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Cracking Corries at Creag Meagaidh

Cracking Corries at Creag Meagaidh

Postby Driftwood » Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:31 pm

Route description: Creag Meagaidh circuit

Munros included on this walk: Carn Liath (Creag Meagaidh), Creag Meagaidh, Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Date walked: 10/06/2013

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 22 km

Ascent: 1420m

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Having left Spean Bridge, the forecasts suggested I could rely on another day of fine weather before things went downhill. I had considered heading further west, perhaps to the walking delights of Kintail, but decided to veer gradually eastward instead. Creag Meagaidh was on my list of likely walks, provided that there were the conditions to enjoy it to the full.

Reaching the good-sized carpark, things didn't look promising. The cloud was low enough to hide the heads and shoulders of Binnein Shuas and Shios, putting it at little over 600 metres. The morning was dry, but felt a little close despite the lack of sunshine. I headed off before 10, following the marked trail for Coire Ardair (which is just one of several signed walks).

This trail ascends gently, passing buildings with information boards (and toilets) to head through some attractive young birchwoods. There's a burn flowing down to the left of the path, though the lingering cloud didn't show things at their best. I decided to follow the path through the woods, rather than striking out straight up the hill, so started my ascent a little later than the WH route.
Towards Coire Ardair

The slopes I chose were a mixture of heather and scattered stones, not steep but the first couple of hundred metres felt a bit of a haul. Then a breeze broke through and the cloud disappeared, bringing me fresh air and bright sunshine. The fine conditions and easier slopes above Na Cnapanan made the next stretch a delight, with a trodden path helping to show the way over bouldery patches while views opened out to my sides and at my back.

The first Munro (heading anticlockwise, as I did), Carn Liath, is set back on a plateau of gentle slopes, close grass and stones. The going is firm underfoot - this stretch looked as though it should be bog-proof in almost any weather - making the walking straightforward. There were views across Loch Laggan on one side and the Monadliath on the other, with scenic puffs of cloud spread over blue skies.
Southwards from Carn Liath

I took a break at the cairn, taking in a snack, taking snaps and chatting with a couple from North Yorkshire. The route was plain, with an open grassy plateau stretching a couple of miles to the second Munro, broken by several trench-like dips, smaller versions of the Window ahead. Once I got going again, the straightforward walking let me appreciate the monumental crags around Coire Ardair, followed by a first sight of the lochan cradled beneath those cliffs.
Coire Ardair from the east

A path became more evident, ushering me around the southern edge of one smaller "window" before the top of Meall an t-Snaim. The slopes to either side grew more defined, adding depth to the views. I visited the next top, with a slightly steeper climb - though none of these trenches through the plateau was deep enough to be demanding, just adding variety and interest to this stage of the walk.

A longer, gradual climb leads up to the long northeast ridge of Stob Poite Coire Ardair. The path kept quite close to the crags at this stage, then faded though a line of fence posts added guidance, if it had been required. These continue past the cairn, but I paused here for another break (it was over an hour since the first Munro) and to take in the spectacle southeast of me:
Lochan a Choire

The fenceposts continue down a gentle slope to the Window. As with similar gouged trenches (including, I remembered, the bealach to the Sow of Atholl), this is relatively shallow at one end, steeper and deeper at the other. While descending, I met a walker who'd taken the steeper line, which wasn't much more than loose scree; he advised against it and I didn't need much encouragement to use the more-trodden path.
The Window from Stob Poite Coire Ardair

The path, at least, climbs at a moderate angle, heading east and south above the looser slope, then edging over the plunging crags. I followed, rather than heading directly westwards, to get around a long bank of snow adoring the northern rim of the plateau. With this out of the way, the third Munro summit was in reach, but I couldn't help pausing at the giant cairn sitting just a quarter-mile before it.
Mad Meg's Cairn

There's a more defined ridge, though still broad-backed, up to the summit cairn itself. This was a good spot (in the warm, sunny and gently-breezed conditions) to make more inroads into my supplies and consider the route out. The weather appeared set for the day, including a bank of cloud which seemed to be steady above Beinn a'Chlachair and the hills to either side. Looking in that direction, several of the outlying ridges and tops also caught my attention, helping to decide the rest of the walk.
Southern tops from Creag Meagaidh

The furthest, An Cearcallach, looked a little too far off. But Meall Coire Choille-rais (near the centre of that photo) would only add about a mile to walking out via the southern rim of Coire Ardair. I'd miss out descending the Window, but could view the corries from above, which seemed fair compensation. So I headed across the broad gradual slopes, then over a small burn (fed largely by snowmelt at the time). After another, smaller, trench bealach, a modest climb brought me to another top and another view.
Lochan Coire Choille-rais

Above the beautiful hanging lochan, some of the melting snowbanks fed a burn which plunged down bare crags in a tiny cascade, well worth a mile of any walking, especially in such superb conditions. The Munros might be on the opposite side of Coire Ardair, but the southern tops and corries are hardly inferior.
Snowmelt waterfall

I reversed my route a little way into the Moy Corrie, then curved east above Coire Choille-rais to join the slopes of Puist Coire Ardair. This is a little more-trodden and deservedly. There are open views back towards Creag Meagaidh and the huge crag-rimmed corries to its north and south.
Puist Coire Ardair

I took yet another brief snack break on a rocky seat protruding a little way into Coire Ardair, admiring the high-level walk-out ahead. It was another warm day, though freshened by some breeze, making the remaining snow seem otherworldly.
Cornice near Puist Coire Ardair

It seemed, as another walker sharing my route said, a shame to leave the hills on such a day. But eventually I did head along the path to Sron a Ghoire, my last top for the day.
Coire Ardair from Sron a' Ghoire

After a farewell look at Coire Ardair, I embarked on the descent. This is evidently less-trodden than the main path out through the Coire, so I took Na Cnapanan as my guide point, aiming eastwards. This brought me to some steeper ground and a slight corrie, but after the straightforward walking earlier my knees were fresh and I relished a rougher stretch. The hill obliged, scattering some stones and nurturing some heather to add interest, but I wasn't going to be deterred.

There are probably easier ways to cross the Allt Coire Ardair, but it was low following a long dry spell, so simple enough to scramble down one bank and over the dry stones.
Allt Coire Ardair

Birches, alders and other native species seem to be thriving in the reserve, though when I picked up the slopes opposite I came out on a bulldozed track, a way below the nature trail. I followed this for a short distance, then reached the marked paths and picked one (though not the approach route for Coire Ardair). This led through some venerable alders (and past more information on the reserve) to bring me out in sight of the car park.
Nature reserve carpark

The later stages of the walkout are an approximation, since a lot of it was negotiating heathery slopes, picking through woods around the burn, then following a bulldozed track and nature walks which don't feature on the map. But this shows the gist of the walk, especially for the sections over the high plateau areas.

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Re: Cracking Corries at Creag Meagaidh

Postby Collaciotach » Tue Jun 25, 2013 9:54 pm

Cracking hill in grand conditions :D
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