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Meagaidh May? No; Meagaidh Wet September...

Meagaidh May? No; Meagaidh Wet September...

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:59 pm

Route description: Creag Meagaidh circuit

Munros included on this walk: Carn Liath (Creag Meagaidh), Creag Meagaidh, Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Date walked: 24/09/2017

Time taken: 9.5 hours

Distance: 21 km

Ascent: 1100m

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Like a fair proportion of people ticking off Munros, I've generally been aiming for something around a twenty-a-year tally (to be honest, having started relatively late in life, this is something of a necessity for me to have any prospect of finishing them before I reach complete decrepitude :lol: ). On counting up my tally so far for 2017, however, I'd only managed fourteen and it was late September already :shock: ! Extreme measures were clearly required - which was doubtless why I found myself setting out to tackle the Creag Meagaidh Three on one of the most dreich September days in recent memory :roll: ... Needless to say I was on my tod too, with all my usual walking cronies sensibly having had a look at the forecast and then hurriedly fabricated some prior commitment :lol: ...
I went for the standard route exactly as per the website's route description, thinking that navigation in the Clag would hopefully be a bit easier this way round. For once, this was probably the right decision, in retrospect.

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This was a relatively long circuit for this time of year by my standards, so to avoid any risk of having to get my torch out at the end of the day, I got an early start and arrived at the big Aberarder car park shortly before 9 a.m. As per forecast, the sky was looking rather threatening, although at least it wasn't raining just yet :) . One of the two Binneins - Shios, I think - was looking unexpectedly impressive just across Loch Laggan, although the loch itself isn't visible from the car park. These two Grahams, Binnein Shios and Binnein Shuas, always look great wee hills whenever I walk in or drive through this area: I must get round to tackling them sometime soon.
WR1 - brooding sky from car park with one of Binneins looking impressive.jpg

On leaving the car park, I hit the first navigational challenge: Pine Marten or Dragonfly? I went for Dragonfly, which in retrospect probably wasn't the wrong way: it took me on a loop off-route to the east, although there were lots of interesting educational signs about the local flora and fauna. Pine Marten is the more direct route though, I think.
WR2 - start of route - dragonfly not pine marten I think.jpg

It may have been crap weather, but the Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve is undoubtedly lovely countryside, with lots of regenerating birch and rowan woodland of the type that must once have covered much of Scotland, before those Victorian aristocrats replaced it all with sheep and red deer :( .
WR3 - looking NE with lots of regenerating broadleaf woodland.jpg

Anyway, I eventually found the farm buildings and small Visitor Centre at Aberarder, and set off on the walk proper up the ongoing path signposted for Coire Ardair. The beautifully constructed path goes through some very attractive woodland: wonderful autumn colours, with rowan berries everywhere :) .
WR4 - rowan berries and nice autumn colours.jpg

About a hundred metres or so after the path crosses a drystane dyke, the much rougher hill path for Carn Liath branches off to the right. There is apparently supposed to be a marker cairn, but I couldn't see one anywhere. Fortunately, however, the Carn Liath path was obvious enough, being exactly where you might expect it to be given the lie of the land. It was a bit squelchy at the start, but overall not in too bad nick at all as hill paths go, and it made for fairly rapid ascent up through all the wee trees and shrubs to eventually top out on Na Cnapanan, which is the southern shoulder of Carn Liath. Loch Laggan soon came into view, and I got busy with the camera, suspecting (correctly) that these would probably be the only views I'd get all day.
The west end of Loch Laggan with one of the Binneins again: I think Shuas this time??
WR5 - W end of Loch Laggan and a Binnein on Carn Liath ascent through shrubbery.jpg

A more brooding vista down the loch from a bit higher up, with the Bonny Blooming Heather in the foreground:
WR6 - nice brooding view of Loch Laggan with heather in bloom.jpg

A bit higher again, and I got a brief glimpse of Creag Meagaidh's 'window' in the distance over the shoulder of Sron a' Ghoire, not quite submerged in the Clag as yet...
WR7 - Puist Coire Ardair with distant Window from Carn Liath ascent path.jpg

A slightly zoomed shot of the distant Window:
WR8 - slightly zoomed shot of Window.jpg

Yet more shots of Loch Laggan (it was pretty much the only view that was on offer :lol: !). Firstly a nice long shot straight across the loch:
WR9 - nice long shot straight across Loch Laggan.jpg

...And finally a pleasantly hazy view up to the east end of the loch, with various rounded Monadhliadh peaks in the distance:
WR11 - nice hazy view E along Loch Laggan.jpg

Another hundred metres of ascent, however, and the views were done for the day. Soon enough it started to rain, as per forecast, and although it wasn't that much further up to Carn Liath's summit cairn, I was already fairly drookit by the time I reached it.
Carn Liath, the Grey Cairn, does indeed sport an impressively large and grey summit cairn (aren't most cairns grey, though :? ?).
WR12 - Carn Liath large summit cairn.jpg

