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The Glen Lyon Ring of Four

The Glen Lyon Ring of Four

Postby The English Alpinist » Fri Nov 05, 2021 8:07 am

Munros included on this walk: Càrn Gorm, Càrn Mairg, Creag Mhòr (Meall na Aighean), Meall Garbh (Càrn Mairg)

Date walked: 30/10/2021

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 23 km

Ascent: 1692m

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This walk is preceded by 'My first two Grahams'

2 board.JPG
Definitely a recognized route then.

These are early days, to say the least, in my ambitions to 'do Scotland'. With just six Munros to my name, three Corbetts and now (after yesterday's cold shower) two Grahams, the word daunting springs to mind. Thus I felt it was important on this mission to notch up a handful, and the Glen Lyon Ring of Four (as I have christened it, because I think it sounds more dramatic than 'horseshoe' 8) ) presented an opportunity to do just that. My goal was in jeopardy before I even started, however, with skin scraped off my heels due to experimenting with crap old boots yesterday. My only hope was my Compeed patches, which I remember worked well some years ago, when on that occasion it was brand new boots that had done the damage. They would have to work, because I couldn't walk properly even for a test mile along the Invervar road last night in my good boots. When morning came to the sound of drizzle on the car, I very nearly didn't bother to wake up, just as I had copped out of two Munros in Strathyre last month. My commitment to the grand enterprise would, I think, have to be called into question if I didn't at least make the effort here. So, on went the Compeeds, and I arose..

1 Invervar.JPG
The tiny and incredibly rural Invervar.

3 track up.JPG
Initial phase.

4 gorge.JPG
Invervar Burn.

5 cloud ascent.JPG
Climbing above Glen Lyon. The descending spur for later in the day can be seen over there.

6 M1.JPG
Carn Gorm summit, with collapsed trig point (does lightening do that?).

On the steady climb up the forest track by Invervar Burn, I was comforted in equal measure by the solid officialdom of the route and the fact my heels did not hurt whatsoever. Weather-wise, it seemed like it couldn't decide whether to rain in earnest, so that too was an improvement on yesterday ('some cloud' was the forecast). What's more, on the climbing of this first Munro of the day - Carn Gorm - I felt I scored 'experience points'. There were 6 other people out there - a mixed foursome of youngies (meaning 20ish) and a more adult couple (30s) - and the couple felt the need to consult me at the summit, saying I 'looked confident'. Maybe this just meant I was solo and I had a compass around my neck, as I still didn't feel too confident at this stage. They revealed they had no idea about the full ring walk, and were just seeing where they could get. We were in spooky mist now, and they decided this was far enough since they didn't even possess map or compass. I had both, and even if it threw it down I had all my best clothing today. As for the foursome, whom I'd passed on the way up, there was no sign of them nor was there ever again, so I think they'd had their lot too. No way would I turn back now, especially as Compeeds had resoundingly succeeded, and I was delighted when the magic needle steered me out of the clag onto a well-worn path north.

7 loch.JPG
Loch Rannoch.

8 M2.JPG
Meall Gharbh summit.

9 hare.JPG
It posed for me!

10 col.JPG
Not the Cuillin ridge, but hey it's 4 Munros.

I was boldly going where no-one was going today but plenty had gone before, magnificently alone on these airy heights amidst drifts of cloud. This was surely why I was here, the satisfaction of beating the anxiety of the solo mountaineer in order to enjoy great scenery (that and bagging the peaks). I was suddenly treated to the sight of the lengthy Loch Rannoch to the north, which glistened a glorious blue in those moments when the sun tried to poke through. It was easy to identify An Sgorr, of which slopes I bypassed with shameless bagging mentality, thinking it did not have Munro 'top' status but realising on my return to England that it does [footnote]. I was at the rather drab summit of Munro number two - Meall Gharbh - in good time and good spirts, but there then followed a sublime and a ridiculous.

First, a mountain hare complete with beautiful white winter tail miraculously posed for me, rather than just fleeing. A few minutes later, alas I discovered I had lost my glasses, as they were not in their allotted place in the front pocket of my waterproof; instead was an open zip, which was obviously why they had fallen out. I spent a good half hour scouring windswept heath for the things, for the trouble was they had disappeared during a little detour from the path I took to verify that the summit was in fact the true summit (of course it bloody was). This was not a catastrophe eyesight-wise, as I also had a pair of distance glasses which can work for map-reading by holding them at arms' length, but it was a disappointment to the tune of £40 as well as an organizational fail. This little story-within-a-story was not over, however....

11 stones top 1.JPG
One of the cairns.

12 stones ahead.JPG
Compass says that is the way ahead for the round tour.

13 stones.JPG
This one was the Munro top I think.

14 b white rock.JPG
Beautiful; I can't get over these things.

