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Warts, Red Nuts and a hard Easy-Yin

Warts, Red Nuts and a hard Easy-Yin


Postby weaselmaster » Tue May 07, 2013 11:20 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chlachair, Chno Dearg, Creag Pitridh, Geal Charn, Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin, Stob Coire Easain, Stob Coire Sgriodain

Date walked: 04/05/2013

Time taken: 25.1 hours

Distance: 65 km

Ascent: 3873m

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Spring Bank Holiday weekend - what could be better than getting away for 3 days camping up by Loch Laggan way to finish off some of the remaining hills up that way. We'd decided to do the 3 hills around Beinn a'Chlachair one day, then do a circuit around Loch Treig over the course of the next 2 days - I'm always keen to avoid routes that use the same out and return routes where possible so loops are looked for where possible. I'd found a route posted by Dooterbang which needed the amendment of Ben na Lap being removed as she's already a blue balloon, so that seemed sorted. More about that later, however...

Left the house at 4.30 and up by the parking space just past Moy Lodge in time to set off at 8am. One camper van + canoe the only other inhabitants at that time, and the parking at Creag Meageidh strangely empty - maybe folk had paid attention to the weather forecast warning of high winds!
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Creag Meageidh by 23weasels, on Flickr


Anyway, the weather was fine when we set out along the track past the strangely knobbly Binnien Shuas and saw the imposing coire of Beinn a'Chlachair ahead of us. I'm busy explaining to Allison that it's really Beinn Eibhen, but she's having none of it (I'm not great at recognising hills, it must be said). We head down towards Lochan na h-Earba with cuckoo song in the air. However, already we can see the mist coming down on the hilltops and the sky darkening. Today isn't going to be a day for views, it seems.

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Chlachair across Abhainn Ghulbhain by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Mamores by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Knobbly Binnien Shuas by 23weasels, on Flickr

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CP & GC by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Lochan na h-earba by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Coire mor a chlachair by 23weasels, on Flickr

I'd decided that we'd go up Creag Pitridh first and finish up on Chlachair - which was probably fortuitous given the wind direction. The path splits up to the left after Sgurr an t-saighdeir and is a steady paced climb, over boggy heather with new grass coming through the browns of last season and pools holding glutinous blobs of frogspawn. Up at around 750m the air got noiceably colder and frost predominated - we clambered over slippy rocks to the cairn. The wind had risen significantly by this point and we were buffeted about - a wee taste of what was to come.

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Heading up CP lower slopes by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Loch laggan, frosty upper slopes of CP by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Top, CP by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Summit CP by 23weasels, on Flickr

Heading down the other side of CP was tricksy - a steep stony path made treacherous by a coating of ice, with water running underneath, needin considerable care. An easy path over bogs towards Geal Charn followed, with less than 100m of height lost before the short climb up GC began. There were patches of rotten snow in between the boggy bits and the going was generally squelchy.

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Looking back to CP from descent path by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Rotten snow on way to GC by 23weasels, on Flickr

Couldn't believe how easy the trip up towards the cairn was - or at least would have been if not for the wind, which was now blasting along behind us and making traversing the loose boulders underfoot something of a challenge. We were heading into whiteness, but soon the bizarre pimple of the summit cairn loomed out of the mist, looking like a mini-mountain on a mountain. It was quite hard climbing up to the cairn because of the wind, and we sought shelter on the lee side to have some lunch by the trig point.

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Summit GC just visible in distance by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Pimply cairn by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Allison top GC by 23weasels, on Flickr

Two down, the Stonemason's Hill to go. Back out into the blast of the wind and whiteness on the summit plateau before descending to Bealach Leamhain, losing far too much altitude for my liking! The going was quite boggy and we could see the flank of Chlachair sprawling out ahead of us on our left.
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Flank of BaC by 23weasels, on Flickr

We followed the clear track to the foot of the craggy incline and enjoyed a scramble up the slippy boulders until we reached the whaleback plateau. One section near the top was still covered with firm snow and I decided to fit my Kahtoola KTSs over my approach shoes (which had been doing a good job of helping my foot pain) to avoid slip risk.
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Rocky slopes up BaC by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Final snow section to plateau BaC by 23weasels, on Flickr


We headed over the windblasted rocky plateau, locating the "warty" excrescence of the 977m cairn. For a moment I thought this was the hill climbed, and in the face of very strong gusts of wind, wasn't really that sorry, but then I made out the hill continuing to rise up ahead of us. As summit cairns are usually at the top of hills I reckoned there was further to go which a quick check of the map confirmed. Oh well...

