The big mountain beckons

Ben More (1174m); Stob Binnein (1165m)

  • Pronunciation:            Ben More; Stob Binnyen
  • Translation:                 Big Mountain; Anvil Peak
  • Total distance:             13.3km
  • Total time:                   6hrs 30mins
  • Total ascent:                1468m
  • Weather:                      Bright and mainly clear. Very cold. Severe wind chill towards summit. Improved throughout day (wind dropping)
  • Start / end location:   A85, just a few miles beyond Crianlarich towards Callander [Grid Ref: NN421 264]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

It turned quite cold overnight. At 06:00 when we got up the ‘van was freezing. We quickly set about our mountaineering day routine by getting the flasks filled and breakfast on the go. Despite our preparations the evening before, there always appears to be some last minute packing, or re-packing of our sacks depending on the conditions outside.

Summit plateau of Ben More

This morning was bright but cold. The moon had a hazy watery halo from some translucent low-lying mist.

Our walk began from a lay-by just a few miles east of the village of Crianlarich on the A85. After a quick ½ mile trot along the roadside we reached the start of the path close to Benmore farm. Our route followed the farm track up a few zigzags until it reached a gated fence. From here the track levels out and heads up Benmore Glen for 2-3km. However, immediately past the gate we took to the NW hillside of Ben More: following a very faint path. The path was mainly rutted footsteps in an otherwise tussock grass hillside.

Elaine on the summit plateau of Ben More

Because of the frosty conditions the water that appeared to congregate on this “path” had turned to ice and so we were forced, in places, to create our own path upwards.

The climb up Ben More was relentless. In profile it would be an almost straight line from the start of the path at Benmore farm (~150m) to the summit (1174m). At around 700m, the grass and icy ground gave way to proper snow: very crusty and ideal for crampon usage. So we donned our crampons and continued our climb higher. Around this time the wind really picked up with gale-force gusts causing us to have to stop and hunker down. The problem was that the slower we went the colder we felt. Despite the challenges of the wind, we made it to the summit of Ben More (1174m or 3,852’), where the wind dropped considerably. We descended a little towards Bealach-eadar-dha Bheinn and sheltered under a magnificent ice encrusted cliff for an early lunch. [Bealach is a Gaelic term for wide col or saddle.]

Cameron approaching summit of Ben More

After our short lunch stop we quickly descended to the bealach that bridges Ben More with its neighbour Stob Binnein. The climb up Binnein was superb. The wind had greatly reduced, the snow was hard packed and we simply zigzagged our way to the summit of Stob Binnein (1165m or 3,822’). Actually, although it was a very enjoyable ascent compared to earlier on the climb of Ben More, it was still fairly physical. As this was the first time we had worn our crampons for a while we really felt the ankle articulation that is required to walk most effectively in crampons on moderately steep slopes.

Cameron on Ben More summit

From the top of Binnein we descended back down our ascent path to the bealach and from there headed down due west into the upper reaches of Benmore Glen. Once down on the “floor” of the glen we picked up the track that we had partly ascended earlier (before we had branched off onto the slopes of Ben More) and made our way back to Benmore farm and the main road. That just left the short ½ mile trip back to our ‘van and a brew of hot coffee. We hadn’t seen a single soul all day.

Looking towards Stob Binnein from Ben More

We used our Platypus drinks system today, as we have done on our previous Munros. This comprises a plastic bladder of water and a long drinking hose. The bladder sits in your rucksack and the hose remains accessible on the outside. This type of system generally works really well as you are much more likely to sip water throughout the day and don’t have to take off your sack to find your water bottle. The problem comes in weather like today as the water in the hose froze solid and we could not get a drink – this is despite some lagging on the pipe to help reduce the freezing effect. From now on, until it starts to warm up again, we’ll be reverting to using our conventional water bottles!

Elaine on summit of Stob Binnein

The route that we took today is the one that is described in many of the guidebooks. However, I would suggest that it might be more fun (and less of a torrid relentless grind) to climb these two peaks by following our descent route from the bealach (at about 750m) and then tackling each mountain in turn. Next time, we will probably even consider mountain biking the few km up Bemnore Glen before ascending to the bealach.

Looking back to Ben More for Stob Binnein

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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1 Response to The big mountain beckons

  1. Laura Fairbairn says:

    Know what you mean about water freezing in the platypus hose – I had the same problem in Snowdonia this weekend. Mark, Ralph and I had 2 great days in the snow – not consolidated yet but beautiful views and lots of fun.

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