In the first chapter of "The wind in the willows" Ratty declaims that " there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." I feel much the same about the Scottish hills. I've done almost all the "named" hills within a days drive of St..Fillans, so I tend now to potter around trying to find "secret" corners where nobody else normally goes.
Creag Mac Ranaich is one of my local Corbetts. I've never done the standard route up Glen Kendrum as I don't know where to park, but I've followed the defunct railway track North from Glen Ogle and the various routes through the forest into Glen Dubh heading for either Mac Ranaich or Meall an-t-Seallaidh at least ten times. it's a nice easy walk, but for the first hour or so you are heading almost directly away from your target - a bit frustrating
The last time I was on top I looked down the easy looking broad ridge leading to the shoulder of Meall Sgallachd which lies almost due South of Lochan Lairig Cheile and thought there must be a direct way up to that.
1. SUPERDIRECT (start)
The map makes it look quite benign, but the terrain above the railway looks anything but, so I did a bit of reconnoitring taking some photos (in stunning autumn colours) before making any plans
Photos of the old railway and the terrain above from various points on the A85
The rounded peak on the left of the bottom photo is Meall Reamhar and the way up to it looked quite grassy, but I thought first I would try going straight up from near the lochan. Parking at the first lay-by on the left as you drive North over the pass, you can scramble easily down on the to the cycle path (old railway) just above this old bridge.
Heading up R here and then immediately L brought me to the top of the bridge at the edge of the (recently felled) forest, where a faint path headed L and then up.
Not great looking terrain
A nice path upwards
The good path didn't continue for long, but a faint trod continued to where the gradient eased off
Looking back down
A bit above, the landscape flattened out and I was clearly headed for the notch in the skyline. I had always planned to go up between the two burns(on the map) so I crossed over, but the going was just uniform thigh-deep heather. The terrain across the burn to the R looked better and after crossing back I found an almost continuous deer track leading straight upwards close under the outcrops which flank the valley.
Looking up to the notch
Looking down again
Good views of the Tarmachan group
An almost continuous deer track led upwards
The track took me up away from the burn and once I was past the outcrops I headed R towards the summit of Meall Sgallachd. However I had only gone 20m or so when there was a very loud roar from not far above. There were a lot of very animated deer running everywhere and strong odours where the stags had marked their territory. I felt that coming face to face with a rutting stag was not a good idea so I changed tactics and continued on the rising traverse just above the notch.
Looking down to the watershed at the notch
Looking up to Meall Sgallachd
Zoomed - a lot of deer
Another stag crossing the horizon
I crossed an old fence line and was now looking down Glen Kendrum to Stuc a Chroin and Beinn Each
Above me Meall Sgallachd looked quite impressive
A closer view
Mac Ranaich across the valley
Mac Ranaich was now right in front of me but in mist, and having previously been sheltered fom it I was now exposed to a bitterly cold wind. Given these factors and the excited deer, and since I had shown that the route was feasible I decided to retreat, heading South across the notch and over the flat-topped unnamed 616m mound beyond.
The mist lifted, but I was not tempted to go back
Instead I decided to descend the next ridge South to see if the terrain was any better: it wasn't - but I got a nice view of the lochan and returned quite easily to the "old" bridge and the car - total time ca. 3 hours
Two days later the weather started fine again and I decided to head up the green slopes towards Meall Reamhar - and "see where I got to"
This photo is taken from a "pull in" on the A85. The old railway is protected on both sides by wire fences but I had already established that there is a gap (to get on) at the N end of the main viaduct and a metal gate (to get off) just beyond the second. I could probably have started from here, but not knowing where I would descend I chose the same starting point as before and walked down the railway to the gate.
This unlocked metal gate allows access on to the hillside
Through the gate I followed the fence round to the L for about 50m and came out at the foot of a pleasant green slope - mainly grass and bog-free
There was a short steepening but it presented no problems
I continued up the slope trending R and after crossing a short stretch of heather I was back on nice grass right to about the 550m mark
Looking back down from above the steepening
A short heathery traverse
then back on grass
Looking back down from near the top
The ridge up to Meall Reamhar looks all grass - but I needed to be further R
I arrived quite suddenly on the flat heathery plateau and headed across over the 616m mound and up towards Meall Sgallachd
S to Meall Reamhar
Around the same place that I'd reached two days before
Mac Ranaich looks quite impressive from here - but at this time of year you need to be up quite early to see the sun on it
I tried to traverse round from here to the col at the head of the glen, but it was too difficult and I was forced up to the summit of Meall Sgallachd
Summit of Meall Sgallachd looking S
The way ahead
The wind on the top was bitter, and a very nasty looking grey cloud was approaching from Killin: the storm hit me on the col and I sheltered behind a rock for ten minutes and watched the hailstones flying past. Eventually however, the sun returned and I pushed on following a faint path up the broad ridge to the summit. I had a feeling that I would not be staying there long, so finding a sheltered spot below the last climb, I stopped and took some photos.
Ben More and Stobinian
Down Glen Dochart
South down Glen Kendrum
On the summit I just had time for a couple of quick snaps, before the next squall arrived - sleet this time.
Summit cairn looking W towards Ben Lomond
I battled back down the ridge able only to look down at the ground, but eventually the wind became so strong that I decided to head down R into the head of the glen. I found shelter, but the ground was quite steep with waist deep heather and large boulders with holes between . It took an age.
Looking down into the head of the glen
I decided to descend "superdirect" and once on the glen floor below the boulders contoured round towards it. But the wind was still driving sleet in my face and I missed the line and headed down between the two burns. In descent however, heather is much less of a problem and I returned to the car in just under 5 hours
Looking back: Meall an-t-Seallaidh is plastered in white but the much higher Vorlich group were not
Curiously the "Naismith" times for the two routes 1hr 36 for Superdirect and 1hr 38 minutes from the metal gate for Direct are almost the same - though you have to walk down the railway for the latter, but they're both much shorter than the standard route (2hr 50min) Going over Meall Sgallachd (rather than up the glen) looks much the best way
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