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Sgiath Chuil, Meall Glas & Beinn nan Imirean
by rockhopper » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:45 pm
Munros included on this walk: Meall Glas, Sgiath Chuil
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn nan Imirean
Date walked: 14/11/2010
Time taken: 8.2 hours
Distance: 20 km
Ascent: 1473mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I was up and away early on Sunday. Starting in the dark, the drive was uneventful but I still can’t understand why traffic lights always seem to be at red when I get to them and can’t be put on to detectors early in the morning . It started to get foggy as I left Crianlarich heading east and, due to several “No Parking” signs on the farm road, I parked on the grass verge at the side of the A85 close to Auchessan. The verge is wide enough to allow for this. I parked beside two other cars but the walkers had gone before I got a chance to say hello – I thought I may see them on the hills but, other than some footprints in the snow, I didn’t see them again although their cars were still there when I returned in the afternoon.
It was still foggy when I set off up the short road to Auchessan crossing the River Dochart. Just after the farmhouse there’s a signpost; north to the Meall Glas track and east to the Sgiath Chuil track. As I was hoping at least to add Beinn nan Imirean at the end, I had decided on going anticlockwise and headed toward Sgiath Chuil. Come to think of it, I always seem to go anticlockwise .
I headed through a gate and passed two highland cattle at close quarters. I think they thought I had food as they followed me a little too closely – I did try to explain to them that I didn’t have anything for them but don’t think they quite understood (must be the Glasgow accent ). Fortunately there was another gate to go through and I was clear of them. The path was great and I was walking along at fair old rate in the mist wondering where all the bogs had got to – then realised that I missed the turning and was close to the mast at Dun Riobain. Memo to myself - when WH says “Do not cross this burn but instead leave the track”, it means just that, ie don’t cross (daft thing was that I had read this beforehand but wasn’t concentrating as I walked along in the mist).
So, about turn and I headed back down, over the river then through the gate to follow the path up the side of the Allt Riobain. Now I understood why so many reports talked of the bogs which were sometimes very squelchy – that said, it was wet and muddy but probably not as bad as I was expecting. I followed the track beside the river and up the hillside making sure not to cross the river. It was boggy lower down but once on the higher ground and past the trees it wasn’t so bad. Once on open higher ground, I got out of the mist and there were good views back towards Ben More with the mist still sitting lower down in Glen Dochart. I also started to get my first views of the day’s hills as I cleared the lower ground and trees. Further away I could see towards Ben Lui and Ben Dubhchraig.
There’s a good track up which starts further east along the A85 at Auchlyne and I met the end of it close to a small dam in the Allt Riobain. It’s about 5 miles long and I had considered mountain biking it but decided that it wasn’t worth the extra hassle. I also didn’t know beforehand whether it would be iced up or not.
After the dam I headed NE over the moorland towards Sgiath Chuil. There was snow on its upper reaches with some frosty conditions lower down. I maintained this course avoiding the crags of Sgiath Chrom to the SE and picked my way up between Sgiath Chuil’s higher crags. It was very steep at times and the snow made it a bit harder than usual. The snow was mainly soft but there were also drifts knee deep. In some parts the surfaces of the drifts had iced up but there weren’t enough of these to warrant putting on crampons.
I went round and up to the summit and cairn where there were great views south to Ben More, east to Ben Lui and round to Ben Challum. I had something to eat and took the usual photos before heading off initially towards the north and Meall a Churain.
On the map it looked like I could start to head west down the steep side of Sgiath Chuil at roughly half way between it and Meall a Churain; I started to head west in that direction but the snow drift surface had iced up and was sloping down towards the edge. I then retraced my steps back heading a little towards the south and then went initially SW then west down the side; it was still steep and covered in snow drifts but with help of my ice axe it wasn’t as bad as my first intended route had looked.
At this point I decided that I would aim for Plan 2 and leave Ben Challum off for another day – this meant that I was able to slacken off a bit knowing that I should have more than enough time to complete the route. With hindsight, taking it a bit easier wasn’t the best plan as I was to discover on the Meall Glas ascent. I got down to the bhealach between Sgiath Chuil and Beinn Cheathaich although I was planning to skirt past Beinn Cheathaich to the south and go straight to Meall Glas. The ground was boggy with peat hags but the going wasn’t too bad despite the snow and their semi frozen state.
