We visited this area of hill lochs in connection with work this week. In truth its a long way from Lochaber but the views on this bright January day were magnificent.
We visited this area of hill lochs in connection with work this week. In truth its a long way from Lochaber but the views on this bright January day were magnificent.
The track leading to the Lairig Leaceach Bothy, to many, is more of a route to the mountains rather than a walk in its own right and many baggers will have charged along its length head down cursing its miles as a hurdle to starting ascent of Stob Ban. It is also the start of a wilderness route to Kinlochleven or Corrour and even Rannoch. If your available hours can’t accommodate such adventures the track as far as the bothy is a satisfying tramp if setting off late afternoon as Bruce and I have done today.
My first walk along this route long predates the harvesting of this sprawling wing of Lianachan Forest and I clearly recall setting off from the recognised parking point at the old “puggy line” and heading for Stob Ban. The first mile was in the claustrophobic woodland and the effect was very much like going through a door into a darkened hallway opening the door at the other end and emerging into a wonderful (sometimes snow covered given the gain in height) wild wilderness, a landscape totally different to the one you had departed 20 minutes earlier. Today the transition is gradual as you walk through the mangled post harvest ground and we are deprived of the almost magical switch from parkland to rough mountainside .
The onward route threads between the two Corbetts, Cruach and Sgurr Innse, on the left (east) and the massive eastern shoulder of the Grey Corries, marked by Stob Coire Gaibhre and Stob Coire na Ceannain. Despite their height neither carry a Munro badge. Stob Coire na Ceannain is a distinctive conical hill from any viewpoint and it displays a series of curling layers of strata on its upper slopes. It is the most prominent of the range from Roy Bridge and I never tire of its graceful outline. As you continue you are always aware of it staring down over your right shoulder. The track by this stage is very much only suitable for robust four by four vehicles but is still very easy walking. Indeed a couple on modern suspension equipped mountain bikes came up silently behind me ( I got a right fright) and in minutes they had become specks disappearing in the distance.
While listed under hills on this blog the Lairig isn’t really a hill walk but at its highest point it is still over 500 metres and this has the effect of diminishing the perceived height of the two Corbetts adjacent; in fact the intervening bealach is just a 100 metres above. The high point is also the water shed with the Allt Lairig flowing south and Allt Leaceach flowing north. Both burns naturally (without hydro electric intervention) find their way to the River Spean although the south flowing burn does so via the full length of Loch Treig.
The valley slopes are rough on both sides with steep rock outcrops. While I have never seen any reference to it in text, or explored it at close quarters, there is a strange shattered rock hollow at the south end of the Cruach Innse whaleback summit clearly visible from the Lairig and it could be mistaken for the early stages of an untidy rock quarry excavation. It is an unusual feature on this otherwise smooth rounded hill.
Still carrying Corbett status Sgurr Innse is very much the wee brother here but it makes up for its lack of feet with its unusual summit profile. From Fersit or Loch Laggan it is said to look like a recumbent Queen Victoria. From the Lairig Bothy its top seems to be composed of three steep rocky steps. There is probably an easy walking route to the summit from here but at first glance looks quite challenging. Most walkers are likely to have approached from the north having first climbed Cruach Innse and from this direction ascent from the col is easy enough.
As you descend the track to the bothy Stob Ban comes into view. Early publications of “the Munro Book” referred to this small Munro’s concealment and secrecy but it is actually in full, A86 road side, view from the east end of Loch Laggan all the way to Tulloch. It is also a beautiful shapely mountain in isolation yet looks tiny when viewed from any point along the main Grey Corries ridge. Bruce hasn’t ticked this one yet. Crossing the burn just beyond the bothy there is a pleasant rise to a convenient photo view point. You really need to stop here and take in the solitude and rough terrain. The bothy and track in do not detract from this situation and the view back up through the valley on this autumn day is as though a fine oil painting has come to life.
Many low level walkers will favour an outing which offers a circular route. Reversing this one has no downside and the walk out retains much interest. The forward view is now funneled towards Meall nan Luath above Upper Inverroy and because of the height of the Lairig this wee hill is not on the sky line and is wholly back clothed by Coire Ceirscle (Stronaba Hill). Above this the sky line is in turn defined by Meall na Teanga above Loch Lochy. (These three hills all feature on other posts on this blog).
