Glen Orchy to Loch Leven


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 Glencoe Lochan Trails

Wanting to take advantage of unexpected good weather but unable to head high, I opted for a stroll  with the family around a local hidden gem. This is a popular spot for some gentle afternoon exercise and on this occasion even a small tour bus had disgorged its foreign visitors, cameras poised, to enjoy the pleasant woodlands at the foot of the Pap of Glencoe. Even so, a feeling of tranquility remained as we wandered around the small man made lochan, the perfect mirror for the white-capped peaks of Beinn a’Bheitr. Glencoe Lochan 3

This was also the perfect opportunity to try out a new GPS combo with my PDA, as there is a popular geocache hidden at the head of the lochan. If you haven’t tried geocaching then I recommend following the link for more information. It makes a pleasant diversion from time to time and I may write more about it in a future blog.

If you have spent a gruelling day on the Glencoe peaks, had your legs turned to jelly along the Aonach Eagach ridge or need a gentle aperitif before supper at the Clachaig Inn this is definitely the place to meander for a few minutes. 

You can see full route details at the Walk Highlands website.

 

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The Ballachulish Horseshoe

Whenever I drive home from Fort William my eyes are always drawn beyond the Ballachulish Bridge to the scimitar ridge of Beinn a’Bheitr above. The curving knife-edge neatly framing the forestry plantations as they plunge down in to Glenahulish below.

Whatever the season, whatever the weather you always notice something different about these mountains. The setting sun glinting from the wet rocky ridges following a late afternoon shower. The Dragon’s tooth menacingly erupting from the primordial swirling mists carpeting the corrie floor. Sweeping, seemingly virgin, snow fields, as crisp as freshly pressed cotton laid out over the ridge and flowing down into the high corries below. What simple delights the crowds miss as they steam across the bridge eyes firmly fixed on the craggier delights of Glencoe. Beinn a' Bheithir from across Loch Leven

Although I have climbed the two Munros of Sgorr Dearg and Sgorr Dhonuill before, I am not so obsessed with bagging that I would refuse to climb a peak again before completing a round. With limited, low level walking over the winter this was the perfect chance to give some underused muscles a workout.

There is no better way to reach the main ridge then climbing from the north-east to the minor top of Sgorr Ban. In fact this is the recommended route in “Scrambles of Lochaber”, describing it as a straightforward scramble with beautiful views. Instead, as I tramped up the boggy ground to the start of the scramble I had to content myself with imagining the Glencoe summits without their cloudy shroud. The way up is always clear with a few interesting moves but little exposure, making it perfect for anyone who has never scrambled before. As I was plodding along, my companions ahead merged in to the grey fog, spectres floating in and out of sight. There was a real feeling of solitude as I was enveloped in the murky silence.  The fog thickened on the approach to Sgorr Dhearg, the edge of the cornice barely visible and only a hint of the corrie beyond.

A quick check of compass and map at the summit gave us our bearings to descend towards the col before the stiff climb up to Sgorr Dhonuill. At the col it seemed that we might have to descend to Glenachulish as the way ahead seemed to be blocked by an extensive snowfield. Both ice-axe and crampons had been consigned to the car boot before setting off, deemed to be unnecessary on such a day. Fortunately, the snow was limited and where it needed crossing it was soft enough to walk through or in unexposed areas presenting no particular danger. 

Beyond the summit of the second munro we opted for the quicker descent down the “Red Scree Gully” rather than continuing around the ridge. Although steep and unstable in places the gully soon leads to a well engineered path and down into the heart of Forestry Commission land and the tracks leading to the small parking area. A pre-arranged driver to ferry us back to our cars meant we avoided the long trek via St John’s Church to Ballachulish.

 

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