I came round below Beinn Cheathaich and started to head towards Meall Glas. Looking upwards as the mist started to close in, the steep sides of Meall Glas seemed to look worse than the Sgiath Chuil descent.
I headed up the slope but as it got steeper and steeper and I had to drop back down, move westwards then go back up on two occasions before I found a route which I could manage in the snow and ice. Looking back on it, I think I had started to climb up Meall Glas too soon and should have gone further to the west. I found a way up under the 908m top and on the way up, the mist occasionally cleared to give a good view over to Ben More.
I walked west then NW along to the summit cairn. During this time, the conditions were getting a lot worse and I could hardly see at all due to the low cloud and snow with not much hope of getting any decent pictures from the summit cairn.
The map showed that I had to avoid the crags to the west of the summit so headed to the south. On reaching a point just above Meall Glas Beag crags, I went a little to the west then SW towards the moorland which would then lead to Beinn nan Imirean.
The cloud and mist cleared and I could see my final target clearly. It looked as though there were two possible routes up; the longer one up the SE ridge and shorter one going more or less SW and up from where I was on the slopes of Meall Glas. I opted for the latter but decided I’d assess the snow and slopes when I got closer. Apart from a few slippy sections in the snow, the rest of the descent of Meall Glas and the crossing of the moorland between the two hills was fairly straightforward.
When I got to the bottom of Beinn nan Imirean the slope upwards looked steep in places but didn’t look bad enough to warrant taking the longer route up. I then headed up towards the summit with only a few tricky sections due to snow and ice. Reaching the top I was once again in the sun and had great views again all round. However, the wind had now increased quite dramatically and I could see dark cloud approaching from the north.
I had something to eat and drink, took the usual photos and then headed off SE towards Meall Garbh and back to the car. The cloud was now rolling overhead and there were some snow flurries but nothing serious. I found, and then lost frequently, traces of a track on the way down in and out of the snow. The afternoon sun was shining through the clouds over to the west.
Again the ground was boggy with peat hags and it wasn’t long before I was back down on lower ground. I skirted round to the east of Creag nan Uan and headed down the usual Meall Glas return track to Auchessan. This return route was less boggy than the original route up to Sgiath Chuil. When I arrived back at my car, the other two cars were still there with no sign of the other walkers. I could remember seeing some footprints further back in the snow but hadn’t actually met anyone all day. Boots off and changed, I headed off into the late afternoon sunshine back to Glasgow for my dinner. It was a great day for my first hillwalk in the snow after more than 20 years.
by Stretch » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:57 pm
by malky_c » Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:50 pm
Some good photos there too, although you may need to work a bit at the colours - some of that looks like the album cover from Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy!
- mountain coward
by Graeme D » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:24 pm
by rockhopper » Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:04 pm
stretch & malky - Yes, I'll need to work on the colours but am still experimenting at the moment
mc - with hindsight, I may have been better approaching Meall Glas from the NE by going up Beinn Cheataich first
graeme - just realised I don't have a picture of the corbett on its own in the WR so will post it later; not the first time I've gone off track (even in excellent weather) and won't be the last I suspect
monty - Ben Lui has a great shape normally but even more striking in the snow I think; my moving time from the gps was 6hrs 12 mins so not fast but I was enjoying the route
- mountain coward
by rockhopper » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:59 pm
Beinn nan Imirean picture I mentioned above
by baggervance » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:10 pm
Fab pics. Ben lui looks brill, one I want to do soon in the snow (with my ice axe, of course )
by davetherave » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:00 am
I will read this report again when I get home. It's not the same trying to read and view on a 3.7" screen.
by rockhopper » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:02 pm
thanks dave - I haven't done a lot of walking over the last 20 or so years but am starting to get back into it - my last hillwalk in the snow was Ben More and Stob Binnein in mid March 1987
- mountain coward
by LeithySuburbs » Sat Nov 20, 2010 6:19 pm
Anyway, this is a good day to get under the belt. I did the 2 munros from this side and found the boggy approach and descent a bit of a drag - not sure I would have had the motivation to add the Corbett of I had done it anti-clockwise like you.
by Stretch » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:48 pm