I marched confidently onward, notwithstanding my bereavement, and I was sufficiently convinced by signs of a sun to enjoy freedom from waterproofs for a while. A succession of cairns are passed on the way to Munro number three proper, one of these being the first of the Munro tops, and it was round about here I discovered an amazing thing. The glasses, which for the last hour I'd written off as a casualty of the mission, were in the chest pocket of my inner (now outer) coat. So, I'd slipped them in there despite wearing waterproofs, in violation of system. Even so, I had checked in there, but obviously in my flustered state did not dig deep enough. Well, arriving at the high point of the walk - Carn Mairg and its suitably rocky summit - it was good to have my property intact, if not my faculties. Cloud and drizzle had returned, it was gradually getting colder, and I was also fearing the glasses farce would bring me daylight time penalties. I would have had reservations about the detour for the second Munro top - Meall Liath - were it not such a smooth and simple-looking thing. Even so, my compass skills did not bring me off its mist-shrouded summit precisely, resulting in absent path alarm and a correctional tramp across peat hags I could have done without.

15 mairg ahead.JPG
Summit ridge of Carn Mairg.

16 M3 Mairg.JPG
Munro number 3: Carn Mairg summit. Inset: its Munro top, Meall Liath.

17 M4.JPG
Meall nan Aighean true summit. Inset: the untrue one for good measure.

Regaining the path to the fourth and final Munro, I was feeling fatigue which the wind-chill had a way of intensifying. The rain held off, but cloud at summit level was here to stay, and by the time I reached the outcrop of rock that marked Meall nan Aighean's summit I found it to be a cold and gloomy place. My gear protected me well enough to 'savour' it for a few minutes, and I felt spirited enough to reinforce my triumph by visiting its south summit even though I knew it was the untrue one. That was Meall nan Aighean - otherwise known as Creag Mhor - well conquered, and without further ado I used the compass to make damn sure I got onto the descending spur of the mountain correctly. The light faded with striking rapidity, which may have been what a distant stag was honking about but more probably was me, and I had to use the head torch to get me down the lower slopes. My final treat of the day was an encounter with a ghostly-looking lint mill in the dark woods, but at this stage I wouldn't have much worried even it had ghosts (well...), for I had veritably catapulted my Munro count into double figures!

18 descent.JPG
I was glad to get low down before the light went.

19 mill.JPG
Without the Compeeds this walk could not have been made and I would not have met this mill.

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Missing the top, An Sgorr, is not quite the annoyance I at first thought. If I am to be a Munro topper one day as well as Munroist (both pipe dreams at this stage), then clearly my blunder here has necessitated a return to this walk, or part of it, for which time (not to menton petrol expense) is not on my side. However, I see that the Corbett, Beinn Deargh, sticks out there, which would have required a separate walk anyway, so when and if the time comes I can combine the two. Joy! Who knows when the penny would have dropped; how much more annoying it would have been if it had been after doing said Corbett years hence! Thanks again to prog99 for pointing out my error. .
Last edited by The English Alpinist on Fri May 06, 2022 5:02 pm, edited 12 times in total.
User avatar
The English Alpinist
Mountain Walker
Posts: 324
Munros:56   Corbetts:11
Fionas:27   Donalds:28+16
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:136
Joined: Oct 27, 2015
Location: Lancashire England.

Re: The Glen Lyon Ring of Four

Postby prog99 » Fri Nov 05, 2021 8:38 am

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Munro compleatist
Posts: 2081
Joined: Aug 14, 2013
Location: Highlands

Re: The Glen Lyon Ring of Four

Postby R1ggered » Fri Nov 05, 2021 8:46 pm

Well done in those conditions. :clap: :clap:
Mountain Walker
Posts: 133
Joined: Nov 28, 2012

Re: The Glen Lyon Ring of Four

Postby The English Alpinist » Fri Nov 05, 2021 8:58 pm

Only two tops? :roll: Oh my God, so it is. Well, maybe I'll go back there when I'm 80, but only after I've done all the Munros proper. Sod it, for want of a better expression.
User avatar
The English Alpinist
Mountain Walker
Posts: 324
Munros:56   Corbetts:11
Fionas:27   Donalds:28+16
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:136
Joined: Oct 27, 2015
Location: Lancashire England.

Re: The Glen Lyon Ring of Four

Postby Dave Hewitt » Sat Nov 06, 2021 12:22 am

It's almost as quick going over An Sgorr as avoiding it - I've looked up timing notes from a day on these hills clockwise in May 2015 when I did take in An Sgorr and another in May 2009, going anticlockwise, when I skirted it to keep ahead of some approaching weather. The 2015 one was only five minutes slower for the Carn Gorm - Meall Garbh stretch.

Don't leave it until you're 80, though (assuming you're not already in your late 70s - you don't look it!); they're nice hills that repay multiple visits, not necessarily doing all four each time. 

PS - Nice hare picture.
Dave Hewitt
Posts: 565
Joined: Apr 29, 2010

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