ScotRail pick up the tab for the Ossian Three
by old danensian » Thu Jun 26, 2014 11:15 am
Munros included on this walk: Beinn na Lap, Carn Dearg (Corrour), Sgor Gaibhre
Date walked: 23/06/201425 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).
Stick with it, as I do, eventually, get to some mountains, in more ways than one.
The tale amply demonstrates that simply getting to touch the summit cairn of yet another Munro is rarely the heart of the story. The intricacies of the route from tent to triangulation point, from car park to cairn, are sometimes mere by-products of another experience.
I’d had the three Munros above Loch Ossian in my sights for a while this year: that iconic railway journey wending its way through the glens and between the hills. Culminating in crossing Rannoch Moor, and being left at Corrour Halt to see the little train disappear, was my kind of Brief Encounter experience, melding the romance of the railway with the mysteries of the mountains.
So, our story starts at Glasgow’s Queen Street Station where, as the departure of the 12.21 for Mallaig drew close, rucksacks outnumbered the eastbound briefcases of the Edinburgh-bound business travellers.
Indignation competed with high dudgeon when it was announced that no seat reservations would be valid on that day’s service. Those clutching numbered tickets for their favoured forward facing window seat with a table either fulminated or struggled to contain their displeasure. I simply sat quietly, having only decided to travel the evening before when the weather runes looked promising, and had bought my unreserved ticket only that morning.
As the time for departure passed and the carriage heated up, the Lancastrian expat from Tasmania in the seat next to me muttered something about us still not managing to install air-conditioning on trains. Unfortunately he recognised neither the irony nor the sarcasm when I pointed out the eco-friendly solution of simply opening a window.
A few minutes later, when ScotRail staff began to distribute free bottles of water, something was clearly about to go awry. This was confirmed when streams of disembarking passengers began to march past the window on the platform and at the far end of the carriage we were also being told to get off.
“A replacement bus service is being arranged to Fort William,” we were told.
“What about those of us with tickets for Corrour?” was met with a blank stare by the poor lad delegated the task of getting us off the train. In the end, after being passed from one hi-viz jacket to another, it became evident that someone had recognised that this constituted a problem that a bus could not resolve. I was finally directed into a waiting room where I joined Katrina, Jean and Diedre who had been given free rein to take advantage of the refreshment trolley. They too were headed for Corrour and had already managed to get someone to address the problem and wrestle with the apparent contradiction of the solution that had been proposed.
No, a bus wouldn’t be any use, but a taxi would.
“Well if a taxi can get there, why can’t the bus?” was the understandable query from the ScotRail rep who was trying to get a handle on the situation. To give him his due, he did recognise that seventeen miles of private, single-track estate gravelled road, with gates might constitute a challenge for a bus. The ace in our pack was Katrina.
“I’ve got to be at Corrour for five o’clock – I’ve got a hostel to open.” As the warden of the hostel, due to take over for a fortnight’s stint, she simply had to be there.
And so enters Dave into our drama.
While a tour party was being dispersed into a fleet of silver grey Skoda Octavias in the direction of Fort William, a VW people carrier arrived to take the four of us and all our gear.
Now Dave hadn’t heard of Corrour.
Knowing the quickest way to Drumchapel, Pollockshields or Rutherglen wasn’t going to be much use. The car was a roadmap-free environment, totally reliant on the satnav. I think he suspected he was on for a long trip, but not quite what lay ahead. He may have been close to the boundary of his comfort zone by the time we got beyond Perth.
The four of us enthused about hills, mountains and the great outdoors. Conversation continued unabated for the whole journey. The Inca Trail, walking poles, socks, Kilimanjaro, the joys of retirement, house insurance, flooding, the benefits of Brashers and the den of iniquity that is the House of Bruar: retail was off the agenda. When it got to farming and lambing things got a little uncomfortable for two of us in the car as Katrina and Diedre compared notes on castration: earlier or later, which is better?
“Later is better, as they’re easier to get hold of.” Male muscles clenched at the prospect: neither Dave nor I thought it was the lamb itself that was being talked about.
We headed up the A9 and over Drumochter. Dave was silent now and that comfort zone boundary may have been crossed when we turned off at Dalwhinnie. There was to be no respite at the distillery.
By the time we found the entrance to the estate road off the A86 beyond Loch Laggan he must have wondered where he was being led by this bunch of nutters in his car. We were swallowed by the vastness of Strathossian and the track snaked off into the distance with no apparent end in sight.
But Dave just kept on driving.
