Naked Munros
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Ben Challum

(Written by Stuart)

We parked on the A82 road between Crianlarich and Tyndrum, in a road side layby just before the West Highland Way crosses the road. The start of the climb was very pleasant, past St Fillans and over a railway crossing before leaving the main path to pick our way up through the hummocky terrain. This was, as is always the case on this kind of landscape, quite a tiring part of the climb and it wasn't helped by the encounter we had with someone coming down having already climbed it, especially as it was still morning! If that wasn't bad enough, this person was about twice our age and not even out of breath, unlike us. He then proceeded to tell us he was heading off after this to do two more munros today. When he asked if this was the only one we were doing today the word "only" cut my heart like a knife, the shame I felt at doing just the one munro in a day must have been obvious when I sheepishly mumbled "yes" I console myself by saying that we spend a lot of time taking pictures while carrying about 5kg each of camera kit, yet somehow my shame remains ...

So it was with renewed vigour that we bounced up the hill and over a few fences that we ended up climbing back over further up the hill. The views were becoming really quite stunning with the hills around Ben More Slog, Cruach Ardrain and Ben Lui looking really quite amazing as the twin domes of the south top and the main summit loomed ahead of us. Karla decided that as the sun was out, it would be a good idea to get some shots while we were still on the lower slopes.

Once on the summit, I was able to see the navigation problems I had so often read about in the book and I could clearly see that in poor visibility the place has the potential to be quite dangerous. The south top is essentially dome shaped, but with a notch a few metres wide and deep cut in it to the west of the summit cairn. The western side of the notch continues as a ridge to the main summit, but the feature is too small to be shown on the map, and so a compass bearing from the cairn to the main summit takes you quickly towards some steep crags, which may not be clearly visible in bad weather

Covered with shattered rocks, the south top is a fascinating place and well worth lingering on if you have the time and the weather is agreeable. For us though, the wind meant the weather wasn't agreeable, and so we immediately set off for the main summit.

A fun little ridge with a steep drop to one side begins the traverse, but there are no difficulties or exposure and before long you reach the wider col before beginning the short final pull up to the main summit.

And it's a beautiful summit, with amazing views down Glen Lochay (where we'd cimbed the very murky Sgiath Chuil a few days before), over to the Beinn Dorian mountains and round to Ben Lui and Ben More Slog. However, the wind was horrendous, and apart from the shelter of a little corner of the cairn, it was like being in a wind tunnel.

It was amazing being nude in such a place though. As I ran around being buffeted by the wind I was shrieking, partly in pain, but just as much from the sheer joy of feeling so alive. It really is quite an amazing summit, it probably has the best views we've seen since we climbed Buachaille Etive Beag.


Photographic details