Meall nan Tarmachan

Or Another Crianlarich Weekend I

Or My Favourite Christmas Present III

A fifth annual weekend get together with old friends at the Ben More Lodge Hotel just outside Crianlarich. Last year both days walking ended for me, not without satisfaction, but with DNS (Did Not Summit) against my name in the record book. This time the Saturday was far more fruitful with great weather and a terrific traverse of part of the Tarmachan Ridge. Most of the party were taking the opportunity to ski on the couple of Munros on the North-Western end of the Lawers ridge, or to traipse along in the wake of the skiers, but being without the benefit of touring skis R and I decided to tackle the more interesting hills across the pass. After the initial excitement of the lizard spotted amongst the moss (see previous post) an excellent path gave us a pleasant steady climb (at my usual snail’s pace) towards Meall nan Tarmachan’s southern ridge.

The day had begun bright, had clouded up a little, and now the cloud was lifting to reveal Meall Coranaich (where our friends were skiing) Ben Lawers and Beinn  Ghlas:

The ridge ends in a small knoll and the climb from there looked both snowy and steep. We found an opportunity to practice ice-axe arrest…

(It works if your eyes are open too)

…and then pressed on.

As it turned out, after one steep climb the remaining steep and corniced section could be bypassed on a broad shelf which rose gradually to the summit ridge.

R posing after the first steep section.

Approaching the summit ridge.

The snow was deep. Sometimes it would support our weight. And sometimes it didn’t…

It was surprisingly windy on the top, given that it had been very calm up to that point, but I think that R was enjoying his first Munro.

From here a short descent and a short but occasionally steep climb brought us to Meall Garbh.

Gaelic scholar’s may take me to task, but I always translate Meall in a hill name as ‘lump’. That doesn’t fit Meall nan Tarmachan very well and it certainly doesn’t do any justice to Meall Garbh. Rough, which I believe is a fair translation of Garbh, might redress the balance somewhat, but the name still doesn’t prepare the unsuspecting for what is to follow…

…which if not quite a ‘knife-edge arête’ is at least sufficiently sharp to add a little spice to the crossing. I didn’t ought to have been ‘unsuspecting’ since I’ve been this way twice before – admittedly both of them many years ago – but I must confess that although I remember enjoying both days on the ridge (one summer, one winter) enormously, I didn’t have any recollection of this part of the route.

The views by now were fantastic, particularly of nearby hills such as Ben More and Stob Binnein to the west and Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin across Loch Tay to the south.

We had some difficulty descending the next part of the ridge which was briefly very steep, icy and rocky. After a bit of a false start, a re-ascent and eventually a flanking manoeuvre with some step-kicking and a short bum-slide, we eventually made it down to the coll. Whilst we were trying to negotiate the difficulties, I was temporarily diverted by a pair of birds, small and dumpy which kept low to the ground and which I didn’t recognise. They may have been snow buntings, but I’m not sure.

It was getting late by now, and I could feel the first signs of cramp in my thighs. We decided to err on the side of caution and head down from here…

For what would have been an easy finish along a landrover track back to the car, except for the cramp which finally did attack.

Late sunlight on Beinn Ghlas

In fact, this wasn’t quite the end of our days walking because we took a short stroll along the western end of Loch Tay, near Killin, to seek out a geocache there. I feel slightly responsible – I think that I introduced R to the idea of geocaching and now he is a man obsessed. Now if started him on Munro bagging….oops!

Meall nan Tarmachan

On Finding More Things

Saturday’s second stroll was a family affair with three generations of bound beaters. We began in the trough, a slight fault where the bedding plains have turned through ninety degrees so that they run vertically and a softer layer of mudstones has eroded faster then the two layers of limestone which sandwich it. S was on his bike, but the other two kids had great fun exploring the areas above the path, clambering in and out of the trees.

The trough led us to Trowbarrow Quarry….

…where S was fascinated by the climbers and their portable crash mats.

The hazel catkins have changed again and are now more obviously opening. The colour has changed also and where a tree is well covered they make quite a fetching display.

The track which winds its way out of the quarry has a long gradual descent and S went shooting down it on his bike, rapidly disappearing from view. We crossed the golf course and returned to Leighton Moss where we had parked.

