Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Corrour Station. The Walk Out. Classic Munros in Winter.

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Binnein Mor 1130 metres, 3,707 feet high.
In the morning we tidied up the bothy, gave the rooms a sweep then cleaned out both fireplaces... leaving behind enough spare coal, wood, kindling and firelighters to give the next folk walking in a good fire. With decades of hard earned experience we now carry coal or wood into most bothies as before that we often had problems finding dead wood dry enough to burn lying outside and we usually arrived after dark on grim wet Friday nights anyway, after work. Shows how much coal we carried in when we had good fires both nights then a morning fire (burning combustible rubbish) before we left. We also carried out a bag of unnecessary rubbish as well as our own empty cans. Even at that the packs felt a lot lighter which was just as well as I for one had bruised shoulders from the 'beast of burden' walk in.
With the usual Highland luck it was a cracking sunny day of warm sunshine and hardly any wind for our departure. A weather god's loud raspberry after the brutal conditions suffered the day before on the Corbett Glas Bheinn. Also cracking and snapping loudly was the river as the late March sunshine melted the overnight ice sending sizable sheets of it tumbling down the rapids and waterfalls. A lovely tinkling sound to hear. No wonder our ancestors worshiped the sun. You can scrape a car windscreen for ages coated with thick ice yet within a minute, driven from frozen shade over to a sunny spot it will melt completely by itself as if by magic. Sitting outside the bothy in a sheltered hollow it was actually warm- a rare event in Scotland- even in summer.
Although this photo taken on the journey in looks flat it doesn't show that the path out from Staoineag to Corrour is relentlessly uphill most of the way so it wasn't the gentle hike back we were expecting.
There is nothing else at Corrour Station. This is it... but what there is here is delightful.
Not only fantastic views of surrounding peaks- best seen under snow.
But also distant views across Rannoch Moor of the Bridge of Orchy range of mountains. Beinn a Chreachain, 1081 metres, Beinn Achaladair, 1039 metres and Beinn an Dothaich, 1002 metres.
One of the great Central Scotland  day walks in spring sunshine is an ascent of the first two mountains here through Crannach Wood then up the Mount Fuji like slopes to the glistening snow draped broad ridge. A canter along all four Munros, (Beinn Dorain, 1076 metres, being the hidden end peak viewed from here) is an epic day out but once you reach the ridge-line a surprisingly easy four summit romp with superb views unfolds... or just the first two mentioned if returning to a car.
Inside this humble looking building a surprise awaited.
It was rather posh inside, with polished tables, a range of food being served and a bar/cafeteria/ restaurant serving section with staff behind it to cater for your every whim- within limits. After the spartan bothy experience this was somewhat overwhelming so we settled for a glass of coke and a mars bar although the venison burger buns, with all the trimmings, looked nice and not that expensive. Compared to other transport waiting rooms I've been in this was sheer indulgence but I suppose they have to pull out all the stops to get ordinary rail folk to use it in such a remote spot. There is nothing else around here, apart from hills, moor and lochs, so any captive audience has to be kept amused in comfort, once they have admired the views. Having had a full breakfast in the bothy beforehand we were still stuffed. It's not open in the worst winter months.

As the inside of the building was playing host to a group of railway enthusiasts/volunteers/ rail network officials we sat outside as it was still sunny and warm.
This is us here talking to one....
...and this is the newly converted building open for tourists to stay in. £110 a night apparently but the views from the glass lookout must be impressive. Link, reviews, and photos here. Damn! Getting hungry just looking at the food :o)

The next stop down the line- Rannoch Station- also has a bunkhouse and static railway carriage accommodation although a minor road also reaches that community so it's a slightly larger collection of buildings surrounding the station but still remote, marooned in the centre of the moor.
When the train arrived our weather luck held and it was a spectacular two stop ride across the moor past some of Central Scotland's most iconic Munros and mountain ranges. Buachaille Etive Mor, 1022 metres, a favourite peak for rock climbers.
Creise, 1100 metres in profile.
The train rumbled past the Glen Coe/ Glen Etive/and  Blackmount ranges- looking far higher under snow than 3000 plus feet. It's not a Bullet Train so you get plenty of time to admire the views and for me to avoid window glare. No frozen extremities this time around. Sheer luxury behind glass on a cosy seat not curled in a ball in a wind tunnel- lying on an ice sheet.

