Black Mount

Black Mount Munros, 14-15 March 2020

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Winter hillwalking over 2 days bagging the Munros above Loch Tulla and the Black Mount John King was leading.

Black Mount Munros

Day 1 - Stob Ghabhar

After recent heavy snows and cold temperatures, today was a return to normality in the Highlands with a warm, moist weather front passing over the country. However, despite a very damp early morning while driving south through Fort William, things were looking a bit more promising around the day's start point near Victoria Bridge. Atleast it had stopped raining! I met our group for the day - Linda, Eileen, Sam, Brian, John and James - sorted out kit, and we set off to see what the day would give us.

The walk-in to the hills along the banks of the Abhainn Shira was pleasant and a good opportunity to get the legs warmed up. It was a mild morning so we stopped by the hut at Clashgour to remove some layers and then got going uphill. We headed first for Stob Gabhar - being the larger and more challenging of the two Munros in this area, it felt good to focus on that hill first. The stream crossing over the Allt Toaig went without issue and we climbed steadily up by the fine set of waterfalls that tumble down from the hanging Coire na Muic. Near the top of the falls we crossed the snow line and once onto more level ground at the base of the coire we found a sheltered spot for a well-earned break.

From the base of the coire onwards the snow cover was continuous, and the trail breaking in the mild temperatures was initially fairly hard work, but soon we started to hit some firmer snow. We took a line up the ridge bounding the western side of the coire and at around 700m it was time to get the crampons on. Soon after the weather really started to close in around us. It was never particularly bad conditions, but it wasn't at all pleasant either with heavy drizzle and a stiff southerly wind. A line of fence posts marks the line up the ridge, cutting across open slopes near the top of the ridge and then leading straight onto the summit, usually a reliable handrail in bad visibility. Today however, many posts were buried under large drifts of snow and a bit of map and compass work was required to gain the final climb to the summit.

The summit cone of Stob Gabhar is usually an impressive sight but unfortunately on the day we saw little of it, nor anything of what was surely a very large cornice overhanging the eastern face of the hill. We reached the top in 3½ hours, took summit photos and a quick break at the top. Given the less than ideal weather conditions and the potential avalanche hazard down the interconnecting ridge with the neighbouring Munro, Stob a' Choire Odhair, we decided that one Munro was enough for the day. With a good trail broken we descended down the way we'd come and returned to our calm riverside spot at the base of the ridge for lunch. From here it was an enjoyable walk back out to the cars, even with a faint glimmer of sunshine as we re-joined the track by the Abhainn Shira. We were back at the car in 6½ hours, a satisfying walk in the books and just the right amount of exposure to the minging conditions high on the hills!

Day 2 - Meall a'Bhuiridh and Creise

Sunday morning did not bring a particularly bright or promising dawn and heading to the hills, the heavy rain showers gave an ominous feeling for the day ahead. The forecast wasn't anything special either but arriving at the car park for the Glen Coe Ski Centre we were treated to a bit of sunshine and some very fine rainbows over the entrance to Glen Coe. Our whole group from Saturday were out again along with Johnston who was joining us for this walk. After gearing up we headed off up the rough path that climbs below the chairlifts.

As we climbed the winds were pretty strong, accelerating down from the hill above and the snow was soft and deep making for some hard trail breaking, often sinking in above the knees. As we got higher, we were able to link a few more areas of scoured ground making for better progress and as the ground levelled out we made for a small hut near the top of the chairlift. The hut provided a nice bit of shelter from the wind - a good opportunity for a break and to get our crampons on in a relatively controlled environment!

Setting off from our sheltered spot, the gusts of wind were still pretty fierce, the cloud was down on the hills and it was evident that the ski centre had stopped running the chairlift which had been trundling over our heads as we'd completed our initial climb. None of this boded particularly well for our day so we set off up the slopes for Meall a' Bhuiridh with the intention of hopefully reaching the summit and then assessing the remainder of the days plans. Given the gusty northwesterly winds and blowing snow, at that point I didn't fancy our chances of managing the interconnecting ridge to Creise.

It was a tough climb up the steady slopes of Meall a' Bhuiridh but we made good steady progress and, as we neared the top of the slope, there was a break in the clouds revealing some blue sky and a bit of sunshine. By the time we summitted a transformation in the weather was underway. We found a sheltered spot just below the summit for a snack and as we watched the clouds cleared giving spectacular views of the surrounding peaks, plastered in snow. Game on for continuing to Creise!

The ridge down from the summit of Meall a' Bhuiridh to the next bealach is a nice, well-defined ridge and we had ice-axes out for extra security as we worked out way down between the rocky outcrops. It was certainly colder than yesterday and that was very evident in the firmer snow under our feet. It was also good for snow stability on the steep slope ahead of us up towards Creise. Off to either side of the ridge, the slopes looked loaded and had some mighty cornices above them. Large lumps of snow in the coire below us showed where some of these might have collapsed in yesterday's warmer temperatures. Despite these dangers around us, our ridge provided a safe route up and was a delight to climb, with good neve underfoot and a fine steepening at the top that added a feel of proper winter mountaineering to the day!

From the top of the ridge, all that remained was the gentle stroll around the rim of the coire to the summit of Creise. The cloud was just skimming the top but we got some nice views down to the neighbouring Corbett, Beinn Mhic Chasgaig and down into Glen Etive. After summit photos we wandered back along the ridge and back down the steep section of the ridge before stopping to have a bite of lunch with good views down Cam Ghleann towards the Kingshouse.

The outward route was back up and over the top of Meall a' Bhuiridh. It's always a tough pull back to the day's first summit and a light snow shower passing through stung our faces a bit en route, but from the summit we sped off down the other side, enjoying easy walking on good snow. Back down at the ski centre huts we got our crampons off and then followed the new track down towards the car park to avoid the tricky, soft snow we'd encountered in the morning. On the way we found some nice big snow patches that gave a bit of fun, bum sliding our way down to the lower slopes. We were back at the cars in no time. With the sun out and a bit of warmth behind it, there was definitely a feeling of spring in the air and we got back feeling the rewarding buzz that comes from a successful winter day in the hills.

Thanks to all in the group for a great couple of days walking!

Pic by John King and James Webster, more photos by are here on Flickr, with more by Johnston Orr also on Flickr.

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