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Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh

Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh

Postby yokehead » Sat Nov 22, 2008 12:21 am

Route description: Meall Greigh, Meall Garbh and An Stuc

Munros included on this walk: Meall Garbh (Ben Lawers), Meall Greigh

Date walked: 31/10/2008

Distance: 15.5 km

Ascent: 1154m

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Me and my 14 year old son, Chaz. An Stuc was climbed after Lawers on another outing.

The mwis weather forecast was for a north east wind again at 30mph ‘giving some buffeting’, This forecast was in fact a bit worse than that the previous day when we had decided not to continue from Meall Corranaich, anyway we decided to see what we could do. We had a very late start, partly because we were late in getting up and then, at the Ben Lawers Hotel, we discovered we had left our gaiters behind so had a 30 min round trip to get them. Ready at last, we walked a short distance along the road and onto the path alongside the Lawers Burn. This is a great track initially through a wooded area, something that we had not seen much of on our walks to date, and with good views of the stream. We had fun getting over the giant stiles.

which way did you say it was?

After around 2km we left the track just before it crosses the stream and headed for the snow covered top of Meall Greigh through grass and small patches of heather. This approach is around 2km in distance with a climb of around 550m. It doesn’t sound too bad but I found it tedious, after a while of plodding along, with frequent stops to catch my breath, I couldn’t help thinking ‘why am I doing this!’ I need a bit more training. Chaz again was very patient stopping with me, he could have moved at twice the pace. We saw a lone figure on the skyline and a couple a little ahead of us, gradually we caught and passed the couple at about 800m. This was the first people I had overtaken so I felt a bit good, I wasn’t the slowest on the hill (but I certainly wasn’t very fast either, although we had seen few walkers on the mountains this week). The snowline was at about 700m, this and the increasingly rocky ground gave better going to the east cairn of Meall Greigh and we reached it quite quickly and satisfyingly after the slog up the grass.

west along Loch Tay from Meall Greigh

As we neared the summit we increasingly moved into the full blast of the wind, like yesterday this seemed to be stronger than forecast and a few times we had to brace ourselves from being knocked over. There was cloud across all of the Lawers range tops except ours, but within 10 minutes we too were in mist and small particles of snow/hail (‘snail’ we called it) were coming in horizontally. Although we knew it was about 3.5km to get to Meall Garbh we decided to continue; whilst conditions were fairly grim and we couldn’t see the terrain of our route onwards we felt much more up for the challenge than we had yesterday, maybe because the cold didn’t seem so intense. We also didn’t want to have to tackle Meall Garbh in isolation on another visit, and wanted to see An Stuc from the north.

We could just see the second cairn, with hoods up we walked towards it now being able to set a good pace on the flat. The ‘snail’ made a good noise against the side of our hoods as it hit us on the starboard side and Chaz got his goggles on. We continued along the ridge in the howling wind that was now of fairly constant strength with not too many gusts, able to follow the path that was obvious from the action of the wind but with no view of the terrain ahead or behind. There was ice in a number of places but by now we had the experience to know where to tread and combined with the use of our walking poles had no problems. Occasionally we saw the footprints of the lone walker that we had seen ahead of us earlier. After around 1km we saw the fence line on our right so had a marker all the way to Meall Garbh. We dropped down to the low point at 900m around 1.5km before Meall Garbh and made a note of this point of departure from the path that we would use on our descent, as planned from looking at the map before the start.

We then tackled the climb of just over 200m onto the small summit plateau, walking next to the fence and using it to assist our climbing a number of times. Snow had drifted deeply in places and the ascent was very enjoyable, these short bursts of ascent are much more rewarding than the slog such as that we had had at the start. Around halfway up the cloud cleared briefly and we were able to see and photograph the route we had taken from Meall Greigh, we were very pleased to get this view. We saw the couple we had passed earlier walking back up the ridge to Meall Greigh, apparently they had started out towards Meall Garbh but had decided not to proceed. Rime ice was 2cm thick on the individual wire strands of the fence and 10cm thick on the posts, Chaz kept stopping to knock sections off and at one stage used it for a drink! The cloud closed in again and was with us when we reached the cairn of Meall Garbh, we didn’t get any view of the surroundings during the 30 minutes we were there.

just below the summit of Meall Garbh, looking back to Meall Greigh

Turner prize candidate 'rime ice on wire'

We walked along a little towards An Stuc and soon found a spot completely sheltered from the wind, behind a rocky outcrop. We had a hot drink and snacks, waiting for a brief clearance in the cloud but this never came. Meall Garbh being the same height as An Stuc, we had also hoped to be able to see the point at which we had got into difficulties on An Stuc earlier in the week to get more of an idea of the situation. Whilst we had looked at photos of An Stuc in summer conditions from this side we couldn’t see where we had been. The cold started to get to our fingers and toes after this period of inaction, we packed up our things and headed back to the cairn.

