This is a walk that I'd pondered as a theoretical possibility several times over the past few years while idly perusing OS Landranger Sheet 50 (yes, okay, I'm a complete maps anorak; there is probably better reading material for the toilet ) but which I doubt that I'd ever actually have attempted were it not for the Viral Pandemic From Hell. However, with the hills (well, those not in one's own council area) just having been given the big re-opening the preceding Monday, and with a week's Annual Leave that coincidentally fell at just the right time (we'd hoped to go away somewhere but nae such luck just yet ), I thought that I might celebrate the re-opening with an Appin Hat Trick. Beinn Sgulaird was one of the few relatively nearby Munros that I still had to do, but I was keen to combine it both with the adjacent Corbett, Creach Bheinn, and with that intriguingly remote Sub2K Marilyn, Beinn Mheadhonach, that sits way out in the Back Country between Sgulaird and Bein Trilleachan, almost equidistant from the heads of Loch Creran and Loch Etive which makes it one truly remote wee hill . Not being by any means a mountain athlete, however, that definitely meant taking my tent along, which would at least get round the accommodation issue at present . I see from the forum that a lot of other people seem to have had similar wild-camping notions, in fact.
Beinn Sgulaird is "Hat Mountain", so this was an Appin Hat Trick, geddit ?!!?!
Anyway, the weekend of the 24th and 25th April was blessed with wall-to-wall sunshine, but then the weather was forecast to turn during the Monday and to be dismal for the rest of the week. I had family commitments on the Saturday 24th, so I opted for Sunday 25th and Monday 26th, doing the bigger walk (the Marilyn and the Munro) on the good-weather Day 1 and leaving the more straightforward Corbett for the dodgier-weather Day 2.
Somewhat to my surprise, it mostly went pretty much to plan.
I managed to squeeze my car into the last remaining space in the lay-by just north of the north entrance to Druimavuic House, at the head of Loch Creran, and set off on the ATV track that is the standard start of the ascent route to Beinn Sgulaird. It leaves the road just north of the north driveway leading to the house itself, as shown in this photie:
The cairned path leading up Sgulaird's long southwest ridge leaves the left-hand side of the ATV track fairly soon, but I sauntered on blithely past that (well, maybe not that blithely, since I was lugging my tent plus associated paraphernalia ), and set up camp in lower Coire Buidhe, almost exactly halfway between the start of the Sgulaird path and the Sgulaird / Creach Bheinn bealach, on a nice flat bit of grass with a grand view over Loch Creran . I could have cut down a bit on descent and re-ascent by camping higher up I suppose, but I thought it might then get a tad parky overnight, to say nothing of having to lug the tent even further uphill!
It was a real relief to set off again up the ATV track with a much lighter pack, and it didn't take me that long to reach the Sgulaird / Creach Bheinn bealach. This turned out to be a pleasingly monumental spot, with a cairn made for giants (but presumably actually made by a JCB or similar!), constructed out of huge boulders, and with a spectacular view over the Starav group of Munros, the Cruachan massif and the top end of Loch Etive.
It was something of a relief to see wee Beinn Mheadhonach exactly where it should be, standing directly in front of that shapely Corbett Beinn Trilleachan, and with Ben Stavros loooming in the distance over Trilleachan's shoulder.
I traversed down over pathless but surprisingly easy grassy terrain, heading generally north-eastwards towards the south end of the Sgulaird / Mheadhonach bealach and then gaining Mheadhonach's easy north ridge (its only easy ridge!) from there. The recent dry weather probably helped a lot - I suspect this grassy terrain isn't nearly so "easy" after recent rainfall ! There was an interesting view of the impressive southern aspect of the Wee Buachaille on the way down.
From the lower Sgulaird / Mheadhonach bealach, Beinn Mheadhonach itself was now looking decidedly more impressive. It isn't actually that far short of Graham height, after all, despite being dwarfed by all its surrounding giants!
