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Don't follow the guide!

Don't follow the guide!


Postby BlackPanther » Mon Jul 23, 2018 5:54 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Glas Bheinn (Kinlocheil), Meall nan Damh

Date walked: 03/07/2018

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 15.5 km

Ascent: 930m

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Another pair of Grahams with very little publicity available online. Most likely because they are in close proximity of three fantastic Callop Corbetts. We had climbed the trio during the WH Meet last year and we really enjoyed it despite mixed spring weather. A few reports on the Corbetts also involve the two Grahams, but we were now looking for a route including only Glas Bheinn and Meall nan Damh. The most LOGICAL choice was to follow the instructions in SMC Guide. I bet we weren't the only Graham baggers who were tricked into taking the "easy" climb from the small hydro dam (918770). In this case, we discovered, that the SMC guide is plain WRONG. It sends the walkers up an overgrown, steep slope crossed by multiple deer fences, despite an easier route up the ridge available just around the corner!
I'll get to the details of the "Guide cock-up" but first a few words about the two Grahams. They are situated just east of Sgorr Craobh a'Chaorainn and just north of Cona Glen, at the edge of the Ardgour wilderness. Virtually unknown and seldom visited, they offer a fantastic yet relatively easy high traverse with no technical difficulties anywhere on the ridge. In fact, the first 100m of the ascent were the worst, but once on the ridge the walk was pure pleasure :D
The starting point is the same as for Callop Corbetts, a small car park just of A830. We followed the track past a small power station for just over 2km, crossed Allt a'Cruaiche and climbed onto the northern ridge of Meall nan Damh, then continued the traverse to Glas Bheinn. Finally, we descended due west back to the forest, where a boggy track can be followed back to the wooden bridge over Allt a'Cruaiche.

Track_MEALL NAN DAMH 03-07-18.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


It was another very dry, hot day, no morning cloud in the sky. We were overloaded with water bottles, just in case we wouldn't be able to refill on the ridge, and it proved the right decision as indeed, no water sources can be found on higher ground.
Callop River dry as a bone:
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Looking back north from near the hydro dam:
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Now to the tough part. The SMC Guide instructs as follows:

"Cross the rocky bed of the burn just below the dam and clamber up the far bank. Ascend tussock grass to a fence around an extensive area of woodland then traverse below this to the right. Turn a corner and follow the fence uphill over a short steepening; this can be bypassed to the right by a steep slope above the burn. Continue to where the fence joins another fence and cross at the corner to gain the open hillside."

