Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Friday, 31 May 2019

Friday 31 May - Home


A very wet cloudy morning and an indifferent weather outlook sealed the decision to come home, regroup and prepare for another trip.

During our (almost) three week holiday I have, for the first time in recent years, posted on most days. I rather enjoyed it, although no matter how often I read the draft the outcome was never quite right. Never mind, the posts provide a good enough record of the days for my purposes. Comments from Sir Hugh, AlanR, Dave and Gayle were most welcome.

Posting to Blogger on my iPhone using a BT email address was very easy on 4G, including uploading up to four photographs. Occasionally after publishing I was able to upload an additional photograph via Blogger itself, though the photo appeared smaller than when added to an email. Ironically, last September using Gmail I found posting with photographs a nightmare.

I'm about to sign up for a Flickr account and I'll provide a link when this is done.

Photo: Croft Moraig, Double Stone Circle

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Tuesday 28 May - Meall Mor 819m L51

Meall Mor
We progressed quickly up the track from the parking place then onto easy slopes of rough grass, blaeberry bushes and bog cotton. Luckily, there was no bog to go with the cotton today. We arrived at the obvious dip between Tullich Hill and the long escarpment of Creag Gharbh with relative ease. As readers will know we climbed Tullich Hill last Friday intending to continue on today's route, but my left Achilles pain foiled that plan. No such problem this time.

An ATV track led out of the dip and we then alternated between using the sheep trods by the edge and the broader grassy expanses. The views ahead were good, but the scene across Loch Tay and to Ben More etc were incomparably better. We did most of these hills in winter, a long, long time ago, when doing the Munros, and haven't been on some of them in summer. So, Lynne suggested revisiting if we're back here in the next few weeks. They would feel like new hills I expect. Cruach Ardrain, Beinn Tullaichean, An Caisteal, Beinn a' Chroin, Beinn Chabhair to name a few. What a great idea.

The fine 819m top of Meall Mor was a tad too windy a place to halt for a much needed bite to eat so we said our goodbyes and retraced our steps, more or less. The Corbett Top, Meall nan Oighread was tantalisingly close, but we passed by. A reason to come back.

A kilometre or so from the car a ewe and her lamb got separated as we approached, the lamb squeezing under a gate, and we spent some time playing collie and shepherd trying to get it to go back through the gate, which I held open. All to no avail. I hope they were reunited.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Sunday 26 May - an encounter

Another very wet day so coffee and cake at The Paper Boat sounded like a good option. But first, we walked to the Crannog Centre in the hope that they had a book or two on standing stones and related matters. Yes, but not any that interested us.

As we returned to Kenmore along the stony beach, a swimmer, whom we'd noticed well out in the loch earlier in the morning, was emerging from the water. We engaged her in conversation making the obvious comments about it being cold etc (like the TV and radio reporters I criticise for asking the most stupid questions) and eventually she modestly told us that she was the first person to to swim 27 miles across the North Minch from the Western Isles to the Scottish mainland, taking under 19 hours. She only wore a swimsuit, hat and goggles in accordance with the rules of the British Long Distance Swimming Association and was stung many times by Lion Mane's jellyfish. Her many other achievements are online but she didn't mention them - like swimming the Pentland Firth when she was nineteen for example.

Modest and delightful. Unusual these days where celebrity rules i.e. "those known for being well-known".

The Paper Boat did not have any of their warmed banana loaf served with a pat of butter, but their coffee and walnut cake was not a poor substitute. Excellent.




Sunday, 26 May 2019

Saturday 25 May - a visit to two stones





On this, possibly the wettest day of the holiday so far, Lynne suggested another visit to the stone circle by taking the track from Remony, just before Acharn.

At Balmacnaughton swifts were tearing through the air feasting no doubt on the abundant insects around the house and trees beyond. Always a wonderful spectacle.

A group of walkers approached from the other direction, the first of them greeting me with a 'Bonjour'. I replied likewise, hoping that he didn't continue the conversation in French. Probably not much danger given my pronunciation.

From the bridge over the Remony Burn, the Allt Mhucaidh, the track goes uphill to the stone circle which sits on a small grassy mound at 378m, its position giving magnificent views of Loch Tay, Ben Lawers and Schiehallion. Of the original nine, there are six stones remaining of which four are still standing and two lying down, with the remaining three thought to lie among the remains of a dyke built straight through the circle perhaps a hundred years ago. The rain stopped for us thankfully.

There's a circuit to be made from this point on good tracks, and 697m Creag an Sgliata can easily be included. We will no doubt get round to that sometime, but today we were off in search of the Cup and Ring Marked Stone. We found it roughly half a kilometre east of Balmacnaughton
and took lots of photographs. Some clearer than others it must be said. 

"This cup and ring marked stone is recorded as Canmore ID 25010, an extract of which reads: " 'On the top of an outcropping rock are nineteen cups, two cups each with a single ring and two each with double rings. The cups vary from 40-75 cms in diameter x 6-12 cms deep while the rings are very faint." The Canmore record also contains a drawing of the motifs' Courtesy Megolithic.co.uk

Another enjoyable and interesting day finishing with a walk back in heavy rain.


