A modest little mountain, a massive view

Beinn Dorain

Beinn Dorain

Well then, we did get out on the hill again last week as planned. We headed for a very modest little hill tucked in at the side of Ben Challum, not far from Crianlarich. It’s called Beinn Chaorach and it’s no more than a long grassy whale-back that rises to a little over 800m, but it is in a perfect location, offering a wonderful view all around. It also has one other important benefit ….especially on an Easter bank holiday weekend …it’s not very popular with most walkers and so you usually have the place to yourself.

We didn’t leave particularly early as the forecast was for cloud and patchy rain clearing as the day progressed. It made more sense to have a late start and to make the most of the lighter evenings. This worked out well as the cloud was well down on the tops when we arrived with just occasional breaks….but it looked promising for later in the day.

We left the car at the side of the A82 (the normal starting point for the Munro, Ben Challum) and followed the West Highland Way for a couple of kilometres before heading off towards our hill along a rough estate track. The heavy snow of earlier in the week was still much in evidence with the hillsides splattered with big snow patches all the way up from track level to around 750m above which there was a more overall cover. The estate track leads around the end of Beinn Chaorach and then along the glen between it and Ben Challum. All the way along were the remains of deep snow drifts and virtually every gully and hollow were filled with snow creating wonderful patterns on the hillsides. The cloud was rising as we wandered our way along the track and although there was more sun we were also caught in a couple of snow showers that drifted in from the west and made everything very atmospheric.

Ben Challum

Ben Challum

After a couple of kilometres the path enters a large fenced off area …protected by both a standard and electric fence. These were to keep deer and sheep out to allow the vegetation to regenerate naturally. Thankfully there was a stile but the track only continues for a short distance and from that point on it becomes a very rough walk indeed to get to the stile another kilometre away at the far side of the enclosure. At this end of the glen there are numerous small streams to cross and each one was covered with snow. We could hear the water underneath but it took some careful prodding with the walking poles to locate and avoid falling through the snow and into the water. We didn’t escape completely unscathed ….my partner Nita followed me across one such snow covered stream ..and ended up to her knees in snow with her boots in the water. That’s what comes of the guide following the blind man I guess! She went back to leading straight after that.

Ben More & Stob Binnein from Beinn Chaorach

Ben More & Stob Binnein from Beinn Chaorach

From the far side of the enclosure it’s just a short walk to the wide beallach and this opens up a vast panorama of snow covered and very shapely peaks, Beinn Dorain, Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn a’ Caisteil to name but a few. From here we climbed gradually gaining the far end of Ben Chaorach and following its broad and increasingly snowy back all the way to the old trig point marking the summit. The snow up here was much firmer and made for good walking. It looked particularly good too as the wind had scoured the surface creating numerous little ridges and subtle eddies …every one of them now picked out by the late afternoon sun. The bigger view all around was quite breathtaking but our gaze was drawn to the peaks of Ben More and Stob Binnien, caked in snow and looking every bit of their 1170m. Wow! Just below the summit there was a large pan of smooth snow and as we’d not really had a lunch break, we decided that this would be the ideal spot. It was so quiet and as planned we hadn’t met a soul the whole day. At one point Nita had spotted some climbers making their way along the ridge towards the main summit of Ben Challum but there was no one over on this hill.

The walk off Ben Chaorach is so easy …even when you can’t really see where you’re putting your feet. It was one of the most relaxed descents I’ve ever done. Usually the descent is the difficult bit for me. It’s normally very slow and surprisingly tiring …much more so than climbing the hill in the first place.

From Beinn Chaorach

View From Beinn Chaorach

This though was a real pleasure and by the time we were back on the WHW there was virtually no cloud in the sky and we arrived back to the car in the beautiful late evening sun. It was a perfect day.

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