Lyon - Lawers Ridges: perfect weather for a round of 11
by Alteknacker » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:34 am
Munros included on this walk: An Stuc, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Carn Gorm, Carn Mairg, Creag Mhor (Meall na Aighean), Meall a'Choire Leith, Meall Corranaich, Meall Garbh (Ben Lawers), Meall Garbh (Carn Mairg), Meall Greigh
Date walked: 07/08/2015
Time taken: 15 hours
Distance: 44 km
Ascent: 4193m17 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).
I even had a whinge on WH about it – and the (fair) response of some hardy folk was to say: “Just do it...!”
The trouble is, I just don’t like flogging through clag, and it’s a long trip up to the Highlands (I know: a wimp ).
But all was about to change....
At the weekend there seemed to be a consensus among the forecasting gnomes that Saturday the 8th might be pretty good – also possibly Wednesday; so I planned to take Wednesday off (meetings, calls rearranged, etc.). But this prospect disappeared and when the forecasts for Saturday also started to diverge, I more or less gave up.
On Thursday morning, the CEO came into my study having just listened to the forecast and told me I’d be mad if I didn’t get up to the Highlands on Friday. I quickly verified that she was right, and started frantically trying to organise for it. By 15.00 I was in the motorised vehicle and heading North, with only an hour’s pause in a Services carpark for a teleconf that I hadn't been able to postpone.
I make up for time not spent in the mountains by studying possible routes for when I actually do manage to get to the real thing. I’d studied routes in this area for a while, starting with what I think of as the Lawers 7, then realising that it could be the Lawers 8 if one included Tarmachan, then the Lawers/Lyon 11, then, finally the Lawers/Lyon 12. The latter would really be a pretty long day. I’d decided on this area because it’s typically 6 – 7 hours drive each way, which is manageable; but not on the particular route variation - though I was hoping to manage all 12.
Arriving at Lochan na Lairige at about 10 pm, I found the place everything I’d hoped it would be, though none of the pics I’d seen gave the full sense of Tarmachan lowering almost menacingly over the dam. Mercifully, there was a light breeze (= no beasties), and the tent was up in no time.
..................Sadly my flash didn't work, so I was unable to get the planned fully illuminated image of Tarmachan..... (a hint of the tent is just about visible in the centre of the pic!)
Before I turned in I had another look at the map. The original plan had been to start with a straight up and down of Meall nan Tarmachan; but it was always going to be a long day, and I didn’t fancy blundering about in the dark on Lawers if it took longer than I’d hoped. So I decided to start with Meall Corranaich, and do Tarmachan at the end if I had the time and energy (a triumph of optimism over realism!).
Over the past few years I seem to have managed to get to grips with the alarm functions on my phone and watch (with some help from my grandson, admittedly); and so both alarms went off at the set time of 04.00, and I was starting up towards the first hill at 05.00. As it turned out, this was a wee bit late....
The walk up to Meall Corranaich is straightforward and not too steep; but the grass is soaked in dew. “Waterproof” shoes combined with gaiters notwithstanding, it becomes obvious that “waterproof” is a relative term. It turned out to be a good test of the approach shoes/double skin socks formula for foot comfort!
20150807_051921. Looking back at Meall nan Tarmachan and Lochan na Lairige from the ascent to Meall Corranaich - complete with portrait of my left index finger (I have many of these...)
As I crest the shoulder of Sron Dha Mhurchaidh, I'm suddenly - within a few steps it seems - confronted with a dramatic view of Beinn Glas and Ben Lawers. Absolutely brilliant!
The ascent to Meall Corranaich. Sunrise behind Lawers to the right. Only the top is in cloud - it's looking good!
And looking back, Tarmachan's summit is also still in cloud....
Looking South from the summit of Meall Corranaich towards Loch Tay and back the way I've just come, just as the morning sun rises.
And looking North towards Meall a' Choire Leith. In the background the Glen Lyon hills are just shrouded in cloud, almost as if there is a heather fire.
Now I'm walking along with a big grin on my face. The fabulous views, the haunting peep of the Golden Plovers, the deeply satisfying solitude.... everything. Even if the rest of the tops are clag-bound, it will have been worth it.
