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The Ballachulish Grahams - little in the way of Easter cheer

The Ballachulish Grahams - little in the way of Easter cheer


Postby Graeme D » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:57 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Meall Mor (Glencoe), Sgorr a'Choise

Date walked: 03/04/2015

Time taken: 7.3 hours

Distance: 17 km

Ascent: 1210m

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I planned to kick start the Easter holidays by heading up to the Loch Quoich Munros on Easter Saturday via Glencoe on Good Friday. My Friday targets were to be the Grahams above Ballachullish, with the option to tag on the Corbett of Meall Ligiche and possibly even the Munro of Sgurr na h-Ulaidh if the weather was good and I managed to get away early enough.

As it happened, neither of these two conditions transpired. In fact it was a thoroughly grey, miserable day and once I had dropped Ailsa off with my parents and got as far as Glencoe, it was pretty obvious the game was a bogey. I spent most of the afternoon mooching around Glencoe, including nursing a pint of Trade Winds in the Clachaig (at least it was warm, dry and they were playing cool Levellers tunes) before heading for Fort William for some Chinese nosh. With the weather still looking grim for the next day and the forecast confirming as much, I knocked the Loch Quoich idea on the head in the hope of at least perhaps being able to salvage the Ballachullish Grahams.

I had the tent with me but ended up kipping in the back of the car in the Glencoe Lochan car park in the company of another motor and a camper van.

I made an early start on the Saturday, being parked in Ballachullish and away from the car by the back of six, passing the primary school and what looked like a couple of holiday lets before heading up into Gleann an Fiodh.

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Sgorr a'Choise and sheep on sentry duty

The climb was long but steady and soon I was looking down through a pale grey light to early morning Ballachuillish. Further up the glen, the views broadened to take in the distinctive cone of the Pap of Glencoe and the Grahams and Corbetts on the north side of Loch Leven, while the brooding mass of the Beinn a'Bheithir horseshoe skulked below the clag to my right.

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Early morning Ballachulish

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Sgorr a'Choise

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Mam na Gualainn and the Pap with what would appear to be a mast in the middle ground!

My plan was to head as far up the glen as the fork in the path shown on my OS sheet at grid ref 069548, before crossing the River Laroch and taking to the long, craggy south west ridge of Sgorr a'Choise.

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Crossing the River Laroch

I had really been looking forward to this route, and the ascent of this first Graham in particular, but the weather made for a claggy, damp and rather tedious trudge up the ridge with only the odd hint of a view every now and then.

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Ascent ridge of Sgorr a'Choise

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Further up the ridge

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Closing in on the summit

The knobbly summit afforded only fleeting glimpses of Ballachulish and Loch Leven, before I headed south east then east to the wide bealach below the south ridge of Meall Mor, assisted by the presence of a massive stile over a spanking new looking and equally massive deer fence.

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Summit of Sgorr a'Choise

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Summit remote selfie

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Start of the descent to the bealach

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The bealach

I kept glancing towards the Corbett of Meall Ligiche, not that there was anything to see, but I knew it was there, a mere 2km due south. My better judgement prevailed though and I wisely decided to leave it be for today.

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Back to Sgorr a'Choise

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Meall Ligiche

The south ridge up Meall Mor is very broad and straightforward and I was soon contouring north east along the broad summit plateau. I reached the cairn at what appeared to mark the highest point and summit but carried on just to be sure that the ground did not rise up any further. It did not, but the little extension at least gave me a good appreciation of the crags that drop off the north west face of the summit area.

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Summit of Meall Mor

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Meall Mor northern crags

Then I retraced my steps back past the summit before dropping north west around the end of the crags and down the steams that drain north off Meall Mor.

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Descent towards the forestry

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Waterfall on one of the streams

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Meall Mor

My Graham book, vastly out of date as it is, had suggested that a firebreak runs through the forestry due north to the transmission mast at 096577. However, once I had crossed the deer fence at the edge of the forestry (this time without the help of a stile), the forestry and the firebreak through it turned out to be a huge area of felled trees resembling the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima. I picked my way through the tangled wreckage and oily bogs on a due north bearing towards the mast.

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Arty shot of Meall Mor

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Hiroshima

Imagine my delight when I was emptied out onto a brand new looking gravelled service road that looked in better nick than many A roads. This is where I completely took leave of my navigational senses and committed a serious schoolboy error that would have had the pupils I teach navigational skills to sniggering at my ineptitude. I did think it was rather odd that there was no sign of the mast. It occurred to me that perhaps it was no longer there. The fact that I had actually seen it from the walk in that morning apparently passed me by completely! Neither did I appear to attach any significance to the fact that I had not started to ascend again towards said mast, as the OS sheet indicated I should have done. No - instead I stowed my poles, stuck my hands in my pockets, and jauntily headed off at a cracking pace down the road. Still no sign of that mast! Oh well, not to worry, I'm heading in the general direction of Ballachulish and a service road like this is bound to lead there one way or another.

