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Clag and Stags on the Tarmachan Ridge

Clag and Stags on the Tarmachan Ridge


Postby Sabbathstevie » Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:06 pm

Route description: The Tarmachan Ridge

Munros included on this walk: Meall nan Tarmachan

Date walked: 13/10/2012

Time taken: 4.5 hours

Distance: 12 km

Ascent: 768m

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Apart from one particularly soggy day in the Southern Uplands near Moffat, I consider myself very fortunate in my hill walking career to date, having enjoyed some of the finest of the Eastern highlands atop Lochnagar, Mount Keen, Mayar and Beinn A’Ghlo, all in stunning sunshine. It is only with those memories firmly in mind that a claggy, wet day with views comparable to a blank, grey wall, can be not only endured but enjoyed for the somewhat bleak experience it is! :)

My walking companion Philip and I were keen to head a little further West than we previously had done, and escape the gaze of the Mounth and nearby hills that overlook the towns of our upbringing. Having said that, we didn’t want to go too far West – we both had a birthday party in the evening to attend, so any hill we eventually chose would have to be accomplishable in a relaxed half day, leaving plenty of recovery time before the evenings festivities. Furthermore, the forecast looked pretty awful, with low cloud, rain and the odd sleet shower on the cards. Because of that, I didn’t want to pop my cherry on something too adventurous in the far west – I want my first experiences of the likes of Glencoe, the Black Mount and even some of the Arrochar alps to at least have some chance of a view so I quickly ruled them out in favour of something in the Lawers group. :think:

Now, the main 5 munros along the ridge I’d hoped to savour in a single epic day when time and fitness allowed, which left us looking at either the Tarmachan Ridge, or the double-header of Meall a’Choire Leith & Meall Corranaich. Although the latter would provide a welcome boost to my munro tally for the year, bringing me ever closer to double figures, I couldn’t help but be tempted by the lure of my first ever scramble on the descent from Meall Garbh on the Tarmachan ridge. Other than the steep, rocky climb up the north east face of Clisham on Harris, I hadn’t yet sampled the delights of a stretch of walking that necessitated the use of hands and was eager to do so, to give me some perspective against which I could measure my own ability/terror levels when facing up something a little more challenging on future walks. Decision made, and even a somewhat harrowing, fingertip shredding tale of my recently retired boss sliding down an icy slope on a traverse of the Tarmachan Ridge back in his hill walking heyday couldn’t put me off! If you’re reading, Steve, you’ll be glad to know that I didn’t suffer quite as much as you did! :lol:

We left Edinburgh in darkness at our usual 6am start – if my timings were right then we’d be beginning our ascent just after sunrise. The route from Edinburgh up past Stirling and then Callander was an unfamiliar one for me – my access to the hills usually starts and ends with the M90 and the A9. I was particularly smitten by the looming hulk of Ben Ledi as we skirted loch Lubnaig - most definitely a future target. After some confusion which saw us having to turn around at the Lochan na Lairige dam, we located the car park which had only a single occupant, with the trio of blokes who emerged from it setting off purposefully towards Ben Lawers. Having been in no little awe of the vast size of a distant Ben Lawers from atop the three peaks of Beinn A’Ghlo back in the summer months, I’d been looking forward to seeing it up close, however today we had to settle for just guessing how big it was – it’s green bulk rose solidly above the incredibly low cloudline.

Dam at Lochan na Lairige.jpg
Dam at Lochan na Lairige


We set off up the excellent path towards Meall Nan Tarmachan and within about 4 minutes times we were thoroughly soaked and could no longer see Loch Tay (or much else) behind us, very much setting the tone for the day. Maggie probably climbed Meall Nan Tarmachan at least 6 times over, with her usual excited rushing back and forth along the path and into the sodden heather either side. Despite the good path, we were both finding this to be pretty tough going – something I hadn’t expected of this route. It might have been that too many intervening weeks were left between this and our last outing, or it may have been that you can’t help but feel a little less encouraged to steam up a steep slope when you know that you won’t be able to savour the views from the top!

Good path at start.jpg
Path at start


We passed over an initial hump which I believed to be the first little top at 923m before arriving at a further “top” and cairn! Well, if we’ve passed the first one then this must be the munro summit! or so I thought… I should have realised that the cairn was far too small and unassuming as Maggie caught a brief breath beside it. Well, that was easier than we thought wasn’t it? It was only as we strolled off briefly downhill, lost in banter, that the hulking, rocky summit of Meall Nan Tarmachan suddenly loomed out of the mist from point blank range…bugger!

Maggie at first Cairn.jpg
Maggie at minor top


This part of the route was extremely steep, with large rocky steps providing access to the ridge. Despite the gradient, it was great fun and I was suddenly envious of all those who’ve climbed this in much better conditions – the views would be fantastic. As we hauled ourselves onto the summit, the wind increased dramatically and the ever present drizzle had solidified into sharpened hail. A quick snap of Maggie at the top of her 7th munro and descended quickly along the ridge to the relative shelter of bealach by the lochans.

