Sunday, February 17, 2008

Laggan and the Monadh Liath: Beinn a' Chaorainn (80) and Beinn Teallach (282)

Walk date: 16/02/08
My Munro #'s: 141 and 142

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Byn a choerin - hill of the rowan - 1049m
byn tyellach - forge hill - 915m

Duration - 11:15 - 16:00
Distance - 17 km
Total ascent - 1215m
Weather - Cold. Despite some sun breaking through early on in the day the cloud at about 700m stayed firm and increased in the afternoon. Light winds at height increased the chill but generally a pleasant day for this time of year.
Team - solo.
Other hikers: a half dozen through the day.

Hurray! It’s walking time again! Yes, the first hike of the season saw me undertaking the three hour drive to Laggan again this Saturday, but it was totally worth; such a great feeling to get to the hills again, and it certainly helped that these were darn good hills at that.

After an initial stop at the wrong carpark, only identified with help from the GPS, I found the correct start and set off up a steep forest track from the tiny hamlet of Roughburn. Once at the fork in the path the incline leveled but this was just a brief respite before the massive relentless grassy shoulder of first target Beinn a’ Chaorainn. This route avoided the steeper start of going straight for Meall Clachaig, which I saw people on, but that route would have then had the advantage of a flat section to catch your breath on. The choice is yours.

The view from the carpark, 3 hours to Aberdeen that way:

The start of the climb to Beinn a' Chaorainn, get stuck in!

Looking across the loch to the impressive Ben Alder group:

And again:

And then some:

Anyway, after some time plodding breathlessly on and cursing my lack of fitness after an activity-lite winter, this pathless assault did finally peter out to leave me on the wide but abuptly-sided summit ridge of Beinn a’ Chaorainn. Unfortunately, the summits were in total cloud on this day so none of the surely amazing views up Loch Laggan and across to Creag Meagaidh were to be had. The summit here is the middle of three tops so don’t be fooled by the solid cairn on the first top (I saw four hikers here having their lunch stop here, and I wondered later on if they realised that they weren’t quite there).

The entire ridge of Beinn a’ Chaorainn is a pleasant stroll, all the better for the wind being relatively calm. The descent to the north west toward Tom Mor is one of your usual grassy slope affairs, albeit on this day complicated by frozen ground and wide snow sheets to cross. In fact this northern side was perhaps predictably a much colder affair, confirmed by the desolate features of Beinn Teallach and the impressive isolation of Loch Sguadaig and its surrounds coming into view as I dropped beneath the cloud.

Finally, the first top of Beinn a' Chaorainn:

Spot the difference, the actual summit of Beinn a' Chaorainn:

Stay off the snow, it's a long way down!

On the descent, dry ground runs out!

Any way you look at it you're going to have to cross it:

Phew, down safe:

I aimed for the start of the north ridge of Beinn Teallach rather than start up the steeper slopes to try and take a short cut onto it. I was glad of this as even this gentler approach was hard going due to extensive coverings of hard-packed snow-ice. I took a lot of care and time over these, stepping in frozen footsteps from previous hikers when they were available. Eventually with patience the summit came into view (given the low visibility only when I was right on top of it!). A quick drink of ice-cold water and I carried on over much gentler terrain and even, for a while, a path! Before long the progress became quite rapid as the southern side was almost completely free of snow. I dropped below the cloud as well and with soft ground again, some of that good fun downhill jogging was possible.

Loch Sguadaig and the north ridge of Beinn Teallach:

Looking down the glen toward Loch Laggan:

Cold ground on Beinn Teallach's north side:

Good spot for a picnic anyone?

Slow progress over the ice:

Some welcomed features in the winterland:

Beinn Teallach summit:

Ice on the 'warmer' southern side of Beinn Teallach:

Before long I was on the path that gently rises up the glen. A ‘can’t be bothered trying to stay dry’ crossing of Allt a’ Chaorainn then took me back into the forest from where I’d started and to the car. A great return to the hills with some exhilarating conditions. Excellent!

Loch Trieg just visible to the south:

The Ben Alder group again:

Back to Beinn Teallach (L) and Beinn a' Chaorainn (R):

The imposing Grey Corries to the south west:

The sprawl and noise of Roughburn:

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Blogger chrissie_allen said...

What an amazing walk George;fabulous pics too as usual.
Lovely to be able to experience the hike vicariously in the warmth of my home but actually to do it, and alone! Wow! Mind you it's probably a walk in the park to you and I don't suppose you got lonesome with all that beauty surrounding you.
Take care and good luck for future walks!

18 February 2008 at 14:35  
Blogger George Walks said...

Not so much a walk in the park after a slumbering winter. I'm ok doing a few hours on my own but at about 7 hours I do tend to miss company! Glad to have you vicariously along!!

18 February 2008 at 18:56  

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