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at the "warty" top by 23weasels, on Flickr

The final section round Coire Mor Chlachair was hairy in terms of wind buffeting. Although we were able to keep well back from the edge of the coire (which we could barely make out in the mist) it was both frightening and exhilarating to be hit with such a wind. We steadily moved towards where the summit sat in the mist, finally seeing it appear above us, surrounded by a snow field. It was really difficult to stand at the summit, wind roaring in the ears and straps of packs whipping around like angry eels.
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Summit BaC - wind!! by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Edge coire mor a Chlachair by 23weasels, on Flickr

Quick picture then heading back down the slope, the wind full behind us now making progress em ...interesting. we followed the edge of the coire at a respectful distance then headed down the rough bouldery path towards Allt Coire Pitridh. We laughed each time the wind caught one or other of us and blew us sprawling - fortunately avoiding injury. Eventually we reached flatter ground and the intensity of the wind diminished. We headed back towards the Lochan, glad to have visibility of our objective returned.
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view down to the lochan by 23weasels, on Flickr

Hitting the landrover track was a delight after the rocky and boggy terrain and we made good progress back towards the car, looking around for suitable camping sites in the last km or so and eventually finding one behind a hillock alongside Abhainn Ghuilbhain where we thought we'd get at least some shelter from the wind overnight. returned to the car to collect the tent etc and pitched in the rain with the roaring of the river in our ears. Fortunately the weather didn't deteriorate overnight and the tent stayed in place - I was greatful for having our ice-axes to act as additional tent pegs however.

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day 1 stats by 23weasels, on Flickr

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ahbainn ghulbhinn by 23weasels, on Flickr

Sunday morning arrived with low clouds and more rain, but cleared after breakfast and the sun was shining as we drove to Fersit for part two of our adventure. I knew that the forecast was for high winds again today but calmer weather on Monday and decided we'd do the Loch Treig circuit in reverse direction to Dooterbang's trip, taking in Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg first and finishing on the Easian ridge, which should be less hazardous in lighter wind. For a moment I did think we should be ambitious and try to do the whole circuit in one day - it was only 31km or something - which would mean that we could do the other pair of hills in this area that needed done, Beinn aChaorainn and Beinn Teallach, which would allow me to bring up my 100 this weekend. This would mean walking without full packs and having to complete the Treig circuit as I knew if we walked with full kit we wouldn't manage the distance, especially as we were starting out at the incredibly relaxed time of 10am. But sense prevailed and we set off "fully loaded" with the expectation of doing the circuit over 2 days.

Image
car park, fersit by 23weasels, on Flickr

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easian ridge to L by 23weasels, on Flickr

Walking through Fersit in the warm sun was lovely, bird song, barking dogs and a few other folk heading out to the hills. Going was very wet underfoot and we could see numerous waterfalls corruscating on the hillside ahead of us.
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waterfall by 23weasels, on Flickr

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waterfall! by 23weasels, on Flickr

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biggest waterfall by 23weasels, on Flickr

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looking back toward glen roy? by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Creagan na seabhaig by 23weasels, on Flickr

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strange cairns on creag mholach by 23weasels, on Flickr

Easy scrambling up the rocky face of Sron na Garbh bheinne with the clag coming down and the rain starting. Oh yes, and the winds blowing up again. At least it was a milder day than yesterday. We pressed ahead to the top of Stob Coire Sgriodean taking care in the wind as we met the summit cairn, with a drop on the right side.
Image
summit stob coire sgroidain by 23weasels, on Flickr

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drop from summit by 23weasels, on Flickr

No conditions to linger here, we followed a set of footprints down towards the invisible Chno Dearg, mist and rain making progress slow and quite miserable. Did pass a strange collection of white quartz rocks amongst the dark coloured rocks of the hill.
Image
strange quartz circle by 23weasels, on Flickr

Stopped for something to eat in the wet, belatedly fitted waterproof trousers, which at least kept the wind chill factor manageable, even if trousers had already become rather wet. After an interminable time we started to ascend the final pull towards the top of Chno Dearg - with no visibily it was disappointing not to be able to look back over to the Alder hills we fondly remembered from Easter. Ach well.

