My determination paid off: A soggy trek up Beinn Chabhair, Inverarnan

SEVERAL years ago I had a job as a night editor working seven days on, seven days off. This meant I had lots of free time which sounds great (and it was) but bear in mind that when I wanted to “play out” my friends were at work, so occasionally it was a lonely existence.

Working seven nights in a row is exhausting and it can take a few days to recover from in terms of adjusting your sleep pattern; however, now and again when I wasn’t working I’d pack a rucksack, grab my tent and head off to Scotland to bag a few munros.

On one of these occasions I used the rather excellent Beinglass Farm campsite, at Inverarnan, at the top end of Loch Lomond, as a base in the days before it had its own bar which meant that the nearest (the only place) for food and drink was the equally rather excellent Drovers Inn, which was about a 10 minute walk away.

I drove up from my home in West Yorkshire during the day (a mere 250 miles) with the intention of bagging Beinn Chabhair the next day, and then An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin the one after that.

Somewhere behind there is Beinn Chabhair!

While pitching my tent at Beinglass Farm it started to rain, and it got progressively worse; but thankfully my Vaude Taurus only took about five minutes to erect so I didn’t get too wet. Once it was up I sat inside it for a few minutes and prepared my bed for later on, before setting off on the half-mile walk to the Drovers and by then the summer rain was torrential.

My Mountain Equipment waterproof jacket couldn’t cope with the deluge so I was a wet on the inside and as for my legs, which were clad in denim, they were drenched. At the Drovers I sat close to the large open fire for about a minute and then moved seats to be even closer in the hope that I’d dry out quicker.

Very soon I was in trouble; the heat from the fire was overbearing but the seat I’d left had been taken and the rest of the pub was full; so I had to stay put and suffer.

After I’d eaten and had a couple of pints I headed back to my tent, and thankfully the weather had subsided and both my clothes and I had dried out thanks to the roaring fire.

At some point overnight the rain stopped and I awoke to calm weather; although there was still a dampness in the air. After a shower and breakfast it was time to tackle Beinn Chabhair.

Route map from www.walkhighlands.co.uk

The route started at the edge of the campsite and took me perpendicular across the path of the West Highland Way to a stile. Once over that it was a steep uphill section, and I mean steep, tracking the side of Ben Glas Burn for about two miles, which had become a noisy raging torrent after the rain the previous day.

The steepness was exhausting, mainly because my muscles hadn’t had time to warm up on a flat section, and once the ground had leveled out it became increasingly soggy as I got closer to the plateau of Lochan Beinn Chabhair meaning I had to meander around to find firmer surface.

Just before the lochan the map showed a path diagonally to my left leading to Meall nan Tarmachan (not the one near Ben Lawers several miles to the north east), which would then lead to the summit of Beinn Chabhair, but I couldn’t find it so I headed around the water and took the steep rocky ascent up Coire Buidhe.

Not too far up and I was in swirling mist but I’d figured that by heading that way and keeping the lochan behind me way I would eventually arrive at the path leading across the summit of Beinn Chabhair.

I scrambled up Coire Buidhe for what felt like hours; weaving between rocks, grabbing tussocks of grass to help haul me further up, and all the time conscious that I had to keep in a straight line but also aware that if I had to abandon then the safety of Lochan Beinn Chabhair wasn’t too far away.

Suddenly a path appear across the direction that I was heading in, and I somehow knew that if I took a left I’d soon be at the summit. A couple of minutes later and I was at the cairn marking the top; 3,061ft above sea level, but because of the mist I couldn’t see much more than about 20ft in front of me.

On the plus side it was very calm so I sat down and ate some food before continuing along the path that had brought me there. The route down was along the “official” path and when I got back near the lochan plateau I turned around to see where I’d come from and couldn’t understand how I’d missed the track on the way up; it seemed so obvious, but then again the final ascent had been exhilarating, if not as bit exhausting.

By the time I arrived back at the campsite, exhausted and sweaty, I’d walked around eight miles in pursuit of another munro; it was time for a shower and a change of clothes and then I headed back to the Drovers, in dry weather.

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