Icy times on Beinn a Chochuill

I set off early this morning to travel up to Tyndrum, a wee town some 60 miles away. I was still unsure of what hills to tackle. Would I give Beinn Dubhchraig and Ben Oss another try? Would there be much snow? And most importantly, would the weather hold? As I approached Tyndrum I found that my luck was in, the skies were clear and the sun was shining! I chanced it and headed some ten miles further, near Loch Awe. I had seen pictures of the Cruachan hills and they looked impressive with their rocky summits and jutting peaks into the sky. All the pictures were taken during the summer and they looked quite a challenge then. I knew they would be even more difficult in the winter. I parked on a layby just at the main road. Thinking I was first I quickly set off only to see half a dozen cars parked along the farm track that leads to the hills. It seems that everyone is cleverer than me first thing in the morning. The farm track was covered in mist and it was only after about 200m that you got above it and you were able to see the grand splendour of Beinn a Chochuill (980m/3215ft) and Beinn Eunaich (989m/3244ft). The farm track leads to the base of Beinn a Chochuill. From there it was a slog up the mountain to get to its main ridge. Until this point everything was going fine until I hit the ridge then I realised that it was largely ice covered with a thin layer of snow. At this point other walkers started putting on their crampons and readying their ice axes. As I admired their dedication to safeguarding their own life I wondered why I had left my crampons under my bed and had never bought an ice axe. I tried the ridge anyway trudging as carefully as possible into other people’s foot prints. I tiptoed to the summit in just over two and a half hours and was welcomed with stunning views of Stob Diamh (998m/3274ft) and back along the ridge to Beinn Eunaich.

I headed back down the ridge that connected to Beinn Eunaich and started heading up it western slope. With less than a hundred meters to the top I found that my way was blocked by a big slab of ice covered with a little snow. I tried to go around it to the left but no joy. I tried the right flank but found little footing but more danger as I slipped on the ice. In short my luck had run out. With common sense directing me I decided to head back down. I think next time I’ll look under the bed before leaving.


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