First Taste of Winter on The Easains

Route: Stob Coire Easain and Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin

Munros: Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin, Stob Coire Easain

Date walked: 19/11/2017

Distance: 17km

Ascent: 1210m

Life has been getting in the way of our walking recently. It has been well over a week since the first snowfalls, we are surrounded by snowy mountains, feeling sick with envy at all the walk reports and still not getting a taste of the white stuff :( . At last, we had a chance to get out, we could only hope that the snow would wait for us! :lol:
The Easain Munros had been on our to do list since last winter and we had originally planned to approach them through the Birch Woods leading up to Creag Fhiaclach but given the real possibility that we would be descending in the dark we decided to follow WalkHighlands route past the sheep pens.
The Route

The daylight was breaking on our drive to Fersit and we could see lots of white summits :D, including a very snowy Creag Meagiadh. By 8am, the car was parked and we were walking along the track towards Loch Treig. As we passed The Birch Woods we had a look at our original planned route. It looked like it would be very rough going in places, we were rather relieved that we had decided to follow the alternate route, especially given the damp conditions underfoot and short daylight hours.
The weather forecast was promising, low winds, good visibility and the possibility of sunshine. As we approached Loch Treig patches of blue sky were appearing amongst the clouds.
Morning at Loch Treig

It was not long before we could see Meall Cian Dearg above us.
Meall Cian Dearg

There was a very strong farmyard smell in the air as we approached the sheep pens and I had an uneasy feeling that we were about to be ambushed by aggressive cattle, :lol: but If there were cattle lurking on the hillside we must have given them the slip, as they never materialised.
The ATV track ran above the stream and although it was very muddy and faint in places we didn’t feel it would pose any real difficulty coming back in the dark. Apart from the muddy track the area was very attractive with a number of small water falls.
Water fall above the stream crossing.

We initially followed the track across the stream but looking back saw a path on the right hand side of the stream, so after a bit of dithering crossed back again. The path turned out to be a more aesthetic route leading directly up to the bealach and then turned left past the hydro pillar and up the nose of Meall Cian Dearg.
Nose of Meall Cian Dearg

From the Bealach we could see the snowy summits of Beinn a’Chaorrain and the Creag Meagiadh Range.
Beinn a Chaoriann

We had read, in a couple of places, that the nose felt like a grade 2 climb in winter conditions :-? but there was no snow on it today and Walkhighlands described a path all the way up so we should be fine :D. There was just one problem, the path was a frozen stream :crazy:, but the ice was not thick enough for crampons. Microspikes would have been ideal, if we had them! We don’t.
I made a right meal of it, accompanied by a party of noisy mice :lol:. I was very glad that the only other people around had by now disappeared into the distance and there was nobody about to witness my antics. In hindsight I should have put the trekking poles away and treated it like a scramble.
An icy path

Can you spot the mice

Finally we were at the top and as we walked onto the plateau all the snow topped mountains suddenly loomed up before us. We had been transported into a winter wonderland and fears about missing the snow were vanquished.
The Easain Ridge
The Grey Coirries

Meall Cian Dearg was covered in a beautiful hoar frost which encased every individual blade of grass. As we approached the ridge the frost was replaced by snow which crunched in a most satisfying manner underfoot.
The Ridge Leading to Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin
11:50 Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin Summit


As we passed the first Munro summit the visibility was excellent and we could see our route stretching out in front of us,
From Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin to Stob Coire Easain

A superb ridge, hidden away from the more popular ranges, and quite spectacular in its earlier winter coat.
Stob Coire Easain

The final ascent

Not expecting huge amounts of snow, we had brought crampons but not ice axes with us. As we approached the top of Stob Coire Easain there was enough snow for the narrow path to feel slippery and exposed so we decided to put them on. I have to confess to secretly enjoying walking in crampons, it always seems a touch bizarre to have great spikes on your feet and feel secure walking in adverse conditions 8), but my smugness did not last long as the first thing I did was to rip my trousers, a timely reminder to take care before a more serious trip occurred.
Before we reached the final Munro summit the cloud had closed in and the excellent visibility we had been enjoying was now a veil of mist :( . Despite this we enjoyed our respite on the cold summit.
13:00 and a brew on Stob Coire Easain
Jeremy Jetboil has gone into hibernation and our winter brew kit was put into action boiling snow for our lunchtime soup.
The cloud was not going to clear so refreshed and revived we made easy work of the descent in our crampons.
Descending from Stob Coire Easain

Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin to reascend

It felt like hard work for tired legs having to make a reascent of Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin but by 14:30 we were past it’s summit and letting the snow bring out the inner child as we stamped our way down the other side :lol:.
The Descent from Stob a’Choire Mheadoin


Rather than descend the steep icy path on the nose we decided to traverse around the north west flank of Meall Cian Dearg. It was very rough terrain, heather, boulders, gullies, bog, but it was not overly steep and the bog was partially frozen.
A Traverse of Mheall Cian Dearg

The steep path would have probably been quicker, even with me wimping about on it, but at least this way was not scary. By the time we were round on the final bealach there was just enough light to locate the path leading to the hydro pillar, before we needed the headtorches to read the map and our remaining night vision was lost.
Looking for the Path in the fading light

Following the ATV tracks by torchlight was not difficult but in places there were several tracks veering off in different directions so we needed to keep an eye on our compass bearing. Once we reached the stream navigating became easier. Although we unable to see it in the gorge when the path became less distinct we were able to follow the sound of the running water.
We reached the sheep pens without incident and from there it was a good track back to the carpark, which we reached at 18:15.
I am so glad the snow waited for us and these hills gave us such a superb first taste of winter. As I am finishing this report there is still snow out there and a whole winter season ahead of us. :D

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Comments: 7

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