Brutes of Lochay - Creag Mhor and Heasgarnich
by old danensian » Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:41 pm
Route description: Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Heasgarnich, Creag Mhor (Glen Lochay)
Date walked: 27/02/2013
Time taken: 7.5 hours
Distance: 25.8 km
Ascent: 1470m6 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).
But hey, come on, you’ve driven this far. And days like this are just made for routes that could be termed “squelchy” at the best of times. I’d decided against it back in December because of the darker afternoons and knew that it wouldn’t be a short up-and-down. Now the light is stretching out a bit later there would be less risk of finishing the day in the beam of a head torch.
Booted and suited, and grateful for having had the forethought to completely pack my bag the night before, I was walking by nine. That extra kilometre gave the chance to get the legs going, so as I strode past Kenknock and reached the road over to Glen Lyon, I decided to get some early height and take the high level hydro road up the glen.
Reaching the dam where the track turns off I was beginning to steam. Despite the apparently low temperature I could feel the sweat start to prickle and my jacket was soon off. The base layer under my Rohans was another thing. Stripping off now was one thing, but peeling off the layers and boots again higher up was another if things did get chilly on top.
The prospect of Beinn Challum at the head of the glen looked impressive. It gets some bad press from those describing the route up from the A82: boggy, dreary, an unrelenting slog. Seen from this direction however, it stands in a magnificent position with a fine ridge culminating in a proper “pointy top.” Another target for a day like this I think.
Anyway, the track went on. And it went on. And, after a few more gates through the deer fences, it finally arrived at the dam and hydro works above Batavaime. I couldn’t recall where the path up to Sron nan Eun was supposed to strike off, but with plenty of snow above I suspected that it didn’t really matter. Picking a weaving line between outcrops and steeper patches of snow I made my way up. At some point I considered it safer to be on snow with crampons on rather than teetering up ever-steeper patches of frozen grass: the tufts I grasped didn’t quite give me the confidence I needed.
As is often the case, the mental effort of finding a safe way up meant the physical effort of actually getting there was minimised. It was with surprise then, that the ridge was breasted and the western panorama spread out in front, the north east face of Stob nan Clach in the foreground clad in winter splendour.
Another distracting factor as I ascended Sron nan Eun was the view across to Beinn Heasgarnich. “God, that’s big” was the recurring observation, and as I got higher it appeared to get bigger. What was worse, the drop down to the bealach between the two seemed to get deeper too. That looks brutal I thought.
Never mind the big thing beyond, I still had to get Creag Mhor in the bag first. Is it a ridge, is it a shoulder? I don’t know. Nearly there, I fooled myself and started to plod upwards. It was with relief that I looked back every now and again and saw Sron nan Eun retreating below. But of course the reverse didn’t seem to be happening. Never mind the brute over there, this one was no slouch either.
The half-encrusted pile of stones at the top finally hove into sight as the breeze picked up. It was time to put the jacket back on for the only time in the day and enjoy leaning back on the dry side of the cairn to soak in some sun and recover.
I hung around on the top for fifteen minutes – taking it all in. It’s such a flippant and simple phrase; just four little words to capture what? The sensation of being surrounded by magnificence and mountains in all directions; the sheer scale as they punctuate every quarter of the horizon; those existential thoughts about your place in the greater scheme of things; silence; solitude.
Enough of all this: it was time to consider the more mundane and immediate. Heasgarnich still looked b****y big and some fuel would be needed to get up Sron Tairbh. The benefits of half a butty, a banana and a handful of jelly babies would hopefully be getting into my system by the time the hard work started.
Plunging down the northern slopes towards Coire an t Sneachda, I struck off to the right well before reaching it, taking advantage of shaded sweeping snow slopes in good condition to reach Lochan na Baintighearna.
Down to 650 metres. It was well below the level of Sron nan Eun, and it had taken me fifty minutes to climb the 250 metres to the top of Creag Mhor from there. Here were another 300 metres, and more most probably, before getting to Sron Tairbh. Take it easy, was the conclusion as the jacket came off for the final time. It’s the cost for the day, and so far it had been well worth paying.
It loomed up, standing across the path as if to say “You want to enjoy what’s up there? Then get past me first.”
The orientation of the slope meant that it was mostly clear of snow. I was reluctant to take off my crampons as they’d been snug and secure all day so far, and I definitely didn’t want a repeat of the previous week’s escapades on Meall nan Eun. Working on the assumption that much of the ground itself would still be frozen, they stayed on.
Within fifty minutes the worst of the day was over. The brute’s bark was worse than his bite. I now just needed to cross Stob an Fhir Bhogha before wandering across the summit plateau of Beinn Heasgarnich. By now the snow was starting to get a bit gloopy. The firm crunch of crampons was replaced by a sinking feeling every now and then. Was there going to be a soggy sting in the tail of the day?
Leaving Stob an Fhir Bhogha I saw a lone walker in the distance reaching the top of Beinn Heasgarnich. Apart from two guys I’d left in the car park in the morning wrestling with frozen water in their camper van, it was the first person I’d seen all day. For some reason or other I’d not considered anyone just doing Heasgarnich, so their presence had a touch of the mystery about it. Where had they come from? Was I seeing things?
I finally reached the top just two hours after leaving Creag Mhor, and the second opportunity to enjoy the surroundings, and the achievement. It had been a hard day but, up there alongside a cairn that would not have looked out of place in a scene from the Antarctic and masquerading as the fateful One Ton Depot, the reward was obvious.
In the south west the lower slopes of Ben Cruachan were starting to disappear into mist, as if an afternoon inversion was forming. Or was it an early sign that this window of spectacular weather was about to end?
After another stint of “taking it all in”, (don’t worry, there won’t be another stream of contemplation) it was time to descend and leave the tops to their glory. I decided to head directly for the road rather than skirt round Creag nan Bodach. Grateful for perfect visibility and the ease with which you could pick out a line to descend, down I plunged. Snow that was still in shade took a good crampon bite, making downward progress easy rather than a knee-jarring, toe-bashing trudge. However, I wouldn’t enjoy doing it in bad conditions, trying to keep a bearing while weaving in and out of the scattered outcrops and little ravines.
Halfway down I met up with the lone walker and enjoyed the company and the chat as we made our way over snow bridges that were now sagging into the streams they had previously hidden, and across boggy stretches that were frozen solid. Comparing experiences and aspirations for future jaunts made those last few kilometres of tarmac a pleasure rather than a pain.
With the sun settling down towards the horizon as we got back into Glen Lochay, we agreed that it was one of those satisfying moments when you know you’ve used the day to the full. What more can be asked?
It had been just over seven and a half hour’s hard work, with a couple of extremely tiring stretches, but worth the effort with what had been achieved.
Driving back down to Ayrshire, I descended from the Fenwick Moors on the M77 to be met by a wall of mist that thickened and thickened as I got closer to home. “It’s been like this all afternoon” I was told. What a shame!
Tired but chuffed, I collapsed onto the sofa knowing I’d had a great day out.
If winter ends here, so be it. I’ll not be disappointed.
But if it doesn’t ....
by soapy27 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:28 pm
by ScottishLeaf » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:35 pm
An underrated area though in good conditions like you got.
by PeteR » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:47 pm
by rockhopper » Fri Mar 01, 2013 8:01 am
by johnkaysleftleg » Fri Mar 01, 2013 9:22 am
by steven65 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:44 pm
It was a great day out - 1 of my favourites yet ( not done a TR - just in my blog)
by gammy leg walker » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:33 pm
by andrewdoggett » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:33 pm