A drookit summit selfie:
WR13 - Carn Liath summit selfie.jpg

Carn Liath is actually very slightly 'off-route', out east at the far end of the north Coire Ardair ridgeline, so a small amount of backtracking was required before heading on westwards along the ridge. There isn't really any path to speak of for the first section, and I was disconcerted when I reached the first of two small 'trenches' that break the ridgeline (both marked as 'Uinneag' or 'Window' on the OS 1:25,000 map, presumably because they are like tiny versions of the big Window between Creag Meagaidh and Stob Poite Coire Ardair). This one was between Carn Liath and Meall an t-Snaim, and the thick Clag made it look like a much bigger drop than it actually was. After checking the map and my GPS I headed cautiously down into the chasm, and discovered to my embarrassment that the bottom of it was indeed only about fifty metres below me :oops: .
The ongoing ridgeline was straightforward enough, and progress was aided by the appearance of both a path and a line of old iron fenceposts, a bit like the ones between Carn Dearg and Carn Sgulain in the Monadhliadh. All the same, it was a long plod along to the summit of Stob Poite Coire Ardair, where two different cairns seem to be competing as to the true summit. The first one, centred around one of those iron fenceposts, is the more impressive of the two...
WR14 - larger cairn on SPCA with receding iron posts but probably not true summit.jpg

It was raining heavily by now, and the wind was picking up too. Another completely drookit selfie shot:
WR15 - drookit supposedly summit Selfie - but not true summit.jpg

Going by my GPS, however, I think the smaller cairn about 150 metres further west was actually the true summit...
WR16 - Stob Poite Coire Ardair true summit cairn.jpg

I made my way down on the clear ongoing path into the Window of Creag Meagaidh (i.e. the deep V-shaped bealach between Stob Poite Coire Ardair and Crag Meagaidh), with the bulk of Stob Poite Coire Ardair providing some very welcome shelter from the easterly wind and rain. By this point, I was seriously considering bailing out on Meagaidh and just heading home... As I usually do at moments of crisis, I stopped for lunch. My M&S chicken and chorizo sandwiches really seemed to hit the spot, thankfully, and I was soon setting off reinvigorated for Creag Meagaidh.
A hazy view northwards from the Window, with (I think) Lochan Uaine just visible off to the left:
WR17 - hazy view N from Window.jpg

The ongoing path up Meagaidh's steep shoulder thankfully turned out to be in much better nick than it looked from below, and it made for surprisingly quick progress up to the summit plateau :) .
WR18 - Meagaidh ascent path from Window.jpg

Unfortunately, however, that was the end of the Rapid Progress for quite some time. Meagaidh's vast, flat summit plateau is notoriously difficult to navigate in cloud, and by now the Clag had really started to coagulate nastily and the path had completely disappeared on bouldery ground :roll: . I somehow managed to totally miss the huge Mad Meg's Cairn both on the way to, and on the way back from Meagaidh's summit. If I hadn't stopped every couple of hundred metres to use my GPS and take compass bearings, I reckon I'd probably still be up there :lol: ... Eventually, however, I located the more defined ridge heading westwards towards Meagaidh's summit cairn, and also re-located the path :) . I was very relieved to find the cairn at last! Initially I worried that it might be Mad Meg's Cairn rather than the true summit, but my GPS assured me that it was the Real Deal.
WR19 - Meagaidh summit cairn.jpg

Unfortunately my iPhone chose this moment to pack in (despite trying to keep it dry in a sealed sandwich bag, I think the poor thing had ended up just as drookit and miserable as I was myself). There would be no more photos today! My GPS was still working fine, however, which was just as well on the whole... I headed back eastwards, managing to completely miss Mad Meg's Cairn once again, until I could eventually see that I was approaching the edge of the plateau with Meagaidh's huge cliffs directly to my east. The line of the cliffs actually then provided a handy navigational marker, as long as I made sure that I didn't stray too near the edge, and soon enough I located the cairned descent path back down to the Window. (Lest this sound completely foolhardy, I should say that the Clag had thinned a bit by now, so that I could see the line of the cliff edge from some distance back, without having to go dangerously close... Also, I was all too aware of the falling-over hazard and I was keeping a close eye on map and GPS as I approached the plateau edge. All the same, please DON'T try this sort of thing on Ben Nevis :shock: !!)
From here on things were straightforward enough, although the descent from the Window down to Coire Ardair's Lochan a' Choire, initially on slippery boulders and scree and then on a steep, loose and muddy hill path, took me a lot longer than I'd expected. At the loch side, I paused to take in Coire Ardair's monumental scenery, with Meagaidh's massive cliffs looming up seemingly endlessly out of the mist ... it is definitely one of Scotland's most scenic spots, and I was cursing my phone for having packed in so that I couldn't take any photos :evil: . All the same, it was a real pleasure to pick up the end of the excellently engineered hill path at the corner of Lochan a' Choire that leads all the way back down to Aberarder and the car park.
The round took me a mildly embarrassing nine and a half hours: I blame the weather, although I did at least get back to the car with half an hour of daylight to spare :roll: ... Ah well, I suppose you don't get to walk them all in glorious sunshine :lol: !
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Re: Meagaidh May? No; Meagaidh Wet September...

Postby gammy leg walker » Tue Sep 26, 2017 8:50 pm

Nothing wrong nine and a half hours it's no a race.

Nice round of three ,well done
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Re: Meagaidh May? No; Meagaidh Wet September...

Postby Coop » Tue Sep 26, 2017 9:26 pm

Saw nothing myself from SPCA To Creag Meagaidh. As i was descending I remember seeing an older gent going up the scree towards the window. I shouted to him I was on a bit of a path and it might be easier.
Boy was he happy I pointed it out.

Nice walk out past the lochan

Good report cheers
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