Beinn Chaluim South Top - 995m
Beinn Chaluim - 1025m

Thursday 28th January 2010

Weather/Conditions: Calm but overcast weather until the summit. Wetter conditions later in the day with the air warming as the day progressed. Owing to freeze thaw cycles, the summit was an ice rink that even crampons barely penetrated.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 11.9km / 950m / 6h 35m
Accompanying: Mackenzie Barker, Samantha Munro

Beinn Chaluim hardly ranks among the most impressive of Scottish mountains, but it's not a bad one. I've had several different impressions of this hill having seen it from surrounding peaks and it throws up contrasting characters. From southerly or western aspects, long kilometres of gradually climbing bog lead to a double topped peak, and with the north top at 1025m, it's a high summit for it's retiring stature. Viewed from Beinn Chaorach to the north, the two tops enclose a small corrie. I found this an imposing sight as these tops rise far higher than any of the surrounding Corbetts. From the east in Glen Lochay, it is a completely different mountain. An unbroken, steep north face rises uniformly to the sharp-tipped summit. It's only from this angle it gives the impression of being a true mountain.

But we approached it via. the bogs anyway.

But this walk was more about the company than about the hill itself. Mackenzie, Samantha and I frequent and this was my first outing with both of them. When I studied at the map, I came to dread the idea of climbing the 500 vertical metres of bog. In the end, the great 'banter' and frozen ground conditions made this walk seem a walk in the park, and it was only higher up that the real mountain revealed itself. It didn't seem to take long to gain the higher slopes either, it was just a fun day out today.

The views were good towards the Crianlarich and Tyndrum Hills too and only the (dramatic!) sight and sound of a fighter jet broke the peace. It roared into sight and was headed back up into the clouds in a moment. I am in awe of these machines and don't understand why hillwalkers complain that they break the peace. When I hear that mighty roar (and I don't often) I look in anticipation to see what's coming. These jets (so-called intrusions) that hammer up and down the Highlands are awe-inspiring.

Back on the hill, we headed up towards the south top. When the summit slopes rounded into view, we found new energies that took us all the way up into the cloud. The snowfields were frozen hard, and much of the terrain was covered in sheet ice. Crampons necessary. In fact - crampons absolutely necessary, because even they struggled to bite into the tough ice.

We slogged to the summit cairn of the south top where we stopped for twenty minutes for a rest and lunch. Then we went on for the final push to the summit. The ridge leading from the south top doesn't connect directly to the summit but lies offset in a way that I haven't seen before. We made the mistake of thinking that we could walk north from the subsidiary top, which meant we were below the ridge by the time we realised the mistake in the mist. Just before the last ascent, we met two other walkers descending. (I think with a dog?) They had passed us while we were having lunch and had a third friend who had not to have gone to the summit.

And then we were on top. We spent a few minutes here before turning around. The weather was getting gnarly, the frost of the morning had disappeared with the warmer air and hail started to fall. While we'd walked on frozen ground on the ascent the descent became wet and boggy. The easy going feel of the ascent had gone by the descent but we were in good spirits anyway.

Although we'd veered off course on the vast bog land, the deer fences that cross this hillside kept us on track and we arrived back on a track that took us down to Kirkton Farm. We crossed the bridge and arrived at the cars soon after. We planned to go to the Real Food Cafe but were met with a closed sign. So we settled for the Green Welly Stop. The restaurant in the corner was closed so we went into the cafeteria. This is no Real Food Cafe. They were doing construction work on the ceiling while people ate and served meals, and it was a bit dark and rather loud. Annoyingly enough, the Real Food Cafe was open by the time we passed on the way out of Tyndrum. Always next time...

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 8.35am A82 lay-by
(3.20) 11.55am Beinn Chaluim South Top
(3.40) 12.15pm Beinn Chaluim South Top (left)
(4.05) 12.40pm Beinn Chaluim
(6.35) 3.10pm A82 lay-by

Written: 2010-02-01