After an ankle sprain in November 2021 – which meant missing some absolutely awesome weather at points in December – I had been desperate to get back out in the hills and enjoy some winter conditions for the first time since the pandemic. My ankle was getting better and a cracking spell of weather over an early March weekend was the target. Now to pick the hill…
As I was her ticket to the mountains, Sarah was just as desperate as me to get hill walking again as we hadn’t been since our day in Perthshire back in October 2021. We decided to aim for something that would be simple enough for her given the winter conditions (and something that wouldn’t be too much of a test for a not-quite-fully-fit ankle). Beinn Challuim was chosen and we settled on the Sunday, which was marginally better than the Saturday according to the forecast. An early start was required to ensure we got to the lay-by on the A82 (just south of Tyndrum) as sharp as possible given the popularity of this Munro. We did just that and set off from the car shortly after 0810.
It was a chilly morning with clear blue skies and almost no wind whatsoever. We were both so excited to be hill walking again and had a real spring in our step as we headed across the River Fillan and past Kirkton farm. It was already quite busy (one of the 2 lay-bys were full and the other was getting there), but given what a glorious morning it was, this wasn’t a surprise!
After crossing the railway behind the farm over a level-crossing we gained height quite quickly, which meant the views behind us towards Ben Lui and its neighbours was simply superb.
Other than the awesome views behind us there wasn’t really anything of note on the ascent – the lower slopes of the mountain are quite boggy in places (though a feint path exists for almost all of the way) and the upper slopes were drier and grassier. This allowed us to make good progress, stopping often to take in the views and enjoy being back where we love for the first time in a few months.
Beinn Challuim has two summits, connected by a short ridge. The southern summit was reached first and until now we hadn’t come across any snow at all, but the north-facing side of the summit and the interconnecting ridge had a nice covering. As we didn’t want to take any chances on the consolidated snow/ice, we took a minute and put our crampons on (why carry them and not use them!) as it was also a good chance to get some practice in those for any potential future winter walks.
It was quite firm and icy in places so it was the correct decision in my opinion and I was very surprised at the number of people who didn’t bother with an axe or crampons or, by the looks of it, didn’t have either with them. Remember the Scout motto, folks…!
An enjoyable traverse later, we found ourselves at the summit. This was our first Munro since October and my 88th Munro overall. What a day we had picked! The views were awesome and the air was nice and clear, so we could see for many miles in all directions.
Once more we soaked up the superb scenery before retracing our steps back the way we had ascended. The crampons stayed on until the southern summit where we took them off and enjoyed a spot of lunch. The most difficult bit of the descent was trying not to stop every few metres to take yet another photo of the panorama in front of us.
We managed, with great difficulty, to maintain some kind of progress and arrived back at the car around 1330, 5 hours 20 minutes after setting off. We were in no real hurry all day and enjoyed a more relaxing pace to really enjoy our surroundings. After such a wonderful hill day I had one thought in my mind on the busy drive home down the A82 – it better not be as long until the next one!