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An Stac, Meith Bheinn, Loch Morar and the back of beyond
by malky_c » Tue Mar 24, 2015 11:58 pm
Munros included on this walk: Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glenfinnan), Sgurr Thuilm
Grahams included on this walk: An Stac, Glas-charn, Meith Bheinn
Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Druim a'Chuirn
Date walked: 22/03/2015
Time taken: 16.5 hours
Distance: 41 km
Ascent: 3600m15 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).
This area had interested me for years, but it probably took until about 2010 for me to note that there were Grahams there. Once I spotted those, a route quickly formed itself, and since then I have had a number of versions planned lasting from 2 to 4 days. Some options ended up in the Glen Loy hills to the east, but the weekend option took me back to Glenfinnan. Since last April's rather ill-fated canoe trip down Loch Morar, another visit to Oban Bothy has been on the cards as it is one of the most spectacular (not to mention remote) places in the country.
As the weekend approached, the forecast looked cautiously optimistic for Saturday, but rather poor for Sunday. I decided that I would definitely be bothying and left the tent behind (although an An Stac summit camp also appealed in the right conditions).
Grahams: Glas-charn, Meith Bheinn, An Stac
Sub 2k Marilyns: Druim a' Chuirn.
Time taken: 9 hours, 30 minutes.
Weather: Sunny, warm, slightly hazy. Cloud moving in by evening.
I was on my bike shortly after 5am for the 3 mile trip to the bus station, then in Fort William by 7:20 am. Much as I dislike getting up in the middle of the night, this first bus opens up many great walking opportunities in Lochaber and beyond - you can be down at the north end of Loch Lomond by 9:30am if you want. As usual it was dead - just me and a skiier making the full journey, and only a couple of others hopping on as we approached the Fort.
After a McMuffin (seemingly the only place open for food at this time), my plan was to hop on the train to Glenfinnan, but through a bit of timetable investigation, I discovered the bus which connects to the Mallaig-South Uist ferry - the last one of the season. This left slightly earlier and dropped me right at the start of my walk, a couple of miles west of Glenfinnan. I was straight on the hills by 8:45am - an hour ahead of my schedule I reckoned, and the sun was out too .
This is the most common starting point for Sgurr nan Utha, but there has been a hydro scheme installed since I last visited. A new track swept me rapidly up the first 100m of ascent before I was on a much fainter path.
The start of the walk in the Feith a’ Chatha:
Nearing the head of the glen, I turned west and made my own route towards Glas-charn through a jumble of crags and lochans. While walking in a straight line in this area is never possible for long, the conditions underfoot are generally very pleasant above about 400m - mostly short turf and masive ice-scoured slabs.
Beinn Mhic Chedidh and Druim Fiaclach from a lochan on Glas-charn:
As the rather nondescript precursor to the main fun, Glas-charn easily exceeded my expectations. With great views to the coast and south to the Rois-bheinn hills, it would make a nice little half day in its own right.
Rois-bheinn hills (Druim Fiaclach and An Stac) from Glas-charn:
Sgurr nan Coireachan from Glas-charn:
After a few photos, I began dropping down the ill-defined eastern ridge until I picked up a small burn. This led me right down to Kinlochbeoraid with a minimum amount of difficulty - only a short steep section. There would be a lot more bracken later in the year though.
Loch Beoraid and Meith Bheinn:
Ruighe Breac and Sgurr nan Coireachan from the descent of Glas-charn:
Meall Coire nan Saobhaidhe:
I reached the vacant Kinlochbeoraid cottage a mere 2 hours after leaving the road - it seemed really fast considering how remote it now felt. Although the cottage is locked and boarded, one of the rooms has been broken into and there is a rather unpleasant pile of broken whisky bottles outside. I've seen this in a couple of other remote places - seems hard to get away from the presence of other, messier people.
Life has moved on to the point where places like this will probably never be occupied again, however it is nice to imagine a time when people lived in these remote glens. Walking down to Loch Beoraid, I imagined I was going down to the pier at Meoble to collect the weekly mail, rather than heading up another hill.
Shores of Loch Beoraid:
This glen is very attractive and the path down it not too bad, so it was nice to break the upping and downing for a mile or so by wandering along the loch shore.