Through the harvested woodland again and with the car in sight Bruce gets excited at a stationary figure at the track side. He is disappointed at the lack of interaction from “The Wee Minister” . This is a recently reinstated timber version of a much older statue that existed in the same area many years ago. It is an impressive piece of art offering a slightly surreal feeling to the start or end of this walk. Local folklore has it that the original was destroyed on the whim of the, then, estate factor when a bad Monday morning became exacerbated by a tourist enquiry to his office as to the exact whereabouts of the statue. Infuriated he instructed its demolition. It was the straw which broke the Wee Minister’s back!
Meall na Teanga 3 September 2010
With such a clear bright day yesterday I had hoped for more of the same today. Leaving Roy Bridge Stob Choire na Ceannan’s profile was clear enough but its trademark curling bands of strata were not visible through the morning mist; and this was how it remained for the day; hazy sunshine.
If, as today, Meall na Teanga is being climbed on its own the most appealing approach route is via Glen Caig (Cia-aig) which feeds the famous Caig Falls. From the falls car park a well engineered forest walk type path zig zags up the side of the steep sided wooded valley and offers an easy ascent of a good 150 metres. The path joins a more formal forest road and continues up the glen. This fades out and becomes more of an Argo type trail before emerging out of the forest. The outlook changes immediately with a more open grassy wilderness feel. Ahead a trodden path takes the walker to the lonely ruin at Fedden and onward to Invergarry.
This morning Bruce and I were taking to the hills. We particularly wanted the most strenuous part of the day to be free of blistering heat. The combination of our good early start and our main ascent being on the shadowy north west slopes of Meall Odhar ticked this box. Curiously my recollection of this climb was of it being a really punishing gradient. Perhaps due to a week of working in particularly steep ground carrying heavy equipment my legs didn’t protest much at all.
Bruce still found my progress laughably pedestrian choosing to repeatedly run up ahead and down again to check my status. Higher up the sun sneaked into view on the sky line. Interestingly, at this stage, the angle of the sun must have been near parallel to our slope as my shadow seemed to extend to infinity back down the grassy slopes toward the valley bottom.
While home to only two Munros, both by definition of height and official table, the west Loch Lochy mountains form a complex system of ridges, corries and high rounded summits. Ben Tee (901m) the northern outlier is arguably the most attractive hill and certainly the most prominent. On gaining the skyline at Meall Odhair this complexity unfolds thus confirming the OS’s maps tightly packed twisting contours are a faithful representation of the landscape. Sron a Choire Ghairbh is the obvious highest point and the second Munro. Its ascent is greatly assisted by the distinct winding stalker’s path which climbs away from the “Coffin Road” running between Fedden and Loch Lochy. Our route continued east along the broad grassy shoulder to point 906m. The ridge undulates gently and is generally very easy walking on short grass. At this time of year dozens of Meadow Pipits occupy the steep slopes to the north and we also spotted a Golden Plover. Point 906m marks the position where you turn left (NE) and take the ridge connecting Meall Coire Lochain with Meall na Teanga. In thick weather careful navigation is required to identify this turning (906m). In winter deep cornice forms along the entire length of the Meall Odhar to Meall Coire Lochan shoulder and the connecting ridge is not easily seen beyond the cornice edge in mist.
At this stage Loch Lochy comes in to view. Today, perhaps enhanced by the haze occupying The Great Glen, the loch surface –fjord like- appeared thousands of metres below us belying our modest, sub 3000 feet, altitude.
When cast along the connecting ridge towards Meall na Teanga the human eye cannot reliably judge whether the current position or the Munro is higher. There is a drop and re-ascent of a hundred metres between which in our case today would be reversed as part of our return route. Depending on my direction of travel I was absolutely convinced that the side I was climbing at that instant had to be the highest. In truth this short traverse probably takes fifteen minutes at most. The Munro summit is marked by a small cairn and brings the outward trip to a satisfying conclusion. The views to other mountains were restricted to the immediate neighbours and even Stronaba hill a mere 7km away was just discernible in the haze. The Grey Corries and The Ben were invisible but this didn’t detract from what is a superb walk.
