When a golden opportunity fell into my Lap
by Graeme D » Tue Dec 15, 2015 1:07 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn na Lap
Grahams included on this walk: Creag Ghuanach
Date walked: 23/09/2015
Time taken: 72 hours
Distance: 74 km
Ascent: 2560m3 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).
It has taken almost three months to get this one written up but now that the seemingly omni-darkness of mid-winter is upon us, it might be a good time to take a wander back down memory lane to the bright autumnal days of late September.......
Our final Duke of Edinburgh gig for the 2015 season saw twelve S6 pupils going out on Gold Assessment expeditions over four days in late September in two groups of 6 on two routes around Loch Ossian and Loch Treig. I had done the training expedition with one of the groups on the Aviemore to Kingussie via the Lairig Ghru and Glen Feshie route back in June, so technically I shouldn't really have been involved in their assessment at all. Furthermore, I was down to be leading a school Outdoor Ed exchange trip to Germany that week, but the plug was pulled on that trip for logistical reasons quite late in the day. A couple of days later, a begging email went round the DofE staff - two of the four leaders had had to pull out and needed replaced urgently. I had already taken a look at their proposed route just out of interest and regretted the fact that they would be walking in country where I had numerous red balloons while I was mountain biking in Northern Bavaria. So when the email came in, I had replied offering my services almost before the sender had taken her finger off the send button! Gold Assessments are the Holy Grail of DofE for leaders - 4 days (usually with an external assessor) and minimal contact and interaction with the "candidates", therefore "off piste" routes become possible as long as they can be coordinated and worked out around "touching base" sessions at some point during the course of the day.
Yours truly landed the job of ferrying the pupils up in the minibus to Rannoch Station while the other three leaders chose the luxury option of driving up themselves. One of my colleagues had to pull out just a couple of days beforehand leaving no time to get a replacement, so we were down to the bare bones of three adult staff (myself Robin and Dave), which could potentially put a spanner in the works as far as doing our own routes was concerned.
Day 1 took the two groups from near Rannoch Station up the Road to the Isles to a designated camping spot by the ruins at Lubnaclach.
I dropped the kids off on the road a couple of clicks short of the station and before driving along to the station and parking up, only to discover Robin and Dave tucked up in the station tea room eating cakes and drinking tea!
I got a degree of revenge as I stood and watched them try to manhandle their bikes onto the train for the short hop up to Corrour, but was again left feeling short changed as they sped off down the track from Corrour Station to the Loch Ossian YH while I plodded down the track on foot with my expedition pack full of firewood.
Corrour Station House
The three of us were booked into the YH that night but whereas Robin and Dave were staying there for the 3 nights and making daytime sorties out on their bikes, I would be checking out the following morning and checking into one of the nearby bothies (Staoneig or Meanach) for the other two nights, so I could be closer to the two groups, one of whom would by then be camped out by Loch Treig with the other somewhere along the Abhainn Rath.
By the time I reached the hostel the two old geezers were again sitting with their feet up and a brew on the go, the stove piled high with coal and blasting out heat into the communal living/dining room area. It would be rude not to join them so once I had grabbed a bunk and sorted some gear out, I pulled up a chair and had a shifty at the OS sheet.
I had identified a number of targets over the four days - the Munro of Beinn na Lap, the Corbetts of Leum Uilleum and Glas Bheinn and the Grahams of Creag Ghuanach and Beinn na Cloiche. I knew the full house would be a big ask, especially with the forecast looking none too clever.
Still, with several hours to kill while the two groups made their way to their camping site at Lubnaclach, I decided to set off for Leum Uilleum. Beinn na Lap could keep until tomorrow before heading for Loch Treig and as for the others, we would see what happens.
I set off back towards the station, this time unburdened by firewood, only a light daypack on my back. Even before I reached the railway and the bustle of works contractors and their vans, the weather had deteriorated badly.
I made it through the swamps on the lower slopes before reaching higher ground, only then to throw the towel in in atrocious conditions and beat a retreat back to the hostel and the stove piled high with coal.