I was wondering where the jetty got to:
Crags of Sgurr na Plaide:
Soon it was time for up again, and once clear of the crags, I took a traversing line up steep slopes towards Creag an Eich. Again bracken would obscure this in the summer, but it was easy enough just now.
Sgurr nan Utha and Loch Beoraid:
West down Loch Beoraid:
Bidean and the Glencoe hills:
Lochan Tain Mhic Dhughaill, Beinn Garbh and Sgurr nan Utha:
Loch Morar comes into view with Sgurr na Ciche behind:
The ground was a little rougher crossing Allt na Plaide, but soon improved again. In poor conditions, the burn flowing into Lochan Tain Mic Dhughaill would make a good guide to the summit, but I cut across it taking a slightly more direct route. Soon it was back into bobbly lochan territory again. Despite looking rather sprawling from a distance, this was lovely (if slow) ground to cross close up. Soon I could see the trig point.
Lochan on Meith Bheinn:
What a view . I nipped over to another bump slightly further on as it had better views westward. Even with the haze the closer islands were clear, although no sign of Mingulay, Pabbay and Barra, which I remember seeing from the nearby An Sidhean. Despite a slightly chilly start to the day, it was now warm enough to sit in t-shirt and shorts while I ate lunch.
Out to sea across Loch Morar and Loch Nevis:
OS graffiti on summit:
Sgurr nan Gillean and Bla Bheinn:
East to Ben Nevis:
Summit of Meith Bheinn:
While the first couple of hours had seemed to get me a long way, time was now disappearing fast. Not that I minded - I had plenty of daylight. Next destination was Druim a' Chuirn. An armchair plan had involved following the broad NE ridge of Meith Bheinn for a short while before dropping off the north side. In reality, this ridge is second only to the ground between The nearby Sgurr na Ciche and Ben Aden for being impossible to follow in a straight line, so I found myself contouring and dropping off early. The face was riven with crags and slabs, but I was able to weave a route through them.
Descending the north face of Meith Bheinn:
Rocky traverse to Drum a’ Chuirn:
I dumped my bag at the col before making the short ascent up the back of Druim a' Chuirn. A wonderfully remote Marilyn, I couldn't pass it without going up, particularly for the prospect of uninterrupted vistas up and down Loch Morar. In that sense it disappoints a little, as there are faultlines along the summit and the loch is blocked by parallel ridge. A couple of minutes of scrambling around slabs led me to the view I was looking for though, made even better by some well placed summit lochans.
An Stac from Druim a’ Chuirn:
Loch Morar from Druim a’ Chuirn:
Better view if you head north from the summit:
East end of Loch Morar:
…with a summit lochan too:
I spent some time looking at the scene of our kayaking exploits from last Easter - it was in turns impressive seeing how far we got, but also rather sobering to see the remoteness of where my mate capsized, the completely impractical place we got to shore and how long it took us to walk to the bothy round the end of the loch. I might be alone in thinking that today's walk is the easy way to approach Oban!
Where we had our kayak disaster last year:
…and the walk we had to do to get to Oban Bothy – looks fine but took us about 4 hours!
Cuillin again across Tarbert:
Back down to the bag, then I continued west to Gleann Todhail. Once across the river, I was straight onto the west ridge of An Stac. This was steep but good underfoot. There looked to be some interesting scrambling high up on the ridge, but I was tiring and had a heavy bag, so avoided this by a traverse to the left.
An Stac from the west:
An Stac and Gleann Cul an Staca:
An Stac and Gleann Taodhail:
Down Gleann Taodhail:
The west ridge:
On the west ridge:
Finally the forecast cloud was moving in from the west. I was racing it to the summit, and lost by a short margin. All was not lost though, as there were still interesting gaps in the cloud, and the view down Glen Pean to the east was impressive, the difficulty of the terrain on that route hinted at from this distance.
Back to Meith Bheinn – cloud moving over Rois-bheinn hills behind:
Druim a’ Chuirn and Loch Morar from high on the west ridge:
Head of Loch Morar:
Glen Pean from the summit of An Stac. A much tougher approach to Oban than it looks from here!
Lochan Leum an t-Saigart in particular is awkward to traverse around, requiring much ascent, descent and teetering along scrabbly ledges:
Luinne Bheinn, most likely:
Meall nan Each:
I dropped down to the lower NW summit hoping for views and got some. I had been planning to cross this anyway as it is really prominent and drops directly down into Loch Morar. I had no intentions of dropping quite so directly to Loch Morar myself, but reckoned that there would be a reasonable route down though the minute western corrie to the mouth of Gleann Taodhail. This worked quite well, being steep but mainly on grass. From there it was a mile or so along the shores of the loch to the bothy.
