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The Tarmachan Ridge

The Tarmachan Ridge


Postby mountain coward » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:52 am

Route description: The Tarmachan Ridge

Munros included on this walk: Meall nan Tarmachan

Date walked: 19/10/2009

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We finally got a good day on our Lawers trip so it was decided it must be Tarmachan day! It was sunny and warm as we left the cottage but we noticed as we parked up down the quarry track there was a very cold north wind. We set off briskly to try to get warm. What looked initially like it would be a long and tedious ascent to the first top went surprisingly easily and quickly.

Just before the top there was a small peaked section which gave great views back down to the road through the pass and Meall Corranaich. Good job we stopped there for a moment as when we reached the top slightly after, it was far too cold to stop even for a second. We continued down into the dip and to the fence. From there the ascent of Meall Tarmachan (the Munro) looked ferociously steep. It was. The first bit of the ascent was fine but short and then you reached an extremely steep bit of stone-pitching. The stone-pitching was quite awkward as, probably due to its steepness, the steps were very narrow and pretty much sloping outwards. As I have big feet it caused some difficulty.
Meall Tarmachan fm its top.jpg
Meall Garbh's SEastern Crags.jpg
Meall Tarmachan's top from Munro summit.jpg


After the steep bit you then rake across to the right under crags on a very easy and relaxing path. Before you turn back for the ridge and the summit, you get another set of superb views towards the pass, now looking very far below. The path then loops easily back to the main summit. From here the views are astounding! Every peak of the Tarmachans is spectacular and beautiful and there are pretty little lochans scattered amongst them.
Meall Garbh and nan Eachan.jpg
Beinn nan Eachan.jpg
The whole area is quite small and so there is a lot of interest crammed together. My camera was out and clicking away madly all the way to the col before the very pointy Meall Garbh.
The Pointy Meall Garbh.jpg


The ascent of Meall Garbh was so short and easy we were on the sharp pointed summit in no time. It literally seemed no effort at all. From the pointy top there is a drop down the side on a short rocky bit (probably about 6 feet down)- on squeezing down it I dislodged one of the flasks from my side pocket, luckily it landed nearby! There is then a short, narrow arête but, although the sides are steep and it is quite a big drop on the left, there is no actual exposure as there is a bit of a ledge before the drop.
Meall Garbh summit ridge.jpg
Looking back along Meall Garbh summit ridge.jpg



I then sent Richard in front as we headed off for the steep descent and ‘the scramble’. The path headed towards what looked like a huge drop and then turned right alongside it – it was a big drop on the left and looked pretty sheer. We then reached ‘the scramble’. Richard set off down it followed by me, by now already low to the ground and smearing down the rock. The freezing wind had now picked up in strength and was blowing into my eyes so I couldn’t see a thing for them watering... gusts were tugging at me as I huddled above the drop. The rock was sloping outwards and very polished so I felt that at any moment I could just slide off over the edge. I could see a guy in front of us walking along the path below the scramble and thought he’d managed it okay. Richard then stopped – he was on top of a sheer drop of probably only around 8 feet or so but below the uppermost jutting rock, didn’t appear to have any kind of holds whatsoever. He moved onto a slab across the gully to see whether there was a better descent that side but said there was just a vertical and greasy, mossy slide down a gully that side.

By now I’d had enough. “I’m going back to find another way” I said, predictably. I headed back up off the scramble and onto the path. I decided that before I headed right back up to the alternatives I’d already seen before the summit, or even down the north face of the mountain, I’d investigate the steep grass below me to the north. I saw there was a path traversing to the right below me but it looked to have a drop immediately below it as it was still over part of the scramble crag. I looked round and was surprised to see Richard heading towards me having also given up on the scramble – must have been bad – he likes that kind of thing!
The Silly Route.jpg


I pointed out my path to him and he set off along it. I was convinced there was danger below it and couldn’t bring myself to join him on it and paralleled the path on the grass just above it. When I got to the point where I could just see steep grass below his path I joined him. It took a perfectly sensible zig-zag route down to the col just past the scramble. Of course, we went back to it to have a look up it. Much easier in ascent I think, I’d certainly have given it a go in that direction.

