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Glen Lochay Munros: when the going gets tough

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2018 5:43 pm
by BlackPanther
I had not been looking forward for climbing Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor. I read and heard enough about them being "a let-down, moated with vast areas of peat bog" (WH description), "lacking any outstanding features" (SMC Munro Guide) or "undistinguished mountains, visited only by the enthusiast" (McNeish). Such descriptions made me think of Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor as two round, grassy whalebacks surrounded by extensive peat hags, wet, overgrown and boring. Little did I know that this duo would offer us a challenging yet very enjoyable day. In the end, we were pleasantly surprised :D

For us, Glen Lochay it's 3 hours drive each way so we knew we had to do both hills just to make the trip worthwhile. As for the route, we didn't opt for any silly detours, just followed the usual approach, up Creag Mhor first. Taking in both hills in a single trip requires time, patience and good knees - some sections are surprisingly steep. Some people described this route as a slog, but when done on a sunny day, these two have enough hidden treasures to satisfy even the most fastidious rambler.

Track_BEINN SHEASGARNAICH.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

When we started from the car park near Kenknock, it was a misty morning but we counted on better conditions later on (and we got them):
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We followed the tarmac road past Keknock and then up the track to the Glen Lyon Pass, turning left here:
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Then there was the long march along the beaten track, past many hydro paraphernalia:
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The morning mist started to lift well before we reached the first steep climb of the day. I must admit, even as a low level walk along Glen Lochay this is an excellent route :D Of course, we were aiming for more ambitious targets today, so I was impatient:
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View back east along Glen Lochay, with the remnants of morning clag burning off:
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Panorama of Glen Lochay, Meall Glass and Ben Challum across the glen:
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 035 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
No clag left, it's going to be a great, sunny day!
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The steep southern side of Sron nan Eun looked very unfriendly, but on closer inspection it proved to be just steep and tiring, all crags and boulders can be easily avoided:
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We took frequent breaks for hydration. We suspected there wouldn't be anywhere to refill our bottles high on the ridge, but we carried extra water and in this heat, we were sweating it out faster than we drank it!
Still steep... Is there an end to this slog?...
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Glen Lochay panorama:
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At the height of about 700m, after 300m of torture, the angle eases off and I was hoping to see the summit of Creag Mhor soon!
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...but to my disappointment, it was still miles away!
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 067 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
It looks like a lot but in practice, it doesn't take long to traverse from Sron nan Eun to the summit. Despite being baked alive, I knew we were going to reach the first Munro, no problems here, but the looming bulk of Beinn Heasgarnich to the right-hand side, across the glen of Allt Bad a'Mhaim, gave me a serious scare:
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 080 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
It is indeed the impressive, steep western face of this Munro, that makes Beinn Heasgarnich such a tough cookie to digest. The drop between the two hills is almost 400m :shock: and the reascent route is just as steep as the initial slog up Sron nan Eun.
I might not look scared in this snap but I was p***ing my pants :lol:
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The final 200m of ascent to the summit of Creag Mhor is again steeper, but on a good path. I struggled a bit in the tropical temperature, but at the same time, I enjoyed the beauty of the surrounding landscape. It is true that this area is visited only by Munro-enthusiasts, bit I was pleasantly surprised. My earlier worries about this route being boring were totally unsubstantiated :D
Tired Panther on the way up Creag Mhor:
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 082 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Reaching the summit was a relief and though we still had the second Munro to climb (with the steep reascent :shock: ), we found a few minutes to mess around :lol:
Munro no. 230!
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Lucy (Munor no. 73) posing with Loch Lyon behind:
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Cool Kevin on the summit of his 234th Munro!
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We took a longer break on the summit, just to rest, rehydrate and eat something, though I didn't really feel hungry at this temperature, but one needs calories to clamber over hills. Kevin spent some time snapping panoramas in all directions.
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North west:
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The big challenge - Beinn Heasgarnich:
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It is not possible to descend due east from the summit of Creah Mhor because of crags, but an easier north-eastern slope leads to the bealach between the two mountains:
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Looking back at Creag Mhor's eastern crags:
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The descent was easy on grassy ground, in wet weather this slope would be very boggy but not in the African conditions we have experienced recently :lol: I was glad to find a clean stream to refill our bottles as we were running out of liquids. as we descended, cloud started to boil up in the sky and the oven was switched off, at least for the time being :lol:
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The bottom of the bealach is very peat-haggy, not a nice place to be in wet conditions... At least we had no problems crossing the hags today and soon we were clambering up the steep slopes of Sron Tairbh.
Panther, brace for another 400m of steep slog!
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About 100m up, we stumbled onto a path, which zig-zags its way up the grassy hillside. More and more cloud was boiling up and we began to wonder, perhaps a storm was coming. It wouldn't be safe to be on the summit ridge when it hit, so we had to hurry. Easier said than done in given circumstances :lol:
Struggling again, this time up Beinn Heasgarnich... Creag Mhor, the bealach and peat hags in the background:
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 146 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We uttered sighs of relief when we reached easier ground, we could see the summit now:
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Behind us: more cloud boiling up. Bad weather was now coming from both west and east!
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Tired but happy - we have done the hard part, now just a stroll to the summit left!
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We spied a path that skirts just below the top of Stob an Fhir Bhogha, contouring around the grassy slopes towards the true summit:
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Finally, almost flat walking to the top:
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Beinn Heasgarnich - summit. Munro no. 231 (Lucy's 74th). We did it. Hooray!
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We took a short break for photos and snacking, but all the time we watched the dark cloud closely. Kevin noticed that the wind was blowing from the north-east, where sky was clear, so it was pushing the nasty cloud away from us. But the very sight of the dark sky made me shiver :shock: :shock: :shock:
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 167 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
View east to the stormy weather:
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Back west to Creag Mhor and the ridge we have just walked:
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Due south and to the edge of the cloud:
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North-west towards distant hills of Orchy and Glen Coe:
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 170 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The Mamores and Nevis on the horizon:
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Zoom to Ben Nevis:
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Despite the close danger of the storm, I was mesmerized by the fantastic views around us. I didn't expect this hill to be such a good viewpoint. Creag Mhor has more character of the two, Beinn Heasgarnich is more subdued, but both Munros have their own charm and I can't understand why they suffer from such a bad reputation. Maybe most hill baggers visit them in cloudy, wet conditions, when the true beauty of these mountains cannot be appreciated :(
Lucy on the summit - and the stormy cloud in the background!
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We knew we still had a long way to go to return to the road, so we didn't linger. The descent route from Beinn Heasgarnich is quite confusing and I feel for anybody attempting this in clag. GPS waypoints and good navigation skills needed!
Initially, the descent goes along the edge of Coire Sheasgarnich:
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The ridge is dotted with small lochans:
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View back to Beinn Heasgarnich from one of the lochans:
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So far so good, but once we started the proper descent towards Allt Tarsuinn, we understood why this duo has such a bad reputation after all! Luckily it was dry, but the endless march over bumpy, slippery, overgrown, peat hag ridden ground might drive you mad! Especially if you can't see where you are going :lol: :lol:
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The neverending slog:
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 210 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We reached Allt Tarsuinn which was just a tiny stream now, and stopped to glimpse up the green slopes of Beinn Heasgarnich for the last time:
Image2018-06-06 beinn sheasgarnaich 217 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We noticed that the nasty cloud was drifting away - the storm never happened :D We continued over the bumpy ground, picking a faint path lower down, to emerge eventually on the road, on the top of Glen Lyon Pass. We still had a few kilometers to walk back to the car, but we were in good frame of mind, glad that we tackled this big round and emerged triumphant :D
Because we still faced 3 hrs drive home and a very late arrival, we knew we should really rest the next day, but... Not surprisingly, "resting" day turned into a 40km cycle plus climbing a Graham :roll: TR to come soon.

