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Sunshine & showers on the Tarken Two

Sunshine & showers on the Tarken Two

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:00 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Creag Each, Creag Ruadh

Date walked: 04/11/2017

Time taken: 6.25 hours

Distance: 15.2 km

Ascent: 1000m

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As often seems to happen for me nowadays, I only had one weekend day free for walking this month, and it was Saturday 4th November. The forecast was looking not bad, but after a stressful week at work I just couldn't summon up any enthusiasm for an early rise, so I had a look through the new SMC Grahams & Donalds book, looking for a route that would give me about six hours' walking without too early a start or too long a drive, and I came up with these two Grahams in Glen Tarken, on the north side of Loch Earn. I didn't have particularly high expectations of them I have to confess, but in the event this turned out to be a grand wee outing, with some decent views and with the unexpectedly rocky summit environs of Creag Ruadh proving surprisingly entertaining :D .

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After a relaxingly leisurely drive up from the Cities of the Plains, I got parked at a handy big lay-by on the A85 at the western end of Woodhouse, just a bit west of the Loch Earn Sailing Club, and almost directly across the road from where the walk starts up a track with a signpost for 'St Fillans via Glen Tarken', just to the west of a big barn.
WR1 - start of route with Glen Tarken signpost.jpg

The track ascended pleasantly through a field with coos, then through some nice broadleaf forest. As I gained height, there were some pleasing views down over Loch Earn, with the big caravan park on its southern shore clearly visible.
WR3 - nice view down over Loch Earn on ascent.jpg

Higher up, as described in the SMC Grahams book, the track passes through a gate in a drystane dyke beside some sheep pens. By this point, Creag Each was clearly visible to the left (west) of the track, with the ascent route (to the immediate right of the main burn draining the hill's eastern slopes) also being clearly visible pretty much all the way up.
WR4 - gate in wall with Creag Each ascent route clearly visible behind.jpg

A closer look at the ascent route from a bit further up the track:
WR5 - closer look at Creag Each ascent route.jpg

Just after fording the burn (largely dryshod using stepping stones), I turned uphill to the west and started the real climbing. It got gradually steeper as I got higher, with the last wee bit being something of a scrabble up a rocky gully. I just took my time, though, and it proved straightforward enough. There was a large and prominent cairn on the skyline here, at the very edge of Creag Each's northeastern top, but I don't seem to have gotten a decent photo of it from below.
WR6 - final bit of ascent beside stream with rocky gully at top.jpg

I eventually topped out on the summit plateau to find myself in the middle of a real Grendel's Granny of a peat hag that lies between Creag Each's main summit environs and its NE top.
WR7 - Grendel's granny of a peat hag between Creag Each & NE top.jpg

After eventually escaping Grendel's Granny, I made my way up the easy heathery hummock to my southwest to reach the cairned summit. Like many Wee Hills, it proved to be a grand viewpoint. Firstly an into-the-sun view to the hills on the south side of Loch Earn:
WR8 - into-the-sun view S from Creag Each summit.jpg

A grand vista down Loch Earn towards St Fillans, with that caravan park clearly visible again:
WR9 - view down Loch Earn from Creag Each summit with caravan park visible.jpg

And the view north to the lumpy Tarmachan ridge and the more rounded hills of the Lawers range, with the Loch na Lairige dam visible between them, and another Graham - Creag Garbh - visible in the foreground:
WR10 - view N to Tarmachan ridge and Lawers range with Loch na Lairige dam between - Creag Garbh in foreground.jpg

I made my way back down to the northeast, steeling myself for a second encounter with Grendel's Granny, and then headed on over the NE top. There was another fine view down Loch Earn, with that skyline cairn that I'd seen on ascent visible at the edge of the plateau:
WR11 - view down Loch Earn from Creag Each NE top with skyline cairn.jpg

From here I descended almost due north at first, then curving eastwards as I got lower down, aiming for a huge boulder that lies just beside the West Glen Tarken track. This is so big that it actually has a name: 'Clach Mhòr na h-Airigh Lèithe' in Gaelic, no less, or more prosaically 'The Glen Tarken Stone' in English.
WR12 - view down onto Glen Tarken Stone on descent.jpg

A closer look at the Glen Tarken stone. Since Hallowe'en is not long past, here's a wee Trevor and Simon World of the Strange moment for youse all. The otherwise excellent route description of these hills in the SMC Grahams book marks the Glen Tarken Chuckie as lying immediately to the EAST (i.e. the Creag Ruadh side) of the West Glen Tarken track, but when I visited today, it was very clearly immediately to the WEST (i.e. the Creag Each side) of the track. "Did the SMC authors get it wrong? OR .... Does the Glen Tarken Stone clearly have supernatural powers, allowing it to wander around the glen at will? You decide." :? :shock:
WR13 - Glen Tarken Stone up close.jpg

I headed a short distance north uphill on the track, keeping a close eye on the Tarken Stone behind me, to the point where the track meets an obvious loop in the more established upper track. At this point, I took the right-hand fork to follow a long loop of track round the north of Glen Tarken, avoiding acres of bog and peat hag across the middle of the glen, and passing a couple of big pipelines that seem to be part of a hydro scheme.
A long view down Glen Tarken from the northern end of the track loop, right across the hidden Loch Earn to the hills on the far side:
WR14 - long view S down Glen Tarken from N end of track loop.jpg

