After last week‘s shorter than expected walk due to ice covering the ridge between Ben More and Stob Binnein, I returned today safe in the knowledge that the ice would have been replaced by snow after heavy showers during the week. I decided to follow the route in my walking book to the letter this time, rather than mixing and matching between two routes, and so started off in a layby much further east along the A85. The path is sign-posted from the layby, cutting through a small field before joining a wide forestry track. There was no snow on or around the road, but the track had a covering dotted with footprints belonging to yesterday’s walkers.
I followed the track for a few hundred metres before turning off onto a narrower track through denser forest.
In places the track was slightly strange underfoot, made up as it was of water-logged peat topped with a thin layer of ice and then a dusting of snow, creating an interesting bouncy sensation as I walked, to the soundtrack of cracking ice. After a good hour or so of the track getting gradually steeper and the snow getting gradually deeper I finally left the trees behind and emerged onto open hillside and came to a deer fence covered in wind-whipped ice.
I crossed the fence and followed it west as my book told me to, with the snow getting deeper and deeper to the point where I was struggling through waist-deep (ie 1 metre plus) snow, physically lifting my legs out of the snow to take steps forward. Unsurprisingly, progress was slow, and visibility down to about 30 metres in blizzard conditions. This was the kind of thing I could see for the next hour.
When I got to where I was supposed to head up onto Sròn nam Fòsairean I decided that given the weather, the depth of the snow down here and how slow progress was, it would be a better idea to continue following the fence and head back around the mountain rather than make an attempt on the summit today. It turned out to be a good decision as it took me a lot longer than I expected to get through the snow. I had to cross several burns, one of which took me by surprise as it was completely covered by the snow, and I disappeared into snow deeper than I am tall (1.83 metres!). Luckily the water at the bottom was only about 20cm deep though. The rest of the burns were more obvious thankfully.
Getting to the summit isn’t everything though, and I had great fun heading around the mountain instead, taking massive steps, diving, jumping and sliding in the deep snow, and as I got a bit further down there was a break in the cloud.
I’d seen a lot of animal tracks in the snow and had been following two sets of fox footprints for about an hour when I came to the remains of a sheep strewn across the snow. The covering of snow was getting thinner now as I continued my descent, and finally I emerged from the clouds and saw Benmore Farm.
It was straightforward from here on down to the track that leads to the farm, followed by a long walk back along the A85 to the car. It wasn’t my intended return route, and I hadn’t made it to the summit this time, but nonetheless it was a great day.