A magical winter day hike into Glen Gour in Ardgour taking in the Corbett of Beinn na h-Uamha with wonderful views all round.
Throughout Monday successive weather fronts passed through, framed by the wide windows of our cosy cottage on the edge of Ardgour. Squally showers came racing down Glen Gour, one after another, the sky turning from blue to black in minutes. At first it was rain and wind but later, as the temperature fell, it turned to snow, the nearby hill tops turning white before the line crept slowly down to reach us at sea level.
Date: 19th November 2013
Hills: Beinn na h-Uamha [Corbett]
Weather: Very cold, snow underfoot, occasional cloud but mostly sunny
Route: View on OS Maps
By Tuesday morning all was calm. A blue sky arced above Ardgour as I stepped out of the cottage door and crunched my way down the snowy back road a short distance to pick up the right of way which winds down Glen Gour and eventually through to Strontian. A pair of dogs came bounding down the path to greet me, their owner giving me a cheerful hello as I followed the track down to the shores of icy Loch nan Gabhar where a line of semi-submerged stones led the eye to Beinn na h-Uamha, the day's intended hill.
The glen was frosty, deep in the shadow of the hills and ice had crept out from the shore of the loch as I followed the track on its southern bank. The still air was broken only by the distant warbling of wildfowl - geese, ducks and a single swan - that were paddling slowly around one of the unfrozen patches. Unseen behind me the sun had risen and was slowly illuminating the sparkling caps of the mountains ahead.
Glen Gour is wide and flat, the track taking a direct course through it and passing by the odd ruined farm house and sheepfold. Gnarled trees, black against the snowy mountains, marched alongside the river away to my right. Behind me the early cloud was clearing from the hills around Loch Leven and there was a rosy glow above Loch Linnhe.
Beinn na h-Uamha now appeared much closer and I could start to pick out a route up its eastern ridge which cascaded down in a series of rocky falls from the subsidiary top of Stob an Uillt Dharaich. The track left the bank of the river for a short way but when it came close again the water was narrower, though no less cold looking. It was here that I would need to cross it to reach the lower slopes of the Corbett.
With deep, swift water and a lack of helpful boulders I chose to take my boots and socks off. The water was frigid and by the time I reached the far side I was light-headed from the shock. I sat down, dried my feet, put my boots back on and enjoyed a hot drink from my flask which soon revived me.
I crossed the boggy land on the north bank of the river, glad to reach the sunshine where I paused to look back at the impressive shape of Beinn Bheag back across the glen. The slopes of Beinn na h-Uamha were close now and I was soon starting the first part of the ascent. The sun was a welcome sight as it crested the hill behind me, quickly taking the chill off the morning as I wound my way around and below the first crags.
With crisp ground underfoot I was able to make quick work of the first part of the ascent, clambering my way up a fern-ridden gully and then traversing across to pick up the rockier ridge once I was above the first crags. The views back down Glen Gour were rapidly opening up and the light was spectacular as the cloud cleared from the hills around Ballachulish. Following the ridge upwards brought the chilly looking upper Glen Gour into view just as some high cloud started to roll in.
The jumbled ridge leading to Stob an Uillt Dharaich now stretched out ahead and above me and I enjoyed weaving in and out of craggy bands and across snowier sections. The weather felt a bit more threatening now and with the sun gone I was zipping up against the cold.
Below Stob an Uillt Dharaich the cloud broke again and I was greeted by blue skies. The Stob is imposing from this aspect and rather than tackling it directly I climbed up and contoured around its north-eastern slopes until there was a less precipitous route up. It was still steep but with traces of a path to follow and snow-covered tussocky grass progress was swift.
Behind me the views out to Loch Linnhe continued to improve. I soon emerged on the top of Stob an Uillt Dharaich, the sun now fully out and the way forward impressive. The snow was crunchy and a few inches deep and I was soon heading up towards the col before the final climb to Beinn na h-Uamha.
The views out across Ardgour were improving with every step and I could start to see the trench of Glen Scaddle beyond the high ground to the north.
Getting to the col included a bit more scrambling and an interesting traverse high above one of the gullies that dropped back down into Glen Gour. With firm snow underfoot I took careful footsteps along the narrow ledge which led up to the col.
There were now better views as the increased height continued to give me new perspectives. Away to the northeast Ben Nevis was emerging from cloud, whilst to the southeast were the various peaks around Glen Etive. To the north I could see the Glenfinnan and Rough Bound hills.
Away to the east the mighty ramparts of Garbh Bheinn of Ardgour had risen above the lower hills lining Glen Gour's upper reaches. It was a thrilling sight as its buttresses caught the shining sun.
The upper slopes of Beinn na h-Uamha now beckoned and I threaded my snowy footsteps through the final rock bands as I climbed up to the summit cairn.
It was breathtaking at the summit. A chill wind blew but I stood gazing out all around at the magical views. For a hill that barely scrapes its Corbett status there are some big views and I took as much of it in as I could before retreating below the cairn for a break from the wind and a spot of lunch.
Looking down into Glen Scaddle I could see the meeting of the rivers where I had camped on the second night of my April Ardgour Adventure!
I enjoyed lunch with a view, gazing all the way back down the length of Glen Gour to where the cottage stood close to the shores of Loch Linnhe.
The distinctive cone of Sgurr Dhomhnuill dominated the view to the west, around it arrayed the other hills of Ardgour and Morvern and Sunart, a wonderful corner of the world.
I took a final few minutes to look around and then made my mind up. Rather than backtracking and using one of the eastern ridges to descend, I would continue on my way westward and then descend back to Glen Gour by the wide coire below the western top of Beinn na h-Uamha. Garbh Bheinn to the south and Sgurr Dhomhnuill dominated the view as I made my way beyond the cairn and along the undulating summit plateau.
Soon the hill was dropping away and I was heading down to the bealach before Sgurr a' Chaorainn. The land was steep in parts with crags to avoid but mostly I was descending snow slopes. Sgurr Dhomhnuill continued to impress as its sides appeared above upper Glen Scaddle.
The bealach is topographically complex with a number of riven gullies descending from it. After negotiating a final rocky step which was coated with thick ice I found myself above one of these gullies and decided to use it as a handrail to get down into the coire below me.
After an initial steep section I was soon on easier angled slopes and picking my way down through the coire and back into the gloom of Glen Gour.
I followed the bank of a stream, crossing it lower down and then cutting off a corner by making my way across frosty grass and then wending my way along the floor of the glen to where, some distance off, I could see the faint signs of a vehicle track emerging.
Behind me the sun set behind the riven head wall of Glen Gour, the light slowly receding up the slopes of Beinn a' Chaorainn.
The track came and went as it passed through and around boggy sections. Progress was a bit laborious but it was privilege but to be in this quiet place surrounded by the hills
Cloud was starting to build in the west, tracking my progress as I headed eastward through the glen.
The track wound its way down to the River Gour, a short distance upstream from where I had crossed on the outward leg. Whether the flow was just less or whether I had lucked out with boulders, this time I was able to get across dryshod in boots.
I was soon back on the track I had followed through the glen in the morning, easily retracing my steps. As the cloud overtook me I stopped for a final drink stop enjoying the final sunlight playing out over the hills.
I passed Loch na Gabhar, the views much more solemn than a few hours previous, and soon was in the cottage, getting a good fire going in the stove and sitting down with a cuppa and cake, putting the feet up after a brilliant day in the hills.