Not knowing where he was headed, he just accepted our reassurance that we knew where we were. Seventeen miles at 15mph for most of the time and he must have thought this fare was never going to end. And then Loch Ossian appeared and the last leg was in sight, as was the Station House in the distance sat below the Corbett Leuim Uilleim.
Being told that he didn’t have to take us all the way to the station offered scant comfort to Dave who, by now, must have been wondering when he was going to get home.
At the junction where the track bears left to the hostel Katrina put him out of his misery.
“It’s a bit rough at the very end; you might not want to go down this bit.”
“No,” replied Dave with a plaintive sense of relief.
Out we piled and unloaded our stuff onto the track, to the bemusement of a group walking back to the station. We shook hands with Dave, thanked him profusely, and before I could get the camera from the depths of my bag for a team photo with our knight in silver VW armour, he was off. The clichéd trail of rising dust marked his progress back along the estate road and towards civilisation.
It had taken us three and half hours from Queen Street station, and we had arrived just ninety minutes after our scheduled journey time. And Katrina was only five minutes late for work.
Dave had been a star: goodness knows what he told his other half or his mates back in Glasgow. ScotRail came up trumps with their willingness to understand and solve the problem, and allow almost unfettered access to the refreshment trolley while they sorted things out.
And all for a clutch of oldies travelling on Club 55 tickets that only cost £19. No, that’s wrong: someone had a Senior Citizen Rail Card and got another £2 off.
Beinn na Lap
8km; 576m; 2hr 15m
If you’re still reading: thank you for your persistence. We now get to what you’ve probably been waiting for: a mountain.
But after all that, there’s not really much to say.
It wasn’t quite an early evening stroll in the summer sunlight, but it wasn’t far off.
The bee-line to the ridge is straightforward, occasionally stiff, but mercifully short. The ridge eases off as it gets higher and progress could definitely be described as strolling. A scattering of cairns and shelters herald the approach to the top and then, there it is.
Shifting clouds and distant patches of drizzle caught in the rays of sun gave a sense of mood and character and at times it felt as though you could stretch up and touch the black cloud above. Then it would shift and create a pool of illuminated green in the valley below.
I’d had enough of estate tracks by this time, so the option of descending Creag an Fhathaich to the other end of Loch Ossian and walking back through the forest was politely declined. A mug of tea and some food awaited at the tent so I simply went back the way I came and was back to bid goodnight to the travelling trio by half past eight.
I lay back in the tent, listening to the outer flapping in the breeze, and wondered where Dave had got to: he might just have got back to Glasgow – and a really boring fare to Byres Road.
Sgor Gaibhre, Carn Dearg
19.5km; 930m; 7hrs
By six the next morning I was awake and wondering whether the delicate hiss on the outer of the tent was drizzle. Given the fact that the breeze had dropped, I strongly suspected it was going to be something else. Gingerly pulling down the zip of the tent inner, it didn’t take long to see they were out there: a zillion little black spots jittering around like a school experiment for Brownian motion.
Zip back up; Avon on; midge spray on; net at the ready.
Fortunately I’d brought the ruck sack right into the tent so could arrange breakfast and pack for the day without emerging to do battle. All I had to do was emerge and sprint.
Clockwise or anti-clockwise: the guidebooks differ. I chose to get my legs going first thing in the morning with the walk alongside the loch, then let gravity help out at the end of the day by descending from Carn Dearg directly to the tent. The prospect of a three or four mile flat trudge along the track at the end of a potentially tiring day just didn’t appeal.
An hour later I disturbed a group of Duke of Edinburgh expeditioneers contemplating their next move up towards Bealach Dubh. Apparently there were about ten groups wandering around and you just lose them in the vastness of the place. Hopefully the assessors didn’t lose their charges and everyone is now safely tucked up back at home with a sense of achievement.
The hydro works have made a bit of a mess of the tracks around the shooting lodge, but I soon spotted a gate in the deer fence on the lower slopes of Meall Nathrach Beag and headed directly across to it. This, I thought, was going to be the toughest part of the day: a pathless trudge and fight up to Meall Nathrach Mor through the heather. I was not disappointed.
Then it was just one of those days that come and go. Now you see me, now you don’t. A bit of up and a bit of down. The drizzle thickens that little bit more, so the jacket goes on. In five minutes it’s off. You think this bit will drift through: it doesn’t: you’re wet. But it doesn’t really matter ‘cos you’ll dry off again in no time.