On our return we were treated to another darting display from the meadow pipits. On the ground they become invisible and in the air shift like lightning defying any attempts from a casual photographer. (This will be obvious from the image pasted below.)
Descending back down the Glen Caig valley, which was now warmly lit in the early afternoon sunshine the rough grass and vegetation seemed to take on a distinct rusty orange hue (telling us that summer is over) giving even an un-enhanced photo an over processed look.
At this time of year the berry belt, which I estimate to be between 400 and 600m contours, is a rich source of perfect blaeberries. They are obviously a popular delicacy to wildlife (I will refrain from enlarging) but plenty are left for energetic humans keen to make a couple of jars of jam. Lingon berries also seem to thrive in the same environment.
Back at the car driving through Clunes I see the big Nevis Range hills finally starting to emerge from their early day mist.
Saturday 26 June
Cycling a few miles on bitmac is hardly the great outdoors for most people but the long pull up to Turret Bridge at the head of Glen Roy does allow me to cover a good ten miles in relative comfort on my ancient, suspension free Saracen mountain bike. It is a quiet route and you meet very few road vehicles. Uniquely it feels up hill in both directions and for a casual cyclist like me leaves the legs quite shaky. Infuriatingly my machine seemed reluctant to find the lowest range of cogs on this outing. While the progress seemed slow the outlook and view forward changes on every turn and you are always aware of the old shore lines above you. Sheep graze the verges for most of the length of the glen and the silent approach of a bike can startle them and cause you to swerve or take a right handful of brake lever to avoid a nasty fall. My crude estimation is that Turret Bridge stands at about 220m level while half way down the glen at the visitor viewpoint car park is about 235m AOD. While the net effect is only 15m drop to the end of the route the road soars and swings considerably in between. On return; from the view point back to the village a gravity assisted drop of about 140m; rewards you with a very stress and effort free 5km run. Self presevation forces you to begrudgling shed a bit of momentum on the tighter bends which have some nasty loose gravel at the edges. It is a highly enjoyable cycle trip that gives a mountain bike type afternoon without the need for modern suspension.
Sunday 27 June: Bohuntin Hill
The visitor viewpoint is the highest accessible road side position achievable in Glen Roy. With its excellent sign board offering graphical explanation of how the Parallel Roads were formed it is as high as many tourists venture. A short sharp climb up Bohuntin Hill is well worth the effort. It stands at a modest 567m in height and as indicated above if you start at the viewpoint at 235m then a little over one thousand feet of climbing gives you the summit. I timed myself today and it took me thirty minutes carrying my ludicrously heavy DSLR and lens combination, and on top of the cycle yesterday there was a bit of tightness in the legs. It is a fine vantage point both out to the west but significantly to the north up Glen Roy where the perfect contour lines of all three Parallel Roads can be appreciated. While there is one obvious summit warranting a cairn this little hill top is littered, in my view, with an unnecessary number of satellite constructions which detract from the setting. Today there was just a few minutes to get some snaps before Bruce and I got a right soaking in one of the few showers which broke up an otherwise pleasant and warm sunny day.
11 April 2010
This is one of the best ridge walks in Lochaber. There are long walks at each end of the day but the rewards are worth it particularly in today’s glorious sunshine. Because it rubs shoulders with some very high neighbours; Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis it can be overlooked by some walkers. To leave Lochaber after a walking break and not visit the Grey Corries would be a sad omission. It is worth noting Stob Choire Claurigh is actually Munro No 14 and by the time a natural circuit is completed the accumulative ascent will be greater than 4000 feet.
Strictly speaking the Grey Corries encompass four Munros, the two on the main ridge and outliers Sgurr Coinnich Mor and Stob Ban. There are many possible combinations depending on fitness level and transport arrangements. In isolation Sgurr Coinnich Mor is most easily accessed from Glen Nevis but this approach does not easily lend itself to further eastward exploration. However with two cars a big walk could start at Corriehoilie take in the main ridge and continue over Sgurr Coinnich Mor to Glen Nevis. Stob Ban is often included by walkers continuing to the main ridge however this requires a good four mile march up the Larig Leacach pass before the walker feels like any climbing has started towards Stob Ban. The subsequent descent of Stob Ban is followed by a long energy sapping pull to the summit of Stob Coire Claurigh. If the day is unpleasant or progress is over soft snow this may be enough for some people. In addition to the Munros there are several other 3000 foot plus tops in this complex and I have personally enjoyed the relalitvely short day out to climb only Stob Coire Ceannain the most visible, of the more shapely peaks, from Roy Bridge.
