Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Saturday, 30 April 2016

St Andrews (Mobile Test)

Glorious day in St Andrews with North Sea breakers crashing on the beach. Looks like extensive snow cover on the Angus hills.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Tuesday 19 April Mor Bheinn (Graham) 640m NN716211 Map 57 and Ben Halton 621m Graham Top

The day started well. It was as beautiful a spring morning as you could hope for and yet again the kirk car park in Glen Artney was deserted.

A large pile of neeps was piled by the steadings at Dalchruin, no doubt for the ewes waiting to lamb in the fields opposite. It was cool in the shade of the trees by the Water of Ruchill, but once across the bridge we were in warm sunshine as we took to the pastures and long rough grasses.

The initial slopes of Mor Bheinn
Southwards across the glen the fine rounded hills of the Graham Uamh Bheag along with three Donalds were noted for another day's circuit. A large wind farm lies on the south slopes of Beinn Odhar, the blades being visible from hills on this side of the glen once some height has been gained. This is the awful Braes of Doune Windfarm.

Uamh Bheag hills
A new barbed wire fence with no stile that we could find had to be climbed but once over, a gate allowed us through the deer fence. Here the route takes an atv track uphill but we opted to use the the quarry track for a short while before beginning our climb.

Once on the slopes, banks of celandines and primroses brightened up the bleached grasses which covered deep moss. It was like walking through soft snow and made for heavy going. 

We were looking forward to getting off this stuff and onto the ridge but instead we found ourselves surrounded by slopes of  long heather which went on forever it seemed. Perhaps we should have kept further west nearer the deer fence, but we'd expected to quickly emerge onto high ground with our way clear ahead and with good views to keep us company. Instead we found hollows, peat hags, deep heather and rocky outcrops. There was little sense of progress as we ploughed upwards. 

The photographs don't really capture the nature of the terrain (nor did our out of date OS map) but we agreed that we'd seldom encountered so much toilsome ground on on a hill before. Attempts to find alternative routes usually took us on tedious detours.

Ben Halton
Then at last a lovely lochan and Ben Halton appeared, raising both smiles and spirits. A short detour on a pleasant path led to its cairn and views down to Comrie, to Ben Vorlich and to a previously climbed Graham, Beinn Dearg. It was just the place for a cuppa. 'We'll halt on Ben Halton'

Ben Halton with view to Beinn Dearg and Ben Vorlich
Mor Bheinn, its white trig pillar visible, looked distant beyond an intervening long drop. In fact it was only around 130m loss of height followed by 150m ascent but it was probably going to be more of the same - heather, holes and mire on the descent, then peat hags to negotiate before the final pull to the trig point.

Mor Bheinn from near Ben Halton
Off we went and once in the broad col another deer fence had to be climbed, fortunately by a stile. Then another fence. What's with all these fences?  Various 'animal tracks' as the guide called them, led round and over little outcrops, then suddenly we emerged by the trig point. A welcome sight. Happy 80th birthday to you!

Loch Earn and St Fillans lay below us and it was wonderful to have an open view at last.

Loch Earn and St Fillans

Descending by a broken ridge and picking up narrow paths we aimed for a grassy rake.

The grassy rake on the right
The rake gave an easy, if wet, way up and back to the lochans - an altogether much more pleasant return journey.

It was hot lower down by the quarry track and we relaxed for a while, finishing off our remaining food and tea. Then it was over the barbed wire fence again. We watched a beautiful red kite for a while as it sailed above us. Wonderful.

Back at Dalchruin, the shepherd was out on his quad bike, collie aboard, checking his ewes and lambs, one newly born. If ever a scene spoke of spring, it was this one.

Glen Artney is becoming a favourite place and worth exploring further but we won't be venturing in here:

Note: I can't offer any explanation as to why we felt as we did about Mor Bheinn. After all, it's not as if we are unfamiliar with Scottish hills! Best not to analyse perhaps. Anyway, in retrospect it wasn't all that bad...

Monday, 18 April 2016

Saturday 16 April - Creag Ruadh 712m (Graham) NN 674292 Map 51

"So much for coming back later in spring or summer for Creag Ruadh" said Lynne as we were blasted by winds out of the arctic. The promise of clear tops and sunshine had been too much to resist so once again we were in Glen Tarken on 'the sunny side of Loch Earn'.

Glen Tarken - the path which passes to the left of Creag Dubh (centre) then descends to Glen Beich can be seen on the hillside left. [Click to enlarge all photos]
So far, our rapid pace along and up the track had just about produced enough heat to offset the piercing wind but before beginning the climb through the heather, Paramo Cascada trousers were extracted from the sacks along with an extra top layer. Instant relief.

The ascent was fairly gentle through heather, some burnt recently, some not, and sooner than expected the pleasing sight of Lochan Eas Domhain revealed itself. Shortly afterwards a thin path appeared, aiding our progress to the summit rocks.

Lochan Eas Domhain with Ben More and Sob Binnein

Delightful walking near the summit
Although the top is marked by a small cairn, a slab only a few metres away looked slightly higher but  unsurprsingly, neither SatMap or the iPhone's GPS could differentiate between the two heights. In any case, more pressing than fiddling with gadgets was the need for food. Soft hail was blowing in on the wind; immediately below, out of sight lay Glen Lednock reservoir; further east, Ben Chonzie's dome had only smear of snow. It was a lovely spot.

View to Ben Lawers from the top
The summit area is a sort of maze of rocks and a place to spend a pleasant half hour of exploring on a summer's day. But not this day. No, down it was more or less by the route of ascent.

Snow and soft hail again fell while we paused for refreshments. Heavier and more persistent than previously, it blew in from the north for some time as we made our back along the track. An estate Land Rover, seen earlier in the day descending to the glen, now wobbled its way back up a rough track. We were unsure as to whether the occupant's mission involved grouse management or placing tubs of high energy supplement for the sheep which shared the hills.

