Creag Meagaidh Round – Minus Creag Meagaidh!

9 08 2014

Sun 29 June 2014

The day after my Ben Starav top-bagging, where I’d joined up with Jon off my current walking forum, I was due to do some, or all, of the Creag Meagaidh tops I had outstanding. I had three tops outstanding in total but, if done together, would make for a very big day. I decided to start with the two southern tops via ‘The Window’ and see how things went from there…

(click on photos for full size/resolution)
Just after 0930, I was kitted up in the Creag Meagaidh Nature Reserve carpark and setting off up the well-made path which goes at a gentle gradient for five miles or so to the spectacular Coire Ardair. This corrie is surrounded by stupendous crags and gullies and has a lovely little corrie lochan. Even if you don’t want to walk the surrounding mountains, just up to Coire Ardair and back would make a nice walk…

Coire Ardair, Creag Meagaidh

Coire Ardair Crags

During my approach to the corrie, I could see my route up through ‘The Window’ – a narrow nick between the impending crags of Stob Poite Coire Ardair and Puist Coire Ardair. I was quite alarmed to see a snow patch blocking the middle of The Window and hoped it wasn’t going to cause me any problems.

Unbelievable Scary Ascent to Window

After a quick look at the lochan, I headed off steeply up the eroded grassy left-hand bank of the burn to see whether the route was manageable – I didn’t have any spikes or other snow or ice tools – after all, it was almost July!

The path flattened out on the approach to the foot of the steep climb up to The Window and then a steep and loose chute of scree and rocks reared up above me. I plodded up it grateful for the zig-zags. However, further up, the ground got so loose the zig-zag disappeared and it was hard to continue without sliding backwards. At this point, I started to get very stressed – I’ve been very shaky nerves-wise this year and wasn’t happy at the steep slide below me.

I scrabbled my way up to the foot of the snow ramp but decided I daren’t tackle it so looked above it on the right-hand side for any paths. There was nothing visible so I tried to continue on the grass just above the snow patch but was still stressing so looked higher up the steep bank under the crags to see if there was anything else – it looked like there might be.

In the end, I clawed my way up some exceedingly steep grass above me to a slight shelf where there was indeed a very narrow and scrappy path going through the window. I was still very unhappy and panicky but continued… Luckily, the path continued through the long gap of the window and eventually reached ground where I felt safer and started to calm down – not a great start to the day!

Snow in The Window
Snow In ‘The Window’ – my ‘high path’ can be seen on the photo below
Stob Poite Coire Ardair & Window

Taking the path to the left out of the window, I followed a gentle zig-zag upwards towards the Creag Meagaidh plateau. After about ten minutes of plodding steadily, I was at the corrie rim overlooking the little lochan I’d been at shortly before. From here I was to contour around the rim until I met the low col passing between Creag Meagaidh and Puist Coire Ardair to descend to the rim of the Moy Corrie.

Distant An Cearcallach fm Main Plateau
Descending to my first Tops

All went well and I was soon striding downhill past a small lochan which was still half snow while I headed for my first top of Meall Coire Choille-rais. This is on the edge of the beautiful and rarely seen Moy Corrie.

Meall Coire Choille-rais

I happily plodded along the gentle rise to the Top along the very edge of the corrie and took the opportunity to get some photos down into it.

Moy Corrie from Meall Coire Choille-rais(portrait)

Moy Corrie

I was soon at the Top summit – although there were a few lumps with cairns on so it wasn’t obvious which the actual summit was – I visited them all just to be sure!

From there, I quickly retraced my steps to where a lovely grassy ridge continued across south-west to the craggy and pointy top of An Cearcallach. The guy whose blog I’d read who had run this whole route had taken 11 minutes to reach the second top – I took 22 which, as I was walking, I thought was fair enough… This Top was a steeper climb but I was soon up the grassy slope.

An Cearcallach fm Meall Coire Choill-rais

An Cearcallach

Incidentally, these two Tops would make a nice little round from the main road at Moy – you could easily ascend the south-western slopes of Meall Coire Choille-rais. You could then nip across to An Cearcallach and back down the outward route. Alternatively, if you didn’t want to do the same route out and back, you could descend north briefly to reach the Moy Burn between the Tops and Creag Meagaidh and follow that, in a pleasant valley, back to the road. I was originally going to do that but got greedy and decided it was worth trying to do all the Tops in one day… if only I’d known in advance what I was letting myself in for!