Corrour Station from the foot of the boggy path up Leum Uilleim
Corrour Station and Leum Uilleim
After another brew at the hostel, Robin and I set off for Lubnaclach to try and rendez-vous with the kids. The weather had picked up now and it was threatening to turn into a half decent evening.
Beinn na Lap from Lubnaclach
After a quick chat and debrief, we left them be for the night and returned to the hostel. I opted for the high road back over Meall na Lice, mostly because I was desperate for mobile signal so I could call my wife and get an update on the dog! I had taken her to the vet the previous evening after she had been very poorly for several days. To be honest, I had suspected the news from the vet might not be what I wanted to hear and that this might be the end, but he had diagnosed an infection of the womb that had spread to the stomach and informed me that if I was willing to part with the best part of 750 notes, he reckoned he could keep her in and operate the following day. Had I waited another four days until my return, he had said, she would probably have died in the meantime from septicaemia. So this had been preying on my mind all day and I was desperate to get news, so I whacked my way up onto Meall na Lice to try to pick up some signal, but got not a sniff. Still, the views down Loch Ossian were worth the effort.
Loch Ossian and Beinn Eibhinn from the summit of Meall na Lice
Island dotted western end of Loch Ossian with the hostel visible on the southern shore
Leum Uilleim from the descent north-westward from Meall na Lice
First of many rainbows - Loch Ossian and Beinn Eibhinn from the lower northern slopes of Meall na Lice
Looking back to the rainbow over the northern crags of Meall na Lice
Massive cotton reel
Once back at the hostel, a pleasant evening was had with a collection of wayfarers and itinerants during which my wife called on the hostel landline to let me know that Lucy had come through the op successfully and was now recuperating at home. The bank balance meanwhile was on life support.
After meeting with the two groups near the hostel, one headed off to do a circuit of Loch Ossian before heading for Loch Treig while the other made directly for Meanach Bothy. In the meantime, Robin, Dave and I headed for the Station House (which had been closed yesterday) for breakfast.
Leum Uilleum from the Loch Ossian hostel
Beinn na Lap from Corrour Summit just north of the station
The old geezers studying the map over breakfast at Corrour Station
Roaring fire in the cafe
Feeling much the better for a bacon roll and a couple of cups of coffee, I set off back towards the hostel before taking the left turn on the track that contours round below Beinn na Lap before heading out to Loch Treig.
Leum Uilleum looking a bit better today
Loch Ossian and the Alder hills
Wee fella on the track to Beinn na Lap
Beinn na Lap would be my 183rd Munro, leaving me with only 99 to go, one of the few remaining big landmarks on my journey to compleation. From what I had read and heard, Beinn na Lap gets a bit of a bad name as being one of the more mundane Munros, but strangely it also seems to be a popular one to finish on. Indeed, only a few weeks previously, Bod and Val had compleated here but I was unable to be there to share the day with them.
Better late than never though, and I was quite taken with the ascent up the long, broad south west nose. Squally showers came and went, but when they went, the views back behind me were worth the effort.
Loch Ossian and Leum Uilleum from early on in the ascent of Beinn na Lap
West from the summit ridge of Beinn na Lap to Glen Nevis and the Mamores with Creag Ghuanach in the centre
It didn't take too long for the summit to come into view and for me to finally reach a "still to do" number in double figures.
Summit of Beinn na Lap and Meall Garbh and Chno Dearg in the background
Leum Uilleum from the summit of Beinn na Lap
West to the Mamores and Glen Nevis, Creag Ghuanach in the middle ground and the Sron na Garbh-bheinne ridge in the foreground
The last lap? Not quite yet!
I didn't hang around too long before dropping down out of the biting wind and little flakes of sleety rain and heading for the hostel where I knew another good fire would be roaring. Sadly, however, I couldn't afford to settle too long in front of it before slinging the big overnight pack on and following the kids out towards Loch Treig.