Today Bruce and I took in only the main ridge .
At present a vehicle can be taken up the very rough estate road behind Corriehoillie. Our route today was an anticlockise one dictating the longer low level walk at the start. While the guide books suggest following the old railway line route I have found the forest road running parallel to this through the forest to the north is easier if slightly longer walking. Also, if it has been wet it avoids awkward burn crossings by way of its numerous culverts. Again, while it adds distance, sticking on the track all the way to Intake 7 burn presents the first real ascent of the day right on the end of the main northward protruding shoulder of Beinn na Socaith and provides good if initially steep walking. After an hour you feel that you have done the hard bit for the day and sense that you are in a proper mountain environment. Beinn na Socaith, a Top at 1007m, comes up quickly and ahead lies the first big Top; the domed summit of Stob Coire Easain. By this time Sgurr Choinnich Mor has peaked into view as has Ben Nevis beyond the Aonachs.
Today on arrival at Stob Coire Easain summit we were presented with an unbelievable panorama. The spring air was haze free and you could feel the heat of the sun bouncing off the snow on your face. Aonach Beag, The Ben, Sgurr Choinnich Mor, The Mamores the expanse of Rannoch Moor and another hundred hills, a distant but unmistakable Schehallion in Perthshire then the immediate Grey Corrie ridge unfolding towards Stob Coire Claurigh completed the southward sweep.
Earlier the snow fields were hard frozen and barely took a dent from a kicked in step but the snow had now softened up considerably and progress was slower, punctuated with the odd step into thigh deep drifts. However the outlook in all directions seemed to improve with every step and progess halted time and time again to take another round of images. Despite the perfect conditions we had not met another soul. Only on the last few minutes of approach to Stob Choire Claurigh did we spot two figures at the cairn. Bruce, clearly not sharing my weary legs, shot off up the last 100 metres to say hello to his new friends. I was quite embarrassed, though not surprised, to learn that he had been scrounging for some of the guys’ lunch. We briefly shared some experiences with our respective kit and jointly enthused about the quite outsanding day we were being treated to. Having already done Stob Ban (obviously very fit) they continued west from where Bruce and I had come. Bruce and I had the place to ourselves. Normally very impatient to crack on Bruce seemed resigned to the constant photo interruptions to his walk and had taken to sitting or lying on the rucksack each time. The length of this break was such that I think he nodded off.
Packed up and with an immense sense of privilege, almost gratitude, we set off north and down over Stob Gabhre towards Corriehoillie.
14 March 2010
Coire Ceirsle Hill lies on a line roughly midway between Bohuntin in Glen Roy and Glenfintaig on the A82. It is the highest point in the Stronaba Triangle. With hindsight I have been disrespectful of this hill in an earlier blog; including getting the name wrong.
According to the OS map the Stronaba name (nose of the cow I believe) is reserved for its western shoulder. It is higher than Meall nan Luath by a full 200 metres and does actually feel like a small mountain. There are probably closer points of access from the A82 between Stronaba and Glenfintaig but today I took to it from Upper Inverroy as I would for Meall nan Luath. The approach is the same under foot as for the latter hill with just a bit more of the same. It seems worth clinging to the higher ground contouring the western face of un-named hill with spot height 496m although even this area is riven with cris crossing streams and rutted peat hags. A dilapidated but partially repaired fence is crossed and the the going gets noticeably less rough after this with easy gradients leading toward a large summit plateau centred with an OS trig point. This trip provided sightings of a few grouse and possibly a woodcock right on the summit.
A lot of deer have perished in the hard winter just gone and the scent of a rotting carcass (or poorly disposed of gralach) seems irresistable to Bruce and he needs kept on a tight lead in such locations.
This must be one of the best view points for enjoying sights of the Lochaber mountains but you can’t see it all from one position. The edges of the large plateau roll off so gently that you need to walk to the perceived edge and descend slightly to get the best photo opportunity. A serious clutch of panoramic images may consume half an hour in leg work to snap your way round the summit.