Head of Loch Morar from NW summit of An Stac:
Tiny corrie on the west face of An Stac:
Mouth of Gleann Todhail:
The closest I came to meeting anyone today was on the shores of the loch, where there were a couple of tents next to a Canadian canoe. The occupants were all inside and I didn't actually see them though (although their trip report can be found here - well worth a look. Thanks to Mal Grey for highlighting this).
Luxury camping with a Canadian canoe:
West end of Carn Mor drops right into the loch. The final obstacle to approaching Oban from the north:
Sunset with Rum Cuillin peeking out:
After a bit of a wander around to collect water and admire the scenery, I retired to the upstairs of the bothy for the evening. Downstairs was a bit musty smelling and some of the plasterboard ceiling had collapsed in, probably due to strong winds blowing water in round the upstairs dormer windows. Upstairs by the window was comfy with a deckchair and a camp-bed. A fire would have been nice but there was no way I was lugging fuel all that way!
Finally the bothy:
That obstacle course in full:
Oban bothy and Loch Morar:
A bit more sunset:
Dinner and bed by 9pm, with the possibility that I could leave really early the next morning in order to include Streap in my route on the unlikely offchance that the weather looked good.
Last light and dinner:
Munros: Sgurr nan Coireachan, Sgurr Thuilm
Time taken: 7 hours.
Weather: Overcast, breezy, hazy. Some sunshine later on.
There was a little rain overnight and I woke at 6:30am to a grey morning. It didn't look that bad, but not good enough for Streap (I think in reality I wasn't that keen on the prospect of a difficult descent and re-ascent between Sgurr Thuilm and Streap). So I rolled over and went back to sleep for an hour or two.
I finally left the bothy at 9:30am, which was about the latest I could leave it if I wanted to catch the only train back from Glenfinnan. I was looking forward to the walk up Gleann an Obain Bhig, as we had come this way last year and even in the miserable weather with 25kg packs it was impressive. Back then, the burns were all bursting their banks and sections of the path were underwater - today would be a breeze in comparison.
Pier at head of loch:
Entering Gleann an Obain Bhig:
There were still a couple of boggy bits on the path (where a badly placed foot disappeared up to the knee at one point), but on the whole the path makes light work of some really rough ground. The only other places I can think of that have this many boulders and overhanging crags are the Hidden Valley in Glencoe and Steall gorge in Glen Nevis. However here you don't have to fight through hoards of camera clickers, bagpiping buskers and McBackpackers tours to see anything.
Rock, rock and more rock:
Path is pretty clear but occasionally very boggy. This bit was under a foot of water on my previous visit:
Back to An Stac:
Fortunately my route onto Sgurr nan Coireachan leaves the glen before the col, after which the going to Glen Pean is quite awkward. The stalker's path up the southern slopes is one of the best I've been on, although easy to lose at a couple of burn crossings low down. It winds up through completely improbable ground, unfolding one zigzag at a time, never obvious where it is going to go next until you get there.
It doesn’t look promising, but the path heads up here:
I climbed across the top of a waterfall, where a section is built out from the crags and even had a handrail at one point, and into a craggy un-named corrie. Once above the lower corrie, the slopes eased off and I lost the path under a snow patch. But it had done it's job by now. Even more pleasing was the weather. It wasn't great but the forecasts of on/off drizzle and consistent low cloud were on the pessimistic side, and I only felt a couple of spits of rain all day.
Remains of some railings:
Well built and well hidden:
In the lower corrie:
Sgurr nan Coireachan from the west:
On the ridge between the not-quite-Corbett of Beinn Garbh and Sgurr nan Coireachan, the wind rose up a bit. The final steep pull to the summit put me just in the cloud.
Back to Beinn Garbh and Loch Morar:
With the vaguely promising weather, I carried on towards Sgurr Thuilm. Almost immediately I hit more extensive snow than I had seen all weekend, and the descent was quite steep. I didn't need crampons but I was glad I'd packed them. If the temperature had been a couple of degrees colder the last couple of nights, this could have easily been rock solid. As it was, I got my axe out for a short section. Having carried it all this way, I'd be daft to take a slide with it still attached to my bag!