On our way out

We were well down in the glen before outer layers of clothing could be stuffed back into sacks and now the atmosphere was that of spring.  A few boats tacked their way up a sunless Loch Earn reminding us of our own brief skirmish with sailing our Gull there in the late '80s - when on the water we really wanted to be on the hills, so there was little point in continuing we felt.

Although both Grahams in the area have now been climbed there are still many reasons for us to return to the heathery upland moors of Glen Tarken but that will be later in the year. For now other Grahams await in areas not visited for decades. I wonder how much they will have changed? And there is the matter of twelve remaining Corbetts which have waited far too long for our attention.


Monday, 11 April 2016

Friday 8 April - Creag Each 672m (Graham) NN 652263 Map 51

Countless times we've driven past lovely Loch Earn with never a thought as to what interest the tract of land immediately north of the loch might hold. We were heading for 'greater things' and most often our destination was Glen Coe and the Forestry Commission campsite run by Bill.

From 1996 to 2004, from April until holidays in mid-July, we hardly missed a weekend there with our motorcaravan. This was a perfect base for forays to Mull, Ardgour, the Loch Arkaig hills and north of the Great Glen, as well as for memorable days on the Glen Coe peaks themselves. Despite regular predictions of dire weather, the forecasters were invariably wrong and we enjoyed fine weather on the vast majority of weekends.

Today it was was cold and overcast. Earlier forecasts of fine weather had been, as usual, downgraded regularly during the week but the tops were clear and, rain or shine, we were looking forward to being on unfamiliar ground.

From the small car park opposite the Loch Earn Sailing Club the track zig-zagged pleasantly upwards into Glen Tarken passing the derilict steadings of Wester Glentarken where we stopped to take in the quiet atmosphere. 

Glentarken steadings (click to enlarge all photos)

Loch Earn. St Fillans is barely disernible in the distance

Ben Vorlich, as so often on recent trips, dominated the southern view, its snow cover now much reduced. I have a feeling it will be topped up again before Spring finally arrives here.

Ben Vorlich (obviously)
It didn't take long for our craggy hill to come into sight and at what seemed as good a place as any, we left the ease of the track and wended upwards through the rough grasses following sheep trods hither and thither.

Creag Each
Higher up the hillside, it rained. Full waterproofs on. That done, it stopped. Some blue appeared. Steep heathery slopes - a lot steeper than they looked - then some scree, lead to a prominent cairn which had been visible from the track earlier in the day.

The summit lay across a shallow hollow.

Creag Each summit across the hollow

From the final slopes down to Loch Earn
Northern hills were in cloud and probably rain but if anything conditions here were improving, though it was still cold and un-springlike.

The summit cairn
We pondered going for the next Graham across the glen where some heather burning had started, but decided to leave it for another time to include Clach Mhor Na h-Airigh Leithe or the Glen Tarken Stone. I think the glen in summer or later in spring would be a quite charming place so we'll come back then for Creag Ruadh.

Once back on the track we explored further up the glen until Creag Dubh came into view. The track loops round the head of the glen and can be followed back to St Fillans or to our starting point. Beyond Creag Dubh and into Glen Beich some pathless terrain leads to a track which can be joined for Killin or Ardeonaig on Loch Tay using, I think, part of the Rob Roy Way.

Some good wild camping spots and a fine Scots pine by Glentarken Burn

We returned at a leisurely pace meeting a couple who'd walked from St Fillans by the disused railway line through Glentarken Wood. A popular route in summer it seems.

We'd planned to have a last cup of tea at the steadings but cattle were grazing there now - an ancient scene - so we left them undisturbed and were back at the car by 3pm well content with our day. 


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Wednesday 30 March - Meall Dearg 690m (Graham) NN886414 and Craig an Loch 663m (Graham Top) NN878408 Map 52

Poor Meall Dearg is blighted by bulldozed tracks and nearby windfarms but also, thankfully, blessed with fine views to the Ben Lawers range and Schiehallion. Most who make for it will be 'doing the Grahams' I imagine.

Lynne took a zoom of An Stac in the Lawers range (click to enlarge)
It's a fine start past the farm and keeper's cottage following the Wade road into Glen Fender near Amulree. We had never been in this Glen before and opted to follow the track above Glenfender Burn rather than divert upwards onto the Beinn Liath ridge, thus postponing for as long as possible the sight of the Griffin wind farm

This is grouse shooting country but from a distance Lynne thought this looked like a menu! You never know these days.

The track continued well beyond that shown on our map and a short diversion from it brought us to the small cairn of Beinn Liath and the inevitable...

Griffin wind farm

Our destination was now visible and it took little time to gain the trig point and a view to Loch Hoil and Schiehallion - and the Callaichar wind farm.

 Loch Hoil and Schiehallion in distance - and Callaichar wind farm

Loch Fender
From Meall Dearg we descended to lonely Loch Fender and crossing the outflow ploughed through thick heather passing numerous shooting butts on our way to Creag an Loch and beyond.

Meall Dearg (centre) with Creag an Loch (left)

Eventually we rendezvoused as planned with yet another bulldozed track and leaving the 'go-backs' to their moorland home, descended by the Kinloch Burn to Wester Kinloch and the line of the Beauly-Denny pylons, striking through Glen Quaich by the shores of Loch Freuchie. It was a peaceful spot, enriched by calling curlews, tumbling peewits and oyster catchers.

Loch Freuchie
We only have one Graham left to do in the area but will return to explore the many fine hills belonging to no list other than our own, the through routes and circuits, the history. And it's all a mere thirty four miles away.