Creag Meagaidh from An Cearcallach col
The sterner side of Creag Meagaidh above the Moy Burn
Creag Meagaidh from An Cearcallach Return

I then had to plod all the way back up to retrace my steps back to The Window. It was at this point that I decided I had a big enough day already and decided to miss out the actual Munro summit of Creag Meagaidh…

Puist Coire Ardair to Sron a' Ghoire
Looking along the southern arm of the Meagaidh Range
Puist Coire Ardair Ridge

After re-descending to the nick of The Window, I decided it was a good time to have a break as more or less half of my walk was done. I had a quick oatie bar and coffee but am unable to sit around for long as I get impatient.

Back of Creag Meagaidh
Back of Creag Meagaidh from descent to The Window

So, after around five or ten minutes, I was heading up the much shorter climb the other side of The Window to get to Stob Poite Coire Ardair – a name which sounds like a combination of French – Poite (point), and Welsh – Ardair – the Welsh for bird is ‘adair’. There are quite a few similarities between the three languages so you never know…

The Window & back of Creag Meagaidh

Now, I was remembering this ridge from when Richard and I did it while I was Munroing and seemed to remember it was a breezy little jaunt along almost level grassy ground and took a really short time. How distorted our memories are! So, thinking the walk was now ‘in the bag’, I shot off along the ridge laughing at people coming the other way looking knackered…

Puist Coire Ardair from Stob Poite Coire Ardair
Looking back to The Window
Stob Poite Coire Ardair

At first, on Stob Poite Coire Ardair, the going was beautifully easy – flat grass, great views back into Coire Ardair and I was zooming along. Then the ground started to become much more stony… then the ground started to go up and down a lot more… Pretty soon, I realised my memories were totally faulty and the distant Munro of Carn Liath was going to take a long time to reach!

I gritted my teeth, kept up my furious pace and continued determinedly for the distant summit but I knew I had a long way past that peak to go for my final top – another two miles each way in fact.

There was a very pretty intervening bump (Sron Coire a’ Chriocheirein) and an interesting little pass cutting through the ridge just after it. For a brief respite, the ridge did indeed become gentle and very grassy again after the little pass for a few more miles to Carn Liath.

Peak on N Ridge of Creag Meagaidh Round

The rise to Carn Liath was a bit longer and more strenuous – or at least it seemed fairly strenuous as I was certainly starting to tire by now. At last I reached the summit of the Munro with only one group of folk left on the hill behind me and evening coming on…

I could dimly see my very distant top of Stob Coire Dubh after the long but gentle grassy ridge of A’ Bhuidheaneach. It looked very good going – and indeed it was – but what a long plod!

Luckily the plod to the Top was an easy forty minutes along the ridge and had a great path and, at one point, views down into the craggy Coire nan Gall. I peered over there specifically to see if I could see a path running below the ridge as the guy whose blog I’d read who had run the round said he descended from the Top and came back on a path underneath. I definitely couldn’t see anything and decided I wasn’t going to descend from the Top if I couldn’t see a definite path as it would be a horrible long slog back to the Visitor Centre carpark if not.

Coire nan Gall (Meagaidh)
The crags of Coire nan Gall

There was a pronounced dip between A’ Bhuidheaneach and Stob Coire Dubh but it was easy enough in either direction. The path went off to the side though and had to be abandoned in favour of the short grass. The Top had another nice view down into its own corrie but otherwise had little to recommend it. I was wishing I’d stuck to my original plan (before I got greedy and impatient) and walked up the ridge from Garva Bridge to the Top – that would have been a pleasant little stroll with an interesting narrow section of ascent marked ‘Coire a’ Bheinn’ on the map.

Stob Coire Dubh to Stob Poite Coire Ardair
Back to Carn Liath from Stob Coire Dubh – Stob Poite Coire Ardair is the dark peak behind on the right

Oh well – I’d done the long, long round and now all I had to do was return all the way back to Carn Liath where I knew we’d followed a path up to the summit from the Visitor Centre on our previous visit some years ago. With a sigh and yet more determined plodding I set off back…

Forty minutes later I was back on the bouldery summit of Carn Liath and peering down the southern slopes for the path. I couldn’t see one at all but knew I had to head for the low shoulder of Na Cnapanan clearly visible below.