Further round the track, I passed several inlets for the hydro scheme.
Now, I realise that they're probably legally obliged to put up these 'Danger of Drowning' signs, but you'd really have to try quite hard now, wouldn't you?
WR15 - Danger of Drowning.jpg

Having to my considerable relief managed to narrowly avoid death by drowning, I headed a wee bit further south down the track, eyeing up Glen Tarken's steepish eastern wall for a good ascent route. The SMC Grahams book recommends continuing all the way down to the point where an incised stream gully joins the track around NN663282. Before getting that far, however, I saw the ascent route that Fife Flyer mentions in his WR for these two hills, cutting up a stony defile just to the north of a fenced-off disused quarry.
WR16 - Creag Ruadh ascent route from track beside fenced-in cliff.jpg

The weather had taken a nasty turn at this point, with some driving sleet, and I was glad of the shelter provided by the gully walls. I stopped on a handy big boulder a third of the way up for a spot of lunch, then set off reinvigorated. As I'd hoped, the grassy strips immediately beside the stony middle section provided an easy route up the steeper sections. It was still a bit of a slog, however, and as I neared the top of the stony defile, I was surprised and relieved to see a clear path cutting gently uphill to the east - exactly the direction I wanted to go, so I followed it. It turned out to lead up to the top of the stream gully mentioned in the SMC Grahams book, where it fizzled out. By this point, however, I was up on the summit plateau, with further entertaining peat-haggery to contend with, but also with Creag Ruadh's rocky summit cone clearly visible now to the north-east.
WR17 - on summit plateau with more peat-haggery and Creag Ruadh visible in distance.jpg

The terrain wasn't the easiest - tussocky heather interspersed with bits of bog - but at least the gradient was fairly gentle now. As I gained a bit of height, there was a nice view back down west over Loch Eas Domhain. The rain had now moved off to the west, giving some interesting cloudscapes:
WR18 - looking down on Loch Eas Domhain with interesting cloudscape.jpg

Higher up, the terrain became unexpectedly and entertainingly rocky - a huge improvement on the heather-and-bog lower down - and the small but perfectly formed summit cairn sits on top of a big area of granite pavement that forms the true summit. It is a strange and attractive landscape, and the only other hills I can really think of with anything similar are Craignaw (a Graham) and Dungeon Hill (a Donald) in the Galloway Hills.
A Creag Ruadh Summit Selfie:
WR19 - Creag Ruadh Summit Selfie.jpg

...And much the same view, mercifully unenhanced by my presence this time! The wee hill in the foreground was I think Meall Daimh, a 693-metre northern top of Creag Ruadh that disconcertingly looked higher than its parent peak from here (it isn't). The Lawers range were all lined up in the background across Loch Tay (which wasn't visible).
WR20 - similar view without me - Meall Daimh to NW then Lawers range.jpg

A slightly into-the-sun shot down over Loch Eas Domhain from the summit:
WR21 - into-the-sun view down to Loch Eas Domhain from summit.jpg

I headed down eastwards for a short distance to avoid some crags, then cut down to the south. As well as Loch Eas Domhain to its west, Creag Ruadh has another fairly large loch - Lochan Creige Ruaidhe - to its southeast. This second loch is completely hidden in views southeast from the summit, and actually only becomes visible on the final approach, so that its size came as something of a surprise to me.
WR22 - looking down on Lochan na Creige Ruaidhe.jpg

I cut down to the boggy outflow at the western end of the loch, then headed roughly southwards from there initially, turning slightly west as I got lower down.
A pleasing view along the length of Lochan Creige Ruaidhe on the way past:
WR23 - looking NE along Lochan na Creige Ruaidhe.jpg

And a look back from the loch's outflow towards the unexpectedly castellated summit environs of Creag Ruadh:
WR24 - view back to unexpectedly castellated summit environs.jpg

The descent back to the East Glen Tarken track was pathless, but straightforward enough. I trudged what felt like a surprisingly long way southeast down the track before I got to the point where a grassier track branches off southwest to cross Glen Tarken and rejoin the West Glen Tarken track, eventually leading back to Woodhouse and the car. I had expected the track across Glen Tarken to be a bit of a trudge, but actually it was quite scenic, passing a series of grouse butts with good views of Creag Each directly across the glen. (Now, is it just me, or does 'Grouse Butt' not sound like a sort of a low-grade insult? As in "Move it, Grouse Butt!" :? ...?)
Anyway, here's the view of Creag Each across the glen.
WR25 - crossing back SW across Glen Tarken with Creag Each in background.jpg

Much better than their rep, these two hills, I would say - especially the unexpectedly shapely Creag Ruadh :D .
Last edited by bobble_hat_kenny on Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sunshine & showers on the Tarken Two

Postby rockhopper » Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:50 pm

Snap :wink: Looks familiar - missed you by a day, was up here today. These hills make for a nice walk in a glen which is rather hidden from view - cheers :)
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Re: Sunshine & showers on the Tarken Two

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:46 pm

rockhopper wrote:Snap :wink: Looks familiar - missed you by a day, was up here today. These hills make for a nice walk in a glen which is rather hidden from view - cheers :)

I think you probably got slightly better weather on the Sunday - glad you enjoyed the walk :) ! Yes, Glen Tarken is very much a Hidden Glen when driving along Lochearnside - the size of it came as quite a surprise to me, to be honest.
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