Illness, work, snow and goodness knows what else contrived to keep off the hills recently. My last attempt at a club outing ended in zero visibility on the M8 heading for the Pentlands- the jacknifed lorries were the thing that made us think that perhaps it was better to call it a day.
Almost three months to the day since Sgor Gaibhre, my last big hill day, I met up with the other members of Glasgow HF Outdoor Club in Waterloo Street for what was originally planned to be an A walk to Stob Binnean. That was cancelled as the leader had taken a fall on ice, which meant a combined walk was on the cards- to Ben Narnain. I’ve been up Ben Narnain a number of times in summer and winter, but on arrival at Arrochar the wind was around 40mph at sea level. Looking up at the hill we could see the sleet flying horizontally- not a day for hitting the heights. Last year we tried going up Ben Vane in similar conditions and were blown back. Rather than waste the day the group leader, Jim Williamson decided on a low level walk initially through Glen Loin, taking in the Succoth Caves.
Out of the wind and into the trees and it soon got pretty sweaty as we headed up Glen Loin, alternating between footpath and forestry track. After a while Jim decided that we were at a ‘distinctive’ tree (which to the rest of looked like any other of the 100,000 that surrounded us). Ditching our bags, Jim then led us a merry dance, dropping down through the forest in search of the “secret caves”.
The first ‘secret cave’ was full of schoolkids doing outdoor pursuits, so off we went to the other ‘secret caves’! Luckily these were empty and this allowed us the freedom to potter around in them. Headtorches on and in we went…
The caves are the gaps created after a massive rockfall slid down Glen Loin, sometime in the dim and distant past, and range from the claustrophobic to the rather spacious.
Moving further uphill there was another series of caves hidden away. These required a scramble through tight gaps and up slimy rock to a large cave, which until recently contained the remains of a deer which stank the place out according to Jim. By the time of our visit one small bone remained.
This final cave required some gymnastics. Being formed by rockfall, there were a number of levels and hidden chambers, and getting in and out was more like playing twister than anything else. Certainly worth a visit with the proper gear, perhaps a wee trip in the summer is on the cards?
After a quick break and it was decided to do a circular route, up Glen Loin and on to the Bealach a’ Mhaim, between the Cobber, Ben Narnain and Ben Ime. Having seen this glen but never walked it, it was quite enjoyable, with good views of Ben Vane and the craggy side of Ben Ime. Climbing up to bealach I had a chance to try out a new gadget, an anemometer, and a quick check showed that winds were in the 35-40mph range, gusting to 56mph! Not the conditions for an enjoyable Munro day.
Sadly no time for the Cobbler, one of my favourite hills- indeed it was my first big hill, a winter attempt with the Scouts. Rubber waterproofs, unsuitable boots and not an ice-axe between us. Changed days indeed!