Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Beinn Trilleachan

Snow capped summit of Beinn Trilleachan

Ascent:      1035 metres
Distance:   9 kilometres
Time:        5 hours 6 minutes

c  Beinn Trilleachan    839m    2hrs 52mins

At last the weather was changing and on the first day of the high pressure I headed for Glen Etive and the massive primeval looking mountain of Beinn Trilleachan. I had admired it on numerous occasions from Ben Starav or Beinn Sgulaird but it is a long way to drive down Glen Etive for a single corbett. This was my first mountain walk of the year so it seemed appropriate to collect the nearest unclimbed corbett. Despite the forecast of a high pressure and a dry day it was no brighter than most of the others over the last three months and there was a clammy damp warmth in the air.

Keith arrived at 8:30am and I drove to Glen Etive which took almost 2 hours, it was 11:00am by the time we had parked at the small car park at the the foot of the Glen and had changed into boots, gaiters and then assembled and filled our rucksacks with crampons, ice axes and other winter walking gear. They were mostly unneeded and there were times on the ascent when a wet suit would have been more appropriate.

From the car park we crossed the forestry track that climbs northwards and kept to the outside of a forestry fence that climbs at a reasonable gradient to 170 metres. The ground was sodden and unforgiving. It did not change all day. When we reached the flattened section we turned towards the massive bulk of Beinn Trilleachan and started a steep ascent through wet grasses seamed with slabs of moss veneered granite.

Although I was reasonably fit from regular running, it was no moonwalk and, although I kept going, my legs were leaden from competing against both gravity and suction from the ground. The compensations of the views back up Glen Etive and across to Ben Starav were a scant consolation. Above 600 metres the gradient lessened and we began to traverse patches of wet snow.  It was reasonably stable but with each step we would sink into a foot or so of the wet stuff. It was with some relief that we reached the long ridge of granite slabs that define this fine mountain.

The sun was trying to breach the clouds but unsuccessful during the ascent. There was an easy section across the slabs to the top at 767metres. From here the views down Loch Etive came into view and we could see back to the nearby munros of Beinn Sgulaird and Beinn Fhionnlaidh. Across the glen, Ben Starav remained obstinately in cloud. The descent from this top in the cloudy conditions was trickier than it should have been. We veered to the right to avoid the steep slabs overlooking the loch. We ended up having to negotiate rock bands which would have been easier on a direct route as we discovered on the return. The final climb of 150 metres was up a long snow slope but the snow was in better condition and it made for an easier climb. We took 15 minutes at the summit hoping that the sun would arrive, it didn't but the tranquillity of a winter view towards Glencoe was splendid and the luxury was a flask of coffee and some jam butties .

The descent was glorious, the views opened up, the sun arrived and warmed the still air and we schussed down the snow fields. We climbed directly up to the 767m top and after joyously taking photos and admiring the superb setting we squelched our way back down the grass and slabs to the car. It had taken longer than we had anticipated but that feeling of smug tiredness from a day well walked lifted our spirits. The deer were grazing along the road all the way up the glen, the waterfalls were sparkling and a van load of kayakers had arrived to take advantage of a spectacular evening. Let another year of mountain walking begin.

Initial ascent up the boggy path

Climbing towards the 767m top

Looking back to the 767m top - take the direct route

View over the slabs to Fraochaidh and Beinn Bheithir

Keith as the sun comes out

Looking up Glen Etive

Looking down Loch Etive towards Ben Cruachan

Beinn Fhionnlaidh from the slabs

Ben Starav and Loch Etive  from Trilleachan Slabs

Glen Etive with the Buchailles showing their snow caps

Walk over - looking down Loch Etive

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