We then left for Beinn Eachan – we could see the guy in front of us was already on its summit. A couple with 2 dogs passed us in the opposite direction so we hung around waiting to see what they would do – take the sensible zig-zag path or do the scramble. Meanwhile I took a few photos and studied the two descents – to me it was madness for anyone to have ever gone up the crag instead of the plain grass slope to the left of it! The dogs were up the scramble in a flash and running backwards and forwards for ages while their owners fished around underneath. After quite a few minutes (probably about 10) we saw one of the humans had made it up the scramble but couldn’t see the other. We eventually saw they’d both made it and went on our way.

At the summit of Beinn Eachan we caught up with the guy who’d descended before us and I asked him if he’d managed the scramble. He said that, not only had he not done it, but he’d been stood below us pointing us to the zig-zag track down the grass... Unfortunately we were looking elsewhere at the time!
Meall Garbh fm nan Eachan summit.jpg


Beinn Eachan had been another very short and easy ascent but as we headed to the descent it again looked horribly steep. I was hoping there wasn’t another craggy scramble but was relieved to see that there was an excellent path zig-zagging down to the next col. We sat on the col in the sun and out of the wind and had a break, eating Richard’s excellent tea-loaf and drinking tea and coffee.
The Mighty Beinn nan Eachan.jpg
Beinn nan Eachan & Meall Garbh.jpg


The route across this col was slightly longer and more humpy but still no effort. The climb up to Creag na Caillich was barely noticeable.
Creag na Caillich.jpg
We decided not to backtrack to the previous col and descend to the quarry track as most do, but to do the whole ridge south to the other track which joins the quarry route. This was a great route apart from one section where, purely for bravado I’m sure, the path took off round the side above the eastern crags which at this particular point were huge! The track was narrow and muddy and literally on the edge of a huge drop. Again I asked Richard to move out of my way as I was going back and over the peak on a sensible grass route instead. He continued on the silly path.

The path then went west down the back of the ridge and then back round to a col from where a very short and easy descent (if a little boggy) went down to a weir and the start of a vehicle track back.
Creag nan Gobhar (end of Caillich Ridge).jpg
The trek back on the track, about 2.5 miles, was the only part of the whole day which seemed tedious and was very hard on the legs. We worked out that the route was about 10 miles and 2670 feet so an easy day...
Tarmachans fm waterworks track.jpg
Last edited by mountain coward on Sun Jan 02, 2011 1:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby monarchming » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:17 am

Hey MC and as usual a very detailed report which makes enjoyable reading.I know you are the "Mountain Coward" but the two areas that you mention you had difficulty in and you took an alternative route I didn't think were that bad.In August I was out with my wife,Mingsmissus and some of her work colleagues who managed both sections fairly well with a bit of guidance.It was only my wifes fourth Munro and she loved it but since then she has done the Aonach Eagach so she must be gaining in confidence! :D I traversed the full Tarmachan Ridge a few years ago in deep snow which was a fab day out but I suppose we all have our own opinions of which mountains are trickier than others. :thumbup:
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby sloosh » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:56 am

mountaincoward wrote:The freezing wind had now picked up in strength and was blowing into my eyes so I couldn’t see a thing for them watering...

Be honest now, it wasn't really windy, was it? :lol:

I'm impressed, mc, that you did the Tarmachan ridge and had a go at that scramble (I call it the 'Wall of Death'). :)
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby Mrs T » Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:55 am

So you did have one decent day during your trip! I think this ridge is really weird! We did this the other way around (somehow it seemed to make more sense) and I remember having a moment of doubt seeing that scrambly bit. Did manage it (no points for style), and only few words of engouragement were needed, no 10 minutes of persuasion, let alone raised voices or threats. But certainly wouldn't fancy going down it.
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby Paul Webster » Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:23 am

It's funny but I prefer going down bits like that probably. Though very inelegantly, with use of the bum. I find my backside can work like velcro.
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby mountain coward » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:06 am

I'm a firm believer in my bum and nearly always face outwards... plus, being tall, I have a very long reach. But I really didn't like the polished, outward sloping rock. I would certainly have got up it though - far more traction, very unlikely to slip, can see where you're headed. Going down, you're not sure where you're heading as it's hard to see below you, whereas, going up, the next bits are eye-level or just above normally...
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby mountain coward » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:34 am

monarchming wrote:Hey MC and as usual a very detailed report which makes enjoyable reading.I know you are the "Mountain Coward" but the two areas that you mention you had difficulty in and you took an alternative route I didn't think were that bad.In August I was out with my wife,Mingsmissus and some of her work colleagues who managed both sections fairly well with a bit of guidance.It was only my wifes fourth Munro and she loved it but since then she has done the Aonach Eagach so she must be gaining in confidence! :D I traversed the full Tarmachan Ridge a few years ago in deep snow which was a fab day out but I suppose we all have our own opinions of which mountains are trickier than others. :thumbup:


