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Cloud Inversion on Meall Garbh

Cloud Inversion on Meall Garbh

Postby seamus0 » Sat Mar 26, 2016 10:44 am

Route description: Meall Greigh, Meall Garbh and An Stuc

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

Date walked: 18/03/2016

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 15 km

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Being a 'remote munroist' (not living in Scotland) it can be a costly affair travelling up as many times a year as possible to continue my life-long passion of climbing the Munros. It's a passion that not only offers great exercise (although trying to keep hill fit is also a challenge down south !! ), great camaraderie with friends and strangers who you meet on the day, and fantastic views of the wilderness of Scotland (normally :-)) However this last winter, my previous 2 trips were somewhat lacking in these departments. My first trip in beginning of December I managed to climb Meall Greigh while Storm Desmond was settling in. Walking on top, in fact staying on the ground was a bit of a challenge that day I can tell you! Still, another one 'bagged' and I didn't feel so bad that the rest of the weekend was a washout (literally with flooding).

The next trip in beginning of February I attempted Meall Garbh in conditions that can be described as 'less than favourable'. 5 hrs of climbing on a hill in storm-force conditions with sleet/snow bashing my eyes in a whiteout trying to find the top of something, walking backwards at one point just to give my poor face a rest from the massage it was getting! Of course, you never have your goggles when you need them! I eventually gave up and managed to get off the hill on the other side looking over Loch Tay with a longer walk back to Lawers than intended....had I been lost up there? Yup and not ashamed to say so in the arctic conditions.....but lesson learned. The following day, I thought Meall Glas would be an easier affair....nope....not only did I have the same weather, but I also had deep snow pockets which I was constantly falling into....Again 5 hrs and 700m up, doing the hills in these conditions I decided to turn back...it just wasn't worth the risk...given that I knew Meall Glas had a set of wee crags further up.

Would I ever see the sun this winter? I was beginning to give up hope in Scotland, in fact giving up Scotland in the winter all together. I had one more trip planned which also coincided with St Paddy's day (I'm Irish), and Ireland playing Scotland....how could I book a trip during these 2 important activities ?? Still, looking at the forecast a few days before the weather reports look good....high pressure for the weekend....could it possibly be true that I get to Scotland with no storms? I kept everything crossed !

I flew up and stayed in Auchterarder on St Paddy's were my cousin treated me to some good 'ole hospitality in the Guinness/whisky variety! Feeling a bit worse for wear on Friday I drove up to Lawers (slowly !) My plan was to redo what I attempted last time. The forecast said Crianlarich/ Killin would have fog but MWIS said 100% chance of cloud free Munros....could this mean what I think it means - cloud inversion?? I didn't get my hopes up too much not after my last trips. Parking at Ben Lawers hotel, the forecast was accurate (at least for the fog bit).

Grey, miserable and foggy I set off along the road following the route I knew from last time. As I climbed slowly, carrying all my winter gear (including goggles!) and nursing my hangover I wondered will I get to see the hill I'm climbing this time?
dkirkpatrick (1 of 18).JPG
2nd Stile after half hour walking through wood

dkirkpatrick (2 of 18).JPG
Looking foggy still

dkirkpatrick (3 of 18).JPG
Useful signpost along the way, not sure where its directing me too??

As I got lost last time up there in the arctic conditions, my plan this time in zero visibility was to follow the Lawers Burn until I got to the Shielings at around 660430 and take a bearing for the col between Meall Garbh and Meall Greigh. I checked my altitude ever 15 mins or so to make sure I was on course. I had to cross the burn a number of times to navigate the steeper sides.

dkirkpatrick (4 of 18).JPG
Crossing Lawers Burn

Once I got to around 600m I kept my eye out for the Shielings....didn't find them. But I decided to take my bearing and leave the security of the burn and head NW towards the col in the fog.

dkirkpatrick (5 of 18).JPG
What's this? There were a number of them.

dkirkpatrick (6 of 18).JPG
Another one, all snowed up

As I climbed it was still, and calm. High pressure still was dominant. I kept looking for signs of the fog breaking. At around 750m I thought I saw a shimmer of blue sky poking through....I started to get my hopes up.

dkirkpatrick (7 of 18).JPG
Blue sky?

I walked slowing on, confident in my location and ever hopeful. Then all of a sudden I could see the ridge and the col, and a bit of blue sky.....please stay....!

dkirkpatrick (8 of 18).JPG

I carried on, the further I walked it became apparent my hopes were materialising! I was treated with a stunning cloud inversion with Ben Lawers poking through and what I presumed to be Tarmachan in the distance.

dkirkpatrick (10 of 18).JPG
Ben Lawers in distance

Still thinking this would soon disappear, I spent some time at 850m taking photos and sucking in all the splendour. At this stage I noticed two chaps walking out of the mist heading for col just below me! They too seemed mesmerized! After a few exchanges of "hello" and "fantastic" they headed on towards the col.

dkirkpatrick (9 of 18).JPG
fellow walkers peeking through

dkirkpatrick (11 of 18).JPG
Fence leading up to col

I too decided to follow, at this point the route was clear, and how much I didn't need my winter tools this time. I caught up with the 2 guys on the col, and had a bit of lunch. We walked up Meall Garbh together.

dkirkpatrick (12 of 18).JPG
Route to top

I couldn't help noticing the views and stopping to take it all in. Looking back on myself I could see how easy it would be to get lost in a whiteout between Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh, so again didn't feel so bad about last time.

It took about 3 hrs to the top with all the photo stops and lunch. We sat at the cairn for a good 1/2 hr sucking it all in.
dkirkpatrick (13 of 18).JPG
Ben Lawers

dkirkpatrick (14 of 18).JPG
Top of Meall Garbh

dkirkpatrick (15 of 18).JPG
Enjoying the view

Winter days like this just don't come often enough! The chaps had planned to do An stuc also, but took one look at it and decided not, givent they had no crampons.

dkirkpatrick (16 of 18).JPG
Looking towards An Stuc

Instead, we decided to head back at a leisurely pace retracing our steps as best we could literally on cloud 9!

dkirkpatrick (17 of 18).JPG
Heading back down towards Meall Greigh

dkirkpatrick (18 of 18).JPG
Heading into the clag again....but still what a view!

The banter was good and they kept me entertained all the way back to the road....cheers guys!

What can I say, it takes 1 day to change your outlook on the hills....great exercise (tick), great camaderie (tick), and great views (tick)....my faith in Scottish winters was restored again!

Oh...And did Ireland beat Scotland and did I get to watch it the next day (it being a 5pm kickoff)...yup (sorry :-))!
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Re: Cloud Inversion on Meall Garbh

Postby litljortindan » Sat Mar 26, 2016 7:27 pm

Persistence rewarded!
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Joined: Dec 11, 2011

Re: Cloud Inversion on Meall Garbh

Postby mrssanta » Sat Mar 26, 2016 11:25 pm

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Posts: 3049
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