This all sounds like tough going, especially when words "clamber" and "steepening" are used, suggesting that the ground is steep and overgrown. But we were ready for adventures :D
The first stage: cross the burn below the dam. That was the easy part:
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The second stage, the clambering up the far bank, proved much tougher. There is no path and the steep banks are overgrown with high bracken and grass. Only a few meters up, we came across the first deer fence. Unfortunately, we couldn't traverse below it to the right, as another fence, also 2m high and reaching all the way down to the hydro dam, has been installed. So we had no choice and had to climb the fence. It was wobbly but somehow it withstood the weight of two mad Graham baggers :lol:
Another 10 m or so of climbing up thick grass and there was another high fence. i think this was the one actually mentioned in the SMC Guide description:
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We followed this fence to a point where it turned left. We were now in a dense forest, overgrown with high bracken. We pushed up the slopes which suddenly became very steep. It must have been the "short steepening" mentioned in the description but again, we couldn't take the suggested bypass as we couldn't even see one, the bracken was higher than our heads :lol:
Of course, where there is high vegetation in a damp area, there are millions of insects living in the nice, damp shadows. And as we fought our way through the bracken hell, we were attacked by an army of very hungry clegs - ARGHHHHH :evil: as if the hellish route up wasn't bad enough!!!
Eventually, we managed to wriggle out of the jungle, but only to meet one more fence, which we had to climb of course. :roll:
Once past this obstacle, we were out on a grassy slope leading to the ridge of Sron Meall nan Damh. We took a 5 min break to pull ourselves together and regroup after the battle of Callop :lol:
Looking down to the multiple deer fences and the jungle below:
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To our left was yet another deer fence, which we followed hoping to find a stile or maybe a hole, but sadly, no such help was in sight...
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Eventually, we located a place where one of the fence posts was broken in half, so we could clamber over without having to climb up the whole height of the structure. I said, hopefully this is the last fence we have scaled today! Well, I was wrong, but we'll come to that later.
As we gained some height and looked down to Feith nan Con, the glen to the west of our ridge, we discovered, that we could have gained the ridge easily, without having to suffer through the jungle and without any fence climbing. All we had to do was stay on the main path along Allt Feith nan Con (instead of crossing the burn below the dam) for a few hundred meters, and then cross the glen above the dam (there was next to no water in the river so no problems with fording). This is the terrain we'd have to cover; the path is visible in this photo on the left side. I couldn't see any fences:
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This sketch shows both lines of approach. Our route through the bracken hell is marked in yellow, the easier line in red:
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The conclusion is obvious: don't follow the guide!
Once out on the ridge, all the pain was quickly forgotten. We still had to wave away clegs, but at least the going was much easier on grass and scattered rocks:
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Higher up, the ridge is less steep and we could now see our first target Graham. It is actually the top to the left and to reach it, we had to traverse over a lower top (right):
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Looking back north along the ridge, Gulvain and Streap most prominent on the horizon:
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The second Graham, Glas Bheinn, looked very insignificant from this perspective:
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Sgurr Ghiubhsachan and Sgurr Croabh a' Chaorain:
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The western top of Meall nan Damh (722m) was a good place for the first longer break. Views were amazing and we spent some time wandering around with our cameras. Clegs were less frequent, thankfully. Kevin noticed something interesting on the ground:
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It was a beautiful dragonfly, posing for a photo on a rock:
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A few snaps from the lower top...
Panorama north, Glas Bheinn, our second target, to the right hand side:
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The ridge continues to the main summit of Meall nan Damh:
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The wilderness of Ardgour across Cona Glen:
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Zoom to Stob Mhic Bheathain, another remote Graham and possibly a target for the near future:
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The traverse to the true summit was almost flat. As we walked the ridge, high cloud started to spread from the south, but it didn't look like it was going to bring summer storms. We were actually glad for that high cloud, at least the temperature dropped to more reasonable numbers!
On the summit of Meall nan Damh. Graham no. 105, 72 for wee Lucy:
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Despite the high cloud, views were still great so Kevin posed with mountains in the background:
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The southern pano:
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South-west to the lower top and the Callop Corbetts behind:
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The traverse continues to Glass Bheinn:
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The descent is easy, not too steep and we even spotted a faint path. Glas Bheinn, stil looking small and insignificant, has barely enough reascent (151m) to be a Graham:
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It was a pleasant traverse to the second hill; looking back to Meall nan Damh:
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Up the grassy slopes of Glas Bheinn:
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According to Hill Bagging database, the true summit is "a rock 3m S of trig point". But the SMC Guide confused us again, because it says that "the summit lies about 80m to the north west of the trig" :roll: :roll: :roll:
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Just to be sure we bagged the hill properly, we visited both spots. According to our GPS, they were both the same height :roll: so we still don't know which one is the true summit...
The SMC summit:
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The Hill Bagging summit:
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Regardless of the true top confusion, Glas Bheinn is as good a viewpoint as its higher neighbour. The best vistas are to the north and east:
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Loch Eil:
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Ben Nevis, still teasing and tantalizing :wink:
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Lucy posing on her 73rd Graham :D
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Panoramas:
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A happy man:
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We had something to eat and drink, before embarking on our descent back to Callop. The SMC Guide suggest aiming west to reach a bridge and a second dam, which are just about visible from above:
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Having descended most of the slope, we came across one more deer fence, no gate or stile, so we had to pull up our trousers and rehearse our fence climbing skills once again. On the other side, Kevin spotted a small lizard in the grass:
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The remaining walk is through the forest but at least a boggy track can be followed:
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The track leads to a bridge over Allt a'Cruaiche. There is a gate in the fence, but it was padlocked, so... guess what? Another fence climbing session! Eventually, we skipped happily over the bridge and climbed back up to the main Callop track for the final 2km of walking back to the car park.