I took a more direct line down to the hostel which brought me out on the loch side track after a short section of stumbling through newly planted forestry.
Ossian and Blackwater on descent
Sunbeams on Leum Uilleum
Loch Ossian, Blackwater and Leum Uilleum
On the loch side track I met up with the group of girls that had just completed the circuit of Loch Ossian and who were about to head for their Day 2 camp site at the head of Loch Treig. They headed off and I returned to the hostel to pick up the big overnight pack.
North east along Loch Ossian towards Beinn Eibhinn and Ben Alder
I stashed a few things I probably wouldn't need under Robin's bunk and stuffed the now empty daypack through the straps of the big pack before having a brew by the fire and heading for Staoineig.
Looking back to Meall na Lice and Carn Dearg from the track to Loch Treig
A few km along the track, I met Robin and Dave coming back along the track to the hostel on their bikes. They had passed the 6 girls a wee while earlier and had advised them of the best spot to pitch at the end of Loch Treig. I said I would check in on them on the way past and confirmed that I was heading for Staoineig so that I could be between the girls at Loch Treig and the mixed group further up the Abhainn Rath at Meanach.
Track descending towards the railway bridge with Creag Ghuanach ahead
Leum Uilleum through the railway bridge
North up Loch Treig - Easains on the left, Stob Coire Sgriodain on the right
Garbh Chnapan and Creag Ghuanach across the southern end of Loch Treig
The girls were all pitched up and in the process of cooking while simultaneously fighting off the midge as I passed by. I didn't linger and cracked on to the bridge over the Abhainn Rath at Creag Ghuanach Lodge before taking to the rather boggy and indistinct path along the south side of the raging Abhainn Rath.
North along Loch Treig
Creaguaineach Lodge below Creag Ghuanach
Creag Ghuanach and the Lairig Leachach with Stob Ban and Stob Choire Claurigh visible
The Abhainn Rath
I had long wanted to visit Staoineag Bothy - something about it on the map just appealed to me and drew me towards it and the photos of it I had seen confirmed my feelings. I recalled a report that Kev had done a few years ago where he spent a night there and spoke highly of the place.
For what looked like a reasonably short stretch on the map, the walk along the Abhainn Rath to the bothy seemed to take an eternity, but eventually the chimney pots came into sight and I soon arrived at the rather austere looking Staoineig Bothy, perched high on a rocky knoll above a big dark pool in the river.
As expected, I had the place to myself and after a quick self guided tour, I opted for the room on the right and set up for the night. Robin had purchased some walkie-talkies from the DofE budget for this expedition as he was a little concerned about the fact that we only had three staff out and two of them were holed up at Loch Ossian while the pupils spent two nights a fair distance away with only myself nearby. We had briefed the kids to have them on for 10 minutes either side of every hour so as the appointed window was now upon us again, I tried to make contact. There was nothing from the girls at Loch Treig (although I had seen them earlier and so knew they were OK), probably because there were just too many bumps and rises between us now, but I did manage to get through to the group camped at Meanach who assured me that all was good, although the midge was on the rampage.
There was a fair bit of midge activity at Staoineig too so I withdrew to my quarters and got the fire going before settling down for dinner and a few hours at the crossword book.
In Staoineag Bothy - hello darkness my old friend!
I was unable to raise the Meanach group on the walkie-talkie on Friday morning but I knew that they were a pretty resilient and self-contained group so wasn't too worried about them. I had breakfast and then wandered a short distance upstream just to check if there was any likelihood of getting across but it was pretty obvious that this wasn't going to happen.
Staoineag Bothy and Creag Ghuanach across the Abhainn Rath
The falls just upstream from the bothy
Big deep, dark pools
Back at the bothy, I slung the daypack back on and headed back out towards Loch Treig. I met the other group heading upstream on the other bank and managed to communicate across to them that under no circumstances were they to attempt the crossing. Their route should have taken them up to Tom an Eite before crossing and walking back down the south side of the Abhainn Rath but I told them just to stay on their side and not risk it.
