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Another Lochy day...

Another Lochy day...


Postby BlackPanther » Tue May 20, 2014 11:39 am

Route description: Meall na h-Eilde and Geal Charn, Loch Arkaig

Corbetts included on this walk: Geal Charn (Arkaig), Meall na h-Eilde

Date walked: 29/04/2014

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 20 km

Ascent: 1030m

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I'm still behind with my trip reports, so today's story is about a couple of Corbetts we climbed about 3 weeks ago. It was the last walk of our Easter holidays.
On Monday weather was excellent so we successfully climbed Am Faochagach and lazed about on the summit for almost an hour. Tuesday's forecast was more cloudy and also hazy, so we didn't expect any fireworks when we drove down towards Fort William to bag Geal Charn and Meall na h-Eilde. But the day was rather quiet and even with cloud cuddling the summits, the air was very warm and humid. Not perfect climbing conditions, but good enough for us!
As it turned out, conditions improved later in the day and the sun came out to brighten the afternoon :D
We parked in the forest just before Achnasaul - there is a large wild car park to the right hand side. On the way, we met a few "stick lorries", which suggested that there is a serious tree-felling work going on further up Loch Arkaig. We didn't know it back then, but by the end of the day we would be cursing tree-felling!
The morning was very misty, we could hardly see across Loch Arkaig :( but in this country you don't complain, just take whatever mother nature offers and be happy it's not rain or 80mph gusts! :lol:
Our route:

Track_MEALL NA H-EILDE 29-04-14.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


We walked about 500m down the tarmac road and turned onto a boggy meadow just before the road crosses Allt Dubh. The initial stage was wet. We passed a TV mast and as we looked back, well, it didn't look like it was going to improve :(
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Boggy... Wet... Muddy... Ehmmm... Plus the cloud was down on Graham-level - the hill you can see beyond the trees is actually a Graham, Glas bheinn:
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As soon as I stopped complaining about wet underfoot, we had to cross a stream and what can I say... Life felt pretty miserable at that point :(
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Luckily, the stream didn't require wading across, not much water in it...
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The track into the glen of Allt Dubh (I'll call it Glen Dubh, just to shorten the sentence) is rather squelchy to begin with:
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...but higher up it improves and dries out. By now we were actually sweating, the air was so humid we felt uncomfortable.
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Let's go! Another muddy burn to cross...
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On a clear day, one would get excellent views from the very beginning, especially down to Loch Arkaig and the hills beyond... Now the panorama was obstructed by a combination of low cloud and thick haze. What a difference from the day before!
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Undeterred by the misty obstacles, I marched on. The humidity of the air was so annoying, that I stripped down to my t-shirt, even though it wasn't really that warm...
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The track (later becoming a path) goes deep into Glen Dubh and it gave us an easy, steady climb to the height of about 450m. So, Kevin said, we are half way up the first Corbett :lol: For a short time, I could indeed see the summit of Geal Charn to our left...
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...but soon the cloud lowered down again. We still hoped it would eventually clear but at the moment, the world around us was sad, grey and very quiet. Next to no wind in Glen Dubh.
We crossed Allt Dubh and aimed for the col between Geal Charn and its lower top, Beinn Mheadhoin:
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The going here was not as wet as I had been afraid of, the slopes are mostly grassy. At some point we came across a faint VT track and followed it to the top of the col. As we looked back down into Glen Dubh and the hills beyond, nothing suggested the gloomy weather was going to change soon...
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On the way up:
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We pushed on and up the slopes of Geal Charn. The VT track disappeared somewhere, but climbing was easy enough. A few peat hags about 100m below the summit were dry as a bone, and eventually we entered the silent world of clag...
Into the mist:
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The top of Geal Charn is topped with a small cairn built around an old fencepost, and a trig point, too:
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We sat for a few minutes and waited for the cloud to disperse... We didn't get a full panorama, but managed to catch some views:
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The old fence posts will be our guides for the rest of the walk along the ridge. Even in misty weather, it's easy to just follow them from here to the next summit - Meall Coire nan Saobhaidh, which is just a Corbett top, not a Corbett. It would be seen here if cloud was not so low:
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The descent into Bealach Carn na-h-Urchaire is steep and on a wet day it would be quite an annoyance. We zigzagged down carefully, and managed to get down without a slip:
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Looking back to Geal Charn from the bealach, we saw a patch of blue sky above the summit of the Corbett - maybe it is going to clear after all?...
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Generally, as long as we stayed close to the old fence, we managed to avoid peat hags and boggy puddles...
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...and as we were a few minutes below the summit of the middle top, the cloud began to lift:
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The top of Meall Coire nan Saobhaidh didn't have much to offer apart from the tiny cairn... The cloud was just about covering the summit so I suggested that we sat down, had a snack and gave the nature time to clear the sky for us :lol:
lochy1.jpg

