Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Glen Lochay Munros, March'14

We'd organised a weekend trip up the mountains to the west of Loch Tay or north of Tyndrum, depending on your perspective ! Although this was now well into March, winter was in full swing and only the hardiest of snowdrops had started to show. Steven was leading this trip, here's how it went...

Sgiath Chuill from the west
I met Dave and John at the car-park by the end of the public road in Glen Lochay, got our gear sorted and headed along the tarmac. Walking here there's a distinct impression of intruding - the gates are huge and the signs are not very welcoming, even the visitor notice board by the car-park seems to put a strong emphasis on the deer and justifying the 'sport' of shooting them ! We reached the end of the road, turned left and headed south up by the massive pipe sitting on the slope. After crossing a small dam further on, we left all traces of human activity behind, including paths, and hiked over heathery ground in what felt like a very remote area. The snow level was down to around 500m with complete covering above 600m andded to this we were in mist (ie whiteout) above 800m. In what felt like no-time, we were on the crest of Sgiath Chuil, bagging the summit cairn, with occasional glimpses of views.

Readying for a bum-slide off Meall Glas
Over to Meall Glas next, Dave likes to bag any summit of any sort if it's nearby, so a wee detour up Beinn Cheathaich was in order. Having descended Sgiath Chuil, the cloud lifted and the sun even came out ! We stopped for lunch and made an assessment of the route up - a direct route just wasn't on the cards - the snow wasn't stable enough, so we opted to head slightly north and come up Beinn Cheathaich via its northern spur. On the way there, we passed the remains of a recent avalanche and the cornice above looked threateningly fragile ! Up onto the crest, the trig-point was greeted and we continued over white slopes to Meall Glas's summit.

We couldn't head down directly north, again due to cornices, but when we found a do-able slope we turned got our ice-axes out and made for a bum-slide downhill. Down to the track, a straightforward walk took us back to the car-park.

Heading up Beinn Sheasgarnich
On Sunday we were heading for Beinn Sheasgarnich and Creag Mhor - the mountains on the northern side of Glen Lochay. Forcast was for a better day than yesterday and it certainly didn't disappoint ! After meeting at the same car-park, this time we cycled in. Up onto the hydro-track that follows the water-works, we biked to the foot of Beinn Sheasgarnich. There's a lot of tree plantation going on here - SNH had a sign up about re-introducing native species - subsequently new large deer fences have been erected all over the place ! We followed the edge of one of these uphill and were quickly back onto snow, this time the sun encouraging googles to be worn. The snow was fairly deep for much of the way up, I eased the pain for the other guys by making the first footprints. Higher up and onto the Heasgarnich plateau, we were on neve and borderline where or not we should have ice-axes out.

Beinn Sheasgarnich from Creag Mhor
Summit bagged in mist unfortunately, about turn and compass work was needed for progress in the white-out. We started downhill, ice-axes out, and we enjoyed the fast descent. down at the col below, time for lunch and enjoy a bit of sunshine. Checking on Dave's Hill-lists app on his phone, the nearby peak of Meall Tionail was found to be a 'Corbett Top'. "Tempted ?" I asked him - "Nah !" was the response !From the col, we headed due west, aiming for the north-west shoulder of Creag Mhor - ie keeping out of cornice danger !Once onto the shoulder, it was a straightforward hike up snowy ground, then neve higher up onto the summit. Superb views from here !

The last bit of uphill on Creag Mhor
To get down, we headed along Sron nan Eun, mesmorised by the view over to Stob nan Clach where there had been lots of minor avalanches taking down rocks with them. The path disappeared for the nose of this spur - I'm guessing it would have re-appeared out of the snow somewhere, but we didn't find it ! A bit of route finding to avoid some crags lower down, we then had to negotiate one of the large deer fences to get back onto the track. A walk of just over 1km took us to our bikes for an enjoyable cycle in sunshine back to the car-park.

Two of us stayed at Crianlarich SYHA hostel (recommended) and ate at the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum (highly recommended).

More photos of the trip are on our Flickr page.

There's a video of the second day on our YouTube Channel.