Monday, 14 March 2016

Meall Dubh

Meall Dubh summit cairn, not easily missed
Sunday, 13 March 2016
Ascent:     670 metres
Distance:  10 kilometres
Time:        3 hours 44 minutes

Meall Dubh        788m      

Birthday or no birthday, this is the year of the corbetts, and by that strange fluke of mathematics I now have as many left to climb as I have years on the clock of life. Time waits for no man and I would happily reverse the direction of both age and corbetts. Meall Dubh is a modest hill that sits alongside the A87 on the road between Invergarry and Loch Cluanie. John and I have talked about climbing it for the last twenty years but we were always either charging north to climb some munros or driving back too late or tired after several days walking to tackle this corbett that sits alongside the extensive Millennium wind farm. We were heading for a week at Strathcarron and after meeting up for a light lunch at Invergarry we had time to complete the hill before nightfall.

Instead of parking at the dam on the A87, we decided to follow the route from Glen Moriston that seems to be the more usual route nowadays utilising the track to the Millennium wind turbine field that sits east of the hill. The starting point is 3 miles east of the junction with the A87 where there is a large parking area on the opposite side of the road. There is a walker's gate onto the track that twists its way up the hill and passes through some plantations. At about 400 metres there is a junction and the road to the right heads towards the outlying northern summit of Beinn an Eoin. At the high point of this track we turned off to the left and climbed up and over some boggy ground and eventually found a place to cross the still swollen Allt Coire na Gaoith an Ear. Then we headed for the southern ridge of Meall Dubh climbing up steeper heather clad slopes until we found the drier ground of the ridge.

It was a grey afternoon but the views were good, we were close to the massive wind turbines, some of which were turning lazily in the whisper of a breeze. We had a couple of snow fields to cross before reaching the massive summit cairn. We had watched a lone walker disappear from here to the south about 5 minutes before our arrival, a sure sign that the corbett bagging season has started. The views to the west were impressive. Loch Cluanie was trapped between the snow capped peaks of Glen Shiel whilst Loch Quoich pointed towards the Knoydart hills, indistinct peaks on the hazy horizon.

After a break at the summit we took a more direct route down the ridge, taking advantage of some snow chutes and arrived at a recently erected footbridge over the Allt Coire Gaoith an Ear. From here a rough track climbs 50 metres to where we had veered off on the ascent. The light was fading as we retraced our route down the track and arrived at the car just before 6pm. The sense of accomplishment was more along the lines of 'well that's got that one out of the way'. The real birthday treat was an hour or so later when we indulged ourselves with a fine seafood meal in Plockton. Just as exciting was the weather forecast for the next few days - uninterrupted sunshine in the north west highlands and this in mid march.

On the early ascent from Glen Moriston
Millennium wind farm
Loch Quoich, Loch Loyne and Loch Cluannie from summit
The bridge over the Allt Coire Gaoith an Ear
Track above the bridge

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