We found a few rocks to sit on just past the summit and waited patiently again... We were rewarded for our patience very soon.
Lifting... lifting...
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Kevin full of hope... and sandwiches :lol:
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We recognized the characteristic shape of Ben Tee as soon as it emerged from the mist:
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To the north - the gloomiest of gloomy conditions...
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...but "our" hills were now beginning to smile :D
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Me contemplating the final ascent to the second Corbett of the day. It may look very steep, but there is a grassy "ledge" half way up which gives an easy route of ascent:
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We used this "ledge" and soon emerged on the grassy ridge of Meall na h-Eilde. The cloud was now lifting quickly and the familiar shapes of Loch Lochy Munros came into view:
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From just below the summit, view back to Meall Coire nan Saobhaidh and more distant Geal Charn to the left:
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The summit cairn of Meall na h-Eilde, with Meall na Teanga behind:
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We had another summit break, not because we needed it, but because we liked it :D The clag was now mostly gone and we could enjoy the views, at least to the hills nearby. I was glad to bag my Corbett no. 69 - just one shy of 70. My C-target for this year is 75, surely I can manage it now!
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We spent some time by the summit cairn, sinking in the views, aaah lucky us :D Here are a few snapshot of Loch Lochy Munros. They look very steep from this perspective, and as had experienced the week before, they are painful to climb :lol: Interesting to see them from the other side:
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The Mountain Man :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Sadly, the more distant views were still obstructed by the haze. But even if this was as good as we would get that day, it was worth the wait :D
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The recommended option for descent is to follow the SW shoulder of Meall na h-Eilde back to Glen Dubh, but we thought we could just as well prolong the day by making a full circuit via Gleann Cia-aig. From above, the glen looked deserted, no tree felling taking place, so we thought - OK we're safe:
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We followed the fence posts down to Bealach an Easain, steeply at first, but with good views to Loch Lochy Munros:
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The grassy slopes were relatively dry and offered us quick descent, with temperature rising the air was not so humid any more and we fully enjoyed the moment...
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The easiest line of descent simply follows the stream, Allt Bealach an Easain, to the point where it flows into Abhainn Chai-aig (sounds kinda Chinese :lol: ):
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The col between Meall na Teanga and Sron na Choire Ghairbh:
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Posing with a broken birch. At the moment I actually thought it was funny...
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Abhainn Chai-aig is full of small waterfalls:
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Down in the glen we aimed for a wooden footbridge - at least we avoided wading across the allt, though I thought I was now pretty good at river crossing :lol:
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From the bridge, an obvious (though wet in places) path follows the banks of Abhainn Chai-aig as seen in the picture here, with Meall na h-Eilde in the background. the cloud burned off and we were in for a pretty hot afternoon!
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Walking was easy for the first 1.5km maybe, and then we reached the area of tree felling. What used to be a nice, woodland path, was now a mud-infested trudge, just see for yourselves:
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We encountered dozens of fallen trees blocking the path and honestly, I no longer enjoyed the walk. We were kicking ourselves now, we should have gone back into Glen Dubh as WH walk suggest, but it was too late to turn back now and we pushed on, scrambling over fallen pines from time to time :roll:
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Not a pretty view:
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Tree stumps and a freshly bulldozed track:
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The wide track for lorries goes maybe half way up the glen and ends up with a big turning area. It's all a part of a hydro scheme, but for me, the damage done to the natural environment is unforgivable. Sorry folks, another rant here from me, but my stomach turned when I walked past all these tree stumps, thousands and thousands of them... :( The dead landscape...
I decided to film and photograph this place, only as an example of how badly we can kick the nature...
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The lorry turning area I mentioned above, looks nasty enough. Apologies for the quality - vid cam snapshot:
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Nasty, nasty...

