Like many I had been keeping an eagle eye out on the weather forecasts. Many weeks went by without a forecast that was optimistic enough to justify a quick dash up to the Highlands. Woo hoo, the forecast for the weekend of 5th/6th November was good. So I made a last minute decision to journey north after work. A quick call to C&S secured a bed in Spean Bridge for the Saturday night and Jet and I were off. Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre were on!
The Highlands were reached in the early hours of Saturday morning and a suitable spot for a few hours kip was found. Plans for the Sunday plus the accommodation at the end of the walk determined a start from Tulloch Station and thence to Corrour on the 8.15am service. I had scoured the winter train timetable and it seemed possible to do this round in time to catch the 3.21pm train back to Tulloch. If missed, however, there would be a 6 hour wait for the next one, or a very long walk out. So essentially I followed the WH route. Many years ago I had done these two hills as part of a much longer walk through to Corrour Bothy taking in Meall a’Bhealaich, Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil. Today’s route choice was therefore in part driven by a trip down memory lane.
There were a few cars parked at the station but the bunkhouse was quiet. As I was getting ready two more cars arrived – one with James from Fraserburgh and the other with a couple from near Fort Augustus. We discussed our plans for the day. The others were going to amble up Beinn na Lap. So Jet and I were going to be alone on our hills that day.
The journey on the train was a mere 15 minutes or so. For the whole of that time Jet was in a state of high alert. It was his first time on a train and the noises were unfamiliar. It was all soon over though. Alighting from the train it is amazing that such a short journey transports you to a place with such a feeling of remoteness. Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre are not perhaps the most stunning of hills. But they are nicely isolated and provide grand views in all directions.
But the first sight was that of stag posing near the station house. Unfortunately the café there was closed for the month of November. So there would be no cup of tea to revive tired limbs at the end of the walk.
It was going to be a day of glowing reds, burnt browns and wispy grey. The day started out grand, spoilt itself a bit and then improved again.
There was some activity around the Youth Hostel at the loch. We soon turned off the lochside track on to the Road to the Isles. This path was very wet after the weeks of rain. The WH route description states that this is “a newly repaired path”. If so, then it must have been bad before! However, the views opened up as I jumped over puddles, bog and streamlets.
Peter’s Rock is marked on the map. Soon enough I came to it. There is a plaque, including a verse.
Anticipating that the hillside above was going to be as wet, I decided to stick to the path to gain a bit more height. So I continued on for a further kilometre or so before breaking off to the left. The first 100m of height gain was indeed soggy and heathery but further up the ground was surprisingly dry. I gained the ridge shown as Guallain Chlachach and a path appeared on my left which I duly followed.
The summit soon came into view.
But the clouds had begun to thicken. To the south Loch Rannoch was shrouded in cloud.
Streams of vapour lifted from the top of the mist and slithered upwards before joining the cloud above. 2 hours 20 minutes to the top. We had good views of Schiehallion and back down to Loch Ossian.
The Mamores, the Grey Corries, Beinn na Lap, the Easains and Beinn Eibhinn appeared and then disappeared. But the way ahead was clear.
We had a brief stop to eat before departing again.
The path onwards to the Hill of the Goat is not as strong as that coming in from the south. The descent was pleasant enough. A wall of cloud snuck up from behind and threatened to engulf us. It spat a bit of rain at us but merely clung to the top we had just left. Some descriptions I have read say that the Mam Ban is the bog from hell. We did not find it too bad at all and we were soon on the climb to Sgor Gaibhre. About 15 minutes from the top we passed a large erratic. As usual Jet arrived at the cairn before me.
We stopped for some more food. It had taken just under an hour between the two summits. The cloud was brushing the top. We had fleeting views of the flanks of Ben Alder and across to Chno Dearg.
I quite liked the bowl of a corrie to the east of the summit with its glacial scoop and lochan.
We ascended to the top of Sgor Choinnich and cloud still partly covered the parent peak. Carn Dearg was well blanketed. One can easily avoid Sgor Choinnich either by dropping down to the Allt a’ Choire Chreagaich or by taking a flanking route to the north west. However, this top does have some historical interest as it appears as a Munro in the original 1891 Tables.
The ridge of Meall Nathraich Mor was at a pleasant gradient and, more importantly, dry. There were, of course, views back to Sgor Gaibhre.
The slopes towards the eastern end of Loch Ossian were very rough and wet though. As the WH route description states, there is a gate in the deer fence. The ground just to the east of the forest is extremely boggy. It was like jelly with the thinnest of crusts. I could imagine myself being devoured by the ground and disappearing for ever! Beware. So I made my way to the fringe of the forest where it was only slightly better. I hopped over a post and wire fence to a gate and a ford. There I joined the track along the southern side of the Loch.
I think that the southern side is more picturesque than the route along the north. A circuit around the Loch by bike is a nice short trip for an off day – particularly if you take in a stop in the station tea shop.
Binneins Mor and Beag came back into view; there was Corrour Lodge with its backdrop of Beinn Eibhinn; and the sun came out for Beinn na Lap. Best of all I made it back to the station with 25 minutes to spare before the train back to Tulloch.