Golden Grahams! Meall Odhar & Fiarach from Dalrigh

Grahams: Fiarach, Meall Odhar

Date walked: 05/01/2022

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 19km

Ascent: 1025m

Finally, life may be getting just a wee bit back to normal :) - in the past, I'd always liked to try to fit in a Grahams outing in early January to blow the cobwebs away, but I think this is the first time that I've actually managed it since 2019. I did do Duncolm from my front door in Second Lockdown last January, but I don't think that counts :roll: !
Yet again, I'd had to cancel a foreign holiday (the plan had been for a few days in Malaga just after the New Year), and rather than just ending up blowing the Annual Leave days sitting at home, we decided to go away with our pals down the road for a few days at one of the lodges up at the holiday park at Inveruglas (the ones with hot tubs advertised from the side of the A82; very nice I must say :D ). The weather forecast was unexpectedly good for the Wednesday 5th January, so I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to bag one or two of the smaller hills up near Tyndrum. Plan A had been to do the popular Corbett-plus-Graham combo of Beinn Chuirn and Meall Odhar, but by Tuesday there looked to be rather more snow on the hills than I'd bargained for, and on reflection I didn't much fancy tackling the steep eastern flanks of Beinn Chuirn from the bealach with Meall Odhar under ice or snow :? ...
I thought therefore that I'd try to get an early start, and attempt the two Grahams, Meall Odhar and Fiarach, which are both usually done from the same starting point of the walkers' car park at Dalrigh, although they are in opposite directions. It would be a relatively lengthy outing and a fair bit of ascent for a short early-January day (particularly with my residual post-Lockdown de-conditioning, exacerbated by the excesses of the festive season :lol: !), but with an early start I thought it might be just about feasible - I could always bail out after the first hill if it had taken me too long.

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I arranged to get dropped off at the Dalrigh car park so that the rest of the group could have the car for the day, and set off westwards nice and early at 08:20.
As described in the SMC Grahams book, there are two good routes up Meall Odhar from Dalrigh. It is possible to leave the Cononish farm track at a very early stage to ascend directly up the hill's eastern flanks past the old lead mines, or alternatively to head a good way further west down the track to just short of Cononish farm, and then ascend the hill via the second break in the forestry to the north side of the track. The route described in the SMC book goes up by the latter and down by the former. Given the limited daylight that I had, however, I opted to go up and down via the break in the forestry just east of Cononish Farm, since that looked quickest.
Although I therefore missed out on seeing the old lead workings close up, there is an interesting roadside sign all about them on the north side of the Cononish farm track, just a bit west of the houses at Dalrigh:
WR1 - sign about Newton and the Tyndrum Lead Mines.jpg

A bit further west again, the track passes under the West Highland railway line, and just afterwards the first target hill came into view. "Meall Odhar" just means "Brown Lump", more or less, and it would have to be said that its name fits it well - it looks decidedly less impressive than the pointier Corbett, Beinn Chuirn, which sits just to its west, complete with the impressive Eas Anie waterfall on its southern flanks. Still, a Graham is a Graham!
WR2 - a bit further along the track and Beinn Churn looking impressive - Meall Odhar perhaps a bit less so.jpg

As well as being the Cononish farm track, this is of course also the track that leads to the recently re-opened gold mine on Beinn Chuirn's south-eastern flanks; apparently small deposits of gold may occasionally be found pretty much anywhere around this area. I kept my eyes peeled all day for any nuggets that might just happen to be lying about in the vicinity, but sad to say I came home at the end of the day no richer than I'd set out :( ... Ah well, maybe next time.
One bit of gold that I did encounter, however, was a very impressive sunrise over Beinn Chuirn and the majestic Ben Lui just a bit further south-west:
WR3 - remarkable sunrise colours on Beinn Chuirn and on the left on Ben Lui.jpg

Slightly further up the track, there was a lovely view of Ben Lui and of the Eas Anie waterfall on Beinn Chuirn, from a bend in the river not long before the start of the Meall Odhar ascent:
WR4 - lovely view of Ben Lui and Eas Anie from bend in river not long before start of Meall Odhar ascent.jpg

