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