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Creag Meagaidh - 9 Summit Circuit

Creag Meagaidh - 9 Summit Circuit

Postby JFMurray » Thu May 10, 2012 12:17 am

Munros included on this walk: Càrn Liath (Creag Meagaidh), Creag Meagaidh, Stob Poite Coire Àrdair

Date walked: 05/05/2012

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 25 km

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My first report on here, so I hope I've done everything right with photos and gpx files!

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There is a back story to this selection of route : With my usual climbing partner, Mrs M, at work for the weekend, I was talked into going 'for a long one' by Mr M Snr. With most of his munro map triangles now coloured in, it's always a bit of a journey to get to any of his remaining targets, and Creag Meagaidh had been a bit of a nemesis for him. He'd been to the summit 20 odd years ago, but in a whiteout had instead summited at 'Mad Meg's Cairn', some distance short of the actual summit. Still, he'd done the other munros on the way out, but had unfinished business with Creag Meagaidh. On another attempt, he'd come in from the west, but had to turn back well short of the summit because of the weather. In addition to this, he is of the persuasion of hillwalkers that gladly goes out of the way to take in munro tops. Creag Meagaidh has four, of which he had done the most easterly pair on his first attempt. It meant we would be going out to the westerly pair on this occasion.

With me having none of the munros here ticked off my list as yet, part of the deal was that we would walk out via the two he had already done - Stob Poite Coire Ardair and Carn Liath - if I was being dragged out to these far away tops.

So, after nearly 3 hours in the car, we arrived at the ample car park.

The view from the car park

We'd looked at many routes up to Creag Meagaidh, but we hadn't yet decided which one we would take. We could have taken the WH route which ascends Carn Liath to the right of the main track on the way up. We initially opted to follow the main track (which goes to Coire Ardair) as far as need be before crossing the river and heading directly for the first top of the day - Sron a'Choire. The going was easy up the track, and we saw no easy opportunity to head across the river initially. The cliffs above Coire Ardair came into view as we made our way up the path.

The cliffs above Coire Ardair

By this time we had changed our minds about the route again. We would be going up the path beyond the lochan in Coire Ardair and up to the gap in the cliffs (known as 'The Window') where access to the upper plateau can be gained. And would you believe it, we changed our minds yet again. By the time we got to the lochan, a direct route up to Sron a'Choire looked a good possibility, which would make the whole route into a circuit rather than half of it being an 'out and back' from The Window. So (finally!) we had a definite route plan.

Coire Ardair, the lochan and the cliffs - spectacular!

The route to Sron a'Choire from the lochan of Coire Ardair.

Did I mention it was cold?

Lochan of Coire Ardair, with the route to The Window up over the snow patches.

We followed the little stream / burn straight up the side of the hill aiming for a small upper corrie. It was steep and hard going, but before long we were taking a break in the sunshine at a tiny lochan. From here it was another steep rise up over bouldery scree to the summit of Sron a'Choire.

Mr M Snr taking 5 at the smaller upper corrie before the final pull to the first summit.

Puist Coire Ardair from Sron a'Choire

The worst of the climbing was now over for the day - just 8 more summits to go, but no more ascents as steep as the one we had just done. The next summit was another top - Puist Coire Ardair - and we were very quickly at the top of this peering out over the cliff edge and back down to the big lochan of Coire Ardair. As we left this top, we could see our next two targets out to the west - the tops of Meall Coire Choille-rais and An Cearcallach.

The two westerly tops of Creag Meagaidh

Mr M Snr tells me it was his intention to knock off these two tops on his first attempt on Creag Meagaidh, but he was put off navigating to them in a whiteout and instead headed for the munro. I can see why, as the route tracks round the edge of another mighty corrie (Coire Choille-rais?) with big drops down into it. Spectacular if you're not trying to avoid falling into it in a whiteout, I'm sure.

Coire Choille-rais and the route above it - taken from near the summit of Meall Coire Choille-rais.

An Cearcallach from Meall Coire Choille-rais.

We were soon off to and on top of the fourth top, An Cearcallach. By this time I'm feeling pretty hard done by - four summits down and not a munro to show for it! Still the next target is Creag Meagaidh. The route up over the gradually ascending grassy slopes is pretty monotonous by hillwalking standards, doubly so after seeing such spectacular corries and having already made four summits. With a bitingly cold wind and occasional flurries of snow, it was a case of getting the head down and not stopping. It's at times like these that a tune in your head can help.

The route up to Creag Meagaidh from An Cearcallach. The route is off up the grass to the right.

Mrs M has often come out with apt tunes on the hills at times. Bon Jovi, Living on a Prayer is a favourite (Woah, we're half way there). Also, Kate Bush with Running Up That Hill has made an infrequent appearance. On a very good day The Proclaimers 500 Miles might even be heard. But I was stumped as I slogged up the boring grass of this part of Creag Meagaidh when Reach Out I'll Be There was going round in my head. It took me a good twenty minutes to realise my subconscious is smarter than me at pop trivia. 'Of course, that was by the Four Tops!'.

After obligatory summit pics which are too embarrasing to show on here, we headed down to the shelter of Mad Meg's Cairn for some lunch. After this it was down to The Window, where we could decide whether to head back down to the corrie or onward along the ridge to the other munros. By now it was nearing 5pm, but we decided the walk out would be just as long either way, and I can tick off some more munros if we took the high road. So, following the fence posts, we headed on up to the next summit - the munro of Stob Poite Coire Ardair.

Looking back to Mad Meg's Cairn (left) and the real summit of Creag Meagaidh from above the north side of The Window.

The route along this ridge is pleasant enough, and there are two more fairly insignificant summits (the tops of Sron Coire a'Chriochairean and Meall an-t-Snaim) before the final munro of Carn Liath is reached. Its rocky summit was very welcome by the time we got there, and we celebrated by scoffing the last of the jelly dinosaurs I had brought.

Looking back along the ridge to Creag Meagaidh and Stob Poite Coir Ardair.

Mr M Snr approaching the rocky summit of Carn Liath.

We knew there was one other top out to the east of Carn Liath (Stob Coire Dubh), but annoyingly we did not know which of the lumps in front of us it was, and the corner of the OS Map Mr M Snr had with him cut off Carn Liath entirely. Reluctantly (for him but with great relief from me) we left out a 10th summit for the day and headed off back down to the car, arriving at about 7.30pm, tired but happy.

It was then I realised a very strange thing - we had not met a single person all day. There were parties off in the distance at various places, but we never actually met anyone. That's certainly a first for me!
Posts: 13
Munros:101   Corbetts:1
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Re: Creag Meagaidh - 9 Summit Circuit

Postby soulminer » Thu May 10, 2012 7:43 am

Sometimes it's better to meet no one, esp on a lengthy hike. A fine effort 8) and with Jelly Dinosaurs- mmmm :lol: Took them with us on Sunday :lol:
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