Well the day started good but sometimes you have to know when you've bitten off more than you can chew !
Driving along Loch Earn after an unusually early start, the skies had some blue in them setting off the snow covered tops but the breaking waves on the loch suggested a bit of a breeze. Mild to excess and for once there was no rain.
We parked at Inverarnan and walked up the river Falloch to the gate of the rail and pylon service road that leads west from the A82. Not dog friendly and locked and I was ignominiously howffed over it. A pleasant wooded section of the track gained height and split, the lower fork making its way down to the rail bridge, while the left fork climbed in lazy zig-zags up the shoulder of Troisgeach Beag to fork again after a big pylon. Our route turned right promising shelter from the wind.
Usually we are not shy about breaking onto the open fell and the rougher ground but today the amount of water coming off the bogs was impressive. Every stream was swollen and white and every hollow filled. We opted for the firmer ground of the service track and wandered west into Gleann nan Coaran, No sheep today but plenty of deer which are always fun to try and move awaytome. This is a very pleasant walk, the glen road , high on the side of the hill looking down on the torrent of the Allt an Caorainn and the Dubh Eas even with the juxtapose of the pylons, the road and concrete water intakes against the stark, snows and pastel greys and browns of winter, this glen feels remote. No greens of spring here as yet. Below the NW shoulder of Sgairneach Mor, the track falls to the NW following a massive water pipe and a small track , a remnant of when they built the culvert and still used by estate ATVs, can be found that follows the line of water intakes into Coir an Longairt . Today these were in full spate and it took a bold jump to clear the water cascading out of the overspills. At the very last intake at the foot of the corrie the track ends and rough tussock and deer ground leads on. You have a choice here, following the corrie burn uphill on either the right hand or left hand side, if you chose the right hand side you cross the top of the little intake dam. We chose the left bank which was to cost us later.
The amount of water and saturated nature of the ground meant that crossing the burn was going to be challenging so we followed it as it ascended , gradually being pushed further onto the shoulders of Sgairneach Mor and Meall na Caora and away from the peak (the other bank would have pushed us toward the peak). With height the amount of snow, as expected, increased. Unfortunately, and this is what did for us, it had the consistency of a slush puppy and in places I could not get any purchase, sort of stuck in a snow slush pit! A couple of times he dragged me out of a hole standing up to his waste in brash, swearing as he complained about getting his boots full.
Sometime during our ascent the wind picked up and by the time we had reached Mean na Caora it was full on , making progress a series of lurches from bucket to bucket as we searched for lines of least resistance or perhaps most firmness which at times meant he gave me a shove up onto small rock steps.
I think the last straw was wading into one of the little lochains on the plateau below Meall na Fhudair , what appeared to be a snow field was a cunning trap. Luckily he was wet through already ! We found some shelter in the lee of a small outcrop, collapsed in a drift and reached for the flask and sandwiches, share and share alike now ! He looked at the map, his watch and decided that was enough for today and after another couple of Bonio's we were off to retrace our steps back into Coir an Longairt, much easier going down ! We did stop once to dig in the snow for some reason which was good fun but to be honest I was pleased to be back at the track so I could check the deer out again.
Long walk back along the track to Inveranan and the car where I got a rub down and he found something dry to wear and then a quick visit to the Drovers where I got a seat by the wood stove absolutely fabulous.
So we didn't make the top, to be honest the last bit, maybe a 150m or so would have been the difference between a good day out and an epic, discretion, summit fever and all that. I was struggling in the deep soft stuff and the old man was just about done in and that top feels a long way from home . Next time, might be rabbits !
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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.