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]

Friday 8 October 2021

Dún Coillich (NN762536; 572m)

Start Point: Community Land car park to SE of summit.
Distance and Ascent: 4km and 290m
Weather: low cloud and light rain (of the sort that really soaks you).

Looking out first thing in the morning to find that the cloud was so low that we couldn't even see the far side of the road adjacent to which we were parked, I was thankful that I'd been up Meall Tairneachan in the sunshine yesterday afternoon. Originally I'd planned to do it this morning, before going on to the more modestly sized Dún Coillich, and it would undoubtedly have been a miserable and largely unrewarding outing in the conditions prevailing.

So that left me with just Dún Coillich to tackle, which I was confident was going to be quick and easy, given that I'd read that there was a waymarked trail leading from the 'community land' car park all the way to this summit. It was the knowledge of the waymarks and a path the whole way that had me decide to go packlessly, taking just my phone, so as to reduce the amount of stuff that would need drying afterwards.

The waymarks turned out to be so plentiful that it would take a serious lack of attention to get lost...

Green with white dots trail to the right (the one I was taking), green and white stripes straight on.

...but whereas I'd pictured an engineered path, the reality was a narrow trodden line variously through grass, heather, bracken and bilberry. Aside from the amount of moisture that got transferred from the plant life onto my legs, I had no complaints about the nature of the path. I did, however, have a slight beef about the weather. In view of the wetness, I was wearing full Paramo, and with the temperature having risen so much compared to the rest of the week, I soon found myself seriously aglow.

The angle of incline can't have helped with temperature management (I had all of my vents open and, at one point, my sleeves pulled up, in spite of the rain), although I didn't come to notice how steep sections of it were until I came down them. No wonder I'd felt so slow on the way up!

With no reason to tarry at the summit, after taking a couple of snaps, I hotfooted it back to Bertie. There I returned the map leaflet, showing the waymarked trails, to the leaflet box and looked around to no avail for a donation box for the community trust that has provided such a good recreational amenity.

That's the last hill of this trip. I wonder if I'll be able to squeeze any more in this year?

Thursday 7 October 2021

Wednesday 6 October - Schiehallion and Meall Tairneachan

Schiehallion (NN713547; 1083m)
Start Point: Braes of Foss Car Park (£2 all day).
Distance and Ascent: 10.8km and 750m
Weather: Excellent, if a bit cool first thing.

We were just up the road from Schiehallion yesterday morning when I noticed that the forecast for today was excellent. In the middle of a week of wet windiness, we were to have a day of calm sunshine. It thus seemed to me that it would be wasteful not to grab the opportunity to pop up the most notable hill hereabouts.

Knowing it to be a popular hill, we opted for an early-ish start, arriving in the Braes of Foss car park at ten to seven, just as it was starting to get light. That gave us the pick of the spaces, as we were the first vehicle there, although only by about a minute.

A couple and a singleton set off up the hill before us and got a good headstart as we first paused for breakfast, following by a period of bag-faffing, before getting ourselves out the door at ten to eight.

The summit was hidden by cloud as we ascended and we started taking guesses as to what time it would clear (11am, I reckoned, when we were on our way back down). By and by we gained height (always a good thing when visiting a summit!), climbing up to meet the cloud. At least we'd had a good view for the first 600m of ascent, we said. 

To our surprise we soon popped out above the cloud and by the time we reached the top the cloud below us was breaking up considerably. We thus sat on the summit picking out places we've walked before (most notably our TGO Challenge route from 2009).

Above the cloud

Fine sky up here! 

After a flask of coffee, and a chat with the singleton chap who'd set out before us (along with his 10-month old dog, whose first Munro this was), it was time for the inevitable: we had to face the horrible bouldery rockiness in the other direction. 

Selfie at one of the possible high points. Cairn where we'd had coffee (and Loch Rannoch) behind me. 

I like a good boulder field, but this wasn't a good boulder field by my definition. The size of the stones was largely 'rocks' rather than 'boulders' (again, in my book; I accept that other people's definitions of these things may vary) and it went on for far too great a distance to be any level of fun.

We'd not long cleared the rocks when we met a chap (carrying nothing) and a woman (carrying a handbag). Her response to our greeting was "Is it really still morning*? I feel like I've been on this mountain for days.", which didn't bode well for her feelings when she got to the end of the excellent engineered path and onto the rocks. (*It was only 1030.)

My comment that the path wasn't as busy as I'd expected was premature. Just around the next bend the snake of people heading up commenced. We returned to a car park containing far more cars than there were spaces (i.e. they were abandoned on every bit of verge that was big enough for a car).

We, of course, took care to make sure that we parked neatly, so that we weren't taking up any more than one car's worth of parking space. Unfortunately, not all the cars were so considerate. I reckon you could have squeezed four cars in there if they'd parked better.

With the car park so busy, and people still arriving, we didn't stay put for lunch, as I would have liked, but freed up our space for a car that had just arrived.

Meall Tairneachan (NN807754; 784m)
Start Point: Lime Kiln Car Park
Distance and Ascent: 7.25km and 550m
Weather: Fantastic!

The reason that I'd wanted to have lunch at Braes of Foss car park was that I was minded to have Mick drop me off at the quarry track, about 2km north along the B846 from the Lime Kiln car park. Mick could then return to the Lime Kiln and I would walk a horseshoe to finish there. That would have made my walk up to Meall Tairneachan easier (track almost all the way and no undulations).