Heading towards Meall a'Coire Leith, I manage to head too far West, which means I have to drop into the valley a bit before ascending the other side. But no problem: although it's early in the day, I seem to be making good time.
IMG_1035. Tick food (sort of on the way to Meall a' Coire Leith), albeit on the wrong side of the valley....
IMG_1038. Looking West from the summit of Meall a' Coire Leith at 06.40 (shadow selfie).
IMG_1039. Looking back towards Meall nan Tarmachan from the summit "cairn" (note the huge lump of white quartz, artfully highlighted by my trusty Eurohike sac). The dawn light is really quite awesome.
Now it's a fairly straightforward descent into Glen Lyon.
IMG_1044. View along the route down to Glen Lyon.
Glen Lyon in the morning sun, with the ridge in part cloud in the background. It's looking better with every minute!
And looking back towards the Lawers range - fabulous!
IMG_1047. ]Pete Hagdom descending Meall a' Coire Leith. Haven't encountered these for quite a while. Navigating them involves a lot of sod hopping - at least it does if you're wearing cross trainers. But pretty straightforward really - though probably not in high heels.
More tick food in the middle foreground.
Still some cloud on Glen Lyon ridge.
IMG_1053. The green is simply unbelievable. I'm heading for Balnahanaid, the white building in the centre of the picture.
20150807_072740 Glen Lyon in the morning sun again. I must have taken 20 or 30 pics of this.
Glen Lyon is really a magical place - it's the discovery of the trip.
Crossing the river by the bridge, I realise that the initial thoughts I'd had about wading it wherever was "convenient" were impractical: this is really quite a serious river!
07.45: I hit the road briefly, and it's looking like I should be able to get round.
On closer inspection, the route I've planned for getting up Carn Gorm from the valley bottom - diretissima - doesn't look too clever: the whole of the lower slopes are covered in bracken (= tick ambush country ). So I take a route up watercourses, where the bracken is least dense, and examine my arms carefully after every submersion in the bracken ocean . Fortunately, fortune seems to be with me....
IMG_1056. Looking back from the other side of Glen Lyon: Meall a' Coire Leith on the RHS, Creag Roro masking Meall Garbh on the LHS, with the Lawers range in the background. Again, one of about 30 photos of this view!!!
IMG_1057. Looking West up Glen Lyon from the early part of the ascent to Carn Gorm.
20150807_083135 Same shot as above, but from nearer the summit of Carn Gorm.
IMG_1058. Once out of the bracken, it's just a long pull up to the Carn Gorm. As I clear the bracken the summit is still in cloud, but then it quite abruptly clears....
Just one more of these..... (Balnahanaid in the lower left of centre).
It seems to be wanting to cloud in again as I reach Carn Gorm summit.
20150807_092423 Deceased trig point on the summit of Carn Gorm. Quite a weird bit of vandalism....world's strongest man contestants out on the razzle..???
It's all looking a bit ominous towards the East: An Sgorr in the foreground, and Meall Garbh behind, rain-filled clouds above. Still, it's been brilliant so far...
It's quite chilly too, so I don't linger. The Glen Lyon Ridge is a fairly gentle walk in terms of ascents and descents, so I'll need to get a move on if I'm to stay warm. To be fair to the forecasters, they did indicate that it would be on the cool side at around 1000m.
20150807_094959 Looking back at Carn Gorm from An Sgorr.
20150807_100737. Meall Garbh hedgehog, looking North. I don't know why the pic is on the p***.
20150807_100755. Looking back from Meall Garbh at An Sgorr (low, middle ground) and Carn Gorm
IMG_1066. Meall na Aighean from Meall Garbh.
20150807_104433. Carn Mairg (LHS) and Meall na' Aighean (RHS), viewed from Meall a' Bharr.
20150807_104415. Ben Lawers (LHS) and M n Tarmachan (far distance) viewed from Meall a' Bharr. Looks like quite a way to go still....
20150807_110850. Carn Mairg cairn, looking West (with supporting role provided by trusty Eurohike sac again).
20150807_111322. I think this is Schiehallion (viewed from the South - en route to Carn Mairg). Those who know: please tell me if I err...
Just before the summit of Carn Mairg I meet the first fellow walker of the day; and he hasn't met anyone else either. Quite astonishing, given the iffy weather to date in the Highlands. I'd been expecting "swarms" of walkers.