When I reached the second break in the forestry before Cononish Farm, I was initially a bit worried about whether I might have to scale the deer fence to the north of the track, but thankfully there is a short side track that leaves the main track to the right, ascending to a high metal gate with a wooden ladder style to its left. After climbing the ladder style, there was a second line of fencing with a metal gate that could, to my relief, be opened and closed without having to climb it!
After that it was a pathless but straightforward ascent up through the grassy pasture to a firebreak in the forestry at the top, which is visible in the photo below just a bit right of the top left corner of the pasture area:
WR6 - Ascent route up Meall Odhar from second break in the forestry with the firebreak clearly visible at the top.jpg

At the start of the ascent, the view of Ben Lui with its impressively rocky eastern Coire Ghaoithe under snow inspired genuine awe: no wonder they call Ben Lui the "Queen of Scottish Mountains"!
WR5 - Ben Lui with Coire Ghaoith inspiring awe on Meall Odhar ascent.jpg

Although remaining pathless all the way to the summit, it was a straightforward enough ascent, although there was another two lines of low fencing to be climbed just short of the forestry, and the terrain then predictably got rougher during the ascent up the forestry firebreak, with general tussockiness and occasional bogginess to contend with. Soon enough, however, I was up at the first Graham's rather flat summit environs. Although it isn't the pointiest of hills, Meall Odhar did prove to have some very impressive views from its small but perfectly formed summit cairn :) .
Beinn Chuirn was looking rather dark and brooding from here, immediately to the east - also rather steep and icy, and I was very glad that I'd already decided to give it a miss :roll: !
WR7 - at Meall Odhar diminutive summit cairn with Beinn Chuirn looking dark and brooding - also steep and icy.jpg

The second target Graham, Fiarach, was easily visible in the middle distance back east, with the Crianlarich Munros all lined up on the horizon:
WR8 - Fiarach in middle distance and Crianlarich Munros on horizon.jpg

A distant view of the impressive Beinn Dorain, with a whole lot of snow on these hills just a bit further north:
WR9 - distant Beinn Dorain from Meall Odhar summit with a lot of snow - Beinn Odhar group of Corbetts on R.jpg

Looking southwards, there was another grand view of Queen Lui from Meall Odhar's summit cairn, with the stony dome of Ben Oss just a bit to her east (i.e. on the left of this photo):
WR10 - Ben Lui and Ben Oss from  Meall Odhar cairn.jpg

The inevitable Summit Selfie, with Her Majesty Ben Lui in the background:
WR11 - me at Meall Odhar summit with Beinn Chuirn and Ben Lui in background.jpg

Enough with the photography already - I had another Graham to climb, if time and daylight allowed. I headed straight back down the same way that I'd come up. It was a straightforward descent and it didn't feel as though it took very long, but by the time I'd negotiated the various fences and the ladder style over the deer fence to get back down onto the Cononish farm track, it was 11:20 a.m. - a bit later than I'd ideally hoped. If I was going to have time to tackle the second Graham, I'd have to make it a quick march back to the Dalrigh car park :roll: ! At least there were still excellent views in all directions by way of encouragement, with Beinn Chuirn and the Eas Anie now looking particularly impressive in the late-morning sunshine:
WR12 - back down Meall Odhar now and with Beinn Chuirn and Eas Anie looking impressive in late-morning sunshine.jpg

I hot-footed it back to the Dalrigh car park, being passed by some heavy vehicles from the gold mine en route, and checked my time. It was 12:15 p.m. when I reached the car park - that should still give me just over four hours of daylight to do the second Graham, so I decided to give it a go.
The route to Fiarach leaves the car park in the opposite direction, on the south-eastern track that crosses the River Fillan at a big stone bridge a few hundred metres east of the car park, and then back-tracks westwards just north of the West Highland railway line, along the edge of a patch of forestry lying immediately south of the rail line. The track eventually crosses the railway by a stone bridge just a bit west of the edge of the forestry. The route in the SMC Grahams book suggests following the main track further west and then cutting back east up a line of fencing to gain Fiarach's broad north ridge about halfway up. I took a more direct route, however, heading up a grassy ATV track that branches off directly south from the main track just after the bridge over the railway, heading more directly up Fiarach's north ridge as shown in the somewhat into-the-sun photo below:
WR14 - rough ATV track branches off north up Fiarach just after railway crossing - but soon peters out.jpg