It was a different kind of adventure, character building in the beginning and perfect ridge walking later on. Despite the initial problems, this is a very nice duo of Grahams, just don't make our mistake and don't follow the SMC guide :wink:

The following day (Wednesday) we returned to Munro bagging and drove down to Glen Etive to visit the higher mountains. TR in progress.
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BlackPanther
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 3099
Munros:254   Corbetts:160
Grahams:110   
Sub 2000:40   
Joined: Nov 2, 2010
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

Re: Don't follow the guide!

Postby Sunset tripper » Mon Jul 23, 2018 7:24 pm

That looked like hard work but still a good day. The SMC guide books are ok for the munros generally but I have found a few strange routes and timings for the corbetts also.

If you have tried Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine and Sgurr Dubh in Torridon the Corbett book gives a very strange ascent route whereas the WH route is far more sensible.

All the best :D
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Re: Don't follow the guide!

Postby JohnMcP » Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:16 pm

I'm planning to walk this pair next week - very timely report with really useful advice. Thanks BP!
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Re: Don't follow the guide!

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Jul 24, 2018 9:37 am

JohnMcP wrote:I'm planning to walk this pair next week - very timely report with really useful advice. Thanks BP!


Glad I could be of service :D Fingers crossed weather is good for you, it would be a shame to walk the ridge and see nothing. I really loved the views from this duo!
The bypass I suggested should not have any fences to climb (at least I didn't see any when looking from above). I found a photo of the slope from 2017 when we did the three Corbetts nextdoor. It was taken on the path along Feith nan Con, looking back north. The access to the ridge of Meall nan Damh is shown on the right side of the picture. Even then, in spring, the stream was small enough it could have been crossed, so now in such dry summer, it shouldn't be a problem at all.
Image
Sunset tripper wrote:That looked like hard work but still a good day. The SMC guide books are ok for the munros generally but I have found a few strange routes and timings for the corbetts also.

If you have tried Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine and Sgurr Dubh in Torridon the Corbett book gives a very strange ascent route whereas the WH route is far more sensible.

All the best :D


Thanks :D It was a good day indeed, after the battle of Callop :lol: Sometimes it's worth to be patient to be rewarded.

We did SLU & SD last year in August, on a very cloudy day, and we used the GPS waypoints from Walkhighlands. Still didn't follow them exactly, but yes, the SMC guide has a silly idea for going up SLU :roll:
Another example is Bac na Eich (our local Corbett). My SMC guide is from 2002 so pretty old and it sends the walker up and down the horrible bulldozed track from Inverchoran, whereas there are at least two other good routes to the summit, with stalkers paths up to higher ground. The Coire Mhoraigein approach is very scenic and this is the way WH suggests.

McNeish's Munro book has mistakes, too. He gives 6-8 hours as a time frame to climb Sgurr na Ciche ridge (all 3 Munros from Loch Arkaig) which I think is ridiculous. We took nearly 11 hours, well, we are not the fastest of walkers and we descend steep sections very slowly, due to my dodgy knees, but 6 hours??? You'd have to be a ridge runner! :lol:
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3099
Munros:254   Corbetts:160
Grahams:110   
Sub 2000:40   
Joined: Nov 2, 2010
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

Re: Don't follow the guide!

Postby Pastychomper » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:07 am

Great pictures, looks like you had a fine walk, fences or no! That dragonfly looks like one I saw on Ben Dhorain last week.
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Re: Don't follow the guide!

Postby macpee » Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:43 pm

I eventually got round to ascending this pair of Grahams yesterday and can report that BlackPanther's words of wisdom regarding the route onto Meall nan Damh is spot on! Her suggested route allows for easy access to the ridge on easy-angled grass without any fences to negotiate. Crossing the Allt na Cruaiche also presented no problems.

Thanks again BP! Wishing you happy hillwalking for 2019...
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Re: Don't follow the guide!

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:55 am

macpee wrote:Thanks again BP! Wishing you happy hillwalking for 2019...


Thank you and happy New year to you, to :) I was busy in the first days in 2019 but I'm back on the forum now with 4 reports to write! 2019 started well for us, with good walks up Munros and Corbetts.

I'm glad my TR proved helpful. Just shows that guide books are not to be taken as the Bible. So many times, I also found practical info in other sources, especially here on WH. Let's help this forum alive and spread the word around :lol:
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3099
Munros:254   Corbetts:160
Grahams:110   
Sub 2000:40   
Joined: Nov 2, 2010
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

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