A short distance later I met Robin and Dave heading upstream on my side and we all headed for a wee recce around Creag Ghuanach Lodge, a very sorry looking place indeed.
The mixed group at Meanach were doing a big loop up to the west of Meall Mor to the Lairig Leacach bothy before looping back down the other side to Creag Guanach Lodge, so I had time to nip up onto the Graham of Creag Ghuanach while I waited for them. Robin and Dave decided to stay low and walk along the glen while I went high. We parted company by some sheep pens and I took to the steep and craggy looking south east slopes.
It was a steep but exhilarating ascent up onto a summit that like so many Graham summits has great character and affords cracking views of bigger, more vaunted nearby hills.
Creag Ghuanach from the south east
On the ascent of Creag Ghuanach
Creagan a'Chaise and Loch Treig from the ascent
Stob Coire Easain and the Lairig Leacach from the ascent of Creag Ghuanach
Rainbow over the Grey Corries and the Innses
Claurigh and the Innses
The eastern Mamores and Glen Nevis
The Innses and the Easains from the summit
I had lunch at the summit as I basked in the solitude and the views until I was rudely interrupted by the crackling of the walkie-talkie and Robin enquiring as to whether I could see any sign of the kids appearing from the north up the Lairig Leacach. I reported no sign yet and settled back down before thinking I should probably make tracks.
Yours truly and the Lairig Leacach
Beinn na Cloiche, Glas Bheinn and Sgurr Eilde Mor from the summit
Glen Nevis with the Mamores to the left and the Aonachs to the right
The Lairig Leacach
Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg from Creag Ghuanach
Innses and Easains
However there was still no sign of the kids and, assuming that they had left Meanach as scheduled this morning, they really should have been in sight by now. I radioed Robin and suggested that I could maybe to a big sweep around behind them to try and chase them up while he and Dave could continue walking towards the bothy from their side, but just at that point I got a few flashes of the red jackets in the far distance. A good thing if you ask me - I didn't fancy doing the extra distance, especially as I had planned to walk back out to Corrour that evening for dinner with Robin and Dave before making the long, dark, solitary walk back to Staoineag.
I skipped down the grassy slopes and met up with my two colleagues. We waited for the Meanach group who reported no issues other than some pretty tough terrain that had slowed them down significantly. They then headed to camp up at Staoineag for their last night while I headed back to Corrour, attempting to put as much distance between myself and my two colleagues as I could before they collected their bikes from where they had stashed them at the head of Loch Treig.
Northern slopes of Creag Ghuanach from the Allt na Lairige
North up Loch Treig to Sgriodain
It was a hell of a long walk for dinner in the comfort of a restaurant but well worth it, even with the long walk back the other way in the dark and several near misses as I stumbled my way back along the Abhain Rath to Staoineag, narrowly avoiding some guy ropes on the group of tents now assembled outside.
All that remained on the Saturday was to head back along the track (again!) to the hostel to pick up my bits and pieces and then head to the station house restaurant to kill a few hours waiting for the 6pm train while the kids did a wee sortie up Beinn na Lap.
Loch Treig looking like a sheet of glass
Eastern Mamores from the railway bridge
Eastern Mamores and the Aonachs with Creag Ghuanach in the foreground
Grey Corries and Aonachs
Last look at Ossian
Corrour Station and Leum Uilleum
by Tomsie » Wed Dec 16, 2015 12:39 am
That bothy looked like a great litle spot, hopefully get there some day.
Hope the dog made a full recovery
by dogplodder » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:24 pm
by Gordie12 » Wed Dec 16, 2015 9:32 pm
Really enjoyed this as my knowledge of the area is limited to getting the train from Rannoch to Corrour and walking back down the track.................maybe next year.
by pollyh33 » Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:30 am
Hope lovely Lucy is a lot better.
by Graeme D » Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:35 pm
by malky_c » Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:17 pm
Walkhighlands community forum is advert free
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by donating by direct debit?