Despite the rather depressing significant loss of height between the Sgulaird / Creach Bheinn bealach and the Sgulaird / Mheadhonach bealach, it wasn't that long before I was on the way up Mheadhonach's north ridge. Despite the physical effort, this was a very pleasant (although pathless) ascent on the whole, with interesting bits of granite pavement - by all accounts quite similar to what Beinn Trilleachan is like, although I've yet to climb that one.
Apart from its remoteness, the other thing that had attracted me to Mheadhonach was its position on the map - it looked as though it should have a ringside seat for various impressive lochs and mountains. And indeed, it didn't disappoint! The summit itself is marked not by a cairn, but by a single big squarish boulder sat on top of a much bigger boulder - I'm not sure if this has been through human agency, or whether it's just a handily placed Glacial Erratic. It's a nice touch, anyway.
Loch Etive and the Cruachan massif viewed from Mheadhonach summit:
Me in my sexy brown sunhat at Mheadhonach summit (I think I got that hat in a dodgy shop in Lanzarote for about 1 Euro 50 a few years back! - cheap at the price ):
I had ample opportunity to recce my route up Beinn Sgulaird as I descended again to the Sgulaird / Mheadhonach bealach. Despite the somewhat terrifying amount of descent and re-ascent (that's one LOW bealach!), this actually looked a remarkably straightforward and direct, although unrelentingly steep, route up Sgulaird: as the map suggested, I could see that there was an obvious grassy route all the way up to just north-east of Sgulaird's main summit, heading up the right-hand (north) side of an obious stream gully.
And it was pretty much as straightforward as it looked, although it WAS a real unrelenting slog, and I had to stop for regular breathers - sorry, that should be "photo opportunities" . This was the view back across to Mheadhonach, with Loch Etive and the Cruachan massif in the background:
Eventually, I did eventually top out at the high bealach between Sgulaird's main summit and its northeastern Corbett Top. The ascent up the stream gully had been pathless (although easy enough navigationally), but at this point, I picked up a good path that made short work of the small amount of remaining ascent to Sgulaird's big summit cairn. Wow, what a viewpoint !
This was the classic view down Loch Creran, with the Isle of Lismore just a bit out to sea. There is a memorial stone in the cairn to "DLS" - I'm not sure of the back story to this, but I can't imagine a lovelier place to be remembered.
Looking back from Sgulaird summit to Loch Etive and the Cruachan massif:
And the Three Stooges again: wee Mheadhonach, middle-sized Trilleachan, and my favourite Big Fat Greek Munro, Ben Stavros himself:
A grand view of the Glencoe giants:
An into-the-sun Sgulaird summit selfie, sans Hat this time! Well, maybe Sgulaird itself is hat enough...
It was hard to tear myself away from the summit with its views, and to set off down the Munro's undulating and surprisingly rough south-west ridge. At least the views remained excellent, by way of distraction. This was the classic view of Sgulaird's steep sided summit ridge, as seen during ascent of its first southern Corbett Top, the appropriately named "Meall Garbh" ("Rough Lump").
Meall Garbh is one very Rough Lump indeed, though, being strewn on both sides with nasty boulderfield with clear ankle-twisting potential. I was pretty peched by this stage in the day, so I took it slowly.
The next Corbett Top to the south, the catchily-named Point 863, is a much nicer prominence than Meall Garbh. Although it's still fairly steep, it has a fairly good path, better views, and a decidedly more impressive cairn than Meall Garbh's scrappy (or maybe just crappy) effort - which is actually rather surprising, given the amount of potential cairn construction material that Meall Garbh sports! Anyway, this was the view out to sea from Point 863's cairn:
At this point, I parted company once again with the True Path . The well-trodden descent path heads off down Sgulaird's easy southwest ridge, but I needed to get down to that Coire Buidhe ATV track much higher up, so that I was well ABOVE my tent rather than well BELOW it! The track was clearly visible below, but it was a rather tricky descent this late in the day, down steep grassy slopes broken up by some intermittent but scarily large crags. I took my time again, and it was straightforward enough given the excellent visibility. I definitely wouldn't have wanted to attempt this in Clag, or even more so in fading daylight - if I'd been just an hour or so later, I could have been in real trouble here. As it was however, I got down to the track without incident. There was an interesting view on descent of the start of Creach Bheinn's northwest ridge, which would hopefully be tomorrow morning's target: thankfully it looked much more straightforward than Sgulaird.