Re: Glen Lochay Munros: when the going gets tough

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 5:04 pm
by yokehead
Well done on this, it is quite a round!

I climbed Heasgarnich as a single trip when there was a bit of snow about and enjoyed it - great views down to Loch Lyon and the hills circling it. I attempted Creag Mhor with my son but bad weather arrived just as we were about to head high, that was 18km of walking with no hill, oh well!

Re: Glen Lochay Munros: when the going gets tough

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:49 pm
by rockhopper
It's a good round and you did get some rather atmospheric skies :thumbup: Went round these two in soft snow alternating with ice, rocks and grass - not sure which is worse, that or your bogs :roll: :wink: - cheers :)

Re: Glen Lochay Munros: when the going gets tough

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:22 pm
by BlackPanther
rockhopper wrote:It's a good round and you did get some rather atmospheric skies :thumbup: Went round these two in soft snow alternating with ice, rocks and grass - not sure which is worse, that or your bogs :roll: :wink: - cheers :)

We enjoyed this duo more than expected - on a good day they are entertaining hills. Not sure I'd like to do them in winter though, too much tough going. We will probably never climb them again (unless we opt for the 2nd round of Munros which is less than likely) as they are too far from home. 3 hrs each way in the car, very tiring.
The bogs were mostly dry, we were in luck :lol:

yokehead wrote:Well done on this, it is quite a round!
I climbed Heasgarnich as a single trip when there was a bit of snow about and enjoyed it - great views down to Loch Lyon and the hills circling it. I attempted Creag Mhor with my son but bad weather arrived just as we were about to head high, that was 18km of walking with no hill, oh well!

I had a moment of doubt when sitting on the summit of Creag Mhor, thinking maybe we should split the walk in two and leave Heasgarnaich for another day. It looked monstrous, especially the drop and reascent :shock:

We had a few walks when we had to turn back, once on the Aonachs due to heavy rain, another time on Foinaven when winds reached 50mph... Scottish weather is so unpredictable. I guess every walker has a few tales to tell about how they got defeated by the forces of nature :D