The original path is now gone, lost among the brutalized landscape, so we followed the A9-like track, walking was quick but we lost all the pleasure. I'd rather walk on something boggy but more "natural":
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The final 1km of descent was again on an awful forest track. It may look all right but believe me, it was a nightmare to walk on! Poor Kevin lost his footing and fell when scrambling over a big tree branch, luckily he didn't suffer from anything more than a few scratches. I almost broke my ankles a few times, wriggling among the small bits of wood, which covered the track.
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Looking back up the forest track:
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We managed to reach the forest below us eventually and climbed over the last obstacle, a big tree trunk, only to discover (once on the other side) that it was blocking the entrance to the original Gleann Cia-aig path:
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Aha... So this is where Gleann Cia-aig right of way begins...

We both uttered a big sigh of relief now! We were on a proper path now and just above the Eas Chia-aig waterfalls. We descended to the road and took a well deserved break at the picnic table next to the falls. Kevin spent some time photographing the falls, so to end this TR with something more optimistic, a few of his snapshots:
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To return to the car, we had to walk along the road, but it proved quite pleasant. The road was quiet and we enjoyed nice views across Loch Arkaig - even Nevis Range cleared now:
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Looking west along Loch Arkaig:
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Before we reached the car, we encountered a couple more stick lorries which made us thinking, is there another hydro scheme up Glen Dessarry? Is it not going to change into Glen Disarray?...
I understand that most forests are commercial and they will have to go at some point, but I can't stop wondering if the search for green energy doesn't go too far. There's a lot of blah-blah-blah talking about CO2 emissions, eco-friendly investments and all that s***t, but destroying a beautiful glen does not exactly go up my "eco-friendly" street. Maybe when the hydro scheme is finished, the glen will look better, but at the moment it's a mess.
All right, rant over.
On the way back home, we stopped to admire the Nevis Range, now cloud-free. Ben Nevis majestic as always:
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As for the Lochy Corbetts, if you avoid Gleann Cia-aig and stick to the WH walk description, you are bound to have a great day. These hills would be good to climb in winter conditions (at least all the bog would be frozen) and on a good summer day, without the haze we encountered, you will certainly enjoy great panoramas to the west, to the wilderness of Knoydart.
I'm sure the circuit can be done in 6 hrs or so, our 8 hours time was due to the Gleann Cia-aig struggle :(

So this was the last of our spring hill-iday trips, I hope you enjoyed my stories, fellow WalkHighlanders :D I have two more tales to tell - one from the first May weekend and another one from last Sunday. Will try to post them this week. Cheers :D
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BlackPanther
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 3171
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Re: Another Lochy day...

Postby basscadet » Tue May 20, 2014 12:29 pm

I enjoyed that :) Braw the way it cleared up for you.. Bonny part of the world :D

I was up Gleann Cia-aig last year, and gave up the fight and ended up having a swim and a snooze instead.. :wink:
What riled me about it ,is that the glen has been in this state for years, and they haven't bothered finishing what they started.. :? There should be a time frame specified when they get the go ahead for such destruction.. :(
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basscadet
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Location: Edinburgh

Re: Another Lochy day...

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue May 20, 2014 1:58 pm

That was a great read while I was eating lunch! They look like two lovely hills and happy the views opened up for you.

I totally agree about the devastation of the countryside. I believe there are lots of grants to be had for hydro at the moment and if the big estates are good at anything it's acquiring money for themselves (some of it lottery, some of it from the gov't and thus the taxpayer). Of course, once the schemes are in production, they keep all the profits for themselves and many of them are set up as 'charitable trusts' and therefore don't pay much (if any) tax. (OK, that's my rant over!)
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AnnieMacD
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