I took my time sauntering down the track (well, I was knackered by now!), but this meant that I got to enjoy a really lovely sunset over Loch Creran when I eventually got back to my tent:
This was my first solo Wild Camping expedition, and I was worried about how well I'd sleep, but of course I needn't have fretted: after the day's exertions, I pretty much slept like a dead thing ....
I woke up later than I'd planned, got changed and forced down a rather hurried breakfast, then set off back up Coire Buidhe to tackle the Corbett. As per forecast, the Weather Had Turned, and it was all looking much greyer :
I was still pretty bushed after the big day on the Saturday (well, big by my standards anyway!), and it was quite a relief once I reached the Sgulaird / Creach Bheinn bealach at the head of the ATV track, to pick up an intermittent but undoubtedly useful path heading on up the Corbett's northwest ridge - really more than I'd dared to hope for! The first two-thirds of the ascent are really straightforward, over a Graham Top that I think is called Creag na Cathaig - this bit of my OS Landranger 50 map is now rather weather-worn and has legibility issues! The last third of the route, however, involves tackling a second, much steeper-sided top, that loomed rather intimidatingly through the Clag:
It briefly started to rain quite heavily at this point, and I managed to lose the faint path at a boggy section, so I was initially stumped as to how to get up that thing. However, I tracked westwards (left-wards in the photo below) for a short distance, and picked up a steep but straightforward grassy ramp that got me up safely enough. The "official" route taken by the path, however, is straight up a steep stream gully right on the nose of the thing, as I discovered on descent...
Once up that wee steep bit, it didn't take me long to get to the Corbett's summit trig point. The Weather Gods must have taken pity on me, as the Clag briefly cleared to give a bit of a view down Loch Creran after all. This must be another spectacular viewpoint on a properly clear day!
And a final Summit Selfie With Interesting Hat, my eponymous bobble one this time:
It was a straightforward descent back to the ATV track, which was probably just as well since it started to rain really heavily on the way down, and the wind picked up too - plus I was pretty knackered by now. Once on the track, I was actually quite worried that I might walk right past my tent in the driving sleety rain, but thankfully I found it okay and it hadn't blown away ! I stopped inside for a quick fifteen-minute breather, then decamped and headed off down the remainder of the ATV track back to my car, which I reached shortly before 5 p.m.
On the whole, I was fairly chuffed by this point with how the outing had gone - I'd gotten all three target hills done and survived the solo wild camping without incident. Or so I thought ....
Unfortunately (although it was a kind thought), someone had clocked my car sitting in the lay-by overnight, thought that I might have come to grief on the hill, and phoned the police. Also, having rolled over in the small one-man tent overnight and severed the connection between my wee portable powerpack and my mobile phone charger, my phone was low on charge and I hadn't realised that by now it had completely died ! When I eventually got it charged up, I discovered to my horror that I had about five texts from Police Scotland ... Luckily, they had phoned my home number and gotten my wife, who was able to explain that I was just wild-camping, and since I'd texted her from the tent on the way down before my phone died, she was also able to tell them that I was okay. I was therefore spared the embarrassment of the MR being called out. Definitely a learning point for the future, however - I think I will leave a note on my windscreen the next time I go wild camping, and also make sure that my phone is charging up somewhere that I'm not likely to roll over on it in my sleep ...
A fantastic way to celebrate getting back onto the hills, all the same !
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