Creag Tharsuinn - 781m
Beinn Narnain - 926m
Sunday 16th March 2008
Weather/Conditions: A rather excellent day for hillwalking. Snow was deep although easy enough to walk on and the weather was sunny with some high-pressure cumulus around. As a result there a nice mix of sun and shade, but a chilly wind at times though most of the time it was quite temperate. No mist - cloud base above the peaks. Even Nevis to the north was clear.
Then there were numerous false summits of A' Chrois, the lack of food (oops), loosing my ice axe, etc (!!) To be honest, if there was a day that wasn't on my side it was this one. Yet all the same, the conditions were fabulous and I can say I'm immensely glad I got out to the hills... we all just have our off-days sometimes.
Ascent of A' Chrois
Once at Arrochar, (11.30am) I began walking up the old tramline path straight up Narnain, which was a bit featureless. Of course, Ben Lomond was impressive and had a real alpine look to it again. The plan was to cut across to A' Chrois, and over the ridge to Beinn Narnain before descending, which I hoped I could do in four hours. Beinn Narnain again ... it would be the fourth time up Narnain, and I'd hoped to visit some new peaks but it wasn't happening and I'm visiting the same mountain again. That just means I try a new ridge and the whole mountains different from that perspective anyway.
Anyway, at 1100 feet and by 12 midday, I turned right to approach Coire Feorline. I couldn't find a track, so cut a route across, although the land rover tracks below seemed to offer an easy enough way into the corrie. I took my own off road route over to the Allt Sugach, and then began cutting my way up the side of A' Chrois. Beinn Narnain looked incredibly alpine and wild, and it was just breathtaking. The sky was an awesome blue above and Narnain was snow and rock, and real idyllic looking mountain today. The weather was playing ball with me in the Arrochar Alps for 2008! (see February '08 on the same peaks)
The route up A' Chrois was a bit of a slog, but things got interesting as the views opened out more and patches of snow made an appearance. I was hitting the snowline, it was 12.40pm, and I was behind schedule for getting back to Glasgow for 6pm. (Rehearsal)
At one point on the way up A' Chrois, my foot went through three feet of snow and straight into a bog underneath. I pulled my foot out - jeans on, no gaiters so I whisked off the boot, got new socks on and all was fine. Then there was the wet jeans, so I put one of the gaiters underneath and that too was sorted. Onwards I go!
Then I realised that A' Chrois was giving me false summit after false summit. However I kept bashing at it, and as one summit came into view, I get to it only to see another above. Over and over that seemed to happen, and just as things were become a joke, I asked the first guy I'd seen all day how far it was to go and apparently all there was to go was what I could see. Thank god for that. Anyways, I slogged up the final section and at 1.35pm reached the summit. Marked by a small cairn, I got a few photos beside it; some turned out well. There were excellent views across to Ben Vane and Vorlich, like I'd never seen them before. It was also the first time I could see clearly the routes up both mountains and the Loch Sloy Dam.
However, I had to move on and I began descending. There was a lot of snow lying and it ran in a great swooping curve down to the bealach before the ground went up again to Tharsuinn. I essentially ran down, and the snow carried me making for an eventful and enjoyable descent, as well as an efficient one. Then came to getting up Tharsuinn. How bloody annoying.
I clambered up the side, and could feel the fatigue coming on. I was just exhausting myself. The snow was making me work harder, and while I was getting enough water, I clearly didn't have enough food or time to rest. Additionally, now I was at this point on the ridge, there was little where else to get down asides to follow the long route over Narnain and back to Arrochar. (There's a break in the cliffs on Tharsuinn that can be used to get into Coire Feorline. That would have helped a lot to have a quick descent route but I didn't know about it)
I got to the top of Creag Tharsuinn which in reality was just a bump on the undulating ridge, but I stopped at is cairned summit anyway. A quick rest and I began the ascent up Narnain. I was already pretty tired and wasn't looking forward to the final pull to the top. I went anyway and it was a hard pull up the side. The views were excellent though which made things a little better but I worked on it endlessly. After a while, I was actually getting near the top.
At this point that I wondered where my axe was. I felt around with my hand. Where on earth was it? I took off my rucksack, and it had gone. It was way below me, somewhere on the ridge, and while I would have gone back to find it, I simply had no time as it was and realised very quickly that I wouldn't get it.
It dominated my thoughts for the rest of the way, and I was just so pissed off I'd lost it... Ah, maybe I'll get it back? Nevertheless, I clambered up the side and reached the summit at 3pm. That meant I only had half an hour to get down, I ended up just accepting I'd be late.
So I descended, and took the route down the back to the Bealach a' Mhaim. It was a simple enough route to take and although I'd rather go down the front of Narnain, without an axe this was completely out of the question. No way was I taking the crags down.
Descent was quite quick, although I somehow hit my right thumb rather badly and it was bruised, cut up and was bleeding. It healed itself though and was only annoying later on.
Descent was a bit featureless, like always, but I had the last of the foot, guzzled down the Diet Irn-Bru and worked my way down as fast as I could. I spoke to dad via' mobile briefly and him and mum were at the bench 300 feet up. I was near the dam and already pushing time a bit late. Eventually I met mum and dad, and it was a nice walk back to the car with them. I'd arrived back a few minutes short of an hour late which was shocking considering my timekeeping is usually so immaculate, but I hadn't considered how much bloody work it would be!
We left Arrochar around 4.30pm and arrived back home an hour later, where I got some food, packed away drum stuff and shot off to rehearsal before it was too late. Time-wise things turned out fine anyway, so there were no problems, I suppose some of the events just shadowed the immensity of the day otherwise.
It's all lessons and experience however. And I suppose I haven't given enough emphasis to just how great the weather was: check the pictures, everything was as near to perfect as they could get, but loosing my axe just immensely annoyed me, and it seemed so stupid to not have realised it had dropped. Along with everything else. But all in all a great day, where asides the fatigue I actually felt great. There were no sore, wet feet or screaming thighs at the end, I was feeling mostly fine.
So what do I take from it? Rest. Food. Time. Three things I need to work on. I needed rest, although time wasn't on my side and I didn't have a lot of time to rest. I also needed more food for this walk, and was something I could have done with. I'm sure I would have become more able to complete the route quickly had I had suitable amounts of food. (i.e. energy) Lastly, I could have done with more time, or flip it the other way and I could have done with a shorter route! It was too long for what time I had set myself, but all things to work on. I suppose that's what these days are for: to learn from and although at some points I just wanted to get down, it's all stuff to work on!