Image
summit Chno Dearg by 23weasels, on Flickr

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P1010936 by 23weasels, on Flickr


We were now going to head down to the base of Loch Treig, crossing Meall Garbh and Garbh Beinn, but a liking for bumslides made me head off too quickly down the slopes of coire nan cnamh - realising that the slope was somewhat steeper than i had imagined when i could see enough through the mist, we hastily headed back up to the rim of the coire and headed along to meall garbh. The next section seemed to go on for ever, not helped by the GPS battery dying and sending me off course before it did so on the misty moor (hence the abrupt dip in the profile picture). We ended up just heading for the road once we could finally see Loch Treig through the mist with ankles sore from contouring round the hillside. We disturbed an antlerless stag who glanced at us cooly before heading off down the slopes.

Image
loch treig by 23weasels, on Flickr

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loch treig & creag ghuanach by 23weasels, on Flickr

We could see tomorrows hills across the other side of the loch, which looked reassuringly free of snow (as I'd advised Allison she could leave her crampons in the car). Finally we got onto the track, the rain beating heavily against us now. We passed a solitary boat moored in the middle of the loch and decided to head round towards Creaguaineach Lodge to find a campsite.

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view N up Loch treig by 23weasels, on Flickr

Crossing the worse for wear bridge over a very full Abhain Rath was a little scary with a combination of wind, height and rotting planke, but we made it and looked for a suitable spot to pitch. The wind is still forcefull and some shelter would be good - we did find a secluded spot in the trees behind the lodge - with the remains of a fire pit showing evidence of previous travellers. Quick pitch in the rain and into sleeping bags to try and warm up - it's wonderful lying in wet clothes to dry them off overnight! Especially putting wet socks and gloves into the bag with you...

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danger bridge! by 23weasels, on Flickr

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pitch day 2 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Our meal was more meagre than last night's though we did share a mini-bottle of wine that i'd lugged along. Off to sleep with the rain drumming and the wind battering the tent.

Monday morning - the forecast for England had been 22C and beautiful weather - unfortunately not for us - we woke to rain and low clouds and decided to leave getting up for a bit to see if the rain would lessen. By about 9am it had reduced to a sullen drizzle and we ate porridge sitting on a wet log, me with a headache and feeling sick. I wondered if I'd "caught something" from the stream water I'd drunk the day before, but in hindsight I think it was dehydration from not taking enough fluids the previous day. Anyway, in damp clothes and with a heavier sack due to wet tent, clothes and damp sleeping bag we set off along the Allt na Lairige. DB's route showed a river fording further along than the bridge, and I stupidly headed for this, not really comprehending that with all the recent rain and snow melt there would be no way the ford was passable... eventually this did dawn on me and with heavy legs we headed along the way we'd come back towards the wee bridge.
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along allt na lairige by 23weasels, on Flickr

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P1010950 by 23weasels, on Flickr


The path took us along the hillside high over the river and was steep, narrow and slippy. We headed up the very steep hillside towards Creagan a Chais, I had to stop for a drink by an icy stream and slowly the feeling of nausea left me.
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P1010952 by 23weasels, on Flickr

It was tough work on the ascent, but finally we got to the boggy plateau behind the hill. In the mist and rain I could see nothing of the Easian hills, but could sense their brooding presence to our left.
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P1010954 by 23weasels, on Flickr

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P1010955 by 23weasels, on Flickr

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misty brooding atmosphere in the valley by 23weasels, on Flickr

Stopping for an early lunch to boost our spirits and energy levels we had another look at the map. God - that's a steep route up the coire! As this was the third day's route I was guilty of having paid less attention to the practicalities of what was involved than on the first two days - i was regretting doing the hills this way round by now! We did think about going up the shoulder of irlick chaoile instead but it looked far too narrow for comfort. And really there was no other option unless we gave up on the hills and trekked down to the shores of Loch Treig. I was feeling a bit better by now, and we pressed on. It was going to be 500m of hell - very steep grassy scree with heavy sacks on day three legs was not a recipe for pleasure. But, nothing for it, the only way was up. Aware of the risk of loosening scree I got Allison to walk in front of me and I kept close enough behind her to be able to dodge any loose stuff. This was really hard going - slippy grass and rocks that gave way - many slips and the walking poles were invaluable. Was a case of counting steps up and every so often checking the altitude gained on the GPS to give heart - 850m, 900, 1000 and so forth. By the time we got to about 70m from the top we hit a bank of snow that stretched up to the summit. Wet snow. Oh dear.
Image
snowline top of easian ridge by 23weasels, on Flickr

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snowline by 23weasels, on Flickr

