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Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby DonnyW » Sat Feb 13, 2010 9:13 pm

Route description: The Tarmachan Ridge

Munros included on this walk: Meall nan Tarmachan

Date walked: 13/02/2010

Distance: 12 km

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I confess that it took me a little while to get to sleep last night. Things were going round and round my head. The forecast promised a high cloud base over the southern highlands and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I had three options in mind

Option 1) Return to Stuc a Chroin and claim the north buttress that beat me two weeks ago. Studying my photos, I was two thirds the way to the top. However, I didn’t cherish the thought of that agonising traverse back around Ben Vorlich, it almost killed my ankles.

Option 2) Ben Lui by the centre gully. Tempting, but I have done it before and I didn’t cherish the thought of wading bare foot across the river. I will never forget the pain that freezing water and small sharp stones has on bare flesh. Besides, I would be happier doing it with someone. I remember well the exposure especially near the top and I’m an old man now. Better having some moral support on that one.

Option 3) The Tarmachan Ridge. I have never done it before. For some reason, when I was at my hill walking “peak” many years ago, I was only vaguely aware of it. I remember thinking that it was best kept for a winter traverse. A few years back, I did set out to do it but my car got stuck on the mountain road in heavy snow and ice and I had turned back.

The alarm clock went off at 6 am. I had been dreaming of warmer climates over in the Florida Keys. I was warm and cosy in bed so another option entered my head. Go back to sleep. I pulled out my four sided coin and flipped it.

Yup… good choice.. Tarmachan ridge it is.

I felt an excitement that I had not felt for a while as I caught the first glimpse of the ridge driving over the Glen Ogle pass. It looked thrilling yet a little daunting in the early morning sun. Was I going to clamber over that at my age ? Read on to find out.


I was second car to park at the Tarmachan Ridge access road end however I couldn’t help notice that the Ben Lawyers centre was filling up nicely. I hoped it would be quiet where I was going. Im a lone walker and like the silence to listen to my own thoughts. I still had a lot on my mind

The walk started off like any other walk. It takes me a few hundred meters to catch my wind and fall into a stride. The views were beginning to open up as my legs started working. The sky was still glowing from the sunrise when I took this photo of Ben Vorlich and Stuc A Chroin. It was a heavy sky, I felt it could snow again.


Once above the snow line, I stopped and put my crampons on. The snow was not as solid as was on Ben Vorlich two weeks ago, but there was ice about and I knew they would be needed for the ridge.

Ben More and Stobinian looked great under that heavy sky.


The next photo shows the steepest part of the walk up Meal nan Tarmachan which is the first summit. I noticed that someone had cut deep holes in the snow to presumably check avalanche conditions. That is a bit to technical for me so I looked for my own avalanche indicator. Yup..there it was … I saw someone on the steepest part. Watching them would give me the best indication if it was going to avalanche.

I noticed he seemed to be struggling a little ? Then it dawned on me, he wasn’t using crampons and had no axe. I followed and found the snow was a bit soft. One step up and then it would slide half way down again. I don’t like snow in that condition so kicked harder to get the front points into the ice and turf below.

Onwards and upwards, if he could do it without the gear, I could do it with it


However, on nearing the summit, I took a shortcut through this small cornice.
He took the took way round but still got to the top .. yeah


Well..I think it was the top as I could go no higher ? There was no trig point, only a small pile of stones. I recognised the big pile of stones behind it as Ben Lawyers. The sky was getting heavier and I wondered if it would close in around the summits.


I didn’t stop for lunch. I wanted down and off the ridge long before any clag could mist my day. I looked towards Meall Garbh. It’s a pointy little summit and didn’t look too far away. Before setting off in that direction I bid farewell to the non crampon walker.

I noticed two people on the summit of Meall Garbh and they didn’t move much. You can see them in this photo. I wondered why they were stationary for so long ?


As I approached the summit, they hardly seemed to budge. One was standing doing something while the other moved around, but my eyesight is not as good as it used to be so I wasn’t sure what?


At one point I thought he was an anti aircraft gunner long lost from some forgotten war ? Then I realised it was a large camera on a tripod. Yup..would you belive it, there was a fashion shoot going on at the summit.


I asked if they had been further along the ridge and they said no. They mentioned there was no footprints going that way and most folk stopped here then turned back. I asked if they knew the way from here and one pointed to a big slab of rock. “Down that” he said with a smile

It was about a seven foot drop onto a small ledge. After that the ground angled away for around 20 meters before disappearing into mid air. “Thanks” I said with a smile

I faced inwards, took a deep breath, placed my hands beside my feet, gripped the edge of the rock, then kicked backwards. My arms took my weight and I heard the front points of my crampons scrape slowly down the rock, They made a blood curling screech like fingernails on a blackboard. I lowered myself to full reach. Looked down and saw the ledge was only another six inches to drop. I let go and then I was there.

I smiled back at the astonished look of the photographer and friend.
Although I looked confident, Im glad I had my deodorant on.

I wasn’t too happy going along the narrow ridge. The snow was soft and it was “snowballing” as I walked. Not a good sign. I took it slowly. I turned and was glad to mow see another person following. The photographer and friend had gone back to his business of capturing the mist engulfing Ben Lawyers.


The narrow ridge didn’t go far before it seemed to come to an abrupt end ?
Looking down , I could see where I wanted to be but couldn’t work out how to get there ?

The soft snow was beginning to bother me again so I slowed more and told the person following not to wait for me and to pass.