Another into-the-sun shot of the Munro Beinn Dubhchraig, with the attractive Coille Coire Chuill ancient pinewoods on its north-eastern flanks:
WR13 - Beinn Dubhchraigh and nice view of Coire Coille Chuilc pinewoods at start of Fiarach ascent.jpg

Unfortunately the grassy ATV track petered out all too soon, by the side of a small burn flowing down Fiarach's north ridge, and from here on it proved to be quite a slog up the Graham's grassy but steep and tussocky north ridge. It took me longer than I'd hoped, and I started to worry a bit about the available daylight.
I stopped halfway up for a breather and a pork pie, as you do, and enjoyed a fine view of distant Beinn Dorain, with attractive winter hues in the varied terrain in the foreground:
WR15 - nice view of Beinn Dorain in distance on Fiarach ascent and fine winter colours.jpg

Higher up, the slope thankfully started to level off a bit, and I found this lovely row of icicles along the rim of a small peat hag, with Ben Lui looking down from the west:
WR16 - lovely icicles with distant Ben Lui.jpg

Although it is marginally lower than Meall Odhar, Fiarach has a much more extensive summit plateau, stretching out for a long way to the south, and featuring the very scenic Lochan Fiarach en route. Just as the slope finally started to level off properly, I was relieved to pick up a line of fencing that provided a very handy navigational marker, stretching all the way to Fiarach's summit which was still further than I'd expected, away in the distance to the south of the lochan:
WR17 - attractive cloudscape over Lochan Fiarach with Fiarach summit visible now in distance on right.jpg

Although its long flat summit plateau doesn't initially promise an impressive summit, Fiarach's immediate summit environs in fact prove to be both scenic and geologically interesting, forming the highest point on a natural dolerite "wall" that stretches out for a fair way to the northwest and southeast, presumably being the weathered remnants of a volcanic dyke. This is rather reminiscent of the interesting line of quartzite on the northern flanks of the Corbett Beinn Udlaidh just a bit further north near Bridge of Orchy - a different kind of Igneous Intrusion I daresay, but possibly both stemming from the distant Mull Supervolcano back in the day?? I'm not sure whether that is quite accurate, geologically speaking, but it's a nice thought anyway.
Ben More and Stob Binnean as seen from Fiarach's airy wee summit cairn, with the other Crianlarich Munros lining up to the south-west:
WR18 - Ben More and Stob Binnean with other Crianlarich hills from Fiarach summit.jpg

Looking back northwest towards Meall Odhar and Beinn Chuirn:
WR19 - Meall Odhar and Beinn Chuirn from Fiarach summit.jpg

Looking north towards Beinn Dorain, with the distant Glencoe giants covered in a shedload of snow today by the looks of it:
WR20 - Fiarach summit looking N - Beinn Dorain and distant Glencoe giants with a lot of snow.jpg

Looking directly west to Beinn Dubhchraig, with the summits of Ben Oss and Ben Lui just poking up in the distance:
WR21- at Fiarach summit looking towards Dubhchraig and Oss.jpg

Me at Fiarach summit, resplendent in my very stylish Bobble Hat as advertised :lol: !
WR22 - me at Fiarach summit with bobble hat.jpg

I had no enthusiasm for stumbling down Fiarach's north ridge in the dark, however, so I made tracks straight back down the way I'd come up, with just a brief pause halfway down to get some shots of a beautiful sunset over the hills to the north.
Sunset over Beinn Dorain and the Corbett Beinn Odhar (not to be confused with the Graham Meall Odhar!):
WR23 - sunset view of Beinn Dorain and Beinn Odhar on descent.jpg

Just a bit further east, there was a good view of Beinn Chaorach (a Corbett in the Beinn Odhar group) and of the less craggy but higher Munro, Ben Challum:
WR24 - sunset view of B Chaorach and B Challum on descent.jpg

Thankfully I made it back to the track with a bit of daylight to spare, and I was back at the Dalrigh car park in time for my lift back home at 16:20 p.m. It therefore took me exactly eight hours - a relatively long day for early January, but it certainly didn't disappoint :D !

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Activity: Mountaineer
Pub: Kilchoan Hotel
Mountain: Cir Mhor
Place: Arran
Gear: walking poles
Member: none at present
Ideal day out: A multi-peak walk with good views.

Munros: 216
Corbetts: 38
Grahams: 41
Donalds: 19
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