And one bothy mouse was spotted inside. It looked in good nick- clean and tidy.
Corryhully hadn't changed much in 30 years but I have noticed a big increase in signage everywhere in the Highlands these days, even small signs pointing up the individual Munros, as seen here. You would think with smart phone technology and visible paths to follow from sea level to summit up most of the Munros no one would ever get lost now on the hills.
I've said it before but you cant beat the OS paper Landranger maps for cheapness, reliability, and also to give you a large scale overview of the area you are walking/ cycling in. Recently, we have bumped into a few young folk using only smart phones and a three inch screen as navigational aids outdoors but I can't see the attraction myself. To my eyes it's like a horse with blinkers on that can only view the road in front of its feet instead of a constant panorama of other surrounding mountains but many folk under 50 are so conditioned to using smart phones now for everything that it is completely changing the planet. Paper may well die out and become almost obsolete, same with actual cash transactions, and the current migrant situation has been largely facilitated with the growing use of smart phones where anyone anywhere in the world who has one can access information very easily on any country in great detail with unforeseen consequences.
I for one will proudly stand with a twenty pound note held high and declare with my dying breath ..."from this dead hand will you take my cash money and not a single minute before !"
Mind you, I don't have much to take anyway but I do like to have real money in my pocket and would feel strange leaving the house with just a smart phone/ smart watch and online access. Point is... if this becomes the norm everywhere then that choice is taken away, along with many others already being phased out and shown the back exit.
"I think they got the spelling wrong on this bloody hill." Alex gasped.
It had taken us ages to climb up the steep slopes in punishing heat and a lack of breeze in the sheltered glen had us sweating profusely. A kilometer back from the 471 pass high point we decided to tackle Streap  from this angle, navigating through a band of vertical cliffs as Alex cheerily informed me 13 people had lost their lives on this mountain. I could see why as it is relentlessly "Streap" from every angle yet a peak on most hill walkers radar, unlike a lot of remote Corbetts that only other dedicated Corbett baggers have ever heard of as it towers above several surrounding glens and has a prominent summit with a knife edged ridge. Certainly from this direction there was no path and good navigation was required up and down to weave a safe route through the vertical rock bands running across this hillside with only a few grass gullies permitting entry upwards. The Corbetts today are very similar to the Munros from 40 years ago with distinct paths on only a few out of the 221 total number.
This narrow summit ridge was fairly straightforward and easy without snow cover on it except for a powerful wind threatening every step. From a complete lack of breeze down in the glen to a howling gale once up on the ridge-line it was an interesting contrast but it did mean the surrounding views stayed clear. Ben Nevis once again a dominant feature from the summit. Another feature of bagging Corbetts is that you rarely meet anyone else on them even on a cracking day like this one.
We did meet a young twenty something? girl down in the glen after chaining the bikes up in a small wood near the bothy who was walking the Cape Wrath Long Distance Trail, reputedly one of the toughest in the UK. Link and map here.
I must admit these new long distance walking routes seem to pop up almost every year now across Scotland but this one is really special, travelling through remote glens and spectacular scenery but it's not a route for everyone with few villages or refueling points available throughout its length. She seemed very fit though, being a competitive fell runner, and was travelling light and fast between isolated bothies but not fast enough to avoid a few cards.. Every new stranger a potential victim :o)
Fitter than us certainly as the equally steep descent off Streap was torture on my poor long suffering knees and I had to take painkillers just to reach the bottom and the bikes.
On the way down the road back to Glasgow we had more amazing views of iconic mountains. Sgurr a Mhaim, 1099 metres, in the Mamore range seen here ( I think) looming large above Fort William. I can't remember seeing it this clearly from this unusual angle before looking far higher than 3605 feet above sea level.
One of the many ridges on Bidean Nam Bian, 1150 metres, the complex and cliff guarded  'King' of Glencoe.
Driving back in the late evening under Bidean's north facing cliffs. The highest summit in Argyll.
Evening sunlight picking out features on the landscape near Tyndrum and Auch. The West Highland Way, Scotland's original long distance walk passes through here on its journey from Glasgow to Fort William so you could link up both routes for an epic hike. A long day out for us creaky old guys but a good one. Six Corbetts left for Alex. Yippee. The end is in sight. Thanks go to Alex for the driving and planning. Streap in a day trip is perfectly feasible in summer with the long hours of daylight.

One thing about rock climbers is that they get to know rock types and rock architecture intimately. You might think you know rocks pretty well as hill-walkers going up hills but it's the difference between partners as non intimate friends and associates compared to long term lovers, aware of every detail of flesh, contour, birthmark, and bone. When your life depends on what you are hanging off at any given moment it pays to know the properties of the various materials you are dealing with. Some rocks are fine when dry but treacherous when any moisture hits them. Others are full of good holds and cracks for protection all the way up while some are conspicuous by their absence.
Spartan Slab, VS, lies on the Etive Slabs and has 600 plus feet of climbing up smooth granite. It is one of the easier grades of rock climb on this ancient landslip leaving a large section of bare rock exposed at a critical angle and a good introduction to "friction climbing".... i.e. trusting the granite surface to keep you on it by toe pressure alone between holds. As the rock grades get harder on this steep exposed cliff so too the increasing gap between holds widens alarmingly and more technical padding up bare surfaces between runners occurs, requiring considerable faith and nerve.
A cracking route and video that brought back memories. Not having the necessary bottle for harder stuff this climb was my limit for friction moves although Alex managed The Pause HVS and Hammer HVS. Gets much better 1:30 mins in when that awful piano bar music changes and the slabs appear onscreen. Well worth the wait.



