Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Cam Chreag and Maol a' Mhuic: Glen Lyon's reclusive hills

Cam Chreag ridge
Cam Chreag the approach track

Stuc an Lochain above Loch an Daimh dam

Ben Lawers group from Cam Chreag

Meall Buidhe from Cam Chreag
Towards Schiehallion and Carn Gorm from Meall a' Mhuic

Ben Lawers group from Meall a' Mhuic

Over Loch Rannoch to the distant Cairngorms
Ascent:     950 metres
Distance:   16 kilometres
Time:        4 hours 46 minutes

c  Cam Chreag         880m    1hr   50mins
g  Meall a' Mhuic     746m    3hrs 55mins

I had planned to climb Garbh Bheinn in Ardgour and was packed and ready to leave at 7:30am to catch the bus to Corrour from Crianlarich. I then checked the Met Office forecast and it seemed to suggest clouds below the summits. I had always promised myself a good day for Garbh Bheinn so another plan was needed. I looked at the maps of my corbetts and grahams on walkhighlands and discovered a Graham (hill between 2000ft and 2500ft with a drop of at least 500ft) reasonably close to my last unclimbed Corbett, Cam Chreag, in Glen Lyon. The weather looked more promising than in the west so I headed for Glen Lyon taking the road over the bealach between the Tarmachan and Ben Lawers.  I parked at the excellent car park provided by the Meggernie Estate at Innerwick. The estate has upped its game in recent years and the helpful information boards and toilets make Glen Lyon a welcoming as well as beautiful place. It had been an estate that was hostile to walkers in the 1990's.

Leaving the car park there is a good track that heads north at first climbing steadily before crossing the river and turning west. Then a long haul below and parallel to the long ridge of Meggerine hill to the south. This leads into Cam Chreag which is itself an almost flat ridge overlooking a large peat infested bealach. When I reached 520 metres on the track I decided to head for the ridge and subjected myself to half an hour of tramping over boggy heather across Corrie Odhar before finding a steep gulley to climb the scarp and emerge on the ridge.

The views opened to the south and west with Meal Ghaordaidh dominating the foreground with the dam below Stuc an Lochain another focal point. Meall Buidhe was a long ridge in the foreground, a munro that is a lot easier to climb than Cam Chreag. The dry short grass along the ridge made for an easy saunter over to the summit. The skies were still grey but looking westwards it looked as if Glencoe was in cloud so I was pleased about not heading for Garbh Bheinn. There were still patches of snow below the summit and I looked askance at the route across to Meall a' Mhuic. The Grahams I have climbed are normally by virtue of being en route between munros or are significant local hills like Ben Venue. This was a deliberate decision, am I getting the Graham obsession?

My heels had blistered in new Brasher boots, did I really want to subject myself to a traverse over boggy heather? The answer was no but once started I almost always complete walks and after years when at least three munros was expected from every outing, a lone corbett seemed a bit of a kop out. The descent was down the steep scarp slope to the north and as I arrived in the uninspiring corrie  below Meall nan Maigheach the rain arrived. I spent another 45 minutes plodding over ground that was never designed for walking. Even the herd of deer I disturbed seemed to struggle over it. I had to drop down to 490 metres to cross a steep ravine before I could cross begin the climb up Meall a' Mhuic. This was remote country but seemed familiar, I must have run through it during the 1990 KIMM event.

A 250 metre climb up steep slopes is never enjoyable but has to be done so with head down I pushed myself relentlessly to the airy summit. The views were surprisingly good in all directions and I made myself comfortable by the cairn, eating some lunch in the warm sunshine before spending a few minutes taking photographs. I was appreciating the comfort and practicality of a new Montane Ultra Tour 22 rucksack with its well fitting back, stretch pockets and light weight. It has replaced a couple of KIMM sacks both over 20 years old and veterans of hundreds of walks. They are held together by hope as well as much repair work of tape and stitching and should really be scrapped.

The descent was direct to the south facing Ben Lawers hills of which An Stuc was the most prominent with its isosceles triangular shape reminding me of its tricky descents. The walk was over easy grass and heather that was easy on the feet which were now well shredded by the boots, it's back to running shoes for future outings. I had to cross an amazing ditch, six feet deep in places which could have served as a trench in the great war. It  provides a trap for the unwary and when snow covered could be lethal.

Red grouse whirred on take off as I crunched down the heather and a land rover was descending the track below. When I reached the track I passed a caged crow which squawked at me, I considered releasing it but the cage had a couple of lamb carcasses which suggested that there was a reason. I followed the track to the confluence of two burns which I crossed before climbing two high gates and getting back on the track to the car park. I had been the only visitor in the morning but there were now half a dozen cars taking advantage of the Meggernie Estate largesse. The drive home was in bright sunlight and Killin was hoaching with early summer visitors. With time on my side I did the tourist thing and took photos of the Dochart Falls and I was home by 4pm.

Dochart Falls, Killin

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