Signing Off An Awesome Summer: Summit Camping in Argyll

After a busy summer where I tried my best to make up for missing out on lots of opportunities last year, I managed to squeeze in one last trip before the end of the season. With only an afternoon and a morning free, it would have to be a quick one, so I opted for sleeping high in the Black Mount, a trip I’d had my eye on for a while.

[Aug ’21]

As the end of summer approached, the final weekend of the season looked to bring with it some fine weather in the west. I had just enough time to squeeze in a quick overnight provided it wasn’t hours away, so decided on an outing in the Black Mount, an area I’d been eyeing up for the duration of the summer. I couldn’t have asked for a better forecast – there was no rain, very mild temperatures and almost no wind at all. As it hadn’t been used this year at all, I decided a wee summit camp in my Terra Nova Laser Comp 1 would be good as I’d have a bit more room than my hooped bivvy with no extra weight (in fact, my TN is probably marginally lighter).

My route consisted of a circuit of Stob a’Choire Odhair and Stob Ghabhar. Having poured over the OS map before setting off, my best hope for a good camp spot was either north or west of the summit of Stob Ghabhar, where two long ridges extend away to other neighbouring peaks.

Before the fun could begin, there was the small matter of getting there, which meant a ‘lovely’ drive up the A82 on a sunny Saturday afternoon – the joys…

The drive wasn’t as emotionally traumatising as I first thought and I was very relieved to arrive at the Victoria Bridge car park to find the very last space! I had arrived around 1500, so most of the day walkers would have been finishing shortly if I hadn’t been able to get parked. I got my boots on and ensured everything was in my pack before locking the car and setting off with a big smile on my face, thankful that I’d managed to squeeze a trip in to mark the end of a great summer of adventure.

The afternoon’s first objective was Stob a’Choire Odhair – the smaller of the 2 summits – and this involved a nice warm up on a good track to begin with as I headed along next to the Abhainn Shira, turning off the vehicle track just after the Clashgour hut and heading towards Coire Toaig. I was making swift progress, but it was very sweaty work in the relentless afternoon sun. If I had one criticism, it was that someone had left the heating turned up far too high!

Looking towards the Black Mount
Off the vehicle track and into the wilderness

I stopped to replenish my water as the path crossed the Allt Caolain Duibh before setting off once again up the now steeper slopes. The path zigged and zagged back and forth though, making the gradient more managable in the heat. The views improved with each metre climbed, so there was always a good excuse to stop for a photo and admire the fine views across Argyll.

Cruachan and its neighbours

Eventually the steeper slopes relented and there was a slightly more gentle pull to the first summit of the day. I reached the summit of Stob a’Choire Odhair after just under 2 hours of effort, not bad considering the heat, the camping kit and nearly 4 litres of water on board. The views were absolutely sensational, but the party was rather spoiled by the arrival of something I had never really experienced before – the deer ked! These wee things were unbelievably annoying. They didn’t bite, but they buzzed around and got stuck in my hair and on my clothes. I think it’s one of the only times in my life that I’d have preferred a swarm of midges! This summit was a special milestone though, being my 80th Munro – only 202 to go…

Attack of the Deer Keds

I didn’t hang about too long at the summit thanks to my new friends, instead heading for my final Munro of the afternoon. There was a fair amount of down-and-up as the ridge between the summits drops to below 700m. Thankfully most of the re-ascent was in the shade of the summit above, so this made things a little more comfortable.

After a steep pull towards the Couloir Buttress, there was a short but enjoyable section of narrow ridge before the final push to the summit. I reached the cairn around 1830, 3hrs 15 mins after setting off from Victoria bridge. Admittedly I was happy with this pace and I reckoned that with a day pack I could have completed the circuit in around 4.5 hours without too much difficulty. But I was after a slower paced trip this afternoon and hadn’t lugged the camping kit with me for nothing, so it was time to find a spot for the evening.

An enjoyable ridge walk
More fine views of Argyll

Just as I’d found whilst looking at the map before I left, the north or west ridge would be my best chance for finding a good spot for the evening. I’d also noticed whilst planning my route that there was an alternative descent route from Sron a’Ghearrain (the summit to the west of Stob Ghabhar) that would take me down towards Clashgour farm in the morning and save any reascent. I therefore opted to head west about a kilometre from the Munro summit. Before long, I was atop Sron a’Ghearrain and had a whole summit worth of flat short grass to pick a spot.

I set my tent up on the soft grass and readied my sleeping kit for later, before finding a comfortable seat-shaped rock to sit on and prepare my Summit to Eat meal. With dinner over, it was now time to relax and enjoy what turned out to be an awesome evening with some stunning colours as the sun slowly disappeared behind the inverted clouds below the hills on the horizon.

A fine spot for the evening
A spectacular inverted sunset

With the sun now well and truly gone, I headed to bed on a completely still and silent night with – much to my surprise – not a midge in sight. Perfect!

My alarm was set for 0500, which would give roughly an hour to wake up and get packed away before the sunrise. There still wasn’t any wind at all, but due to the shift in pressure the cloud was very quickly making its way up the valleys and over some of the surrounding summits. After I was enveloped, I decided to head off the summit and back towards the car as there wasn’t much point in hanging about for a sunrise I wouldn’t see.

Attack of the clouds

For my descent, I had opted for a slightly different route than the typical circuit of these 2 Munros. Since I was further west, I decided to head for a path marked on the map between Sron a’Ghearrain and Meall an Araich. After a fair bit of pathless descending on slippery grass in the clouds, I finally found the path I’d been looking for. It was clear from its condition that it probably wasn’t often used, so I imagine it’s almost exclusively used for access by stalkers. It gave me something to follow to head for the valley below though, so I was glad to be following a distinctive track in the clag.

The old path

Just before Clashgour farm, the path joins up with the main track that heads for Glen Kinglass and Loch Etive, so I rejoined this and headed past Clashgour hut and back to the car at Victoria bridge.

Completing the circuit

My descent route in all was just shy of 5.6 miles, which I’d completed in 1hr 37 minutes, so it was a fairly quick way of getting off the hill and back to the car. It wasn’t as simple as getting changed and heading home though, as the midges that hadn’t bothered me all night must have been plotting their attack and had decided to congregate in the car park to form what has to be the worst midge cloud I’ve ever experienced. In the 5 minutes I was at the car getting my kit sorted and getting changed, I must have swallowed and inhaled dozens of midges. I was foaming at the mouth and the tears were streaming from my face as I tried to resist the little buggers whilst I packed my gear in the boot (it must have been a rather amusing sight for the folk in their neighbouring motorhomes and campers who’d stayed at the car park). Finally, I packed everything away and breathed a sigh of relief (and midges) before heading along the small road back to Bridge of Orchy, where all 4 windows were lowered to blow away the last of the rogue midges as I drove along the A82 at warp speed (60mph…)!

Despite the final hurdle, this had been another very successful summit camp with awesome views and near-perfect weather. Let’s hope that over the autumn months I get an opportunity or two to head into the hills for some more overnight adventures!

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