Kay G. said...

What fine weather, very nice for photos! You should get a medal for climbing with bad knees and putting up with harry potter fans!

Douglas Wilcox said...

Great stuff Bob. It is the smell of the rock I miss. Though maybe that was the smell of fear. I still get a whiff if I open up my climbing gear bag but I am not sure even my surgically repaired knees will be up for more rock. Douglas :o)

PS Streap is so much finer than a good gaggle of the Munros.

Linda said...

Such a great post and your photos are magnificent! Thank you so much for sharing this tour.

Linda W. said...

Love all your photos of the beautiful mountains! Makes me want to visit and climb a few.

Stewart Love said...

Great post and photos. Climbed Spartan Slab and Hammer in one glorious summer around 25 years ago. I'm 67 now and don't climb anymore apart from a few smaller hills now and again so it's good to see a route like Spartan again. Old climbers must all suffer from knackered knees I have the same problem, worth all the aches though. Have great memories thanks for bringing them back.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
I don't mind Harry Potter fans one bit as JKR is an excellent creative writer. It is people who are extremely well known yet have no obvious talent whatsoever that baffle me :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Douglas,
I certainly do not miss the heavy packs, the ropes, and the long walks uphill to start the routes. Ben Nevis winter or summer was a grim necessity after the novelty of the first few ascents to reach the north facing cliffs and the 3000 foot trudge to the start of various sunless routes over decades didn't improve with repetition.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
Thank you.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda W,
You would like our wee hills, perfect for walking up in a day hike but still spectacular.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Stewart,
Yes, a life spent outdoors on the mountains is not a bad set of memories to look back on. Glad you liked the post and thanks for the comment.

Kay G. said...

Oh, I like Harry Potter too but I am thinking of overzealous fans can be a bit much and that really applies to fans of almost anything. And don't get me started at the folks who are rich and famous who I don't think deserve it!

Neil said...

Haven't climbed this one, looks a bit steep and scary for me nowadays. I was on Carn Breugach on Kerrera yesterday; that sort of walk is now much more for me. MBA is not maintaining Corriehully; it is a bit too close to civilisation for us!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Neil,
I read a couple of comments online speculating it might be MBA so was not sure as it's years since I was an avid bothy bagger every winter. Now it's just a handful occasionally.

Carol said...

I much prefer the large-scale format of a map (and compass) and wouldn't dream of using any of the new technology. Apart from batteries running out and having to learn how to use them, I love your reason not to and will adopt that in future:

"To my eyes it's like a horse with blinkers on that can only view the road in front of its feet instead of a constant panorama of other surrounding mountains"

Very true!

Aren't you better to do Streap from the next glen east? That's the side I was planning on doing it from.

I'd love to see cash disappear as I find it a bloody nuisance. You spend half your time trying to get sufficient quantity out of the bank to use and then, in a jiffy, it disappears and you have to start all over again. Plus it wears holes in pockets and weighs a ton. It also blows away in the wind :-( Having said all that, I simply refuse to give up my 'low-tech cheques' as my bank calls them! :-)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Yeah, and I can't see the point of watching TV, films or photography on a phone or small tablet either but that seems to be the trend now... towards smaller screens.
Probably can do Streap from other side but we fancied the bikes up to the bothy then straight up just picking a line. Fast but steep and trackless.

Anonymous said...

Great mountain Streap, all the delights of bigger more famous summits but without the crowds. Like you I'm still a devotee of paper maps, can't beat spreading them out on a summit and spotting peaks, planning routes etc - except when it's hammering down with rain of course! :)

Tom said...

After spending the weekend in the bothy i can confirm that one of your shamelessly distributed cards is still on the wall, and it gave me a good excuse to recommend your blog and books to my two companions!
We had the bothy to ourselves on the friday then just a solitary traveller joined us on the saturday, and there werent too many entries in the visitor book so maybe not all that well known. and the mouse you saw made a short appearance at 5am clambering amongst the saucepans and having a general scratch around before being scared off by an irate hillwalkers flying plastic bottle.

Streap looked an interesting hill but not much chance we were going up in as my friend is totally fixated on munros and only once or twice have i managed to get him on a trip which doesnt involve a munro or two at some point.
So the two glenfinnan munros it was for us, which made for a surprisingly hard day.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Surfnslide,
Spreading maps out in the rain doesn't happen these days due to endless sunshine on day's out.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Tom,
Glad you liked the bothy. Having read half a dozen recent photo book style Scots Magazines in a hut I would put my last two books on a par with any six of them together and they are £3:50 each. Only found seven articles in them in total I really enjoyed that was of interest to me (so £21 quid if bought) and found myself liking the quirkier style of the old ones with Tom Weir's My month better but maybe that's just my taste as I still have many of the old ones in a collection from the 1980s. Obviously I'm not a totally unbiased reader but I tried to be and still think my photo books have enough to offer in them with a wide range of interesting outdoor subjects tackled and many more photos of Scottish scenery and mountains for a much cheaper price. £2:50 for over 30 different trips around Scotland in areas not usually covered by other outdoor books. Getting people to actually look at them is the hardest battle though :o) So thanks again.