Distance: 10.5 miles
Time: 6 hours
Munros: Stob a’Choire Odhair (926m), Stob Ghabhar (1025m)
Weather: Overcast, light winds, cold
Route: Click here for map
The benefit of starting at 5am on a Saturday morning and driving for 150 miles is that you get to catch most of the Out of Doors programme on BBC Radio Scotland. At least you do until you get deep enough in to the Southern Highlands that Cameron McNeish talking about wild camping by Loch Lomond is lost in a muddle of static. After Lochearnhead I continued on, enjoying the new found silence. The roads were surprisingly busy but slowly cars pulled off into the starting points for popular mountains including Ben More farm and Dalrigh. My favourite view of the journey was the alpenglow lighting up the solid snow-clad eastern face of Ben Lui.
Eventually I was alone on an empty road as I dropped to the Bridge of Orchy where I took the left turn onto the minor road that wound around the southern side of Loch Tulla before finishing at the large parking area just before Victoria Bridge.
There were only a couple of other vehicles in the car park and as I booted up I enjoyed the early morning light hitting the slopes of Beinn Toiag, the hill which sits just in front of my first target of the day, Stob Choire Odhair. Following the road with views down over Loch Tulla to the Bridge of Orchy hills I crossed the Victoria Bridge which spans the partially frozen Abhainn Shira. Already the views down towards the Glen Etive hills, capped with snow, were stunning.
I left the short stretch of forest on a wide landrover track that followed the river as it wound through a wide glen. All around the wintry landscape, sombre and pale of colour
After only a kilometre or so I arrived at a strange green hut which is apparently used by one of the Glasgow Mountaineering Clubs. It was all shuttered up as I passed it and turned right onto a path that leads up towards the cleft between Stob a’ Choire Odhair on the right and Stob Ghabhar on the left.
This path was wet and boggy in places but as I climbed became increasingly icy. It made me quite envious of the reports from people who use Kahtoula Microspikes (or similar) as this would have been perfect terrain for them. Still, there was always a less slippy route and I was soon climbing up below the south-eastern ridge of SCO.
The benefit of having lying snow is you can take a more direct route up and here was a great opportunity to follow the crest of the rdige and avoid the dangerously icy path. Taking this course I quickly gained height, with the views behind and over to Stob Ghabhar getting better and better.
The initial steepness of the ridge gives way to a broader, more plateau-like area which rises more gently to the cairn at the mountain’s summit. From here I enjoyed stunning views over the frozen pools of Rannoch Moor, the Glen Orchy Hills, the hills above Crianlarich and Tyndrum and away to the north where Glencoe and beyond looked mighty in their winter garb. I paused here for a few minutes breathing in the silence.
From here I descended the west ridge, a broad and snow-covered ramp which took me down to the bealach at the head of Coire Toaig. As I dropped I could see a group of three climbers ahead of me who were just starting to climb the far side of the bealach. To my right I had a good view of the skyline of Sron nan Giubhas which also contained a single solitary figure climbing up its bumps.
Beyond the bealach the eastern ridge of Stob Ghabhar rose sharply up, turning to the left and climbing above the frozen lochan which sits below the main summit. Initially the climb was fairly easy with the snow providing good footing between occasional outcrops. Then I hit the pull up to the ridge of the Aonach Eagach. This proved to be an extremely steep and snow covered slope with the views back to Choire Odhair and beyond to the moor opening up in spectacular style.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I finally topped the rise and joined the wide ridge that I then followed to the right where there was a decent track beaten through the deep snow. After only a couple of hundred metres this ridge narrows down to the Aonach Eagach, a narrow ribbon of rock and snow that takes you to the final summit slopes of Stob Ghabhar. It was perfect conditions for this ridge, with no wind, and great views down on each side. I thoroughly enjoyed the exhilaration of its airy position. The narrow section is not that long and very soon I was curving around the head of the coire and then climbing up the final slopes to the summit.
From here, standing in a chilled breeze I gazed northward over range upon range of snow-capped mountains. Ben Nevis was seen in the distance but closer to were the mountains of Glencoe. I also had great views back over my upward route to the summit of Stob a’ Choire Odhair. I paused here to have some lunch before retreating back the way I’d come to reach the southern ridge that leads back towards the outward path.
The initial ridge is a broad and easy descent, but as the snow was replaced by wet, long grass the land became more lumpy with the occassional crag. I decided to head further south and then crossed more open land to reach the Allt Toaig which I crossed and then paused for a final snack. From here it was a very pleasant walk back along the track and then out to the car at Victoria Bridge.