After some really awful weather, we finally got a good day on our Lawers trip so it was decided it must be Tarmachan day! It was sunny and warm as we left the cottage (although the road up the steep hill to the visitor centre was pretty icy) but we noticed as we parked up down the quarry track opposite the visitor centre that there was a very cold north wind. We set off briskly to try to get warm. What looked initially like it would be a long and tedious ascent to the first top went surprisingly easily and quickly.
(click on photos for full size/resolution)
Just before the top there was a small peaked section which gave great views back down to the road through the pass and Meall Corranaich.
It was a good job we’d stopped there for a moment as when we reached the Munro ‘top’ slightly after that, it was far too cold to stop even for a second. We continued down into the dip where there was a fence. From there the ascent of Meall Tarmachan (the Munro) looked ferociously steep – it was! The first bit of the ascent was fine but short and then you reached an extremely steep bit of stone-pitching. The stone-pitching was quite awkward as, probably due to its steepness, the steps were very narrow and pretty much sloping outwards. As I have big feet it caused me some difficulty.
After the steep section, we then raked across to the right under crags on a very easy and relaxing path. Before turning back for the ridge and the summit, you get another set of superb views towards the pass, now looking very far below.
The path then looped easily back to the main summit. From here the views were astounding! Every peak of the Tarmachans is spectacular and beautiful and there are pretty little lochans scattered amongst them.
The whole area is quite small and so there is a lot of interest crammed together. My camera was out and clicking away madly all the way to the col before the very pointy Meall Garbh.
The ascent of Meall Garbh was so short and easy we were on the sharp pointed summit in no time – it literally seemed no effort at all. From the pointy top there is a drop down the side of a short rocky ridge (probably about 6 feet down) – on squeezing down it I dislodged one of the flasks from my side pocket, luckily it landed nearby! There is then a short, narrow arête but, although the sides are steep and it is quite a big drop on the left, there is no actual exposure as there is a bit of a shelf before the drop.
I then sent Richard in front as we headed off for the steep descent and ‘the scramble’. The path headed towards what looked like a huge drop and then turned right alongside it – it was a big drop on the left and looked pretty sheer. We then reached ‘the scramble’. Richard set off down it followed by me, by now already low to the ground and smearing down the rock.
The freezing wind had now picked up in strength and was blowing into my eyes so I couldn’t see a thing for them watering… gusts were tugging at me as I huddled above the drop. The rock was sloping outwards and very polished so I felt that at any moment I could just slide off over the edge. I could see a guy in front of us walking along the path below the scramble and thought he’d managed it okay. Richard then stopped – he was on top of a sheer drop of probably only around 8 feet or so but, below the uppermost jutting rock, didn’t appear to have any kind of holds whatsoever. He moved onto a slab across the gully to see whether there was a better descent that side but said there was just a vertical and greasy, mossy slide down a gully.
By now I’d had enough. “I’m going back to find another way” I said, predictably. I headed back up off the scramble and onto the path. I decided that before I headed right back up to the alternatives I’d already seen before the summit, or even down the north face of the mountain, I’d investigate the steep grass below me to the north. I saw there was a path traversing to the right below me but it looked to have a drop immediately below it as it was still over part of the scramble crag. I looked round and was surprised to see Richard heading towards me having also given up on the scramble – must have been bad – he likes that kind of thing!
I pointed out my path to him and he set off along it. I was convinced there was danger below it and couldn’t bring myself to join him on it and paralleled the path on the grass just above it. When I got to the point where I could just see steep grass below his path I joined him. It took a perfectly sensible zig-zag route down to the col just past the scramble. Of course, we went back to the scramble to have a look up it. Much easier in ascent I think, I’d certainly have given it a go in that direction.
We then left for Beinn Eachan – we could see the guy in front of us was already on its summit. A couple with two dogs passed us in the opposite direction so we hung around waiting to see what they would do – take the sensible zig-zag path or do the scramble. Meanwhile I took a few photos and studied the two descents – to me it was madness for anyone to have ever gone up the crag instead of the plain grass slope to the left of it! The dogs were up the scramble in a flash and running backwards and forwards for ages while their owners fished around underneath. After quite a few minutes (probably about 10) we saw one of the humans had made it up the scramble but couldn’t see the other. We eventually saw they’d both made it and went on our way.
At the summit of Beinn Eachan we caught up with the guy who’d descended before us and I asked him if he’d managed the scramble. He said that, not only had he not done it, but he’d been stood below us pointing us to the zig-zag track down the grass… Unfortunately we were looking elsewhere at the time!
Beinn Eachan had been another very short and easy ascent but as we headed to the descent it again looked horribly steep. I was hoping there wasn’t another craggy scramble but was relieved to see that there was an excellent path zig-zagging down to the next col. We sat on the col in the sun and out of the wind and had a break, eating Richard’s excellent tea-loaf and drinking tea and coffee.
The route across this col was slightly longer and more humpy but still no effort. The climb up to Creag na Caillich was barely noticeable.
We decided not to backtrack to the previous col and descend to the quarry track as most do, but to do the whole ridge south to the other track which joins the quarry route. This was a great route apart from one section where, purely for bravado I’m sure, the path took off round the side above the eastern crags which at this particular point were huge! The track was narrow and muddy and literally on the edge of a huge drop. I asked Richard to move out of my way as I was going back and over the peak on a sensible grass route instead. He continued on the silly path.
The path then went west down the back of the ridge and then back round to a col from where a very short and easy descent (if a little boggy) went down to a weir and the start of a vehicle track back.
The trek back on the track, about 2.5 miles, was the only part of the whole day which seemed tedious and hard on the legs. We worked out that the route was about 10 miles and 2670 feet so an easy day…