The Cobbler & Ben Narnain (Munro #4), Arrochar – 7.2 miles

A circular route in the Arrochar Alps taking in the north peak of the iconic Ben Arthur, better known as The Cobbler (884 m / 2900 ft) followed by Ben Narnain (926 m / 3038 ft). A gentle start quickly becomes steep and challenging with lots of rocky outcrops. Will you be brave enough to go through “the eye of the needle”?? There is a good footpath the entire way although be prepared for very boggy conditions between the two mountains and on the lower slopes of Narnain. The descent from Narnain is very challenging in particular the steep gully known as The Spearhead. The final section follows the old tramline to connect with the forestry road into Arrochar. 

parking-available-icon  Car parking available at Succoth Car Park just off A83 in Arrochar (G83 8EG). Please note there is a charge to use it.

viewranger-logo-new-jan-2017  Click HERE to view or follow a map of the route

os-logo  Purchase the OS map for the area HERE

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Mist and low cloud shrouding even the lower slopes of the hills

8th January 2017

As seems to be becoming habitual for my hikes in the Arrochar Alps, the forecast for today was low cloud and light rain. The plan was to do the Cobbler then hop across to Ben Narnain and then loop back down to Succoth car park. I had hoped that things would be better on arrival but in fact add mist to the above list and you have an idea of what awaited me after the hour drive through. No stunning views of the Cobbler to be had, nor indeed of anything at all…… but what’s new there?! Every cloud has a silver lining however, and I know that all of these walks I spend enveloped in cloud is going to make me all the more grateful when I do eventually get a view from the top of a Munro. Which WILL happen…. at some point this year….. I hope!

Despite my slightly tardy arrival we set off nice and early at 8:25am to make the most of the daylight hours. The going started off easy, past the Narnain Boulders and then taking a left at a fork in the path to head towards The Cobbler. Here we were astonished to find midges lurking in the air! MIDGES…. in JANUARY!!! What is going on?! I had a sudden  flashback to me packing my rucksack the night before and chuckling when I saw the Smidge, tossing it aside saying “Definitely wont be needing that!”  To be fair we didn’t as we were through the swarm before any of them could notice our arrival,  but it did give me a gentle reminder of the fact that you really can’t ever predict what conditions you will come across on the Scottish hills!

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The path initially zigzags its way through the forest  
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The burn looking more like a raging torrent with the first of the melting snow. A dramatic sight in the mist! 
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The Narnain Boulders

From here the adventure began! Steep, rocky, spectacular! Out of the mist and straight into the clouds we went. We were just able to make out a vague outline of The Cobbler’s iconic shape, so dramatic in this weather. It’s on these steep sections that it becomes obvious how much more stamina the guys have than me. The path was like a set of vertical giant steps. The muscles in my thighs ached and my heart was beating so hard I could hear it! Stopping for a breather every few minutes helped. When we got to the top of that section I took a dizzy spell so a wee seat and quick chocolate fix was required. I was soon up and moving again and felt on top form the rest of the day 🙂

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Obvious fork in the path: turn left for The Cobbler! 
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The mist clears for a moment allowing us to see the rocky lower slopes of The Cobbler. It was around here we found the midges! 

No attempt was made by any of us to go through the eye of the needle, although some did go over for a closer look. Another day! Ben Narnain was our next port of call. Through a temporary clearing in the cloud we could make out the bus load of people who were also making their way to the top. We managed to pass them and after a brief pause at the top we were delighted not to meet another soul the entire way down 🙂 Speaking of the way down….. Jeezo! We hadn’t expected anything like this. Immediately after leaving the summit we were greeted by “The Spearhead” followed by an arduous descent through extremely slippery rocky ground. There was really no let up until we reached the forestry track which zigzags it’s way down into Arrochar. I was grateful for the fact that where I lack the stamina for uphill stretches, I really enjoy going back down, even on this steep ground. Other members of the group are not so keen on this part, which I like to think keeps us even 😉

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The eye of the needle on the summit of The Cobbler: the true highest point of the Corbett! I hear getting back down is harder than going up….. 
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The boggy path across to Ben Narnain. It was around here, looking like a drowned rat, that we passed a woman still somehow sporting perfect makeup. How is that even possible; we had been hiking in rain for the best part of 5 hours?! I don’t usually leave the house without my mascara on but I have learned the hard way that mascara and hills to not go well together. For me at least. Actually, I wonder which one she uses… :-/
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Spearhead Gully, on the initial descent from Narnain

We regrouped in the car park, soaking wet but in complete agreement about what a fantastic day we had just experienced. I will always think back fondly to that flask of tomato soup I enjoyed halfway up Narnain, sitting silently on my fold-out mat in the pouring rain in complete peace. The flask is definitely going to be a regular part of my kit from now on! Oh and Munro # 4….. TICK 😀

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Exhausted but still smiling 🙂
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View down to Arrochar from the forestry road. This was taken just before sunset: the mist didn’t lift all day.

 

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