Of course, I could still have asked Mick to drive me there after lunch (and he would have obliged, because he's a jolly nice chap is Mick), but by then I'd had a change of plan. This hill wasn't originally on the agenda for today, but as we were back from Schiehallion well before noon, and given how good the weather was, it would have been a waste to sit around in my PJs for the rest of the day, only to trudge up this hill in the rain tomorrow. However, I wasn't entirely sure how much I really wanted the extra exercise today, and if Mick dropped me down the road, then he would immediately have to drive off, removing any easy way for me to abort the outing. If I ascended from the Lime Kiln instead, then if I found legs or head to be unwilling, I could simply turn back.

Happily legs and head were perfectly willing and the going was pretty friendly too (an ATV track to NN78593 54527, then relatively easy walking through not-too-deep not-too-tussocky bilberry and heather), even if it was a bit more undulating than I'd noticed from my quick glance at the map. (I'm sure the descents on the outward leg wasn't as big as the re-ascents on the return!

Looking in this direction, the landscape put me in mind of the Rhinogau

My opinion by the time I reached the trig point... 

...was that this hill is far nicer and more pleasing a walk than Schiehallion had been this morning. Whilst Schiehallion is undoutedly a striking hill to look at (if viewed from an angle from which it presents itself as a conical lump), I personally struggle to see any other reason why it's so popular. It probably goes without saying that I didn't see a single person (even from a distance) on Meall Tairneachan.

Another benefit of this hill over Schiehallion is that it has Schiehallion in its view (as well as a huge number of other lumps and bumps, on such a clear-aired day)

Monday 4 October 2021

Monday 4 October - Meall na Leitreach

Start point: Small parking area next to the level crossing at Dalnaspidal
Distance and Ascent:  8.3km & 430m
Weather: A promising start, but deteriorating to rain and low cloud as we ascended, only clearing for brief periods for the latter part of our return leg.

I'd somehow missed this low-hanging-fruit of a hill adjacent to the Drumochter Pass on our previous trips up and down the A9, but having noticed it during my map perusals on Sunday, I put it on the agenda for today.

A group of six set off up the track just a minute before we stepped out of Bertie, and got a head start on us as the level crossing lights turned red just as we finished locking Bertie up (after not a single train had passed whilst we'd been sitting there having a pre-walk cup of tea). We soon caught them up and discovered they were off to a Corbett further up the glen. 

For us, we veered off to follow an ATV track (horribly soupy in places, but easier than yomping through heather) that led us up to, and then along, the ridge. All we then had to do was to veer off on the trodden path for the final 100m or so to the summit cairn.

In an unfortunate repetition of yesterday's outing, after a promising start to the day, the cloud had descended as we ascended and a prolonged shower had hit. At least it wasn't windy today, but it would have been nice to have had a view from the summit as, once again, we knew it would offer a good one. 

I predicted the summit would be clear by the time we were back in the glen, and so it was, although the showers continued at regular intervals. Thank goodness, once again, for Bertie's shower room being so well-suited to housing wet gear!

Decent weather as we started ascending

Summit selfie

Cloud finally starting to lift as we're on our way back down


Sunday 3 October 2021

Sunday 3 October - Meall nan Eagan (NN596874; 658m)

Start Point: Pull-in on corner of minor road and A889 to N of Dalwhinnie.
Distance and Ascent: 11.25km & 400m
Weather: More rain than dry, with a very small amount of sun. Windy on top.

In the middle of October 2019 we set out to walk The Fara and Meall nan Eagan, but were thwarted on the second half of the walk by a shoot in progress. Finding ourselves just up the road from Dalwhinnie this morning, I thought we'd have a second go at it.

The fact that we were close and that it made sense to go and bag it was in conflict with an attack of laziness and it took us most of the morning to get over the latter issue to finally get out the door to head in the direction of our hill.

Once off the road and heading up the glen, we took the lower track to skirt the estate buildings and just the other side I suggested climbing back up to the upper track. We were just about to do that when we remembered that the track forded the river a few times, which made us think we should stay low after all (neither track is marked on our aged 1:50k mapping). It was only when the track crossed the river for the third(?) time, and a landslip impeded our progress on the N side, that we climbed up higher and found that the upper track was a much better bet, albeit it soon descended and forded the river again.

At each of the ford points there was a bridge, however, they aren't permanent and are currently all laid parallel to the water, thus being of no use to us. We weren't inclined to wade, so we just stuck to the N bank. It wasn't difficult terrain.

Not bad weather on the walk in. Overcast, but decent clarity.

Crossing a flat expanse that wasn't as boggy as I'd feared it would be from a distance*, we were finally at the point of being able to attack the hill. As is often the case, we stood looking at it, discussed and agreed the best looking ascent line, then ignored everything we'd just said and headed straight up.

Until we were about half way up that final climb, we'd only caught the edges of a couple of showers that were so light as to not get us wet. Then it started raining in earnest and, with remarkably bad timing continued until we were back down in the glen again. So, our visit to the top was brief so as to minimise the time spent getting blown about and lashed by the rain. 

Not the best summit selfie ever taken. As seen behind us, with the rain came curtailed views; a pity as it'd be an excellent viewpoint otherwise.

It's a pity the sunny interval that followed the rain didn't save itself until the final ten minutes of our return leg, so we could have dried off a bit before getting back to Bertie. As it went, the respite from the rain was brief and we dripped our way back into Bertie's layby. His shower room is now festooned with wet stuff that doesn't stand much chance of drying in today's temperatures (daytime high of 9 degrees) and the afternoon's forecast sunny intervals have not materialised.

(*Bog wasn't an issue for me today as I'd decided (unusually, for me) to wear boots. Mick, however, had discovered as he was shoeing up for the walk that whilst the boots he'd bought could be described as a pair (there was a left and a right and they were both Salomon's), they didn't match, one being old and holey and the other being what he intended to bring. Quite how neither of us noticed in the process of packing that he was bringing one black and one green boot, we'll never know. As a result, he wore his trail runners.)