The pot-holed track up to the parking spot at NN255788 was actually not too problematic, the majority of the hazards were easily avoided, that was until we found the track blocked by a couple of landrovers about a kilometre from the accepted parking spot. As we focussed on whether it was possible to somehow drive around the obstacle we were suddenly aware of a tweed clad, shotgun weilding fella, charging across the moorland towards up. He didn't appear to have anything in his pocket and he cetainly did not look 'pleased to see us' ! Turns out he just wanted to let us know that he, and his party of deer stalking clients, were just finishing off 'sighting' their rifles and would soon be on the move and out of our way. Wullie saw this as an opportunity and began to engage him in conversation, channelling his inner 'Tarquin' he began discussing his long held desire to engage in a bit of the old deer stalking.....it would make a welcome depature from his usual Facebook variety, I mused as I sat there bewildered by their developing bromance. As I started to think that Stob Ban was about to become Wullie's personal 'Brokeback' mountain rather than simply his 130 oddth , the penny finally dropped ! He had mentioned on the way up that the start point on the track is only the start point because of a locked metal gate which prevents you driving the full length of the pass. All this talk of 'land management' and 'responsible culling' was simply Wullie's attempts at currying favour with the 'Estate' in an attempt to gain access to the 6km track beyond the gate which runs between the Grey Corries on the right and the impressive looking Corbetts of Cruach Innse and Sgurr Innse on your left, before eventually reaching the tiny Lairig Leacach bothy which marks the start of the climb proper.
The second of the landrovers began to creep forward, before displaying an impressive burst of acceleration as it roared through the gate. Before Wullie had even got a chance to release the handbrake and get his motor in gear, said student fellow, without ever making eye contact, slammed the gate shut and applied the mother of all padlocks before leaping onto the back of the now moving landrover like some kind of Barbour clad Mad Max. The subsequent expletives were both numerous and varied as we began the mortifying reverse back down the track to the parking area (you know, where the humiliated plebs walk from). Wullie, I thought. You sir are a *$&#@*. As for the 'Gatekeeper' I hope against all hope that he was Christened Sebastion Smithieson Smythe about 3 years before he developed a severe and most debilitating speech impdeiment !
Parked up, booted up, and badly in need of sleep we were eventually on our way, buoyed slightly by the fact that the only dark clouds in the area seemed to be locally isolated ones generated solely by our mood.
Here goes, According to the plaque, the wooden replica replaces stone a statue dating from the 1900s, and is that of the Reverend John McIntosh. However, local opinion is that the statue is more likely to be that of a Dr. Thomas Chalmers who was the first Moderator of the local Free Church of Scotland. The statue was removed by the wife of John McIntosh when he was away during the First World War and relocated to the church grounds above Monzie Square in Fort William. It remained there until 1968 from whence it was removed to Glen Spean, where it quickly became a local attraction. The statue was thought to bring good luck to climbers and walkers alike on their route to the Grey Corries. Unfortunately, the stone statue began to disintegrate and was eventually removed in the 1970s. The statue was resurrected in May 2010 by the Glen Spean and Great Glen Tourism Marketing Group as a wooden replica with a donation box for the Lochaber Mountain Rescue.
Whoever he is, was, or is meant to be, the odd looking effigy, well loved local attraction or not freaked me right the hell out. 'Bring me good luck' ? I thought he had a look on his craggy old coupon that suggested he'd rather offer me up as a some sort of Pagan sacrafice ! To be fair I have had an irrational fear of any kind of statue since watching too many episodes of Doctor Who with those terrifying 'Weeping Angels' !
In actual fact the walk along the glen was pretty spectacular in it's own right and provided plenty of interest as we quickly ate up the miles. The weather continued to be pretty decent, the worst we had to deal with was only the briefest of showers that blew through almost as quickly as it had come. Just over the hour mark we were greeted with the sight of the two landrovers, casually parked up right in front of the bothy. Another perfectly directed boot in the 'Mee-Maws' from Wullie's ghillie ex and his band of merry men. Demonstrating not inconsiderable levels of self-restraint I managed to resist the overwhelming urge to slash eight, expensive looking landrover tyres. Perhaps the Wee Minister's message of good will to all had rubbed off, or more likely I was too frightened of being seen and picked off with a bullet to the forehead from somewhere high up in the surrounding hills !!
After around ten minutes it was decided it was time to begin hauling our weary asses up the mountain. The walk from the bothy begins with the only thing I hate more than a certain locked metal gate (I'm trying to let it go, honestly I am), a bloody ford ! In all honesty the Allt a'Chuil Choirean was crossed very easily, with great big boulders providing well placed stepping stones. In spate I expect it would be considerably more difficult, if not imposible. All is not lost though, there is a dilapated footbridge just upstream, by dilapated I mean ramshackled and down right dangerous looking, which may or may not help you get across. My money would be firmly on 'may not' !
Just beyond the crossing a small cairn indicates the start of a path to the right, aiming for the foot of the ridge which ultimately leads you to the final climb up Stob Ban. The path is quite wet underfoot and it is not the most pleasant ascent, especially when you quickly become caught in the first of a number of brief squalls. It was only as we made our way along the ridge that a spell of more sustained weather hit us. Full waterproofing was now required. Up until now the showers and associated low cloud had been fleeting and the summit had remained tantilisingly cloud free for the majority of the time. In the good spells we had been treated to some great views of the surrounding Munros, with our target hill of Stob Ban looking particularly fine amongst them. However, as I guesstimated that we were less than half an hour away from reaching the summit, suddenly the chances of getting any kind view from the top looked less than promising as we were enveloped in clag and battered by driving rain/sleet. So much for the Wee Minister bringing us good luck.....the freaky looking, waste of good fire wood !!
.....preferably somewhere with no gates.