Today there is a lot of mist swirling about with the tops of the Grey Corries to Ben Nevis lost in cloud. Meall na Teanga above Loch Lochy was more forth coming and its conical summit didn’t look that much higher than where we stood.
The direct return route takes you along the head of the Corrie where the Allt Coire Ceirsle rises. This is a perfectly sculpted hollow decanting towards Glen Roy and its series of snow filled gullies on its north edge served to accentuate the profile in this light. Beyond and only slightly higher are the southern Glen Roy Corbetts.
If you factor out deliberations to take photos and make reasonable progress the summit can be reached in about one and a half hours from Upper Inverroy. The return trip isn’t much shorter. While much bigger rocky hills can be scaled in the same time this is still well worth a visit on a decent day.
28 February 2010
This is a modest hill and, at first or even second sight, seems to have little going for it. It isn’t particularly high at 452m and its approaches are generally pathless over thick rutted heathery ground. However I can just about step on to it over the back garden fence and it is almost a ” default” walk. When I have been working Saturday mornings when time is limited, or perhaps an evening in the summer when no other options are viable it is always there. It offers a good work out despite the lack of elevation and that very rough undulating ground, which you would curse anywhere else, compounds notional distance and effort to the walk ; adding to the exercise value. I have been up it dozens of times since moving to Roy Bridge in 2002.
There is more to it than that though. When you look at the map it is the first high point of any significance to the north of the Grey Corries. The expansive Lianachan Forest, flood plains of the River Spean and the gradual rise to north create a 10km wide valley floor between the Grey Corries and Meall nan Luath. The result of this isolation from the big mountains means there are few better vantage points to appreciate the Grey Corries from top to bottom. Looking south and east you view the big Ardverikie Mountains and swinging round right the Loch Trieg Hills, Cruach Innis the Grey Corries and then the Aonachs and Ben Nevis. In between this Binnien Mor, the highest of the Mamores peaks into view. Personally I think the most graceful peak is Stob Coire na Ceannan, well over 3000 feet yet not sufficiently remote from higher neighbour Stob Coire Clauirigh, to have Munro status. Hopefully I can talk about here very soon.
It is an impressive sky line and features, photo stitch style, in the banner header above of www.fort-william-accommodation.co.uk
Normally access is taken from a forest track at the top of the Upper Inverroy road. In spite of the foregoing as you climb you don’t need to keep looking back over your shoulder for interest . It doesn’t seem to be noted elsewhere but there is an obvious Parallel Road here following roughly the 260 contour and is in full view as you advance.
Today the distinctive profile seems enhanced by the wind blown snow but as you get closer and indeed cross it you are hardly aware of its existence. Perhaps given the prominence of the nearby Glen Roy examples this single shore line doesn’t merit more attention. Also around this level and close to the fence of the forest which is currently being harvested you encounter overgrown ruins with immediate surroundings which appear to have been tended at one time. I don’t know anything of the local history. Beyond the rutted heather hillside gets more arduous and you will often see a couple of Grouse rising and shooting across the moorland. This hill and the ones beyond hold a decent population of red deer and Bruce and I spotted a dozen or so on the skyline. The summit is marked by a north south running fence line though possibly the true summit may lie about a 100m to the west. There is small cairn which can easily be missed.
Mist? It is always easy to get to the top in the mist because the only way is up. You shouldn’t be too casual leaving the top of this one. If in doubt following the fence south will return you to lower and hopefully familiar ground. A general SE heading leads back to the forest track. In truth I have ambled away from this summit in the mist and the features which first came into view out of the clouds were utterly confusing. With the compass remaining smugly zipped in my pocket I had headed more due west in the rough, it all looks the same, heather.
Higher again Stronaba hill lies to the north. This peak dominates the view from the A82 driving from Fort William to Spean and must share the benefits of Meall nan Luath for view with the addition of northerly aspects too. I can recall visiting this once and it was very hard work for not much gain. (The same time and effort could return a Corbett in Glen Roy or Cruach Innis though I refrain from referring to any hill in negative terms and I may well blog from here in the future).
21 February 2010
You can continue and take in another two (Munros) from here but today, with Bruce still happy but with my legs tightening a little, we retraced our steps back to the A86 lay by.