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Snow place like home
by joenorris » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:17 pm
Munros included on this walk: Meall Glas
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn nan Imirean
Date walked: 06/12/2011
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 16.9 km
Ascent: 1183m4 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
My plan was to do a clockwise circuit of these from Auchessan, tying in the Corbett Beinn nan Imirean. My hope was that, doing it in this direction, I could avoid descending the steep looking western slopes of Sgiath Chuil, and could pick my way up them from the bottom. As it transpired, this was not to be the case.
I set off before sunrise from the A85. There was very little parking suitable for my little hatchback, as the piles of snow at the entrance to the Auchessan road blocked any potential space. As a result, I was parked in a layby about 500m east along the road. A man came out of his house at Auchessan as I passed and ominously warned me that "I'll be completely alone up there". Fair enough. As soon as I reached the sheepfold just up the hill from the farm, the path became very difficult to navigate. The foot-deep snow obscured it's route, although I knew that it generally followed the east bank of an unnamed stream. As I gained a little height, the views back to Ben More and the other hills south of Glen Dochart began to open up.
W down Glen Dochart
Across to Ben More
Gradually the sun began to illuminate my route, making navigation of the deep snow much easier. Despite this, the snow was already inhibiting my ability to walk - each step requiring double the effort it normally would. I gradually gained height through rough terrain following the path of the stream. As I did, the views became impressive.
Meall Glas and Sgiath Chuil
Ben More et al
Herd of deer (at the left) and Sgiath Chuil
As I began to veer West towards Meall Garbh, the terrain suddenly became much tougher, however. The westerly winds had blown the snow into snowdrifts hanging on the east edge of river banks, mounds, ribs etc... When I turned west I found myself in a constant battle against enormous snowdrifts and waist-deep snow.
There were very few obvious high lines to follow: it really was a matter of just wading through the deep snow on the rough terrain. Near Meall Garbh I collapsed as I entered my umpteenth area of waist-deep snow and decided to fuel up with a classic cheese sandwhich and an icy-cold satsuma, where I got a few snaps.
Meall Ghaordaidh peeping through
The view out west
The Crianlarich Hills
From here, it was easier to find routes of shallow snow - ribs and bands of rock. Despite this, it was still a slog to get up Beinn nan Imirean - the 'shallow' snow only being relative.
Eventually, after 3 hours, I reached the summit, which consists of a modest cairn right above a steep drop to the west.
Ben Laoigh, Oss and Dubhcraig from the summit
After a short rest I headed off east, down steep slopes, in the direction of Meall Glas. It was time to don the crampons at this stage - the ground had become icy and steep. Nevertheless, the snowfields provided an opportunity for my legs to get a rest, and my rear to get extremely cold.
The views to the hills to the west were great from this side of the Corbett. I'd never really had a reason to see them from this angle, and they certainly are impressive.
Creag Mhor and Beinn Challum from the bealach
Looking back to Beinn nan Imirean from Meall Glas ascent
The ascent from the bealach up Meall Glas was surprisingly easy after the walking problems of earlier. An obvious rib of vegetation and rocks led up to the summit mound, from where it was just a short wade to the cairn.
W from the summit
I had been considering dropping the plan of doing Sgiath Chuil, as I had taken much longer than anticipated due to the underfoot conditions. By now it was 12.30, so I had a max. of 3-4 hours light left. I could see the weather coming in from the SW; the Crianlarich hills weren't as clear as earlier, and the skies were increasingly becoming that ominous white-grey of snow showers. With both of these things in mind, I decided to head over to the subsidiary summit, Beinn Cheathaich, and then cut down to the dam on the Allt Riobain just SW of Sgiath Chuil.
South from Meall Glas ridge
Looking back to Meall Glas from near Beinn Cheathaich
During my descent down to the dam, the weather really began to come in. The clarity of the shapes of the snow, that the sun provided, now disappeared, and I'd regularly be unable to tell what kind of snow I was about to step into. So it was a real trudge down to the dam - rough terrain, often very deep snow, and the beginnings of a snow shower.
Meall Glas from near the dam
Even after I reached the dam, the terrain did not improve. There is supposedly a path somewhere on the W bank of the Allt Riobain, but in the conditions I had no hope whatsoever of finding it. I eventually did, albeit after an hour's wading through deep (and deepening) snow and following deer tracks. I imagine, in non-snowy conditions, this route would be a bog-fest. I managed to submerge my boots in bog beneath the snow a number of times, although my trusty Scarpa Mantas never let my feet get cold or wet.
I eventually arrived back at Auchessan in the midst of a snow shower. The view back up was not quite as impressive as in the morning:
Sgiath Chuil was still crying out "I want you on me", but I'm afraid he/she will have to wait for another day.
A cracking day out, and a few valuable lessons learned.
by Mountainlove » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:30 pm
Sgiath Chuil was still crying out "I want you on me"
by Mal Grey » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:35 pm
by Fudgie » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:47 pm
by pigeon » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:16 pm
by Collaciotach » Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:00 pm
by jmarkb » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:08 pm
by Alastair S » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:00 pm
by joenorris » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:18 pm
pigeon wrote:Good effort joe,it's double tough in the deep stuff
I'm glad it's not only me that found that!
jmarkb wrote:Lovely photos! If you want to do Sgiath Chuil on its own, I can recommend the wee circuit from Auchlyne over Meall na Samhna.
Thanks very much - I was trying to figure out an alternative route for Sgiath Chuil, so I'll be sure to try that one.
by SusieThePensioner » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:25 pm
by malky_c » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:26 pm
I'm a bit annoyed that by the time I get home for christmas this lot will probably all have gone. I'll just console myself by remembering how tedious all the deep snow wading I did last year was. Hoping for a bit more consolidation in January
by Merry-walker » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:27 pm
by rockhopper » Fri Dec 09, 2011 1:23 am
by AlixH » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:54 am
I can't wait to get up in the area next week