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Bog Free Round of Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich

Bog Free Round of Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich


Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Sat Apr 30, 2016 1:48 am

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Heasgarnich, Creag Mhor (Glen Lochay)

Date walked: 23/04/2016

Time taken: 7.1 hours

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Happily, high pressure, which had bathed Scotland in glorious sunshine for a week, looked likely to last at least another day. The sun, which burst through broken cloud sitting high above the surrounding hills, felt pleasantly warm as I readied myself for my walk over Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich. In the distance, beyond leafless trees, silhouetted against a bright spring sky, Ben Challum dominated the head of Glen Lochay.

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Optimistic of a great day, I left the car park at the end of the public road east of Kenknock. I briskly walked west along the path through an avenue of trees, hemmed in on my right by the slopes of Sgiath Chuill and Meall Glas and on my left by Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor, falling to the waters of the River Lochay, which flowed slowly east. As I walked my eyes were drawn to Ben Challum, the dark crags of its snow streaked eastern face falling from a shapely ridge rising either side to a narrow pointed peak. The view so different from the one I had climbing the hill from Strath Fillan as a teenager, many years before. On that visit I had found the mountain boring and tedious and had never once in the intervening years thought to revisit it.

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Unlike the lower part of the glen which is heavily wooded there are few trees in the upper sections of the glen. Only the occasional recent plantation strategically placed to shelter grazing fields and the few farms which populate the glen and rowans which cling precariously to the side of larger streams flowing down the hillside to the River Lochay.

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About a mile west of Kenknock the track forked, left to the remote cottage of Lubchurrin and right it continued along Glen Lochay. I continued along the glen, passing a large shed, evidencing the importance of sheep farming. Black faced sheep, hardy and able to survive the harsh climate found on Scotland’s mountains, is farmed in the glen. As I passed, sheep, brought down from higher ground for lambing, fed on lush grass growing at the riverside. Nearby, new born lambs played in the spring sun or lay enjoying the unexpected warmth. This pastoral scene providing a contrast to the rugged mountain view, Ben Challum, at the head of the glen, offered.

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Though some seemed convinced they could find sweeter grass on higher slopes which rose steeply from the flat wide valley floor

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Enjoying the pleasant walk in the sun as I steadily climbed further into the glen I occasionally looked back down the length of the glen beyond Meall Ghaordhie, which I had climbed in clag in March, to the shapely Tarmachan peaks.

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After about an hour I reached Batavaime, last cottage in the glen, where the climb of Creag Mhor begins. Before starting the climb I couldn’t resist taking one more photograph of Ben Challum.

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I then climbed the path which wended upwards and where the gradient eased I climbed a deer fence and took to the hill.

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It was hot work as a warm sun burned from a glorious blue sky. After several hill days without a view to enjoy knowing my effort would be rewarded at the top with a view made the climb seem much easier. Feeling fit, I made good progress on the steep pathless grassy slopes. On such a fine day route finding was not an issue and I climbed on towards the blue sky filled with puffy white clouds. As I gained height the views south west expanded beyond Ben Challum to Cruach Ardain, another stunning mountain. Climbing higher, Ben More came into view and now dominated the sky, with a tiny part of Stob Binnein, visible behind. Looking south east down the length of Glen Lochay the Lawers group were too far off to impress. Above me I heard the crack of a Raven. Looking up I saw the bird fly out from the cover of dark crags which blocked my path. Before continuing I carefully viewed the route ahead and was able to pick a way past the rocks. Beyond the crags I continued onto the easier slopes of Sron nan Eun and a path which followed the ridge towards the summit in the distance.

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On the ridge the views extended to almost all of the Central Highlands hill groups and Ben Challum no longer dominated the scene, though that did not detract from the dark craggy beauty of its eastern face. Looking south, down the crest of Sron nan Eun, beyond Meall Glas, I picked out the familiar shapes of Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin.

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Turning, I followed the path north as it continued up the ridge, crossing a few patches of snow, before climbing easily to the summit cairn.

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The top provides tremendous views of the Tyndrum hills, the Cruachan group, the Crianlarich Hills and the Arrochar Alps, all nearby. Further off I picked out the Ben Alder hills, Mull's Ben More and the familiar shape of Ben Nevis, still holding a deep covering of snow.

I sat in the sun by the summit cairn enjoying a sandwich and a flask of hot coffee enjoying the view into the magnificent Coire Cheathaich. The corrie does impress, so much so that Scotland’s foremost Gaelic bard Duncan Ban MacIntyre, wrote of its beauty in his poem “Corrie of the Mist”. Born at Druim Liaghart, north of the Mamlorn Forest Hills, on the south shore of Loch Tulla in 1724, Duncan Ban MacIntyre, who never learned to read or write, left a canon of fine poems. His most famous poem “In Praise of Ben Dorain” is considered by many to be the greatest nature poem composed in the Gaelic language. His poems celebrate the shapes of the ridges and slopes, the contrasting hues and colours of fauna and foliage, the animals and birds that inhabit the hills and reflect his love of the hills and glens in which he worked and lived.

