Ben Venue car park just off A821 at Loch Achray (chargeable). No public transport to start point.
WALK REPORT: 19th November 2016
What a beautiful autumn day we got for this walk! Clear blue skies and a hard frost at the beginning, with a good dusting of fresh powder snow on the hills. Perfect conditions!
The walk into Gleann Riabhach was very picturesque with waterfalls along the Achray Water and an interesting bridge to cross. We were treated to a beautiful mix of seasonal colours through the woodland areas. This section was VERY well signposted. New wooden way markers stood at every junction pointing out the direction of the Ben Venue hill path.
After crossing the bridge we entered the forestry area before starting uphill onto more open ground (thanks to tree felling) and into Gleann Riabhach. It was icy underfoot and quite slippery in places, the ground becoming gradually whiter as we gained height. The views looking back down towards Loch Achray were beautiful from this vantage point above the treetops.
The track followed the burn all the way to the top of the glen. There were signs of path improvement works taking place, the bags of boulders and tools having been abandoned and now covered in several inches of snow. We had read that the work was taking place between October and December….. an odd time of year for such an undertaking we thought, considering that the path was currently not visible beneath the snow with no signs of that changing in the near future. However, they did serve a purpose which was to act as navigational aids allowing us to see where the path lay! Those and some very thoughtfully placed orange flags. Thank you to whoever came up before us and popped those in the snow!
Unfortunately the flags did not continue all the way to the top! However someone had clearly been up out of bed earlier than us this morning and had already trodden a path through the snow which allowed us to follow their tracks all the way to the first summit. The snow was knee-deep in places, and my thighs were complaining from the strain of lifting them in and out of deep snow holes; a track which you would think had been created by a giant such was the size of the gap between each step! But…. the snow was fresh and powdery, giving us decent grip without the need for crampons. I was quite simply in my element. It was magical! I vividly remember smiling away to myself, looking around in total awe of the almost alpine conditions that were being served up. Not even plunging my leg thigh-deep into an icy bog hidden beneath the snow could dampen my spirits! I let out a yelp, a swear word or two, and carried on with one soggy foot and a slightly red face 🙂
In what seems to be becoming tradition when the 3 of us climb mountains together, just as we reached the ridge and began our ascent to the first summit, the cloud started to come down around us, blocking out any view which might otherwise be seen. *sigh* Having said that, there was very little wind and we actually managed to have our lunch at the top which was amazing. I joked that if we sat long enough the clouds would disappear… and so they did, just as I was stuffing the last bite of my hummus and cucumber sandwich into my mouth with a freezing hand! (Oh yes indeed, no soggy cheese and tomato for me!)
A quick time check at the top told us that it was 1:45pm which panicked me a little as I realised that we only had just over 2 hours of daylight left. A head torch is not equipment I have invested in yet, and in all my years going hillwalking as a child I can’t recall ever being caught in the dark so I didn’t want today to be the first. We got back to the cars just as the sky was turning black and I made a mental note to buy a head torch as soon as I got home and to treat this as a warning not to attempt anything too crazy until the longer days return. We do have our eyes set on a mammoth 4-Munro hike at Glen Lyon in the near future and while it would be amazing to do it in crisp, snowy winter conditions (I am now dreaming of being stood on a ridge high above the cloud level looking down on snow capped mountain tops peeking up into the crystal blue sky…….) today taught me that we simply don’t have enough hours of daylight at the moment to complete that kind of walk safely.