It seems that I have become an internet authority on the essay ‘On Finding Things’ by E. V. Lucas after mentioning that I’d read it in a post a while ago. Now a search on google gives my post as the first link and the stats here have swelled to a trickle as a result. Well almost a trickle. In that essay Lucas mentions finding a plover’s nest after a couple of hours of searching. I’m not sure what sort of nest we found – there were no adult birds in attendance, but it didn’t take much seeking out…

Can you spy the eggs in the middle of the clump of reeds?

On Finding More Things

Pop Goes The….Stoat?

A Two Walk Saturday. The first, with my Mum and Dad, a stroll to The Cove, across the Lots, a pause at Kay’s to buy some of their delicious sourdough bread, and eventually to Heald Brow which despite its modest height has expansive views over Warton Crag to the Bowland Fells which still held a little snow around Ward’s Stone the highest part of the moors. Whilst we admired the view a weasel ,or a stoat (I can’t tell), raced across the open grass ahead of us – that’s two sightings this year, can’t be bad. Year’s ago on a long back-packing trip I had stopped for a brew, had my stove going and was sat on my rucksack. A little further along the path lay a dead thrush. A stoat, or a weasel (I can’t tell), emerged from the nearby hedgerow and with many nervous glances at me came and dragged the thrush a little further along the path before disappearing again. This process was repeated several more times which kept me entertained whilst the kettle boiled, the tea brewed and I drank my cup the the dregs.

Closer to home the fields are full of sheep which are already surprisingly large and robust. In the background you can perhaps make out more snow patches on the distant Howgill Fells.

Pop Goes The….Stoat?


A weekend visit back to the snows of January – or so it seemed. We were stopping near Auchterarder as guests of some optimistic time-share sales-people who were labouring under the misapprehension that we have several thousand quid lying around waiting to be squandered. Anyway, in return for listening to their pitch we got a room for a couple of nights, a bottle of wine and a excellent free lunch. We left the kids with the in-laws and so were able to enjoy to the full the opportunity to use the pool, sauna and Jacuzzi, and to sit around and read the paper (or the Millennium trilogy which is keeping me very busy at the moment).

A week before this area had very heavy and very localised snowfall. Although there was a thaw underway, the snow was still pretty deep. Lots of trees had lost substantial branches – hard to believe that the destruction was due to snow. Yet a few miles away there was barely any snow at all.

On the Sunday we drove the short-distance to a snow-free Crieff for a walk along the rivers Turret and Earn and up the diminutive Laggan Hill.

River Earn

We followed a way-marked route called Lady Mary’s walk – once we’d set off we remembered that we’d walked it once before six or seven years ago. Along the route there were several distinctive benches, each with lines of verse etched into the wavy timbers of the seat…

We didn’t see all that much in the way of wildlife, but we did find the entrance to this lair…

Mole’s House


Pink Mud Sunset

Two post work walks on consecutive evenings – the nights are decidedly lighter. The first was a solo affair in Eaves Wood, a good hours exploration. Nothing much evident in the way of signs of spring in the wood. Having wandered a bit further afield than I have of late I discovered that there seems to have been quite a bit of felling in several parts of the wood. This being a National Trust property this is not commercial felling but part of a management plan. I also noticed that in one older area of felling saplings had been bent over and staked down in arches and that new branches are growing upwards from those bent arches. Why do that?

The walk also yielded a surprise view of Ingleborough over in the Dales. It can often be seen from Castlebarrow, but I was lower down and wasn’t expecting to see it. It is still snow covered and for that reason loomed both larger and closer than it normally does. I took a photo, but it was a very grey afternoon and the result is a dull and grainy affair.

Today was much brighter. This time I was joined by the boys who decided that we should go round via the Lots. Good choice. We didn’t quite make the Cove for sunset, although we caught glimpses of the disappearing sun through the trees as we approached. We might have been there earlier except S set off on his own in completely the wrong direction whilst B and I were still getting ready to go. We spent a few increasingly desperate minutes looking for him in the garden before he reappeared and we finally got going. Further excitement on route was provided by horses and alpacas in road side fields.  On the grassy bank on Cove Road a single Primrose flower has appeared. Two years ago the bank was resplendent in primrose yellow almost a month earlier.

B was very excited by the post sunset sky. “Look Dad the sky’s pink. The water’s pink. The mud’s pink.”

Clearly the pink made a big impression, but there were purples, yellows, oranges and blues there too. Fabulous stuff. All down to air pollution apparently.

That view again.

A final view from The Lots over the cottages on Shore Road.

Pink Mud Sunset