The next 4 posts are a series of walks from a week in a cottage at Lawers Village under the Ben Lawers range…
At the start of October 2009, Richard and I took a trip to Loch Tay with the intention of bagging all the Lawers area Munros. The cottage in Lawers village was really beautiful – we got accidentally upgraded as our smaller booked cottage got flooded just before we arrived due to a water-filter problem and we were put in a huge 8-bed bungalow which should have been vastly more expensive but of course we’d already paid the rate for the other cottage. In addition it also had a carport which was wonderful for my poor ol’ Sunny, especially considering the weather we had…
As there aren’t many photos for this post due to the ongoing nil visibility most of the week (the ones of the mountains were taken on another day from Ben Lawers col) I’m putting a few extras in here… starting with these of the view from the cottage and later a few waterfalls from short walks we did on the really bad weather days…
On surfacing the first morning the weather was not great – low cloud and some drizzly showers. We decided to break ourselves in gently by just doing Meall Corranaich and Meall a’ Choire Leith from the now defunct Ben Lawers Visitor Centre.
On parking at the visitor centre, we attempted to pay the suggested £2 but the meter was jammed with a pound coin (couldn’t get it out ;-) )
For some reason, I’d decided to wear my very thin zip-off trousers – not sure why as there was little sun, just the occasional peep. We set off up the tourist path towards the main Lawers range and, just as it crossed the burn, we followed a grassy path going straight on towards the col between Meall Corranaich and Beinn Ghlas (the head of Coire Odhar).
We went straight on about here instead of crossing the burn
The path was great for about another mile or so and then it petered out into the bogs. No matter, we could see the col below Meall Corranaich’s SW ridge so we headed over the next few humps towards our objective, scaring a herd of deer in the process.
When we got to the foot of the slope up to the col, I was surprised at how steep the hillside was. A lot of it was peppered with small, greasy looking crags so I decided we’d ascend the very steep plain grass slopes further right. I could see there was a slight platform about two-thirds of the way up which would make me feel better if I found the ground too steep for my liking. It was a real grunt up the slope to the ‘platform’ and then there were some slight grassy gullies going up to the col – all easy and not too steep. In no time we were on the col and preparing to head up the south-west ridge. It was here the full force of the gale hit us. We tried to stay round the ridge out of the wind but you couldn’t really escape.
The ascent of the SW ridge is really short from this col and we soon reached a cairn on a small summit. Far too soon for the actual summit I thought so we continued along the ridge in the mist and ascended to another cairn a couple of minutes later. Still far too soon for the summit I thought again but, peering into the mist, could see that all the ground around us went decidedly downwards. I couldn’t believe how short and easy the ascent had been! We set off along the easy and pretty ridge with quite a fierce crosswind blowing.
As the book says, partway along the ridge, it splits and you have to take the right-hand fork. We could see the left-hand fork quite easily as it is short and was out of the mist. However, we couldn’t see where the right-hand branch was supposed to be – it certainly wasn’t directly north. We stood for a moment peering into the mist and it suddenly cleared slightly revealing the ridge down to the col before our second Munro, Meall a’ Choire Leith, below us on the right.
We descended east down the side of our ridge across a bulky section of the mountain to join the paths down the desired ridge. The weather cleared a little so we decided to take the path which went along the ridge-top in preference to one which followed the burn as that would be nice and sheltered for our later return up the ridge.
As we neared the col the wind became ferocious, trying to blow us over the col down the steep craggy slope into the side glen. At this point, as it was now raining steadily, Richard decided he couldn’t go another step without putting his waterproof trousers on. I said he would be better waiting till we were in the shelter of the path creeping up the lee side of our next peak but he was insistent.
The next few minutes were total farce as he struggled with his wildly flapping trousers while standing on one leg as I held him up by the scruff of his jacket while wedging his rucsac between my legs so it wouldn’t disappear over the col ;-) He initially put his left leg down the right leg of his trousers and then decided he had to have them the right way round (not sure it matters really) so huffed and puffed his way back out again. By now he was getting very grumpy and I was laughing at him! He eventually got them on and we again set off for Meall a’ Choire Leith.
The path for this sets off on a gently rising slope to the right of the mountain. It’s a short and steady ascent and we were out of the wind so it was great. We were soon at the very ornately built cairn. However, as we studied the cairn I saw it didn’t really have a very firm base, it was actually undercut all the way round. I thought that was pretty dangerous really and it was likely to fall on some unsuspecting walker sitting behind it. I told Richard to help me post rocks into the spaces underneath so we set to work.
Suddenly, I shouted a warning to Richard as the whole thing set off in his direction (he had his head down looking for the next rock to use). He jumped out of the way just as the whole cairn crashed down just where he’d been. We felt terrible about demolishing such a beautiful cairn but we’d only been trying to help – honest! We quickly rebuilt it the best we could and hurriedly headed off back down. We could hear the mountain shouting ‘hooligans’ and ‘vandals’ at our backs (or at least we had a laugh imagining it was ;-) ). Every time we saw it from subsequent walks, we imagined it was still shouting after us.
We were soon back on the col and back into the horrible gale. We set off south on the burnside path back up the ridge we came down. At one point the wind hurled me across the path and I fell and hurt my wrist. It soon recovered however and we continued. I’d seen a nice-looking path on the way out which continued south over the edge of the ridge on grassy slopes and back down to the col between Corranaich and Beinn Ghlas. From there I knew there was a superb path back to the tourist route and the visitor centre. It was a bit wet and rough through the lower parts of the corrie to the col and the path disappeared for the last few hundred yards but we were soon heading back down the good path to the visitor centre.
By now it was sweeping, soaking rain and my zip-offs were wringing wet but I still wouldn’t put my waterproof trousers on as I hate wearing them. I couldn’t even be bothered to put on my featherweight over trousers which are great but meant taking my wet boots off.
We arrived back to the visitor centre carpark where it was too windy to stand to take off our wet stuff. I sat in the car taking my sodden boots off and putting them down by the car door and they were nearly setting off it was that wild. Anyway, it was a good, short, easy route for the two Munros with only a little backtracking and re-ascent. In total it was about 8 miles and 2966 feet of ascent.
Here’s a photo of the Falls of Acharn about a mile south of Acharn village on the South Loch Tay road… You have to go through a hermit’s cave to a rock platform above a big drop to view it!
And the Birks of Aberfeldy…
We later found out that we were lucky we hadn’t demolished the cairn of our second Munro the year before as a guy who had been sat eating his sandwiches at the summit got mobbed by wasps – there was a nest in the cairn! This prompted me to tell him a funny story about a wasps’ nest in my compost bin which I’ll reproduce here…
I know to my cost how grumpy wasps get in autumn as I had a wasp’s nest in my compost bin one year. They were fine with me tipping compost into it all summer, however, come September/October I opened the lid to tip some more… out came the whole nest – a huge cloud of angry wasps. I rushed for my back door followed by the cloud… I rushed through the house and out the front door – still followed by the cloud… I then ran outside onto my drive, round in a circle, all the while beating myself around my head and shouting obscenities, then back into the house… If my neighbours were watching they must have been thinking of dialling the loony bin! It must have looked really strange if you didn’t know what was going on! ;-)
I was lucky and just got stung three times and most of the wasps didn’t manage to follow me back into the house – just two which I soon blatted! The three stings gave rise to a scientific experiment as I couldn’t remember which you put on wasp stings, vinegar or bicarb of soda… I tried one of each on two of the stings, and the one which worked on the 3rd (vinegar).