This flying weekend up to Scotland was the brainchild of Andy Brown, and I thought that it was an excellent opportunity to gauge myself for the Welsh 3ks whilst bagging some Munros at the same time. In addition to this I much prefer being in Scotland than South of the border, so it was not like I would ever turn the weekend down.
We were beaten up to the bunkhouse by Andy’s car on the way up so proceeded immediately to the Ben Lawers Hotel to meet them, not arriving at the bunkhouse until about 01:30 on the Saturday morning. In consequence I was a little disorganised come Saturday morning, and it took over an hour to sort my gear out and get ready.
The plan had been in debate for the last week with regards to how to tackle the ridge. I didn’t care whether it was taken from East or West so long as I got to tick all the tops, but the logistics were problematic. Ultimately all six of us bundled into the car, we dropped Ian, Hugh and Nigel off at the Visitor Centre, whilst Andy, Mike and I proceeded to the northern end of Lochan na Lairige.
The problem with tackling the ridge from the West was that you had to decide at the outset whether to go for the two more Northern Munros or not, and it was this that split the group. I was adamant that I wanted to do the seven, Mike and Andy were also willing to commit to the longer walk. Had we started at the East end we could have made the decision at the end of the day, and perhaps some of the others might have joined us, conversely we may have decided to give up!
We found a place to park at the end of the reservoir and climbed up away from it and into Glann Da-Eig from where we forged a path Northwards heading towards our first Munro of the day – Meall a’ Choire Leith. The advantage of starting at this end of the ridge is that the bealach on which one parks lies at 550m, leaving the car at 09:40 we had summited this mountain by 11:00, and from this point of the day onwards we averaged a Munro an hour.
On approaching Meall a’ Choire Leith we contoured significantly around it to the ridge which adjoins it to Meall Corranaich. There is an obvious path from here to the summit and the steep South Western face of the mountain can be avoided.
We enjoyed fantastic views from the summit as illustrated in the pictures below. Andy joined Mike and I on the summit before we turned and proceeded to Meall Corranaich – one down six to go.
The walk along the ridge to Meall Corranaich is fairly pleasant, and steepens when one reaches the head of Coire Gorm and heads directly towards it. It was not long before we were on the summit and looking across to the clouds now dipping to cover the tip of Ben Lawers. By the time we had descended to the foot of Beinn Ghlas the cloud bas had dropped another 200m or so, and we would spend the majority of the remainder of the day encompassed within it.
There is an obvious path below Beinn Ghlas which one supposed would lead to its ascent. In fact this path should not be taken as it leads up to Ben Lawers and would involve backtracking on a ridge walk of this nature. We headed directly up the North West ridge staying close to the crags falling to our left. Battling up through the heather was never really problematic, and before we knew it we were on the summit and in the cloud.
We were also now well and truly in tourist belt. Having not seen a soul for the first couple of hours, we would not experience solitude during the remainder of the day. The path is very obvious and easy going at all times. We were quickly upon Ben Lawers with a group, and descended to the bealach below An Stuck where we engaged in luch. I had felt quite light headed and tired at this point and wandered might I bale at some point prior to the end of the ridge, though I had no intention of doing so. However, I soon perked up after some food and drink and felt much better for the remainder of the day. Just as we were about to leave, Hugh appeared and went down to the Ben Lawers Hotel from here, having not liked the descent between An Stuc and Meall Garbh.
At this point we were in the very base of the cloud, and we now ascended up to An Stuc, and back into the cloud. I was flying again now, but by the time I had seen the descent Hugh referred to I knew why he had turned back. The descent through a rubble filled valley is steep and insecure, and none of our party enjoyed it at all. However, it was over quite quickly once we had forged a way down, the right hand side of the gully being much more favourable than the remainder – 5 down 2 to go!
We ascended to Meall Garbh, talking for some time to a Scots couple for a while on the way up. At this point I thought that the walk was in the bag. The walk to the final top of the day is a fairly long one, but the ascent is gradual. Wanting to make a statement I ran up Meall Greigh, and as I arrived on the summit saw Ian and Nigel just below me begining the descent. They saw me immediately and turned around, and we waited for the remainder of the party to arrive. The walk out from here seems to take for ever – I believe it took possibly as much as two hours to get down to the bunkhouse in Fearnan.
When I had been sat below Ben Lawers, and particularly on it descent, I had been considering my chances of succesfully completing the Welsh 3Ks on Saturday 9th July. I decided that I might as well not turn up, but on descent from Meall Greigh I enjoyed a complete psychological turnabout – game on!!!!!!
I am now looking forward once more to having a crack at the Welsh 3Ks, I’ve been training for it since January. I was particularly pleased to tick 7 Munros in one day – doubling my tally from 7 to 14. There’s only one way that I will double it on my next session, and that would be to do both Glen Shiel ridges in a day, which is just a little optimistic.
I fell asleep in the pub on the Saturday night, and they left me in the pub and hid in the car. This cute Aussie barmaid woke me up and told me they had left – the bunkhouse is about 5 bloody miles away. I took my vegeance by taking photographs of most of them lying on beds in various states of undress. If anybody would like me to publish those on this page, then please let me know. Any takers? No? Oh well!!!!!!
Accompanied by:Mike and Andy
Estimated ‘Dead’ Time:1hr
1214m Ben Lawers
1118m Meall Garbh
1118m An Stuc
1103m Beinn Ghlas
1069m Meall Corranaich
1047m Creag An Fhithich
1001m Meall Greigh
0926m Meall a’ Choire Leith