Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Beinn Teallach and Beinn a' Chaorainn

Loch Treig and the Aonachs from West Highland line

The ascent of Beinn Teallach looking west

The window below Creag Meagaidh and massive bulk of Beinn a' Chaorainn

Beinn a' Chaorainn from Beinn Teallach

Late autumn bronzes 
Beinn Teallach and Loch Arkaig in low cloud from north top
Stob Coire Poite, Coire Ardair window and Creag Meagaidh fromm north top

Late afternoon sky over Beinn a' Chaorainn

Summit of Beinn a' Chaorainn from north top

South West ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn, Loch Treig in distance

Sunset over Ben Nevis

Looking west over Creag Dubh from flanks of Beinn a' Chaorainn
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
Ascent:       1285 metres
Distance:    21 kilometres
Time:          6 hours 2mins

Beinn Teallach                             915m    2hrs 10mins
Beinn a' Chaorainn n. top           1043m    3hrs 40mins
Beinn a' Chaorainn                     1049m   3hrs 54mins
Beinn a' Chaorainn s. top           1049m   4hrs  1min

November had been a dull month in every sense and in a pique of desperation at my slothfulness I decided to have an adventure in the hills north of Glen Spean. Mark, as always, was a willing accomplice and we caught the train from Bridge of Orchy to Tulloch. Most of the central belt had been wrapped in cloud but there were signs of brighter conditions to the north. After passing Rannoch and Corrour, which were both still enveloped in low cloud, the sun broke through as we began the descent to Loch Treig.  We caught a glimpse of Ben Nevis clothed in early winter snow before trundling down to the low cloud that was hanging in Glen Spean.

We were the only ones to depart at Tulloch, nothing unusual about that, the station is now a very well appointed bunk house and there are only a handful of cottages in the vicinity. On my 1973 edition OS map there is a track going to the north east and we followed it for a couple of hundred metres until it petered out and then crossed a waterlogged field to reach the A86. My map showed no plantations to the north but Mark's more recent map had an extensive forestry plantation to the north of the road and a track shimmied through it leading to a river. Moreover he had taken a look at Google Earth and spotted a bridge over the river at the edge of a plantation that leads north from here towards the Allt a' Chaorainn as it sluices down the deep valley that dissects Beinn Teallach from Beinn a'Chaorainn.

At last we were on the climb, we joined the more usual track from Roughburn and climbed to 400 metres at the end of the plantation. There is a stile here and a path leads directly upwards to the summit of Beinn Teallach. We had also climbed out of the cloud that was now a ribbon of cotton wool obscuring Glen Spean below us. The massive bulk of Beinn a' Chaorainn to the east disappeared into a higher layer of cloud. The ground was very boggy after recent rains although the slopes were a beautiful hue of bronze as the midday sun lit up the slopes. We had over 500 metres to climb and, apart from the grouse that we disturbed, it was free time to reflect on other matters.

The summit was reached before 2pm but was still in cloud. I was halfway through my sandwich when Mark appeared and decided to continue, unusually he had not been galloping round, he was feeling under the weather and wanted to be sure of getting round before the train at 6pm. The descent is fairly steep to the north but there is a reasonable path that meanders through the rocks before the final hundred metres of descent down grassy slopes. The sun had begun to make its presence felt, it was a mild day for late November and it was spotlighting the great wilderness of hills to the north east including Creag Meagaidh.

I stopped for coffee at the bealach but once again Mark marched on up the uncompromising flank of Beinn a' Chaorainn. There were some tracks that soon disappeared as the rocks began and it was a case of head down and slogging up the 455 metres to the long summit ridge with its three tops all of very similar heights. A pair of ptarmigan flew over, their plumage already white, and the skies took on an abstract appearance as the sun sank and the various cloud formations jostled for airspace. It became a perfect walk, the first snow had fallen on the summit ridge, the views were full of early winter surprises and the skies were providing a light show as good as any I have seen.

It was 3:45pm by the time we reached the final top and decided to waste no time, it was a long descent and would be dark in 45 minutes. We negotiated a good line down the south west ridge and recognised the fire break through the plantation where we knew from previous outings that there was a path down to the track leading back to Roughburn. We made the stile as the light finally faded and I retrieved my head torch for the muddy descent. As I reached the track I lost my footing on a mudslip and the noise of my splash landing in the wet peat was only exceeded by the resulting expletive. It is a long and indirect 3 kilometres back to the A86 and then a further 4 kilometres back to the station, we decided to give the waterlogged field a miss in the dark. We arrived back with 15 minutes to spare and once again enjoyed the superb train service across the UK's highest stretch of railway. We couldn't see a thing but Bridge of Orchy was a haven of tranquility as we disembarked at 7pm and home was only an hour away. We had salvaged a wonderful day in the hills from the depths of a dreich November.

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