The forecast was exemplary, so we planned a dash for me to do Leum and GordonC to Beinn na Lap between the approaching Atlantic frontal systems.
Another 5am start. The beauty of the early start is not to meet anyone apart from the odd delivery van on the roads to Rannoch Station. Arrived in time for a freshly cooked bacon roll before the train arrived, which was half an hour late. This was announced by the guard on the train from Fort William. His southward train had to get to Tyndrum before the northward sleeper train we were catching could proceed. It duly arrived and we paid the £6.50 to the same conductor we'd met earlier, for our return fare to Corrour, which took about 15min.
There was still a fair bit of cloud dusting the tops as we disenbarked at Corrour. I was surprised to see so many folk milling around as I had it in my head that the station cafe had been closed. However it was open and bustling with trade. The buildings at the end of the platform had been converted to a B&B which included a common lounge utilising the old signal box, which gave spectacular 360deg views of the surrounding landscape.
A group of ladies staying there were heading off up Leum, so I headed off before them, searching out the stalking path. To my delight I spotted a quad track winding up over the boggy ground towards the bottom of the steep section of Sron an Lagain Ghaibh, the top of which was still in clag. I stopped for a breather at this point , took my "Hillary" hat off and rested it on the top of my bag. Must've knocked it off, as I walked off & left it. Seems to be an occupational hazard of being old - walking off and leaving stuff!
Soon the big summit cairn appeared out of the clag. I added my stone to it and settled down for a piece in this little one-person shelter below the cairn, which had a perfect flat stone for a seat and a convenient protruding stone to hang my rucksack on - it felt like sitting on a throne. On a clear day the view must be awesome. Soon the "girls" arrived and busied themselves with selfies and working out the bearing to the bealach. I followed them down, fiddling with my GPS as it seemed to have stopped updating the track. After about 500m we came out of the clag and descended to the bealach on our round of the horshoe.
The Ladies stopped for their break at the bealach and I headed down to perch on a big stane just before Tom an Eoin. After a few minutes the clag lifted and spectacular views of the surrounding hills were revealed. I waved to Gordon on Beinn na Lap, but I don't think he saw me. ( He told me later that he was also sitting in a howf below the summit of Ben na Lap )
The Treig hills now stood out magnificently as did the grey corries, the Aonachs, CMD and the Ben which still retained it's wee cap of cloud. Binnean Beag looked a lot bigger than when I did it back in the last century, but the long pull up on to Binnein Mor still looked a big pull. I picked out my next Corbett - Glas Bhein, which I think I'll tackle from Mamore lodge. The Aonach Eagach with the Pap of Glencoe peeping out at the end was also visible.
The Ladies had joined me by this time and we had a hill spotting session, as our progress on the hill had been too quick, since our homeward train didn't depart Corrour until 6.30pm. The sun was now shining and the atmosphere was quite toasty. I was now needing my hat, so as I set off down the ATV track to Corrour, I got my non-snotty hanky out and draped it over my head ( minus the knots ). Note - I did have a black "benny "hat, but a better way of frying my already atrophying brain I couldn't think of - so the daft hanky it was. After plooterin through the boggy bit o the track as it levelled out, I discreetly put my hanky back in my pocket on approaching the station to deflect the tittering & giggling of the patrons enjoying drinks in the sun outside the cafe.
I un-shackled the rucksack I'd left in the station waiting room to liberate the flask of tea I'd brought.
( Put my route map with my name on the outside so that it didn't get blown up by the polis )
Gordon soon arrived from his saunter up Beinn na Lap, to join me in a tea-supping session, out of reach of the midgies in the station waiting room. We swopped stories of the day's events and revelled in the special atmosphere that Corrour seems to have.
Soon, we'd drunk all the tea and went to investigate the action in the Cafe. We now switched to coffee, but resisted the cake temptations, shouting "eat me" from beneath their glass covers on the bar. A mountain biker arrived to get sustenance for the second bit of his ride to Dalwhinnie via Corrour Lodge, Moy, Loch Pattock, Loch Ericht to Dalwhinnie - to me, a heroic ride. To him it seemed like the equivalent of a sunday stroll wi his granny. Some cheil !
The barmaid explained why the place had been closed a wee while ago after it had been leased to a couple who only did dinners in the evening. The estate later reopened it to cater for all levels of needs from a cup of tea or beer to accommodation and dinners - March to October. Whilst wandering around the platform to keep ahead of the midgies, we noticed that a building at the end of the platform was now a mini museum with the old points levers and some displays around the walls. So we did what everyone wants to and operated the levers - like big bairns !
The train duly arrived and we all piled on, heading to our various destinations. At Rannoch, Gordon & I headed off for our chipper in Pitlochry, only to be thwarted by an old guy in a Mercedes touring in the road at 20mph. The guy behind him in a white van was trying to squeeze by at every wide-ish bit of the road & layby, but Mercedes man was either oblivious to anyone else, or had paid for this bit o road and was getting his money's worth !
Eventually he pulled over to let us past and we headed off at increased speed, slavering at the thought of our chipper !
Duly sated in Pitlochry, we drove back by Braemar in beautiful evening sunshine, wondering what had happened to the forecast thunder, lightning & hail.
Patience, my son - 4am next morning !
Another Rannoch epic - it disnae get any better than this - or does it ?
PS. additional photos by Gordon Cooper
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