A Windy Day in the Arrochar Alps: The Brack & Cnoc Coinnich

After an amazing trip in the Cairngorms the week before, I was keen to keep the momentum going and bag some more new hills. Sarah and I opted for something a little closer to home and settled on The Brack and Cnoc Coinnich, 2 Corbetts in the Arrochar Alps. Bagging these leaves me with only Beinn Bheula (a Corbett near Lochgoilhead) and Beinn Bhuide (a Munro at the head of Loch Fyne) to bag to complete the set!

[Aug ’20]

The great thing about a trip closer to home is the shorter drive and the later rise required (not that I mind an early start to go hill walking, but some extra time in bed is always welcome!) and the Arrochar Alps are only a stone’s throw from Glasgow, so pretty close relative to the rest of the highlands of Scotland. The drive north to here from Ayrshire takes around 1.5-2 hours and today was no different – the roads were still pretty quiet following eased lockdown restrictions. We were parked up and ready to go by 0745, ready for a couple of relatively small but tough wee hills.

The Cobbler from Ardgarten

The first section of our journey was along forestry tracks to reach the path up the Brack, so we had a mile or so to warm up before the very steep climb began.

A pleasant start to the day

The initial climb away from the track was incredibly steep indeed, through fairly dense woodland to begin with. This soon eased off (the gradient certainly didn’t) and we soon broke through the trees to be greated with excellent views up Glen Croe towards the Rest and be Thankful. There wasn’t much to note on the ascent of the Brack other than the continuously steep slog to reach a small lochan at the 600m contour. From here, we continued over the martian terrain towards the summit, winding our way up the good path towards the trig point.

Beinn Luibhean
Steep going
The Arrochar Alps

We reached the summit of the Brack just before 1000, slightly more than 2 hours after setting off from the car. For a reasonably short distance this seemed like slow going, but it was definitely pretty steep in places, which slowed us down a fair bit. The wind had started to pick up a bit now too, so we didn’t hang about and quickly took some photos before heading off downhill towards our second target of the day – Cnoc Coinnich.

Glen Croe
The Arrochar Alps from the Brack’s summit

The descent was altogether very different from the ascent. We were now faced with much pathless, tussocky ground that was a bit of a pain to walk on. There was no path to speak of (other than in a few places) and the ridge wouldn’t be easy to follow in poor visibility without navigation skills.

It took around 45 minutes to descend from the Brack’s summit to join the Cowal Way, which we followed for a few hundred metres before initially blazing our own trail on Cnoc Coinnich. We soon came across a vague grassy path, but it did make the going a little easier on an otherwise steep and unfriendly hill.

Pathless slog towards Cnoc Coinnich

Another half hour or so of trundling and we reached the summit of Cnoc Coinnich, a hill that was only promoted to Corbett status in 2016. If it was windy on the summit of the Brack, it was now VERY windy. We hadn’t really noticed the strong southerly gusts as we ascended on the north ridge of Cnoc Coinnich, but as soon as we topped out the wind hit us. Once again, we didn’t hang about for long and headed back downhill, retracing our steps to join the Cowal Way.

Cnoc Coinnich’s summit cairn

After reaching the path once more, we followed this all the way back to the car, initially dropping down steeply into some forestry before following a well made logging road that allowed us to make excellent progress back to Ardgarten. After the logging road ended, a tarmac road started, and we followed that back to the car park.

An easy descent

We reached the car around 1330, 5hrs 45mins after setting off. We were pretty pleased with the time we had made up on the better sections of the walk, but all in all it was another enjoyable day (other than the windy summits!) and a step closer to bagging all of the Arrochar Alps.

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