 I could get used to this mode of transport/comfort and the train was fairly busy with seasoned rail travellers drinking in the scenery while sipping malt whisky... watching the world go by.
Loch Tulla and Stob Ghabhar, (goat mountain in English) 1087 metres, another fantastic classic Munro.
And they kept on coming once off the train at Bridge of Orchy station and back in John's car. The mountain wall of high peaks and huge overhanging cornices above the train station. In the early days I knew a girl in a club who fell through one of these deceptive overhangs- plummeted 500 feet down the mountainside- but was unscathed apart from bruises, thanks to luck and soft snow depth. From the ridge above they can be hard to see for walkers and she was ten feet back from the edge when she suddenly disappeared - one of the hazards of winter mountaineering. A lot of  mountain accidents happen in the first  couple of years before you gain a real understanding of the dangers involved- avalanches- loose rock, power of swollen streams you have to cross etc...
icy slopes, seen here, being another factor.
Ben More, (big hill) 1174 metres and flat topped Stob Binnein, 1165 metres viewed from Tyndrum.
Beinn Mhanach, 954 metres, seen from Auch. Did this one many years ago in pouring rain and mist and we waded the same river three or four times knee and thigh deep, going in then coming out, following the track. It didn't make much difference as we were already soaked by that time anyway so just kept boots and trousers on until the car where we rang numerous pints of water out our sodden gear and socks by hand. Ah, the good old days of going up hills no matter the weather...
And a last one of Ben Lomond, 974 metres, looking like a pyramid from this angle. A great trip and thanks to John for the invitation, company, and driving duties-allowing me to take these photos.

A classic oldie and one of Joni Mitchell's best songs. Growing up in a cold wet country I can easily identify with the lyrics to this number. Although partly written about the fading folk music scene where she grew up..... inland Canada has long harsh winters but warmer, drier summers than ours.... you can tell which season she preferred....and as soon as I heard this decades ago it captured my feelings perfectly as well. A love/hate relationship with winter and a lifelong yearning for a warmer climate that many must also feel across the UK given the popularity of sunny holiday destinations abroad. I just turn Scotland into my sun-drenched oasis instead. It can be done. Actual warmth is far harder to  conjure up though, even in summer, where T-shirt only days are few and far between.
Nice imagery in this video. A work of art in itself.


Anonymous said...

Stepping off a train at Corrour and then watching it head off into the distance, leaving you in the middle of nowhere is one of the UK's special mountain experiences. Its a superb corner of the highlands and has a truly remote feel. Great pictures (and I share that view of the relentless uphill nature of the walk out with a heavy pack!)

Anabel Marsh said...

Wonderful pictures.

Rosemary said...

The depth of blue shadow on the snowy mountain ridges is quite simply stunning - a classic image of what a Scottish Highland scene should look like.
When all else fails eat a Mars bar, it is always the perfect pick me up.

John Burton said...

Great expedition Bob. Looking forward to the next one.


blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anabel.

blueskyscotland said...

Too true Andy.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
a sugar kick after a hard outing is always good- even with chocolate half the size it used to be :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers John,
It was a great trip but I'll have to fix my leg first- I can cycle with it though... funnily enough.

Linda W. said...

Those snowy mountains make for fantastic scenery!

Carol said...

Didn't think Corrour Station cafe would be open mid winter!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
We may have been lucky. Either it was just open for the season or had a special early opening for the BR group we met there checking out the new accommodation facilities. Despite all the snow the train was fairly busy and great scenery out the windows for tourists.

Neil said...

Thanks for carrying out extra rubbish from the bothy, Bob. There are big rubbish problems at some of the more popular bothies nowadays but thankfully it's more or less OK at most. Some folk seem to think that there's a bin collection at these places. Or maybe they just don't think. It's yonks since I've been at Corrour. There was no café when I was last there. Must take another trip in sometime. I fancy a stroll up Beinn na Lap again.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a classic day, even if it was the last of the trip. It's a long, long while since I stopped at Staoineag. Hopefully, I'll get back there one day.

blueskyscotland said...

No problem Neil,
It was already all in a black plastic bag just waiting for collection so maybe Mae and Elie had tidied up all the rubbish they found in the bothy earlier when they arrived. They had a massive walk out to the road so it was much easier for us to take it out. Compared to what we carried in it weighted nothing.
Rubbish left behind really gets me as it's the same as the thousands of little black plastic bags of dog shit you see everywhere now on walks tied to fences, or the piles of empty fast food boxes sitting on the ground exactly where a car has parked in retail parks when a bin is 40 feet away. A great advert for the UK where we do have some of the world's best scenery on our doorstep and some of it's most thoughtless or deliberately vindictive inhabitants. Why, if you've taken the trouble of carrying and picking up dog shit then putting it in a bag would you tie it onto the nearest fence or tree beside a path? This modern "trend" is reaching epidemic proportions now and I cant think of any rural or city walk in the past few years where I haven't noticed it. Beinn na Lap was my last Munro, I think. A lovely hill in spring with summit snow still around. (shows how long ago that was when I can barely remember which one or how important it was :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Beating the Bounds,
It's changed very little in 30 odd years apart from the restaurant at Corrour which is a good thing all round. Basic and Spartan in the bothy but a bit of luxury and food nearby if you wish.

Anonymous said...

I remember it being relatively plush for a bothy. Somebody offered to fry me some fresh trout once when I was there.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anon,
It's OK but about average as bothies go- 3 bare rooms, a table, 2 fireplaces and a few old chairs. Have been in ones with full bookcases, beds, sofas etc but they are usually unlocked non MBA ones and not well known.