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]

Saturday 4 May 2024

Creag Meagaidh (1130m) and Beinn Chaorainn (1052m)

Thursday 2 May
Start Point: Creag Meagaidh Nature Reserve car park
End Point: track end by Roughburn
Distance and ascent: 21.8km, 1350m
Weather: Mainly sunny. Warm when in sun and out of wind; cold when out of sun and in wind. Unpleasantly windy atop Beinn Chaorainn.

We needed to vacate Newtonmore Hostel's parking area for a couple of nights and, rather than parking Bertie out on the road, we opted to take him for a minibreak.I knew Creag Meagaidh's car park to be a good place to spend the night, and I had unfinished business with the hill (I aborted a visit to it in mid-May 2018), so this is to where we came.

It seems that most people opt for a circuit (plus out-and-back spur) to include two other Munros to the NE, but they aren't as interesting to me as other hills nearby, as they're not Marilyns. More interesting to me was nearby Beinn Chaorainn, which (it seems) most people combine with Beinn Teallach. The latter is also of interest to me, but I didn't want to overdo it, considering that I also did what I believe to have been the longest bike ride of my life yesterday (off-road, on a commuter Brompton folding bike), although don't be wowed by this effort as I'm not a cyclist and it was only 32km.

As we set out at 0815, there was a bit of cloud hanging over the Munros we weren't doing, but otherwise the sky was clear and there was just a gentle breeze. We were soon down to our shirt sleeves, which lasted until we approached The Window, where a cooler wind hit us.

It was also on that approach that we heard a big crack, following by the sound of boulder tumbling from high above. Fortunately it was behind us, as it was a fair size and having that coming towards us would have been alarming in the extreme (as it went, it stopped before it reached the path).

We parted ways at the summit. Mick to hot-foot it back down to Bertie, so that he could drive 8 miles up the road to pick me up, and me to continue over Beinn Chaorainn.

The descent from Creag Meagaidh was lovely, on springy grass, and the next ascent wasn't bad either. I even located a trodden line part way up.

What wasn't pleasant was the wind atop Beinn Chaorainn. Even with a buff holding my hat onto my head, it was threatening to rip it off, and I was being pelted by ice that I initially thought was hail, except the sky was cloudless. I soon realised it was being blown up off the cornice. After a quick summit selfie I tried to get out of the worst of the wind, but it was still difficult to brace myself whilst I sent a message to Mick to let him know of my progress, knowing that this was likely the last phone signal I would have*. Another battle against the wind, during which I got surprisingly wet from the water flying up from the cornice, took me to the 1049m subsidiary summit.

I then started my descent. In hindsight, I should have just treated this hill as an obscure Marilyn, rather than as a Munro. Because of its classification, I expected there to be a baggers' path, and thus I didn't descend via the line that seemed most sensible to me. Instead I intended to follow the line I had downloaded from Walkhighlands. I made rather a meal of that, first parallelling it for quite some time, then crossing it twice without noticing anything on the ground. I finally got on the right line and found a faint trodden line at a stile over a deer fence (that was fun in the wind!).

It wasn't a fun trodden line. The ground was waterlogged, and despite taking care, I slipped a few times. Taking my own line would definitely have been preferable at this point!

By and by, I reached a forest track, which to my surprise: a) was old and unmaintained; and b) went uphill.

It did finally descend to the road, and there patiently waiting for me were Mick and Bertie. Not that much patience had been required, as my outing wasn't much further than Mick's out-and-back, and he'd only been there for 15 minutes.

Incredibly, given the weather, I only saw one other person on this outing. He was on his final approach to the summit of Beinn Chaorainn just as I was leaving it. We didn't exchange more than a few words; I think we were both more interested in getting out of the wind than chatting!

A shame not to have enjoyed the Beinn Chaorainn ridge in more favourable conditions, but except for the wind and the descent, it was a rather pleasing outing.

Some snow, but easily avoided - or just walked across where a slip wouldn't have been disasterous

Lots of cloud over the hills over there

A good illustration of the hazards of a cornice

Summit selfie (Creag Meagaidh)

Trying to plaster a smile on my face and also stay upright (Beinn Chaorainn)
Just for comparison purposes, this snap shows (albeit from a distance) the snow state in The Window on 18 May 2018 (it's the notch left of centre...the one full of snow)

(*Our mobile phones use the 3 network. There is no 3 signal in the car park, nor much of one even up high. Mick also had our other phone, which is on the Vodafone network, but he wouldn't switch it on until he got back to Bertie, so there was an element of jeopardy to this pick-up arrangement.)


  1. On my way up to Creag Megadaidh 30 yrs ago I was close to the top when I pulled a thigh muscle. I had to go down and it took me ages to hobble back to Glen Roy. I never have been back to the top but I still feel that strained muscle even today. So well done Gayle or your tops and well done Mick on his.

  2. What a bonus being able to traverse the ridges and get collected at the other end.. My ascent was in winter conditions on 23rd. April 2006 with two old friends who were in Scotland for the Easter meet of the Yorkshire Mountaineering Club. On the descent I slipped harmlessly on some snow but fell onto my walking pole which broke. Strange how some small insignificant event sticks in the mind forever - the pole made a most satisfying sort of clean hollow cracking noise as it broke which was quite pleasing and eased the annoyance of being reduced to one pole.

    What with me and Alan R it seems like an anecdote creating hill.

  3. What is that storage system Mick has on the straps of his rucksack? Is it part of the sack or an add-on? Looks interesting .