I pass these munros every time I visit the folks and thought it was about time I stopped to climb them. Usually I just want to get home to make the most of my time up north but this time I was having a stop off in Inverness to take in the Hamish MacInnes: Final Ascent documentary among other things.
So setting off at the crack of dawn from Oban I headed north on a rather wet Saturday morning and according to the weather forecast it was not set to improve much all day. That's what I get for a bit of advanced planning! As I arrived at the starting point I was the only car to be seen being the only person daft enough to pick the wettest weekend sandwiched between a gloriously sunny fortnight. I sat in the car and contemplated whether it was worth getting out or if a days shopping in Inverness might be better. Saturday in Inverness…hmm…the rain still seemed fairly light although the cloud was a bit low.
I couldn't put it off any longer so I donned the waterproofs and boots and after double checking my WH instructions headed off across the bridge and along the great glen way. The rain still drizzling it was a very humid day and I felt pretty hot under my waterproofs heading through the forest. The track didn’t seem as long as described and once past the chalets I soon came to the fork in the road and headed off to the right. This is a very straight track with not much view out through the dense forest. There were just a couple of places that gave a view across the loch. About 20 minutes after the fork I came to the small track heading up through the forest. I could see two people ahead on the main track with a dog which gave the mountain ahead some great perspective.
I turned up the track which steepened as it went up the hill. Further up there were a few waterfalls through the trees. The track eventually comes out to open hillside and I could see across Loch Lochy much better now with the ribbon of red and white barriers standing out clearly marking the forestry track on the other side of the loch above the A82. I could now see ahead up to the beallach and the line of low cloud not far above it. I thought I would head up to the cloud line and see how things were but knew from the instructions there would be a path for most of the way on the first hill at least. No point thinking too far ahead as it was still persistently drizzling.
I reached the beallach and could see the path heading off to Meall na Teanga. Just a little further was a small cairn and the path up Sron a Choire Ghaibh.
The path is a very wide zigzag and rises pretty steeply but in less than 5 minutes I was in thick mist and couldn’t see a thing. I had taken a bearing at the crossroads just incase but wasn’t keen to navigate in this thick mist for too long if the path disappeared, especially on my own. Even looking back down from the crossroads I hadn’t seen a soul behind me. The wind had picked up creating a sudden drop in temperature so I put on my gloves. As the gradient relented the footpath headed uphill in a straight line and eventually petered out just as I came to a small cairn. As the drizzle continued I got out the map and instructions and checked how far it might be to the summit. Even in this thick mist it didn’t seem that long. I didn’t want to give up if I was really close so I took another compass bearing and counted steps holding the compass. I was very quickly at the cliff edge and new without getting to close I could just follow this to the summit. 260 steps it took me from the cairn so it really wasn’t far. I was so delighted to get to the summit cairn but it was a chilly wind and still pretty miserable so I didn't linger for long as I was too busy thinking about finding the footpath again.
I contemplated using the compass backwards to save getting my map out again but quickly thought better of this and took the time to take another bearing. I held out the compass in front of me in the thick mist but thankfully could still see the edge of the cliffs on the left as a guide and to be on the safe side counted my steps back again. I was only about 10 steps out and was so happy that even in the mist I found the cairn marking the spot roughly where the path started again. There were two cairns I’d forgotten.
Once I got on the path proper I felt I could relax a bit and I haired on down the hill coming out the mist a little higher than where I’d been before. I was still swithering about whether to do the second munro but by a stoke of luck Meall na Teanga which although only 20m below the munro I had just been on seemed to have a lot less cloud on it and I could see the path heading right round Meall Dubh towards my destination.
Back at the beallach it was a quick decision to head across to start the ascent once more to Meall na Teanga. The rain was much lighter and although every so often the wind picked up there were also sheltered spots. I crossed the peat bogs which were nothing and was soon making the final ascent up the slopes in and out the mist. I came to a cairn marking the start of the plateau across to the summit. I took a bearing but this time I could see a little further and the summit cairn soon came into view. As I crossed to the summit I got a sneak peak of loch lochy below but by the time I got my camera out it was away again.
Although not that windy it was cold enough for me not to linger too long on the summit. I waited to see if I’d get a better view over the back but instead the cloud just increased so I gave in and started heading back across the plateau and down the footpath. My wet gloves were causing my fingers to get really cold. I thought no they’d be fine but I eventually gave in when they started to sting and dug to the bottom of my pack for my winter mitts. Instant heat for my freezing fingers. I continued down the slope and looking across to Sron a Coire Ghaibh the cloud was now a little higher and I could make out a very large zigzag across the hillside looking like Zorro had left his mark. Just at the junction with the clouds I could spot a red dot and a yellow dot, company! Well maybe distant company which quickly disappeared into the clouds. It looked like they may have a better view than myself but then the cloud seemed to lower again.
I was soon back at the beallach and junction between the two munros. with a lovely view back to the loch. The winter mitts came off and as I came back to the forest it was very warm. This time I spotted a lovely waterfall and took a few photos. Just as I came to the gate a couple with a dog came looking for the waterfall and were very pleased when I said it wasn’t much further. That was my only contact for the day.
It didn't take me long to get back onto the main forestry track and just when I decided I'd had enough of it I was almost back at the car. A satisfying day in the end that would definitely be worth repeating in better weather. My highlight of the weekend though was catching up with the family though and taking them to see Hamish MacIness: Final Ascent on the Sunday. Highly recommended.
Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.