Loch Tay to Rannoch Moor


Starting point: NN 60850 37900 – Ben Lawers Visitor Centre Car Park

Mountains Climbed: Meall Corranaich, Ben Lawers, Beinn Ghlas

Munro Count: 3

Corbett Count: 0

A belated route report from last weekend.

This club walk promised so much, walking in a area of the Highlands I haven’t explored before, ascent of an iconic mountain and the possibility of conquering five or six Munros in one day. Alas high expectations soon turned to disappointment, as the cloud that had been threatening to engulf the area from the south soon rolled in to envelop the summits. There would be none of the fine views promised by fellow walkers and guidebooks but the sight of walkers lurking in the greyness ahead.

Much of this area is owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland and the first part of the walk heads out through the Trust’s nature reserve enclosure. This area is cordoned off from grazing sheep and deer to allow the moorland to regenerate and native plants to have a foothold. The well made path through the enclosure makes for a pleasant prelude to the walk, reminiscent of days in the Lake District.

Path though the nature reserve
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Eschewing the main tourist footpath direct to the summit of Ben Lawers, we took the alternative path up Coire Odhar a steady rise to the bealach between Meall Corranaich and Beinn Ghlas. It’s a short climb up a zig-zagging path to the summit, at this stage we were joined by what seemed half of Scotland as competitors in a quadrathon threaded their way around us. The wind grew stronger as we ascended and the path provided no shelter. On reaching the summit we immediately turned around to get down to lower ground and out of the wind.

Heading up Coire Odhair
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Back at the bealach we rejoined the path that skirts around the northern side of Beinn Ghlas steadily ascending to another col below the summit of Ben Lawers. At the summit having hastily consumed two rolls and felt the full effect of the wind chill we discovered wind speed to be 40.2mph. This was not gusting but a steady onslaught from the north. With such strong winds and little visibility there was no incentive to carry along the ridge to complete the other Munros. A hasty descent and then re-ascent to Beinn Ghlas saw us heading down the tourist track to the car park and finally catching glimpses of Loch Tay below the cloud base. Only hot chocolate at the Killin Hotel made up for what was a disappointing day on the hills.

Zemanta Pixie

This was an anniversary walk for a friend of mine, Arthur Custance, who completed his round of Munros on Stuchd an Lochain twenty years ago. I always take a camera with me when walking but to my dismay at the summit discovered I had not put my memory card back into the camera. So unfortunately for this report there will be no photographs.

 

Our starting place was at the dam at the end of Loch Lyon rather than at Loch an Daimh which is the route in the Scottish Mountaineering Council guide. The weather did not look optimistic having driven through driving rain across Rannoch Moor on our way. However, the mountain forecast suggested that rain would soon pass with a good chance of cloud free summits by lunchtime. So through showery drizzle we set off with optimism that the weather would improve during our ascent.

 

Following an estate Land Rover track soon got us to the 500m mark before we set out across open hillside. Pausing in the drizzle whilst some of my fellow walkers donned overtrousers, I noticed some large rocks in the middle distance. Then I thought they were two cows but decided it was too high up. I was wrong. Two mottled grey cows stood still warily watching us a few hundred metres away. As we climbed further we came across the rest of the herd in a sheltered hollow on the hill side. It is unusual to see cows in the hill, certainly at this height. Plovers circled around us their distinctive calls determined to divert attention from their ground nests.

 

We located the fence that would act as a handrail direct to the summit. By this stage the weather had closed in with visibility decreasing significantly. It looked as though a long, boring slog with no views to the summit would be the result. As our route steepened we caught snatches of crags that only hinted at sheer drop to the north of our walk. Having set a steady pace, I slowed towards the summit as the after effects of a heavy cold I had earlier in the week kicked in.

 

Driving rain and a sharp wind greeted us at the summit cairn curtailing any celebration that Arthur had planned. A quick cup of tea and a banana was the extent of my celebration followed by a hasty descent. No thoughts of lingering at the summit.

 

I have always struggled descending the hills, a combination of weak knees and lack of confidence hindering my progress. Every trip on the mountainside sees that confidence grow and leg muscles adapting and protecting my knees. I set a quick pace down the hill even though the slopes were wet. Now striding downwards the weather began to clear affording views down the steep crags to Loch an Daimh and the summits beyond. Sometimes mountain days are like that you catch glimpses of what may have been at the summit if only it was clear.