Maggie at Meall nan Tarmachan.jpg
Maggie Summit Pic


The curiously pointed top of Meall Garbh came soon after, almost creeping up on us through the thick, cloying, clag. Clambering up and over the airy peak, I was delighted to see the narrow, grassy arête which led eerily into the grey away from us, its bizarre, deeply grooved path providing sure footing across this most enjoyable section. Despite the fairly ferocious winds and the lack of visibility, this short section was fantastic and came to an end all top soon; I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to sample a longer, rockier, narrower ridge a little further west in the near future.

hummocks and lochans.jpg
Hummocks and Lochans


Maggie scampering along the Arete.jpg
Maggie Scampering Along the Arete


As we came to end of the arête, I felt a brief flurry of excitement at what was to come – my first scramble lay only a few metres ahead from where the path seemed to just disappear off the edge! Until you’ve had the opportunity to do one, it’s so difficult to be able to predict how you’re going to react to it. Presumably like many pre-scramblers, I’d scoured other members walk reports are studied their pictures, reading descriptions that varied wildly from “I couldn’t do it and went back to look for the bypass path” to “it’s barely a scramble – dead easy”. As I approached the edge, I can admit to some sense of trepidation – if this was going to be difficult then I might as well forget about all those wonderful mountains across the country that I’m so desperate to enjoy. :roll:

Doon the Scramble.jpg
Doon the Scramble


As I stood atop the rocky ledge looking down, I could have almost kicked myself for being such a big Jessie – this wasn’t going to be difficult at all and it was far from the “vertical face” I’d envisaged. The path basically gave us two choices of bad step – the left hand side had a large and wide drop onto what appeared to be a good sized “landing platform” whereas the left was a narrower, rocky cleft. Philip opted for the left-hand option and made short work of his descent. I took the clef, using my hands and, owing to the slippyness of the wet rocks, deploying my cushiony rear as a counter-balance as I carefully made my way down. A flurry of excitement above reminded me that Maggie’s legs were much shorter than mine as she danced to and fro along the ledge trying to spot a space to jump down to. After no little coaxing and encouragement, I grabbed her and unceremoniously plonked her down so she could happily scamper down the next bit at her own, ridiculously fast pace. Made it! An Stuc? Stuc a’Chroin? Here I come! :lol: But in all honesty, the scramble was nothing difficult, even given the wet slippy conditions and I imagine on drier days would be great fun – even more so if ascended.

Back up the Scramble.jpg
Back up the scramble


We plodded along the remainder of the ridge up and over Beinn Na Eachan, serenaded by the sound of bellowing stags, echoing up primevally through the grey. We’d already decided that, given the complete lack of views, we wouldn’t bother completing the last section of the ridge over Creag na Callich but would instead duck out at the bealach and head for the road as per the WH route. The path disappeared from here into a rather featureless (at least in the clag!) and incredibly boggy stretch of moorland as we aimed roughly for where we hoped the quarry would be. We emerged from the low cloud just before finding the quarry, startling two large herds of deer (complete with bellowing stags) in the process.

Happy with our sighting, we picked our way across the sodden terrain (Phil managed to somewhat spectacularly cartwheel his way out of a slip on a large rock) until we located the quarry, before following the road back out towards the car park with the clag finally lifting to give us some last ditch views down to Killin and Loch Tay.

Brief glimpse of Killin.jpg
Views of Killin


Brief glimpse of Loch Tay.jpg
Brief glimpse of Loch Tay


As we approached the car park, I couldn’t help but notice how massively overcrowded it was with cars. I knew these hills were popular…but this busy?! On a wet October Saturday? It was only after spotting the endless stream of multicoloured runners en route up the dam that I realised the car park was the start of some kind of event! We were soon back at the car and on our way back to Edinburgh for a night of beer and 10 pin bowling. This might not have been the best looking of days but despite the clag and rain, we managed to have a great time, scramble and all. I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing what these look like from the top of Ben Lawers in the near future.
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Sabbathstevie
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Re: Clag and Stags on the Tarmachan Ridge

Postby ChrisW » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:33 pm

Great report Stevie, clag or no. Love the shot of Maggie licking her lips on that minor top, as for the short legs, I have the same problem when my Mrs comes with me :lol:
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ChrisW
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Re: Clag and Stags on the Tarmachan Ridge

Postby Paula Hubens » Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:05 pm

Very enjoyable read and great pictures as ever! :D
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Re: Clag and Stags on the Tarmachan Ridge

Postby Driftwood » Fri Oct 19, 2012 9:08 pm

Congratulations on managing the mini-scramble in the wind, wet and clag. I must admit, I chickened out and did half of it on the grass to the north, even though it was dry and clear at the time. But good to see that you enjoyed it - and Maggie had a great time, going by her pics.
Mentioning which, those photos really catch the best of the (scant or missing) views, with some wonderful autumn colours. A great report!
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Driftwood
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Re: Clag and Stags on the Tarmachan Ridge

Postby Sabbathstevie » Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:10 am

ChrisW wrote:Great report Stevie, clag or no. Love the shot of Maggie licking her lips on that minor top, as for the short legs, I have the same problem when my Mrs comes with me :lol:


Thanks Chris! I could say the same for when Becca joins me on the hills...but I'd end up regretting it! :lol:

Paula Hubens wrote:Very enjoyable read and great pictures as ever! :D


Too kind, thank you. :oops:

Driftwood wrote:Congratulations on managing the mini-scramble in the wind, wet and clag. I must admit, I chickened out and did half of it on the grass to the north, even though it was dry and clear at the time. But good to see that you enjoyed it - and Maggie had a great time, going by her pics.
Mentioning which, those photos really catch the best of the (scant or missing) views, with some wonderful autumn colours. A great report!


Thank you Driftwood. I don't think I'd have managed the down-scramble without copious use of my rear! :D
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