Suitably rested and refreshed I readied myself for my journey to Beinn Heasgarnich, at 1076 metres, highest of the two Mamlorn Forest Munros. Not a collector of Tops, unless on my route, I would miss out the walk around the head of Coire Cheathaich to gain Stob nan Clach. Before I left, I peeked down crags falling steeply from the summit cairn to the bealach which separates Creag Mhor from Beinn Heasgarnich, looking for a possible route. Struck by the height that would be lost and by the steepness of the crags I decided to follow the collective wisdom of most guidebooks and of Walkhighlands reports and travelled west from the summit for a short distance towards the col separating Creag Mhor from the minor top Meall Tionall to find a safer route to Beinn Heasgarnich.

On easier ground I safely descended towards the bealach, far below, travelling down extensive snowfields which gave me a speedy, controlled plummet.

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As I descended I had a good view across to the dark crags dropping from the summit of Creag Mhor, which give the hill its name, Dark Rock, glad I hadn't decided on the direct descent.

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Below the snow line grassy slopes continued to drop steeply to the bealach containing Lochan na Baintighearna. The flat pass was riven with peat bogs which would need to be negotiated before starting the climb to Beinn Heasgarnich. Reaching the bealach I was pleasantly surprised to find it dry and had no problem crossing the peat bogs and as a bonus it provided a fine view back to Creag Mhor.

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Looking ahead the shapely Sron Tairbh looked imposing but once started on the steep grassy slopes I gained height quickly. As I climbed I stopped to take in the views west to Ben More and Stob Binnein and east, beyond the sweep of Creag Mhor's north east ridge to Beinn a' Chreachain, most easterly of the Bridge of Orchy group.

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Reaching the top of Sron Tairbh marked the end of the day's hard work and I enjoyed the gentle slopes which rose to the small cairn which marks the Top Stob an Fhir - Bhogla.

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From the top the ridge swung north and dropped before climbing easy slopes to the summit of Beinn Heasgarnich.

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I stopped briefly on the summit for a quick coffee and sandwich. As I sat on the bare summit I looked beyond Beinn Mhanach and Beinn a' Chreachain to Ben Nevis in the distance. Refreshed, I left the summit of Beinn Heasgarnich and retraced my steps towards Stob an Fhir - Bhogla. North of the top I descended south east down snow fields and easy grassy slopes, feeling warm out of the wind which had chilled me on the ridge, enjoying the view across Glen Lochay to a snow-capped Ben Lawers, rising above its russet neighbours, as I went.

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When wet, this large expanse of bog has proved difficult to cross, however, in contrast to many who have struggled to find an easy route across the moss, I was lucky and moved easily on the acres of soft, dry sponge like ground which sloped south east away from Beinn Heasgarnich. I skirted to the right of some higher ground and continued to descend until I eventually reached the lovely Allt Bad Odhar as it splashed down the hillside.

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I followed the stream to a dam located above Badour Cottage, where Duncan Ban MacIntyre lived while working as a Forester for Campbell of Achallader. In old age he journeyed from his home in Edinburgh back to the hills of his youth for a final adieu. Suffering the inherent ailments of age, in his poem “Final farewell to the Mountains” he fondly recalls his time stalking deer as a fit and healthy youth, laments that the place he loved had changed and was now dominated by sheep, which he abhorred and poignantly, bids farewell to a life now gone.

The changes to the landscape which so profoundly affected Duncan Ban MacIntyre would similarly sadden later generations of walkers. In her book “Burn on the Hill”, Elizabeth Allen writes of Ronnie Burn, a contemporary of Munro and first to “compleat” all Munros and Tops, in 1920 bemoaning the disappearance of families from glens, ironically, while staying in Kenknock in Glen Lochay, close to where MacIntyre had stayed. Sadly, by his old age, many glens were deserted and some had been enclosed by massive ugly concrete dams with villages he knew drowned below the raised waters. The families who fed and sheltered him in houses like Alltbeithe, Luibelt and Strathan in his youth were gone and with them the way of life that had enhanced his mountain adventures.

From the dam I followed the high path east,

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At the junction with the path climbing over the Learg nan Lunn to Glen Lyon I dropped back towards Kenknock. Unfortunately, for tired legs, the path was not as forgiving as the soft snow which I experienced as I descended from Creag Mhor or the sponge like terrain I enjoyed coming off Beinn Heasgarnich, but, at least it was downhill and I was soon back at my car having enjoyed a great journey over these two giants of the Mamlorn Forest.
Last edited by Jeremiah Johnson on Sun May 01, 2016 3:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Jeremiah Johnson
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 63
Munros:150   Corbetts:44
Grahams:9   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:5   
Joined: Jun 2, 2015

Re: Bog Free Round of Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich

Postby jamesb63 » Sat Apr 30, 2016 2:36 pm

Very nice report accompanied with some beautiful pics :clap: :clap:

Ps Blackface are Scottish sheep not imported :wink: :D
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Blackface
User avatar
jamesb63
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 397
Munros:215   
Sub 2000:1   
Joined: Apr 14, 2015
Location: Alexandria

Re: Bog Free Round of Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich

Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Sun May 01, 2016 3:12 pm

jamesb63 wrote:Very nice report accompanied with some beautiful pics :clap: :clap:

Ps Blackface are Scottish sheep not imported :wink: :D
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Blackface


Glad you enjoyed James. Have amended.....every day is a learning day :D :D
Jeremiah Johnson
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 63
Munros:150   Corbetts:44
Grahams:9   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:5   
Joined: Jun 2, 2015

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