Trying to keep to the rocky bits that broke through the surface of the snow intermittently we headed along the last 100m or so towards the summit, at about 40m from the top ridge. It was still cloaked in mist, but suddenly the mist lifted and to my horror I saw a 20m cornice looming over us. Given the rotten condition of the snow this was alarming indeed. Keeping to the boulders where possible and making as much haste as we could to get out of the danger zone we finally got the the path up the last few metres to the summit. It was very narrow at the top, with a yawning drop heavily corniced straight ahead of us. Shaken, I made for the cairn, shouted to Allison to keep left and took a quick snap before getting off the summit and heading down the well marked path towards Stob aChoire Mheadhoin. That had not been a pleasant experience, knowing that there was no escape route if the cornice over us had slipped at that time - and having no way of seeing there was cornice there until we were right under it for the mist.
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summit stob coire easian by 23weasels, on Flickr

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anxious looks at top by 23weasels, on Flickr

The trek to SaCM was over a rocky but basically easy to follow path which occasionally disappeared under snow. Soon we'd reached the top and I reflected how much easier the hills were if you did them in the other direction! The path from the summit led over more snow banks and i was uneasy, again worrying about avalanche risk.
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path up to Stob Coire Mheadhoin by 23weasels, on Flickr

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top SCM by 23weasels, on Flickr

The clag was still down, which didn't help hiding any visual reassurance of what was ahead of us. Every so often we'd see a coire edge as the path snaked around Coires Meadhon, Aluinn and Shomhairle - it would have been impressive if we'd had a view of the ridge.
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Coire Mheadhon by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Coire Aluinn by 23weasels, on Flickr

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top of loch treig by 23weasels, on Flickr

A long high altitude trudge followed until we reached the scarp of Meall Cian Dearg. DBs route indicated we should head straight down a grassy slope which looked impossibly steep, particularly in wet conditions with heavy packs, and I cross-checked with the WH route which indicated another path to the west of DB's one. We crawled back up the hillside and trekked round to find this very steep stony path winding down the face of the hillside. Not a path I'd fancy being on with peaple climbing above me, given the ease of loosening large chunks of scree. But there was no-one else around today.

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steep path down meall cian dearg by 23weasels, on Flickr

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looking back to meall cian dearg by 23weasels, on Flickr

After some slips and scrapes we got to the bottom of the hill and faced a very wet and marshy traipse over boggy hillside, passing a strange pillar looking like an elongated trig point.

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odd pillar, mcd behind by 23weasels, on Flickr

I lost count of the number of times I slipped and fell in the marsh - jarring my back and getting my trousers very wet and muddy indeed. We were both walking with feet inside our own personal swimming pools and it's great the impunity that truly soaked feet gives you to walk right through bogs rather than worrying about skirting round them!

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rainbow over fersit by 23weasels, on Flickr

Eventually we got back to the car park at Fersit and the welcome sight of my wee car sitting there, promising dryness and warmth. By this time it is around 6pm, much later than I'd ever imagined it would take us to get back. I admit I seriously underestimated this pair of hills, particularly the steepness of the ascent from our direction up Stob Coire Easian. Some hills - like last thursday's Tolmount - are achieved easily, some only after a struggle and the Easian ridge approached from the south was definately a struggle! but we made it - albeit with tired legs.
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welcome sight! by 23weasels, on Flickr

We headed off down the road on a lovely still evening, stopping for a well earned curry in Pitlochry and eventually getting home after 11pm - less than 9 hours til work - whoopee!!

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trip stats day 2-3 by 23weasels, on Flickr
User avatar
weaselmaster
Wanderer
 
Posts: 1672
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Location: Greenock

Re: Warts, Red Nuts and a hard Easy-Yin

Postby riverlodge » Wed May 08, 2013 12:00 pm

great report, really enjoyed reading that. not least as i was fairly close by on saturday (grey corries) and sunday (meagaidh circuit) experiencing exactly the same weather and on the sunday exactly the same 'swimming pool' boots.
the one sensible thing i did differently was head home on sunday night, so on monday here in the 'deep south' i got the benefit of that warm sunny day, tent & kit all dry within an hour of being hung out :D
riverlodge
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Re: Warts, Red Nuts and a hard Easy-Yin

Postby mrssanta » Wed May 08, 2013 11:13 pm

Another weasel epic to make me jealous - but not of your weather, well done for completing your planned expedition.
User avatar
mrssanta
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Posts: 2836
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Location: north yorkshire moors

Re: Warts, Red Nuts and a hard Easy-Yin

Postby pollyh33 » Thu May 09, 2013 1:06 am

Oh lordy what a journey! What a report! :clap: :clap:

Surely a contender for WROTM!


Very well done :clap: :clap:
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pollyh33
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