The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday 30 April 2018

Meall Mor, Sgorr a'Choise and Meall Lighiche

Meall Mor (NN106559; 676m), Sgorr a'Choise (NN084551; 663m) and Meall Lighiche (NN094528; 772m)

Distance: 9.3 miles
Ascent: around 1300m
Start point: parking area on A82 at NN 12000 56368.
Weather: Glorious start, with some clouds building later. Almost no wind.

What a perfect day for this circuit, which on paper looked quite hard going, with around 7.5 of its 9.3 miles being pathless.

Glorious start to the day!

Mick wasn't going to join me on the hills today, but set out with me to keep me company as I walked the private road along the glen. We also set out with a chap called Steve, who happened to be leaving the parking area at the same time as us.

We'd not gone very far along the road when I saw what looked a good line up my first hill (having decided, after much deliberation, to tackle this circuit anti-clockwise). Thus, I left Mick to continue on with Steve, and off I veered, to tackle the steep E side of Meall Mor. For about 200m of ascent in the middle of the slope, it is too steep for the Ordnanace Survey to fit all of the contour lines onto the map, but the terrain underfoot was friendly, so it didn't feel too bad as I hauled myself up it.

The summit was a fine spot to sit and enjoy a croissant whilst taking in the outstanding views (although the croissant itself, spread with jam, would have been better if it hadn't been sitting in my lunchbox next to some pepperoni; it was an 'interesting' flavour combination and not one I'll be eager to repeat. See Footnote 1).

Onwards to Sgorr a'Choise I then went, descending the easy S shoulder of Meall Mor to get there, from where I got a good view of the striking shape of my next objective:

Photos never do these things justice, do they?

I got distracted by a trodden line (complete with recent boot prints) on my way up this hill and followed it until it disappeared a short while later. That left me on a line that I wouldn't have chosen had I not been distracted by the prospect of a path. I found more evidence of trodden lines on my way back down (after a lunch break and more admiring of stunning views), but opted to just take a straight line rather than trying to follow any of them.

"What are you doing here? I don't expect to find anyone on these hills!" was the opener of the leader of a group of four who I met on my way down. They were enjoying a linear route over to Ballachulish. I had also considered a linear route, but had decided to go for the circuit so as to give myself the option of including the third top. A good choice, as my legs and lungs felt up to it, so after descending to another pass, up I headed again to the Corbett of Meall Lighiche.

The route I'd intended to take (a decision only made as I approached the pass) is more or less that shown in blue (it's difficult to be too precise when drawing using my finger on a phone screen, but it gives the general idea). I managed to follow the intention for a while, but then could see no reason why I couldn't just attack the hill head on. Once again it was steep, and a bit soggy and slippery in places, but it got me to the top without incident.

As I stood on the top, Mick was just having a cup of tea with Steve who had returned from his outing up the very hill upon which I was now standing. My pause there was long enough to shove another sandwich into my mouth and to change into dry socks (bliss! See Footnote 2), then down, down, down I went. My feeling at the time was that I hadn't picked the best line of descent, accidentally straying onto steeper ground than necessary, but as I looked back up from the bottom, I don't think there was much to choose between the intention and the reality.

Once across the river at the bottom, it was but a few more steps before I was on a track, which, after a detour around some houses, became a road. There I found Mick walking towards me, ready to hear about what a crackingly good day I'd had.

(Notes :
1. The croissant-stored-next-to-pepperoni was not as bad as the incident in 2012 on the Pacific Crest Trail when our granola had been in a resupply parcel next to some washing powder. Both had been doubled bagged, but even so, for a few days we had no choice but to eat granola that tasted strongly of laundry detergent.
2. I wore boots today and was happy to have them as I sploshed through the boggy bits. However, there was also a lot of dry terrain today and my feet were so hot that I would have been more comfortable in my mesh slippers (aka Inov8 Terrocs).