Almost put my crampons on here:
After the initial descent, the rest of the traverse was less eventful, being on easy Munro paths. The sun even popped out after a bit. I remembered my last visit to them, on a sweltering and slightly hazy early May day in 2002. Along with a roadside camp at Loch Eilt the night before(where we had enjoyed a few drinks sitting out in the clear midgeless evening), it was the perfect antidote to the beer can, cigarette butt, vomit and body-strewn flat that had hosted two of my flatmates 21st birthday parties the Friday evening beforehand. These hills are definitely worth saving for a clear day (and probably best done east to west for the sea views) but I was more than happy with the current conditions.
Back to Sgurr nan Coireachan:
Sgurr a’ Choire Riabhach:
Glen Pean and Loch Arkaig:
I was in a small cap of cloud again on the summit of Sgurr Thuilm. Soon out of this and on my way down, I couldn't help but think that Streap would have been OK today. Trouble is, I've been saving it for so long for a good day that nothing less will do. The irony being that I will probably end up dashing up it in horizontal sleet before the end of my Corbett round, just to 'get it done'
Sgurr nan Coireachan from Sgurr Thuilm:
A peek at Loch Shiel:
Loch Arkaig from Sgurr Thuilm:
The descent to Corryhully is pretty fast, and the new hydro track speeds things up even more. This is beginning to blend into the surroundings now, and should be fairly unobtrusive in a few more years. I passed a shrew which scurried away, then froze as I tried to take a photo, before burrowing into the long grass.
Shrew playing dead:
With the sun now out, the hills I had just walked over looked grand from the floor of the glen. I had timed things well, reaching Corryhully bothy with 90 minutes to spare before my train left. I knew that a normal pace down the road would get me there in about an hour, so there was a little extra time to dawdle. Here I finally passed some other people, a pair then a guy on his own. All looked equipped for a night out somewhere, so were probably walking to Inverie or starting on the Cape Wrath trail.
Sgurr a’ Choire Riabhach:
Bridge over the Finnan:
A relaxing stroll down the glen had me at the viaduct before long. I took a newish footpath under the viaduct and up next to the railway, which was very scenic. It also dropped me right at the station with 20 minutes to spare for the 16:54 train. Then one of the most impressive half hours you are likely to get on a train followed by a couple of pints in the Nevisport bar and finally the bus home (always a bad idea to drink before going on the bus, but I can't seem to help myself!)
Loch Shiel and Sgurr Ghuibsachain:
Over the viaduct:
A fine weekend which will almost certainly feature in my top 5 walks of the year (if it doesn't then it will have been a hell of a year). Possibly worth waiting until there is some greenery in the trees to see this area at its best, as there are some lovely bits of woodland around Loch Beoraid and Gleann Taodhail. But on the other hand, there was no bracken bashing this early on.
by Beaner001 » Wed Mar 25, 2015 12:17 pm
by foggieclimber » Wed Mar 25, 2015 4:12 pm
Great pics of an epic journey into real remote territory. I have been pondering the maps for months (possibly years) looking at these without finding an "easy" route. My favoured route is very similar to yours but in reverse. I can see advantages to doing it your way round though.
Will be reading this one again and again.
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by Huff_n_Puff » Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:49 pm
by Collaciotach » Wed Mar 25, 2015 11:50 pm
This is my local back country and have not yet ventured to these hills excepting Munros and Corbetts , nearly made the graham Geal Carn but poor weather had me save it for later I may make up a wee route now
by Highart13 » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:13 am
Love the bothy interior shot too
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- Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire
by alexanderneilharden » Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:58 pm
by dooterbang » Sat Apr 11, 2015 6:26 pm
The view form down Loch Morar from Druim a’ Chuirn is sensational.
I may opt for the wee half day in the near future.
by Alteknacker » Sun Apr 12, 2015 2:04 pm
Candidate for report of the month, I think
by ancancha » Sun Apr 12, 2015 6:45 pm
by dogplodder » Mon Apr 13, 2015 11:28 am
by malky_c » Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:52 pm
dooterbang wrote:That was an awesome trip Malky. I now know why you can walk a round of hills like the luss five so quickly, most of your routes have no easy munro paths
I wondered what you meant until I found your Luss report
by samuelwhiskers » Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:11 pm
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