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Snow place like home

Snow place like home

Postby 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: 1183m

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Having had my first taste of this season's snow up Glen Clova the previous day, I decided to aim for a walk slightly more ambitious while the weather was still holding up. The two Munros on the north side of the Glen Dochart had been in the back of my mind for a while - every time I drive along to Crianlarich or beyond I hear them crying out "I want you on me". So as not to offend them, I decided today could be the day.

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

Ben Challum

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

Deteriorating weather

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.

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Last edited by joenorris on Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby Mountainlove » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:30 pm

Aaaww great sbow pictures...just wants me leave the office and head up north! Great report as well. Had to laugh about
Sgiath Chuil was still crying out "I want you on me"
:lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby Mal Grey » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:35 pm

WOnderful images, very inspiring. I keep hearing about the snow "oop t'north" whilst sitting here in mild Berkshire, and wishing I could be close enough to nip up there!
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby Fudgie » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:47 pm

As ML says above, reading that makes me want to walk out of work and head for the nearest hill :D Hopefully I get weather like that on Friday on Ben Chonzie but I'm not holding out much hope.
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby pigeon » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:16 pm

Good effort joe,it's double tough in the deep stuff :lol: more on the way too,great pictures as well :thumbup:
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby Collaciotach » Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:00 pm

Cracking photographs and good report :D
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby jmarkb » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:08 pm

Lovely photos! If you want to do Sgiath Chuil on its own, I can recommend the wee circuit from Auchlyne over Meall na Samhna.
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby Alastair S » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:00 pm

Great stuff there Joe - sure sniffed out a decent gap in the weather :thumbup:
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby joenorris » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:18 pm

Thanks for all the comments guys.

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.

Thanks all.
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby SusieThePensioner » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:25 pm

An excellent report and just loved those fantastic photos :D
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby malky_c » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:26 pm

Stunning photos - looks like a good day out 8)

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 :)
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby Merry-walker » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:27 pm

Ecky Thump, that looks a right corker of a walk!! You must've been shattered after it. Very nice photies too. 8)
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby monty » Thu Dec 08, 2011 3:45 pm

Great port Joe with some excellent photos. Must have been a nightmare in the deep snow. :D

Re: Snow place like home

Postby rockhopper » Fri Dec 09, 2011 1:23 am

They certainly don't come much better than this Joe - a great day but must've been hard going. Lovely photos of the sun and the snow shapes. Was up here last year - had snow then which meant fewer bogs but nowhere near as much snow as your day - cheers :thumbup:
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Re: Snow place like home

Postby AlixH » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:54 am

Wow...great report and lovely photos.
I can't wait to get up in the area next week :D
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