The Secret Lochan of Stob a’ Choire Odhair

The Black Mount is one of my favourite areas. It’s wild and beautiful, just south of Glencoe and edged by Rannoch Moor, the haunt of red deer.Big lonely country. In late September  it is already turning tawny, amber and gold. In October, it echoes to the primeval, guttural roaring of rutting stags, proclaiming their ownership over a harem or sometimes, calling out despairingly for one. The mountain translates as the Peak of the Yellow or Golden Corrie. It’s an easy Munro at 945m given the high start of around 200m, always welcome, leaving an ascent of  745m or 2,400 feet. It’s 6km in distance approx to the summit.Walking at a reasonable pace that should take (without stops) around 2hrs 26 mins.

Ben Dorain - Mountain of the Otter
Ben Dorain – Mountain of the Otter

The drive from the A82 at Bridge of Orchy into the Forest Lodge car park is so lovely once the ancient Caledonian pinewoods come into view on the left.There are often large herds of red deer , especially in autumn and winter around the tiny Inveroran Hotel, sitting all on its own.

There are usually quite a few cars at the small car park, it’s a popular walking area even if you stay low level. A stroll along by the shores of Loch Tulla’s deep blue, wind whipped waters, is balm for the soul too.

We parked up, got the boots on and gear sorted out then headed out along the track to Forest Lodge, where there is an attractive house owned by the Black Mount Estate.A left turn took us along a good track, signposted ‘Public Footpath to Loch Etive’, a walk I’ve always fancied.We followed it as it wound its way alongside the Abhainn (river – pron aven as in ave maria) Shira (sheera.) Rarely have I seen so many stags, resting in the tall moorland grasses, only their antlers visible.

Rowan trees were heavy with deep red berries and autumn migrants from Scandinavia – fieldfares – had arrived.A type of thrush, their grey heads and tails were the giveaway. The sky was almost cloudless, the sun a white ball of heat.The Shira looked almost dry, more stones than water; it had been a September of little rain.

At tiny green Clashgour climbing hut,  we headed off the track and onto a normally boggy moorland path, dry today,  following the Allt (river) Toaig with a fairly gradual ascent up to a fork.We took the right hand path which immediately ascends steeply up the slopes of our objective of the day – Stob a Choire Odhair. I’ve lost count of the zig zags – a dozen or more perhaps? – but they are a great way up, though tough on the breathing and our ageing legs!

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Not quite at the zig zags….

The views behind and around us now opened up as we laboured up the slopes.

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The hard work is not quite done at the top of this section – ahead lay a further slog up broad, stonier slopes which in 20 minutes or so, finally deposited us on the wide summit.Just below the summit, a ptarmigan watched us warily, a bird I’m always thrilled to see.A mountain grouse, turning all white in winter, a real survivor of Arctic places.It’s only found in Scotland above 2,500 feet or around 760m. In Iceland, I could hardly believe it when I saw them at sea level.

It’s a superb place to be with fine mountain vistas all around though the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor, dotted with hundreds of lochans, was hazy and indistinct today. (I read once that England’s Lake District could fit easily into the Moor.)

Translation: peak of the yellow corrie
Towards Stob Ghabhar

A chap appeared behind us and took our photograph, one of the few we have together. The air was quite balmy, the sun dazzling and a heat haze obscured some of the more distant views. On previous trips , I had spied a wonderful looking lochan way down in a remote spot and which today looked particularly inviting.With plenty of daylight left, we decided to head off the hill by its easy west shoulder and amble across for a closer inspection.

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Perhaps the unusual heat too was drawing me to water,  though at this height, the temperature is rarely anything but fresh.

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It was an easy wander across the moorland, dotted with small lochans and clumps of bog cotton.

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What a great decision it was because that little loch was one of the loveliest locations I’d seen in a long while.Perhaps its unfamiliarity lent it additional appeal.

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I began to wax lyrical to Chris  – ‘this is like a Cuillin corrie!’ (it’s not really, it’s much more lush. As ever I get carried away by enthusiasm) and ‘What a place!’ – and despite his usual under-stated response to great landscapes, I knew he was very taken with where we’d landed. In fact so much so that as I wandered down to the loch shore, I turned to say something and found Chris back where I had left him, lying down on the soft grasses, head on his rucksack, hands clasped across his chest and enjoying the chance of a doze! It was very warm in the sheltered bowl we were now in, beneath the rugged peaks, the sun’s heat trapped in the golden corrie, the air shimmering as if it were a summer’s day. Across the lochan, a large herd of hinds grazed quietly, unfazed by our arrival.

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It was idyllic ; I felt there could be no better place to be at that moment.Even a walk to this spot without going up onto the peaks, would be a fine way to spend a sunny half day.

 

 

Of course more intrepid hill walkers than us would now be traversing the narrower, rockier ridge which lay above, with some unpleasantly steep loose ground and ‘intimidating’ views down to this spot – called on maps,  Coirein Lochain. They would be intent on bagging Munro No 2 of the day, Stob Ghabhar, the Peak of the Goats. Mountain goats indeed, those who were picking their way across that route! I wish I could do it but I suspect it would give me the heebie jeebies. Chris has done it and suggested it wasn’t as bad as it’s written up in the books.But I’ve climbed Stob Ghabhar before by an easier route and so have lost some motivation to re-visit it. Anyway, I had no regrets about where we had now found ourselves.

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Looking back to our descent route off the mountain.

It was hard to leave that secret lochan, within that corrie of tawny grasses barely touched by the breeze. A golden place indeed.

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