Every year I spend much of the year looking forward to Scotland and scheming over the trip, you know, where will we climb? In what order? and how long can I get away for? This year was no different. Somehow Stu had managed to get a pass for an extra night away and was I going to let this opportunity pass me by? Of course not. The result was that Stu and I would travel up a day earlier than everyone else and meet the rest for a pre agreed walk in the Black Mount the following morning. The question now was what would we do on our way north? After all I had made a pact with Mark to climb all the Munro’s simultaneously with him. This raised the question of which non-Munro could we climb. Well, when travelling alongside Loch Lomond on route to Fort William there is only really one choice. It had to be The Cobbler. This fitted our plans very well. Stu and I had started to do a little rock climbing at The Leeds Wall and The Cobbler was well known for the sting in its tail. Apparently many of the well known climbing pioneers of the early twentieth century cut their teeth on all manner of climbs on this stunning mountain. On the journey north the weather was gorgeous, but for some reason (perhaps my dodgy back) there didn’t seem to be that much anticipation. That is until we rounded a corner in Arrochar when all of a sudden; right in front of us on the opposite side of the loch we were greeted with the jagged shape of The Cobbler. Stu’s initial reaction was total joy. He was really chuffed that we were to climb this distinctive mountain.
We parked up and made our starting point a lay-by at the side of Loch Long. Believe it or not we were parked within thirty yards of a sign that warned of the dangers of rogue torpedoes! This loch was nearby to Faslane navel base and at some time must have been used to test such weapons. Putting this concern behind us we set off through the woods on a reasonable path that allowed decent progress. It was quite humid in there and virtually as soon as the open fell side was reached we were greeted with a first class view of this unusual mountain. The sun was out, the ascent track well graded and the lure of the hill was just like a magnet. Sooner or later we passed the Narnain Boulders, but I don’t recall being too impressed and simply followed the vague track towards the base of the towering cliffs. Whilst stood at this point we could look around, crane our necks and plot many routes up to any of the three summits. Given the delicate state of my back we decided to follow the scree up to the bealach that split the main and North summit. In fact by the time that we reached this point with its cracking views to the west my back was really giving me some jip. The result was that I had to stretch it and lay down for a while. Stu, meanwhile decided to take in the North summit and provide all manner of one-legged poses on top of this overhanging lump of rock. I’m sure that Lorna would have been suitably impressed. Back together again and after a short traverse to the main summit we were at last able to take in the complexity of this final rocky scramble.
Due to its location, being only forty minutes from Glasgow this hill becomes very busy. As a result we had to wait a short while before we could attempt this challenge. In the meantime we could take a grandstand seat and watch the other climbers attempt this route. Then in no time at all it was my turn. A short descent, a hop from one rock to another and then there I was looking straight into the eyeglass. There was no turning back now. I had to go through with it. Head first I crawled through this odd shaped hole, somehow turning my body around to stand there on the inclined ledge that formed the base for the final scramble. Thankfully everything was bone dry and so with some degree of trepidation I managed to haul myself up onto the table-topped summit. There I was stood on top of The Cobbler. With my camera in hand I was able to claim my right to the chiefdom of the Clan Macdonald. I know that this is only folk law, but apparently all chiefs of the clan had to prove their manhood my scaling this summit. That was the easy bit. There were one or two awkward moments in the descent, thankfully my feet found the ledge and having scrambled through the eyeglass again I was able to rejoin Stu on the grassy mound that formed the perfect viewing platform. Now it was Stu’s turn. Needless to say he seemed to take it in his stride, well not literally, but he certainly made it look easier than I had.
With both of us back on the grassy mound we now had a perfect opportunity to ligg art in the sun and watch all manner of other hikers attempt the scramble. There was a party of approximately fifteen students that soon provided the entertainment. It was great to watch. Some had the capability of managing the scramble easily, others managed it by relying on bravado and approximately two third gave in and turned back. No doubt there will be many mountain rescues made from this point. Whether they would be of injured hikers or corpses I don’t know. What is for sure is that a thirty or forty foot fall onto jagged rocks will do no one any good. Having said goodbye to a pair of Cloggies we made our way down to the base of the crags and a more peaceful rest amongst the many rocks that littered this spot. For a short moment I looked up at Beinn Narnain, a mere six hundred foot above me and contemplated the short climb to the summit. Thankfully I remained faithful to the pact that Mark and I had made a few years previous. All that now remained was the relatively short descent back to the car. This was easy at first and but once we had entered the wooded ghyll the lure of the stream cascading towards the road became too much. After all it was now really hot and the stream looked so refreshing. Before we could go for any kind of dip to cool down the midges soon made us change our minds. They were everywhere and worse than either of us could previously recall.
One thing was for sure. This walk may not have included a Munro, but is was just as good in fact better than many that did. What a climb and what a way to start Scotland 1999.