I was in dire need of another avalanche indicator and true to the photographer’s words, there were no footsteps to show the way down. I also felt I needed to see footsteps.

The walker smiled, passed and ventured ever forward and downward.
Did I imagine the smell of another brand of deodorant?

We made it to the bealach and I looked back at the steep slope we had just descended. It looked nothing as bad from this angle. You can still see the photographer and his friend as two little dots on the summit, in the left hand side of this photo. They must have been frozen ?


I could see quite a few people were now gathering on the summit but I didn’t see any others descend down this way as I ate my lunch.

There seemed to be a lot of debating .. should we or shouldn’t we ? Whatever they decided, at least there were now two sets of footprints to show the way. My new found companion had long gone as he didn’t stop for lunch. I took this photo in the bealach then realised I was out of digital card space to store more photos.


The rest of my day was uneventful and I finished the walk in silence, wondering what it would have been like going up central gully in Ben Lui.

Thanks for reading my report
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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby Lesley Walker » Sat Feb 13, 2010 9:35 pm

Another great report Donny, they have all been a joy to read and very inspiring to a beginner like myself.

Looking forward to the next one! :D


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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby Paul Webster » Sun Feb 14, 2010 11:33 am

At one point I thought he was an anti aircraft gunner long lost from some forgotten war ?

:lol: :lol:

What sort of fashion shoot was it?
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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby Glenrothes » Sun Feb 14, 2010 4:48 pm

Donny, you refer to age a couple of times in your report which can I say is an great account of an awesome winter traverse and well done on completing it.

Can I ask how old you and at what age these sorts of feelings start to play with the old pshycy??

Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby Graeme D » Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:24 pm

Brilliant report Donny. Love the pic of the heavy sky over Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin :D .
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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby kinley » Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:37 pm

Interesting - wonder who your photographers were? Prior? Gordon?

Lovely looking day though 8)

Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby skye2304 » Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:17 pm

Yup, had the same problem coming down that bad step in snow and ice (see my report). Well done for making a go of it it its always worthwhile asking yourself the questions of what to do.
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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby DonnyW » Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:59 pm

Thanks again to all for your interest and comments on my walk.

Hey Paul .. I guess I was just shooting my mouth off when I mentioned it was a fashion shoot.

I asked if they were making an advert for something and they replied “ We wish”
I suspect they were just a couple of keen amateur ‘togs with a tripod and large format camera. I guess I was surprised to see such a set up in such an unusual place in mid winter. I do wonder how their photos turned out ?

Hey Glenrothes .. watch out for my next report soon .. I will answer some of you questions in it. It will be titled something like “Depressed on Dumyat”

As for some more of my pshycy .. here is some food for thought for all…

Im a great believer that it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have .. large or small, a good photograph comes from deep within the person operating the camera.

In the same light, I also believe it doesn’t matter what kind of boots a person wears, getting across the ridge in winter conditions comes from within the person in the boots.

Here are a few more photos from my day of the great photo shoot..
Thanks again to all for all your interest and encouragement



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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby mountain coward » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:54 pm

Fantastic report - and I love those moody sky shots - they're superb... so was it a fashion shoot or aren't you sure? I once saw some poor hardly-clothed young (good-looking :D ) bloke sat for hours in a waterfall in the Duddon valley for a fashion shoot while the photographer kept telling him to smile etc. :lol:
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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby davgil » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:00 am

Hi Donny,

Great report!

Whilst reading it with interest I was pleasantly surprised when half way down you were talking about me and my friend...yes, I'm the photographer in question.

It was good to meet you and hats off to you for tackling that dangerous step down.
This was our first winter walk after completing a Tiso winters skills course 3 weeks earlier.
Sorry to disappoint everyone but there was no medium format or fancy camera and definitely no fashion shoot :) just a keen amateur with a basic dslr and a tripod.

We were first up there and as stated there were a lot of footprints, none of which continued after the summit so we decided to play it safe and head back by the same route although we did hog the summit for a while.
What a great place and a fantastic day for it too, highly recommended!

I had a few problems with my pics that day so nothing great to show.
I’d love a copy of your originals with us in them if you would consider sending them to me?
They’d be a great memento of the day and much appreciated.

Thanks again for a great report, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Meall Garbh 04a.jpg


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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby DonnyW » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:10 pm

Hi Dave,

Im glad you enjoyed the report and also took it in the light hearted manner that I wrote it in 8)

You also did well getting to the top of Meall Garbh in those conditions as its not a peak for the faint of heart.
But then the faint of heart will never get the photos that we both set out to get.

I can vouch that it was a very difficult day for photography even though the sky was atmospheric. The flat lighting caused by the clouds made it hard to capture the snow slopes because there was so little contrast of light and shade. This caused a lot of my photos to appear "washed out" on the snow areas, even though they were under exposed to compensate.

Send me your email address by PM and I will be happy to forward you a couple of the ridge shots that you appear in. The one attached here will look great printed up to poster size. I have it as my desk top at present and its pin sharp. If by chance the lone walker that lead the way down from the ridge appears here too.. I will be delighted to send him his photo. All I need to know is his deodorant brand to prove identity :D

Often its the other walkers that make the mountain photos so I am in debt to them too 8)

Thanks again to all for your interest 8)
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Re: Tarmachan Ridge and the photo shoot

Postby gaffr » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:05 pm

Fine winter report on your traverse.....have been on these tops only in the springtime with merely a little snow left...good images...thanks.
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