Scotland, Travel

Photo diary // Climbing The Cobbler, Scotland

August 9, 2015

So as I mentioned on my peach and blackberry galette post last week, I climbed a mountain.

Specifically, The Cobbler. I have been wanting to do a hill walk for a while now and so when a social outing at work came up to climb The Cobbler I thought it was perfect.

As a beginner, it can feel a bit imtimidating knowing how to get started with something like this. Especially in Scotland where even the very well known, well walked paths can be challenging and you have the Scottish weather to deal with. Going with a group who knew what they were doing therefore made me feel perfectly at ease. Or at least I knew we wouldn’t get lost.

The Cobbler is not quite a Munro (a collection of mountains in Scotland, of which there are 282, which are over 3000ft), but is still pretty high, rising to 2900ft and presents quite a challenging climb, especially at the top. I was assured that given my ability to walk long distances (our estimated time was about 6 hours on foot) I would be able to do it.

So we sent off from Glasgow to Arrochar, a drive of about an hour, to the start of our walk. There is plenty of carparking or if are unable to drive there, check out this website which has information on bus and train links directly from Glasgow or Edinburgh

One of my reservations about hill walking was how obvious the path would be. The path to the summit of the Cobbler is pretty clear and given we were climbing at a weekend there was also a constant stream of people making the climb. Walking Highlands is a great website which also includes step-by-step information on each stage as well as a map. The information about The Cobbler can be found here. However, the route listed contains a loop at the top which involves coming down some pretty steep rocks and so I would recommend going down the way you go up which is what we did.

We set off from the car park, which is situated at the top of Long Long. The sky was pretty dark already and there was a definite nip in the air. The Cobbler is split quite nicely into thirds.

The first of which is the most shelterd. The path zig-zags back and forth through forests and thick shrubery with a pretty steep ascent. This is probably the most fustrating part of the climb as you can’t really see where you are heading. Every corner you turn the path seems to get steeper and steeper and you wonder whether it will ever give out (even though it may feel like you can save time by going straight up, it’s best to stick to the dedicated path to conserve the surrounding landscape). Take your time with this bit and don’t rush up. You gain a lot of height with this first part and so it’s best to take it easy. The path is very clear as it winds through the forest. Once you approach a bench and a gravel road, turn left and continue up the zig-zaggin path.

Occaisionally over the trees you can catch a glimpse of Loch Long below.

Eventually, after one last push up a very steep climb you come to a clearing.

On the right is the first of the so-called Arrochar Alps, Beinn Narnain and to the left of that Beinn Ime, both of which are Munros. Straight ahead lies The Cobbler, with it’s three summits and rough outline.

This part of the climb is definitely the most scenic and the easiest. After the steep climb at the start, the ascent levels out and sometimes you don’t even feel like you are climbing. Again the path is very clear and it well maintained. However, this section is very exposed. After fairly nice weather on the first part, I even had my jacket off as it was pretty hot walking up, the weather turned. Rain pelted us from the west, just enough to get everyone pretty soaked. We stopped for a bite to eat under one of the large rocks that provide a little shelter for walkers. We didn’t stay for long as the wind really started to pick up and it’s only when you stop do you start to feel the cold.

The easiest path to the top is round the back of the summit. When you come to a fork in the road, head to the right, through the valley and keeping The Cobbler on the left. Eventually you will come to the end of the second part, with only the last stretch to go.

This last third is definitely the most challenging. Again it’s all about taking your time. On the left, as you look up, there is a man-made rock staircase if you like. This definitely makes getting to the top easier. It will definitely give you a thigh workout and it’s where having a walking pole comes in handy.

The Cobbler has three peaks and the path will take you to a clearning in between the central and north peak. We went up the north peak first which is to the left. It’s pretty tricky to get up and it definitely requires some scrabbling. Remember if you don’t even comfortable doing it, just head back down, you have to be able to get down wherever you get up. This is where it was helpful being in a group as you can all have a think about the best way to get up. If we thought the weather was bad earlier it definitely took a turn for the worst here. Within five minutes I was completely soaked. Even my waterproof walking boots couldn’t help the fact that the water was literally pouring into the top of them.

But we eventually got to the top. A quick selfie and we headed back down, ready to do the second peak. Just as we started the climb up the middle peak we got a little respite from the weather. This peak was a little less challenging to get up and it’s where you see the well known outline of The Cobbler. It’s also where you would usually get some amazing views back down to Loch Long, but not today.

So back down we went. Again, I really found it helpful having a walking pole for the walk back down. It might seem steep as you are going up, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought but the pole helps to steady yourself, or to test whether the ground is stable enough.

We were all soaked by this point (hence the waterdrop on my camera lens) and just as we were longing for some sunshine to dry us out, a patch of blue sky emerged to the left. It was at this point that we looked back and could see the blue sky over the summit, cursing quietly that we hadn’t timed it better. Oh well, I was at least finally able to whip out my camera and take some pictures.

As it was summer (not that you would know from the weather we had on the way up) we were quite lucky as the ground was very green and lush, with beautiful flora and fauna lining the path.

It felt great to accomplish the climb, and even more so given the weather we endured. Needless to say, the next day I was pretty stiff and sore, and that was even with a hot bath as soon as I got home.

I have included an approximate route below using Google Maps but it should not be fully relied on for accruacy. The final leg of the route is not marked on the map and judgement should be used when following the path in terms of what looks safe.

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