Frozen conditions help on Beinn Dubhcraig & Ben Oss on a long day out.

Ridge above Cononish Farm
Ridge above Cononish Farm from col

Today I had decided to do Beinn Dubhcraig & Ben Oss, a couple of Munros that I had been planning to do for a while (Munros Completed : Beinn Dubhchraig (67), Ben Oss (68)).

The forecast was similar to yesterday, light winds, 70% cloud free tops, colder & some snow flurries in the West. These Munros I believe are best done in freezing conditions in Winter as the start through the forest is extremely boggy so frozen ground makes the start far nicer. I started from Strathfillan, walked along the path by the river to the stone bridge walking along the track to the next bridge over the railway. From here don’t follow the track but bear right across the marshy field to the new wooden curved bridge. Cross the bridge & immediately turn L and follow the path along the river.

Start through the Forest

From here there are numerous pathways that lead through the forest so it can be difficult to navigate so care is needed to emerge from the forest to where you expect to be. I was able to follow a trail that takes you away to the right of the river & to the right side of the burn. Once clear of the bog fest that is the forest (I made a good call to do this route on frozen ground) the snow lay deep but was firm and crisp making the going easy. The slope angle was very slight so I made good progress before I eventually reached a plateau. Visibility was excellent except for the tops which were in cloud. The original route I had planned takes you up the valley, to a steep angle to the col but I noticed to the left a nice looking ridge that takes you to the summit of Beinn Dubhcraid. After a quick check on the map I decided this would be a more aesthetic route & the only difficulty was crossing a wide burn which fortunately was completely snow covered.

Weather closes in.

I reached the ridge quickly but no sooner had I done so than front came over bringing horizontal sleet, high winds & reducing the visibility to less than 30m or so. This was forecast however and I expected fronts to continue to come in throughout the day. Luckily they were weak fronts and moving quickly so the cloud wasn’t thick and as soon as they passed the clear sky came into view. I stopped to put on crampons, take out my ice axe and put on my fleece before starting up the ridge once the front had passed. The ridge was great with a nice short steep patch up through the rocks.

 

Once I had gained the steep section I was into a thickcloud layer with low visibility down to about 50m, but it was just a question of picking a rock outrcop in the distance and heading towards it. I did this several times before the slope eased off for the final couple of hundred metres to the summit which I reached at 12:00pm. Once at the top there was no point hanging around as the easterly wind was cold so I took a bearing off the summit and headed down to the lochans. From here it was an easy descent on down to the bealach where vizibility improved dramatically and the wind dropped completely. Down at the bealach, the ascent to Ben Oss looked formidable but in the end was deceptively easy. There was a lovely steep section which made easy going on the firm crisp, snow to a minor top before the broad ridge curves towards the summit.

Steep descent on the return.

The return route states to retrace your steps to the bealach and ascend to the lochans and then head down ridge to Connonish farm track. I didn’t fancy the ascent back up to the lochans, so checked out the descent directly from the bealach. It looked fairly steep but reasonaby OK and nothing I hadn’t experienced before. However, after about 20m it soon became clear that it was deceptively far steepeer than it initially looked from above. Thank goodness for the snow conditions which were firm allowing me to kick good steps with crampons and thrust my ice axe up to the hilt. I traversed very cautiously for about 100m across to a point where the angle eased off one small step at a time. It was hard work, and I managed it OK, but if the snow had been more icy it could have been a different story.
I ended up descending too quickly instead of traversing further around to the main ridge I should have come down on, so ended up near the bottome at the river much further from the farm than I would have liked. It was another 2km to the railway sleeper bridge so I followed the river all the way, crossed the bridge and then a few hundred metres over to the farm track. The final 4km is flat ground all the way back which links with the WHW.