11:45 – Ben Challum (M106), 3363ft, 1025m
New snow and morning frost mean otherwise boggy approaches become frozen over and less challenging while the views from the summits more spectacular. What better conditions than these to climb Ben Challum with its reputation for very boggy approaches and spectacular views.
In spite of the cold, I worked up a sweat quickly and stripped down to only two and a half layers for the ascent. I was at the summit in little more than two hours, and as soon as I stopped, the cold caught up with me. I pulled warm clothes out of my pack and put everything on as quickly as possible, but my right thumb burned in pain with the searing cold, even under thermal gloves. Only when I was able after my ecstasy of fumbling to pull on thick mittens, having zipped up all down and windstoppers, did the pain begin to subside and warmth return. This is a bald open summit with no sheltering crags, where windchill is unavoidable and extreme, so I returned to the south top for lunch.
The views were indeed spectacular, with the snow line at almost exactly at Munro level, making it easy to identify the peaks all around, and far into the distance.
To the south, the Crianlarich Hills and Ben Lui are dominant; to the west Ben Cruachan; in the north west, Ben Dorain in front of the Mamores and Glen Coe melding into a complex layering of white ridges with Ben Nevis resplendent to their right.
In the east, the Lawers group and the Glenlyon Hills with Scheihallion behind; far away, slightly south of east, the Lomond Hills; and on the northern horizon, just behind Beinn Sheasgarnaich, Ben Alder.
The views on the return are dominated by the pointy giants of Ben More, Stob Binien and Ben Lui, with the ridges of the Trossachs silhouetted between them in the low winter sun.
A very fine beginning to the winter season.