Back into the wind (on our trips we decided that wind is the most debilitating weather factor, tougher to put up with than cold) and we moved speedily to the descent alongside the fence once more. The drop down of 200m was huge fun, we made the most of the snow drifts. We stopped for quite a while to mess about at one place where there was a large snowdrift and I got some photos of Chaz jumping off the top of a bank into the snow, the cloud also cleared briefly giving is some great glimpses of views to the north. On we went and soon began our descent to the SSE towards the dam below Lochan nan Cat.

hope you know where you're going

As we descended we had good views into the Coire, the cloud cleared briefly to give us a photo of Ben Lawers’ peak and the east ridge although we still didn’t get to see An Stuc. We were now out of the worst of the wind but could still hear it rushing over the ridge for most of the way down from here. We walked alongside the area fenced off by the Ben Lawers Trust, gradually moving out of the snow and stopping frequently to take in the surroundings as the light faded. The scene changed by the minute as cloud came and went and the light changed, we felt privileged to be able to experience our surroundings.

Ben Lawers south side in the dusk

We cut a line straight to the dam from just below the fenced off area, crossing two small streams. We crossed the Lawers Burn immediately below the dam, there was very little flow. As we moved onto the few rocks by the stream, Chaz managed to slip on a rock and land on his bum; it turned out that he had been stepping down as he was putting some gear away in his pocket and wasn’t concentrating. We had a laugh about getting an injury in such a basic way after having had a week of much more difficult terrain, but he was fine (he had a nice bruise later!). From the dam we walked along the track for a short distance and nearly missed the start of the path, not spotting the cairn at first in the gloom. The path follows the top of the gorge, which isn’t very deep but nevertheless is reasonably steep and a great sight with the increasing water volume fed by side streams. We were looking out for the point at which the path drops into the gorge and crosses the stream but I missed it, Chaz had seen it but we had a communication breakdown! The light was fading really fast now so on with the headtorches. We could just see the line of the path rising out of the gorge on the opposite side so descended straight down to find a crossing place. We had to walk upstream a little way until we found some convenient boulders to cross, then we were soon back on the path. 40 minutes later we were back at the car having once more enjoyed the walk using the torches.

Route guides read before the walk had noted the very few places to park in this area and that the Ben Lawers Hotel had provided parking on the basis of either paying a charge or having a drink or meal at the hotel. We decided on a drink but then also had a meal, not relishing the thought of cooking upon our return to base. I had a half of bitter accompanied by a dram of Talisker, then had their ‘wee taster’, a slice of haggis and of black pudding with a whisky sauce – yum! Our main courses were also excellent. A member of staff told us that we were the exception for walkers; it appears that most use the parking but don’t use the hotel facilities or pay the charge. This is crazy, surely it is not too much to ask to just get a quick drink at the hotel, quite apart from this being most welcome at the end of a walk? These selfish walkers are perhaps putting the parking facility in jeopardy.
Last edited by yokehead on Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:48 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh 31 Oct 08

Postby wandererjon » Sat Nov 22, 2008 8:56 pm

Great pictures, especially like the "Turner Prize" one, what a difference in conditions from the start of the walk to getting out onto the tops!! You can see where inexperience can get you into trouble. I agree with you about the selfishness of some people with regard to not repaying the use of hotel and pub carparks, it makes it very difficult for others. I have a camper-van and have found that in Ireland (both North and South), a lot of rural pubs would actually let me stop overnight on their carparks, in exchange for having a couple of drinks and/or a meal (often at their invitation), all it needs is a bit of "give and take.

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Re: Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh 31 Oct 08

Postby yokehead » Sun Nov 23, 2008 5:41 pm

Aye we got a bit of everything that day (except for the view that we wanted!) and it's amazing what's inside what looks like just a bit of cloud from lower down, we were well prepared though and it added to the walk. Good to read your views on the parking, I can still almost taste that meal!
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Re: Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh 31 Oct 08

Postby Paul Webster » Sun Nov 23, 2008 7:09 pm

I can still almost taste that meal!

I'm annoyed I only had a pint in there now :D
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