Yes, but not everyone is afraid of heights/scrambles - some people (i.e. her work colleagues), if they're not used to walking in the mountains anyway, often don't realise there is any danger and will quite happily be directed down almost anything if someone tells them it's okay (don't know if they walk in the mountains normally or not of course). Your missus obviously doesn't have any fear of heights. Richard is much the same - I often think he isn't afraid of anything much as he doesn't really understand the risks involved - he has a lot less experience than me. I often think it also depends on how many bones you've broken - Richard for instance has only just broken his first one last year in the mountains... I've broken loads in falls and know how awful it is! That kind of thing, and the fact that, having osteoporosis, I really can't take even a small fall again or I will be smashed to bits, tends to put me off!
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby monarchming » Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:45 am

Yep,fair enough on some points but as you put it you turned around on the silly path and anyone with or without experience could see it was a bit of a drop but ultimately it is their choice.My wifes' colleagues have varying degrees of experience and all felt comfortable with going on that path.I can appreciate that you have had a few broken bones in the past and want to be careful but I don't totally agree with the idea that the less experience you have that you don't fully understand the risks.Mingmissus done the Aonach Eagach ridge for her ninth and tenth Munros and whether or not she has a head for heights I can assure you she understood the risks involved! :) As I said we all have our own opinions on what we consider to be a scramble,exposed path etc and yes some of us have a better head for heights than others. :thumbup:
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby MiniRambo » Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:03 pm

Hi MC, I'm with you on this one. When we did this ridge a couple of weeks ago, we almost had to rename the scramble 'mutiny ridge' as half way down we had second thoughts. The stone was greesy and sloping away from the hill and whatever else there was of the path was soft, crumbling shale. I agree, it would be a bit easier to go at it uphill.
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby Paul Webster » Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:12 pm

I reckon there are loads of MC's out there who get nervous at the tricky bits. Alot of guidebooks are written by very confident mountaineers who underestimate how some walkers find things. It's me to some extent, and certainly Helen. And then there alot of other people who find a bit of height/scrambling very easy.
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby mountain coward » Fri Oct 23, 2009 12:39 am

I think the only guide book writer I've ever read who did comment on himself being very experienced, and said that him saying something was fine didn't mean to say many walkers would find it fine, was Irvine Butterfield in the preface to his "High Mountains..." book.

The only thing I can say for myself is that I've got slightly better at scrambling and (some) exposure with experience but it really seems to mostly depend on how well I know an area... as I don't previously know the areas I'm doing Munros in, that means I'm always going to be over-cautious and wary... I'm much better in the Lake District...
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby yokehead » Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:10 pm

A great report MC and good to see you were able to cover the whole ridge. 8) many just go for the Munro so miss out I feel. Tarmachan has very fond memories for me since it was the first ascent of my recently-started hill career and was seen most days when I was based in Killin on my visits. I first climbed Tarmachan with my son, Chaz, a year ago tomorrow. We'd planned to do the ridge but were turned back because we could hardly stand in the wind, it was a wonderfully wild start to our week and looked like this:

118_1853.jpg
looking from Tarmachan to Lawers

We both climbed Tarmachan again, but directly from the dam this time (a route I recommend) in our Feb 09 visit as an alternative when our planned drive to Glen Lyon was thwarted by snow on the road over the pass. Snow again and the first time of using crampons for Chaz. Again we turned back from the ridge traverse because of snow storms gathering in the north west, but it was still a great day:

IMG_2294.jpg
approaching the summit of Tarmachan from the north

The following day we were back again on the first day of our winter skills course. After the basics this covered steep ground around Cam Chreag and a direct climb to the summit of Meall Garbh. From there we headed south and out on the track as you did. So 3 visits to the ridge but I've still to go back to do the full round! It is a great place with lots of scope.
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Re: The Tarmachan Ridge

Postby mountain coward » Sun Oct 25, 2009 10:55 pm

I'm pretty sure I'll do at least some of the ridge again. I'm planning sometime to go up the ridge which ends up on the back of Beinn Eachan, do Meall Garbh the other way so I can have a go at going up the scramble instead, and then descend the ridge which goes from the back of the Munro to the far end of the reservoir - looks a nice horseshoe...
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