20150807_111430. Looking back from Carn Mairg along the Glen Lyon ridge towards Carn Gorm in the far distance: an easy and relaxing ridge walk.
20150807_112550. The Lawers range from a bit further along the ridge.
20150807_112617. Looking towards Meall na' Aighean from, I think, the same viewpoint.
IMG_1072. Looking back at Carn Mairg from Gleann Pollaidh (the bealach between Carn Mairg and Meall na' Aighean).
IMG_1070. Perhaps a protohedgehog??? (Meall na' Aighean).
Once I start to descend from Meall na' Aighean, the disadvantages of the route I have chosen become clearer. The first of these is the descent, which is really very steep, and in clag could be quite tricky, given the significant cliffs.
As I ascend the other side, it becomes apparent that there is a track that takes one around this hill, and that would be much quicker and easier. Unfortunately this track is not shown on the OS map, though it's just about visible on Google Earth if you know what you're looking for. (I show it later on a pic taken from the other side of the valley).
(The incredible green is real, untouched by photoshop or anything of that ilk, honest Chris!).
IMG_1075. The footbridge I've targeted to cross the river (zoomed).
The second disadvantage is the need to scale a couple of deer fences, and then to walk a km or so down a private road - one envisages irate landowners/gamekeepers with dogs, shotguns, indignant undignified protests, etc...
The footbridge over the Lyon is easy to find, but....
...I feel a deep moral conflict; but somehow manage to submerge my extreme feelings of guilt.... and cross the bridge, all the while praying to the laird's ancestors for forgiveness for such a heinous crime.
IMG_1078. The Footbridge of Moral Conflict.
The sun was full-on now, and I stopped for a lunch break in the shade of some trees next to an old arch bridge...
Then set off again up a very steep couple of hundred metres climb....
The unmarked track I should have taken down to the valley bottom from the Meall na' Aighean. Not marked on the map.
....and into the the third disadvantage of this route. The direct route I'd planned goes straight through a couple of kilometres of bracken and heather that takes an absolute age to negotiate, and of course is plagued with thoughts of all the ticks that must be lurking in the head-high bracken fronds...
Again, once I gain a bit of height, it becomes clear that it would have been much better and quicker to have taken a new (construction?) track to the East of the Allt Da-ghob burn running directly South, and then swung South-West to go straight up the shoulder of Meall Greigh. The track is shown neither on the OS maps, nor on Google Earth...???
I wouldn't recommend the route I took to anyone, even if there are no ticks... It took me a crazy amount of time to get up on to the ridge.
But once up on to the shoulder at 767m, the undulating route offered easy walking.
IMG_1084. Meall Greigh from the shoulder ridge.
20150807_154632. Looking back South along the ridge I've just traversed from near the summit of Meall Griegh (where the path splits - Meall Greigh left, Meall Garbh right).
20150807_155112. Three of the Lawers munros: from right to left: Meall Garbh; An Stuc; Ben Lawers. At this time the light was changing every couple of minutes - see the next pic as an example (taken 5 minutes before this one)...
Really quite awesome, in the true sense of the word.
Approaching Meall Garbh. Easy walking, and a clear path.
20150807_164702. Looking back from Meall Garbh along the route I've just come from Meall Greigh.
20150807_164709. Most of the Glen Lyon Ridge from the summit of Meall Garbh.
I meet the second and last walker of the day on the summit of Meall Garbh. We chat for a few minutes, and he obliges me with a pic.
IMG_1089. Looking back over Glen Lyon from Meall Garbh. Actually not too far to go now.... And I'm not feeling too shattered.
An Stuc from Meall Garbh, with Ben Lawers - looking magnificent - in the background.
There's quite a steep scramble up to the summit of An Stuc - I would guess: on the tricky side to get down in the wet.
20150807_172142. Ben Lawers from (I think) An Stuc.
IMG_1094. Again, Ben Lawers from somewhere on An Stuc.
Lochan nan Cat, looking down from the path between An Stuc and Creag an Fhithich. Again, the green is absolutely natural (preternatural one might almost say).
20150807_181405. Looking back along the Lawers ridge from the summit of Ben Lawers, with the whole of the Glen Lyon ridge in the far background.
