When you book* a weekend away in the Scottish Highlands, at the tail end of winter, months in advance, you are inevitably making yourself a hostage to fortune. Over many annual visits to the Killin area, our group of old friends have enjoyed quite variable weather, with days out memorable for both fine conditions but also sometimes for some pretty wild and unpleasant wind, rain, hail, snow – not necessarily all at the same time. We have never however, experienced a weekend on a par with this year’s superb trip. Days like these come far and few between.
On the Saturday we split into several groups with one party heading for Ben More and another for Beinn Dorain. The Tower Captain and I meanwhile opted for the two ‘spare’ hills at the North-Western end of the Ben Lawers range. This has the advantage of a very high start, although the road past Lochan na Lairige eventually became impassable and we first helped to push another car which was stuck and then had some dodgy manoeuvres of our own to negotiate before we found a good place to park off the road.
Lochan na Lairige
Lochan na Lairige panorama.
I took lots of panoramas. All of them, to a greater or lesser extent, have these vertical lines across them, but I’ve included them anyway because I think they give a better idea of the views we had.
Meall nan Tarmachan.
We had to descend a little at first, in order to get to a point where we could begin our ascent of Meall a Choire Leith. That climb was a long old drag (much bigger than Arnside Knott! – see last post) and to say that I was very tired by the time we’d finished it, is somewhat of an understatement. The snow was pretty hard in places. On a previous trip the Shandy Sherpa lent me his Kahtoola Microspikes and, impressed with their efficacy, I bought myself a pair almost immediately afterwards. I haven’t worn them in the two years which have elapsed since, and for some reason didn’t put them on as soon as I might have on this occasion either. When I eventually did fit them, I again found they gave great assurance and wished I’d put them on sooner.
If the climb was exhausting, there was some recompense in the views…
…with ranks of snowy hills stretching away in every direction.
Even this raven…
…seemed to have paused to contemplate the majesty of it all.
Meall Garbh, An Stuc, Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas. (I think)
Obligatory summit photo number one.
We did some hasty mental calculations and decided that, even at my slow plod, we still had plenty of time to include Meall Corranaich.
Looking back to Meall a Choire Leith.
The climb was long and gradual, and should have been relatively easy, but for, in the latter stages, some energy-sapping, deep, unconsolidated snow.
Still, we got there eventually…
Obligatory summit photo number two.
More stripy panoramas.
Click on any of the photos to see larger versions.
Looking across Loch Tay. The two prominent hills are Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin. (Probably)
(Soon to be) obligatory summit panorama.
TC was wearing his own crampon substitutes which seemed to have coiled wire rather than spikes. They worked well, but had an unfortunate habit of coming off from time to time. Here, on our descent, he had just retraced his steps and luckily managed to retrieve them both.
A final view of Meall a’Choire Leith and our ascent route.
Fantastic. All that, and we still had the prospect of a delicious meal and a few convivial beers in the bar of the Suie Lodge Hotel to come.
*Not that I booked it. Thanks to the Shandy Sherpa for that. This is (I think) the sixth year that we’ve stayed at the Suie Lodge and it may, sadly, be the last, since the owners have it on the market. The warm welcome and great food there are highly recommended, catch it while you can!