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The ridge that nobody climbs

The ridge that nobody climbs


Postby BlackPanther » Fri Apr 23, 2021 4:48 pm

Munros included on this walk: Sròn a' Choire Ghairbh

Date walked: 17/04/2021

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 16.1 km

Ascent: 1077m

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It all started last year when the new reality forced us to search for alternative routes up the hills we had already climbed rather than driving for 2 hours to tick off something new. I even created a list of " bizarre ideas for well known mountains" and it is now proving useful. Going up a popular mountain via some overgrown and rarely visited side gives a whole new perspective to an otherwise boring day. To celebrate the opening of Scotland we picked a path less traveled up one of Loch Lochy Munros. So let's the madness begin!
I was always intrigued by the NE ridge of Sròn a' Choire Ghairbh, thinking it should be possible to traverse it. Most Munro guides don't even mention it, only one of them says it is an option for alternative descent but no details about the terrain, steepness etc. But in the era of the world wide web nothing is impossible :lol: :lol: Several WH reports contain info about the NE ridge. We based our route on the great TR by Cairngorm creeper. Thank you very much! :D

The idea was to traverse Sean Mheall and Meall nan Dearcag, going up the latter straight from Kilfinnan. The ascent is steep and there is no path, a few steep sections overgrown by heather, but nothing too tackling. The final ridge walk from Sean Mheall to the Munro summit was a delight.
It is possible to continue to the second Munro or to complete the circuit of Coire Glas, but we didn't want to overdo it (my knees feel fine but I'm still taking it easy) and descended via the Cam Bealach path:

Track_SRON A CHOIRE GHARBH 16.1KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


We expected crowds at the car park as it was the first weekend of freedom. it was busy indeed but no more crowded than on any sunny Saturday in mid April. I could express my excitement without the fear of being arrested and sent to the loony bin :lol: :lol: :lol:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 003.JPG

We started by walking on a track on the western side of Kilfinnan Burn for a short distance, but soon left it to climb steeply along the edge of the forest, where a pasture fence is a good navigational guide:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 008.JPG

In summer months the lower slopes of Meall nan Dearcag would be overgrown with bracken, so we were glad we came here before the vegetation made the walk a nuisance.
We followed the fence to the height of 300m, where it met another fence built across the slope. Here we found a weak spot to cross it (it is not barb wired, thankfully!). Above that, it was only us and the heather :lol:
Looking down the way we came with the guiding fence in the foreground:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 016.JPG

The easternmost end of Meall nan Dearcag ridge can be climbed easily by careful route finding...
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 024.JPG

...or made difficult by charging straight up the steepest section, which we didn't mind. Why do we always make it hard for ourselves, I can't tell :lol: :lol:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 030.JPG

On top of the first steep section, posing with the eastern views behind me:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 044.JPG

More steep ground awaits...
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 046.JPG

Of course it can be avoided but Kevin preferred the "direttissima" approach. Many times I cursed him for his "let's just go straight up" approach, but today I was having too much fun to complain!
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 047.JPG

Higher up, the ridge evens out and wider views open up, we could now see the traverse yet to come, with the bulk of Sean Mheall and the summit of Meall nan Dearcag:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 057.JPG

A glimpse back over the bumpy terrain to the Great Glen below:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 063.JPG

Sean Mheall, here we come!
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 076.JPG

The final climb to Sean Mheall looks like a neverending slog, but it is actually an easy stroll compare to the steep slopes lower down. Just below the summit we stopped for a five minutes snack and suddenly, we spotted this fellow:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 090.JPG

A golden eagle? Most likely!
On the summit of Sean Mheall (which is a SIM and a SubHUMP for all we care):
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 093.JPG

So now, with all the hard work done, we could relax and enjoy the amazing ridge walk to the top of Sròn a' Choire Ghairbh:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 104.JPG

Meall Dubh and Meall nan Teanga. We have plotted an interesting route for these two, not the usual up-and-down-the-path and we might come back to Loch Lochy sooner than expected.
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 096.JPG

Another intriguing part of this Munro complex is the northern ridge of Sròn a' Choire Ghairbh, namely Meall a'Choire Ghlais. It looks like a potential easy scramble if tackled via this ridge:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 181.JPG

I didn't find any information about this particular slope, is is climbable? Seems like it should be possible. Yet another idea for a long summer day :D
Panoramic view of Sròn a' Choire Ghairbh, Coire Glas, Meall a'Choire Ghlais and Ben Tee:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 105.JPG

The traverse to the Munro summit was an absolute delight, we took time to enjoy it:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 198.JPG

Walking the ridge with Sean Mheall in the background:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 126.JPG

Loch Lochy and the high hills beyond (Creag Meagaidh group, I think):
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 124.JPG

The final walk to the summit, here we met other walkers for the first time. Just proves my point, that in current climate it is worth exploring paths less traveled!
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 139.JPG

Heading for the summit of Sròn a' Choire Ghairbh:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 146.JPG

Meall nan Teanga pano:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 140.JPG

Lucy's 132nd Munro:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 210.JPG

Zoom to Ben Nevis:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 165.JPG

A few snaps of the more distant views, especially to the west and south-west.
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 159.JPG

2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 157.JPG

Meall na h-Eilde and Geal Charn, two Corbetts usually climbed from Loch Arkaig:
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 158.JPG

The summit was busy, people coming and going, it felt so strange after the lonely experience on Sean Mheall. We had enough time to visit the second Munro but decided against it. Better leave it for another day and do something less ordinary rather than follow the crowd up the path. We had been to this duo before using the traditional T-shaped route, now we want to be original :wink:
For the time being, the boring path had to suffice for our descent. I was glad my knees were holding well. It is a good sign before our planned April hols (next week).
2021-04-17 sron a choire gharbh 171.JPG

The Loch Lochy hills are indeed a very complex mountain ridge, offering multiple options for routes, some more stupid than others :lol: :lol: and I can hardly wait to come back here to try another ridge that no sane walker climbs. Until then, it is whatever the Scottish weather allows!
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3698
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Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

Re: The ridge that nobody climbs

Postby Sunset tripper » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:40 pm

Great report BP and a fine hill I know well.

As a kid I always used to look up at that hills from the back of the car on the old road that now has been replaced by the present motorway along the loch. I knew nothing about munros or hills back then. Usually you could see very little of them in the rain and mist but they always mesmerised me. :D
They were among the first hills I climbed and I have only climbed Ben Nevis and possibly Carn Mor Dearg and Cairngorm more often.

I normally park at the canal if driving ( but a fine three hills to do by bus) and have been up by the same route as you. The Kilfinnan falls are a place I have visited often also.

Another good route and less trodden is starting at Caig falls near Loch Arkaig. The forestry car park in Glen Garry is another alternative from which I did Ben Tee.

Cheers. :D
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Location: Inverness

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