I reach the summit of Ben Lawers at 18.15. I stop for some food and very soon I'm absolutely freezing in the strong breeze: my teeth are literally chattering and my hands are shaking with a disquieting lack of control; so I put on every stitch of clothing I have, and then set off jogging down the hill towards Beinn Ghlas. Fortunately I warm up pretty quickly, and can shed my waterproof and down jacket within a few minutes.
Beinn Ghlas from the summit of Ben Lawers: a nice easy wind down!
Looking back at Ben Lawers from Beinn Ghlas.
IMG_1099. Meall Corranaich viewed from the Beinn Ghlas. Combining these 2 outliers with a Lawers ridge walk would involve a goodly descent/ascent.
And then from Beinn Ghlas it's a straightforward and untaxing descent back to the valley;
... but I'm now feeling really quite tired. It's going to be around 20.00 by the time I get back to the car, and that seems a bit late to be heading off up Tarmachan - quite apart from the fact that I'm feeling quite ready for a half of shandy..
So I enjoy the descent in the evening sun, and resolve to leave Tarmachan for another day.
Back at the car, I change quickly and then repair to a place of cultural, architectural and historical interest for a morsel of food and draft of the amber nectar.
A building of cultural, architectural and historical interest.
Summary: generally an excellent route, but if anyone is thinking of doing this, descend from Meall na' Aighean by the track and similarly ascend Meall Greigh by the track: you'll save yourself a lot of unnecessary effort and time.
I would also recommend taking plenty of water if you are not keen on drinking from streams. Even though it wasn't direct sun for most of the day, and on the ridge it was really quite chilly, I reckon I downed at least 6 litres of water. If you're OK with stream water though, there are plenty of them, and a 2 litre bottle for the ridges themselves was quite enough for me.
by jamesb63 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:11 am
truly another epic
You make me feel tired just reading it WELL DONE
PS your pic is also definetly scheihallian
by weaselmaster » Mon Aug 10, 2015 12:09 pm
by rockhopper » Mon Aug 10, 2015 1:06 pm
by malky_c » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:35 pm
Most of these unmarked tracks are for new hydro schemes - they are getting installed like there's no tomorrow just now (with varying degrees of competence) and Google satellite images can't keep up with them, never mind the OS.
by spiderwebb » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:43 pm
by ancancha » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:47 pm
44 kilometres, 27 miles, a marathon with attitude
by Beaner001 » Tue Aug 11, 2015 9:46 am
Brilliant report, took me three trips to get these done
by Petr Dakota » Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:43 am
Well done again !
Glad you had a good weather and views despite all the wetness in this "Summer"
by dav2930 » Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:24 pm
by prog99 » Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:54 pm
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by Alteknacker » Thu Aug 13, 2015 6:43 pm
dav2930 wrote:By 'eck Alte, yet another mammoth harvest of Munros. ....
.......Glen Lyon is indeed one of the loveliest glens in the southern Highlands.
It's just that I have limited time, it's a long journey for me to the Highlands, and I like ridge walks. It's Arran this coming weekend, thanks to stimulation from some excellent WRs, especially the recent one by Weaselmaster - and there are no Munros
Glen Lyon was such a revelation - the first views literally took my breath away
by dooterbang » Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:43 pm
Nice to see you continue the theme of big days. I always think that once you're up high it gets easier, although 44k is epic
by dav2930 » Thu Aug 13, 2015 11:59 pm
Alteknacker wrote:dav2930 wrote:By 'eck Alte, yet another mammoth harvest of Munros. ....
.......Glen Lyon is indeed one of the loveliest glens in the southern Highlands.
It's just that I have limited time, it's a long journey for me to the Highlands, and I like ridge walks. It's Arran this coming weekend, thanks to stimulation from some excellent WRs, especially the recent one by Weaselmaster - and there are no Munros...:
Yes Alte, but most of us simply wouldn't have the fitness or the stamina, however long the journey or limited the time! Forecast (BBC) is looking good for this weekend - hope you have a great time on Arran. It's a terrific place, you'll love it.
(ps - ever thought of moving further north?)
by Alteknacker » Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:16 am
prog99 wrote:..... the 8 I did on saturday ....