On Sgor Choinnich the mist persisted sufficiently for me to check the GPS for the right direction across to Sgor Gaibhre, but intuitively I felt it was wrong. Getting the proper compass out confirmed my suspicions that the GPS was about 90 degrees out. The cloud then miraculously parted and old technology was definitely vindicated.
Sgor Gaibhre was a short and strenuous but the track emerged perfectly with the summit cairn at nose-level about six feet in front of me.
With a lull in the breeze, the beasties caught up. I was determined to have a break and the midge net came out to make life more comfortable. Then the view came out for long enough to see the route down to the bealach Mam Ban clearly and even patches of sunlight scuttled across the top of Carn Dearg.
An hour later and I arrived at the impressively bulky cairn on Carn Dearg. A misty in and out yet again, and the midge net even allowed a brief doze during my forty five minute solitary sojourn up there. Then, like buses, they all arrived at once. Within five minutes four people arrived at the top, the last being Diedre, one of my travelling companions from the day before.
We shared our experience. No, neither of us had been able to get a taxi this morning to start the day: crap service up here.
And then it was down. Above Coire Odhar Beag the track petered out but there was no problem finding a route to the track that passes Peter’s Rock.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent drying out, packing, avoiding the attentions of Archie (the dog from the Station House) and throwing stones for him. Before departing for the station Jean, Katrina and I sat on the bench at the hostel and mused on life, the world and the previous twenty four hours while enjoying a mug of tea and the view up the loch.
The weather had improved, patches of blue sky were beginning to predominate and the scene was simply serene. I couldn’t care less that if I’d stayed in bed of another two hours I’d have had better weather for the majority of the walk. It wasn’t just about the views from the top.
Again, thanks to ScotRail, a knighthood for Dave, and best wishes for my three travelling companions with whom I shared a great time.
The journey back across the moor and weaving its way between the hills was exactly as I’d hoped. Now I just have to get back and do it again so I can enjoy that stretch alongside Loch Trieg as well.
by dogplodder » Thu Jun 26, 2014 11:42 am
by MG1976 » Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:27 pm
As you say, the summit isn't always what makes the trip; the trip itself is what really counts.
by Phil the Hill » Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:54 pm
We just walked in from the Rannoch Station road to the South to do the Southern two when our train was cancelled due to storms. I should have demanded Scot Rail lay on a taxi for us!
When we eventually got to Corrour Station to do Beinn na Lap I was disappointed to find cars and vans driving about when I'd thought it was a remote station with no roads. We did get a lift back to the station from near the loch though, which was nice.
by Sunny Speyside » Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:05 pm
Persistence paid off
by Fife Flyer » Thu Jun 26, 2014 10:07 pm
Round of applause for Scotrail Out of interest what was the taxi fare or was the meter switched off?
by AnnieMacD » Fri Jun 27, 2014 2:07 pm
by donalmc » Fri Jun 27, 2014 6:10 pm
by d6unx » Fri Jun 27, 2014 6:50 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Sat Jun 28, 2014 9:04 pm
Well done Scot Rail and the group of you who made it to Corrour. We're still pondering a route for these three, involving trains, tents and the Easains, but problably not this year. Many thanks for this enlightenment!!
by old danensian » Mon Jun 30, 2014 1:59 pm
Fife Flyer wrote:Nice one Nigel, very enjoyable read, some cracking photo's - quite an impressive cairn, hopefully we will see it on Saturday
Round of applause for Scotrail Out of interest what was the taxi fare or was the meter switched off?
Glad you got to see the cairn - and more. And as for the meter - I doubt if there would have been much, if any, change from £150.
Phil the Hill wrote:When we eventually got to Corrour Station to do Beinn na Lap I was disappointed to find cars and vans driving about when I'd thought it was a remote station with no roads. We did get a lift back to the station from near the loch though, which was nice.
I'm hoping that people reading this will have realised that it's not a free-for-all on the track. As the hostel is on the Corrour Estate and they use it for access and some deliveries, having Katrina there gave us more than a degree of "authority."
donalmc wrote:Sure i got train home with you on tuesday i had small dog ,another over 55s club member.
Hi donalmc - you always wonder if people you chat to in out-of-the-way places use the same websites - and with the success of WH more than a few invariably do.
Your wee dog seemed to have enjoyed the day - but not much interested in the views as we headed south into the driechness of Helensburgh and points south.
by tomyboy73 » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:47 pm
by Graeme D » Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:26 am
by Bonzo » Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:29 pm
by Sunset tripper » Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:05 am
I bet the taxi driver will never forget that trip, that is if he ever got home.
- Posts: 1683
- Joined: Nov 3, 2013
- Location: Inverness