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Sleepwalking to oblivion!

I was only slightly concerned when the road started to swing alarmingly in the wrong direction and although I did briefly pause to consider retracing my steps, I continued on my way, albeit pondering what that hill looming directly ahead of me beyond the trees was! It should be Sgorr Bhan, leading up onto Beinn a'Bheithir, but it clearly wasn't. It looked vaguely familiar though. Then the penny dropped, just as the road levelled out to a spanking new bridge across a river. Horror moment! It's the northern slopes of Sgorr a'Choise! Horror moment number 2! The road crosses the bridge and then comes to a dead end!

Sh**e! What have I done? The thought of climbing all the way back up the road to Hiroshima was not an appealing one. Time for some quick thinking. If my training and various scrapes in the mountains have taught me anything, it's that errors do happen. Sometimes even very stupid ones! The important thing though is how you react to them and put the matter right. So I downed tools and sat down on the bridge to have a good old look at the map.

I was clearly sitting above the Allt Socaich, which in turn emptied into the River Laroch south of Ballachulish. If I simply followed the stream, it would lead me home. Through the trees across the bridge I could spy a significant fire break running parallel to the stream. I crawled through the trees to find that the firebreak looked pretty well established, so decided to give it a go. Moreover, as I started north through the break, trees at regular intervals had white tape tied round their trunks. It seemed that the road would eventually be continued over the bridge and then bulldozed through this firebreak towards Ballachulish. Reassured, I carried on until the firebreak started to climb and veer away from the stream below.

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The firebreak

Fortunately I soon encountered a junction and turned right which led me down to the edge of the stream. The firebreak ended here, so it was now a case of picking my way through the trees above the stream. The trees were not too dense or carrying too many branches lower down so the going was easier than it might have been, although I shuddered at that point where I realised that although my route plans had been left with my wife, this would not exactly be an obvious spot for anyone to look for my body if I had keeled over at that point!

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What if I keeled over here?

Undeterred I plodded on and eventually spotted what looked like a little dam on the stream below, with a good path leading off on the other side. What's more, I could see a couple and their dog approaching on the path, so this path clearly led back to Ballachulish and the civilised world.

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Salvation

They must have wondered what was going on as I clambered down the slope from the forestry and hopped across the stream below the dam, wishing them a cheery Hello before disappearing along the path for the uneventful walk back to the car.

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This is too easy!

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Back in Ballachulish


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Graeme D
 
Posts: 3547
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Location: Perth

Re: The Ballachulish Grahams - little in the way of Easter c

Postby Silverhill » Thu Apr 30, 2015 5:39 pm

An entertaining read Graeme! They look like nice hills, even on a grey day. I’m always wary of these new forestry tracks. They hardly ever go in the right direction, if anywhere at all. I’ve been tricked too. :roll:
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Silverhill
 
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Re: The Ballachulish Grahams - little in the way of Easter c

Postby rockhopper » Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:46 pm

Looks like you made the best of the day, Graeme, :thumbup: despite the mishap - am sure many of have done the same (me included :roll: ). Thought my Grahams book was also out of date but it just mentions negotiating tree cover and following the edge of the forestry - must bear your TR in mind for future - cheers :)
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rockhopper
 
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Re: The Ballachulish Grahams - little in the way of Easter c

Postby BlackPanther » Fri May 01, 2015 6:43 pm

I think many of us get misled by forests tracks, especially new ones, not shown on the map... It happened to us a couple of times.

Shame you didn't get the summit views but the walk looks interesting even in clag. I had a good look at these two gems last year from Beinn a Bheithir and they went straight on my to-do list.

BTW I just bought the new SMC Graham book and it's fantastic. But I must check if it mentions the "Hiroshima" :lol:
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BlackPanther
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Re: The Ballachulish Grahams - little in the way of Easter c

Postby Collaciotach » Sat May 02, 2015 10:43 am

Hahaha .....that road forms part of my extended beat nice one taking the wrong turn :lol: :lol: :lol:

You were lucky no one hit you with an arrow on your way out at Breac Leac :D

Done Meall Mor on a school day lunch time but drove to the mast you missed , saving Choise for a good day , I ll send you some photos of them both :wink:
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Collaciotach
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Re: The Ballachulish Grahams - little in the way of Easter c

Postby Graeme D » Mon May 04, 2015 5:42 pm

Collaciotach wrote:Hahaha .....that road forms part of my extended beat nice one taking the wrong turn :lol: :lol: :lol:

You were lucky no one hit you with an arrow on your way out at Breac Leac :D

Done Meall Mor on a school day lunch time but drove to the mast you missed , saving Choise for a good day , I ll send you some photos of them both :wink:


Very considerate of you Colla. Cheers! :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: And it was all quiet at the archery range by the way.
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Graeme D
 
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