Loch Laggan from Carn Liath descent
Loch Laggan from Carn Liath Descent

Despite zig-zagging across the slope I never located the path until just above Na Cnapanan’s little peak where I knew it went around below the summit to the left. From there I managed to follow the path all the way back to the main track which goes between the Visitor Centre and Coire Ardair. However, the descent was exceedingly long, hot and full of biting flies – I was rapidly running out of good humour and, by now, felt like I was going to die.

My good humour finally left me near the bottom of the path where it had become completely overgrown. I was now amongst trees and, most of the time, it was so overgrown you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet and the ground was exceedingly rough and holey. This kind of thing is very trying when your leg muscles are screaming with tiredness and you’re dripping with sweat and covered in flies – I got quite ratty…

By the time I finally reached the main track, I’d had enough of being hot and peeled off my top to walk in my bra. If anyone came along I didn’t give a damn – I quite often do that anyway but usually wear a more bikini-top type bra – this time it was very definitely a bra – luckily for anyone I might meet, not a see-through one 😉

I was pleased to see a toilet block at the farm just before the visitor centre and I went in to mop myself down with cold water and put my top back on before my entrance to the carpark – there were several carloads of walkers just packing up to leave and, if they’d had as hard a day as me, I didn’t really want to give them heart-attacks!

At the car, after sighing a huge sigh of relief it was all over, I sat on the lovely cool grass and proceeded to empty my car of all cool drinkables (luckily plentiful) – my flask had run out ages ago and there hadn’t been any streams to drink out of. Surprisingly, although I thought I was starving, all I managed to eat was a carton of peaches in lots of lovely juice and then set immediately off for the long drive home.

Stats: 23 miles, 5135 feet of ascent, 9 and a quarter hours – phew!

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12 responses

16 08 2014
bob

Another big day out Carol. Been offline for a few days here. 23 miles and 5000 plus feet of ascent in hot summer conditions is not my idea of a fun day out but great photos and report of a smashing mountain range.

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16 08 2014
mountaincoward

It wasn’t that hot until the long, hot descent at the end of the day – it was quite dull in the morning and it was lovely up on the plateaux. But the descent really got on my wick!

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15 08 2014
fedup

Another loooong day 🙂

The ‘Window’ looks an interesting place will have to add it to my vast ‘to see’ list!! I notice you sya current forum as if you are about jump ship to another?

Cheers Simon

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16 08 2014
mountaincoward

Hi Simon – nope, not jumping ship – just don’t like to name which forum so just put ‘current’ 😉

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12 08 2014
Mark

Your quest to bag the Munro Tops is sounding very familiar to me. Long days, repeat Munros and plenty of bush wracking on routes less often trod.

My route for the same Tops involved a steep pull out of Coire Ardair up to pt1001m. I remember being impressed with the grander of the Moy Coire. After I reached An Cearcallach I cut under Creag Meagaidh and across the top of the Window.

I oppted for a more direct line off Stob Coire Dubh. It hasn’t much to recommend it. Steep with rocks covered in deep heather. Things improved when I reached the Allt á Charranaig. Animal tracks eased the going but not that much.

A pal whose on the same mission did Stob Coire Dubh from Grava Bridge. He seemed to enjoy it.

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12 08 2014
mountaincoward

I really would have been better to stick to my original plans and do Stob Coire Dubh from Garva Bridge and the other 2 from the roadside at Moy. I just got greedy and wanted to bag them all together in the end. You’re not the guy who ran the lot are you? After walking it all, I’m not sure how that’s possible!

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11 08 2014
McEff

That was one hell of a walk, Carol. And there was you complaining only recently that you weren’t fit. I wish I was as fit!
Cheers, Alen

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11 08 2014
mountaincoward

If I’d been properly fit, I wouldn’t have been ratty and knackered at the end!

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11 08 2014
McEff

After 23 miles, most people would be ratty and knackered.

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11 08 2014
mountaincoward

Wait till you see the next report then! 😉

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9 08 2014
Paul Shorrock

Blimey Carol!! I’m knackered just reading about it 😉

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10 08 2014
mountaincoward

Go on – give it a go! you know you want to 😉

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