Crannog on Loch Tay
Standing Stones near Acharn



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Friday, 24 May 2019

Thursday 23 May - Tullich Hill. L51

From Shee of Ardtalnaig (May 2017) the steep broken slopes of Creag Gharbh of Meall Mor looked worth exploring and a walk from Tullich Hill to Meall Mor itself, diverting to take in the Corbett Top, Meall nan Oighread, looked no less appealing. Today, the plan was to go to Meall Mor via Tullich but I made a bad decision: I decided to try my boots again.

It didn't take very long for me to realise that I'd taken leave of my senses. Worse still, I could easily have turned back and changed into trail shoes when I felt a twinge in the tendon only five minutes into the walk, but decided against. Persevere, I thought, and pushed on through the tussocks to reach easier ground. However, on the top of cold, very windy Tullich Hill, I decided enough was enough, and reluctantly we called it a day and headed back, a stop for tea easing the pain. We will return, of course, but as the weather improved with every downward step I felt pretty fed up at having ruined the day for Lynne, though she would hear none of it.

At the car I changed immediately into my Merrell trail shoes and sighed with relief. I've rested the tendon today (a day to be on the hill for sure) and while in Killin bought another pair of the same shoes - just in case Merrell, like so many manufacturers these days, 'improve' a perfectly good design. The owner threw in a pair of socks worth £14 which I appreciated. The weather appears to be on the change so we'll have to have a think about what to do next.

Photos: (not many were taken on this walk).

Summit of Tullich Hill with route to Meall Mor right of Lynne.
One of five antlers we found.
The Tarmachans from Killin (today)

Wednesday 22 May - Kenmore to Kenmore

More a record of the day than a post of any interest to others, this was nevertheless an enjoyable short excursion.

There wasn't a great deal of traffic on the road from Kenmore to Acharn and, as always, it was an enjoyable stroll. Stopping occasionally to let various vehicles pass, Lynne spotted an early purple orchid hiding among the grasses on the roadside verge. (List of wild flowers seen this holiday to follow, courtesy of L). Unusually, there were no cars parked at the start of the walk to the Falls of Acharn and no-one at the Hermit's Cave either. Last time we were here it was busy so we passed quickly on, but today we had a look at said cave, built by the 3rd Earl of Breadalbane in the 1760s. Wordsworth and Burns visited apparently, but such things were fashionable then. I could never be a caver so the entrance was as far as I was prepared to go.

Beyond the Falls the grassy track traversed the hillside, by the so-called Queen's Drive, the views never failing to please no matter how often seen. A diversion can be made to visit a stone circle, which we had done previously and we may do so again when the forecast rain arrives. Two walkers passed going in the opposite direction wearing boots fit for Ben Nevis in winter, the only other walkers seen all day. After passing Balmacnaughton (Cup and Ring Marked Stone nearby) the RRW continued until it reached the hill road from Kenmore to Amulree. Tea and hot cross buns then down the steep road to Kenmore.

I was wearing my new Merrell trail shoes, still letting my tendinitis settle which it seems to be doing. I'd say my current pair of Keen Targhee II Mids are destined for the bin despite having at least another year's wear in them (confirmed - see next post). I bought the new version, the Targhee III, before leaving home but didn't bring them with me. They were meant to lie in a cupboard until needed but they'll have to be used later this year probably, or tested next month. The cuff is softer and lower than on the Targhee II so I hope they will be fine. If not, that's more money wasted.

Orchid
Kenmore and Loch Tay
The track from Balmacnaughton
Loch Tay from near Balmacnaughton

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Tuesday 21 May - Dunan




At Ardtalnaig, a young lad (delivering cattle) demonstrated great skill reversing a huge tractor attached to a massive container within inches of our car and gave us a cheery wave and smile when we signalled we could move it for him. No need, he knew what he was doing. We've always had pleasant encounters in this area and this continued throughout the day as various people went about their work on the estate.

It's a steady climb up the road to Claggan with good views back over Loch Tay and the hills beyond. On reaching Claggan we were sad to see it apparently abandoned as a working farm and the house being renovated. Hopefully, it is just being renovated. Alistair, who owns the site we're staying on, will know I expect.

Beyond Claggan we passed the ruin of Tullichglass as the track headed south beneath the slopes of The Shee of Ardtalnaig and Creagan a' Beinne. Oyster catchers flew close to us, as if to warn us off; a stone chat chatted and flitted from one clump of heather to another. The glen was obviously well populated at one time with the remains of several clachans in evidence.

Ahead we could see the bulk of Ben Chonzie but I doubt it's approached and climbed from this direction being a much easier proposition from Invergeldie in Glen Lednock or from Loch Turret Reservoir.

Though we don't use them, much preferring to camp, there is something special, I think, about that first sighting of a bothy in the hills. At Dunan, we both felt near to home because, beyond the bothy, the track, now beside the River Almond, makes its way to familiar Amulree or Newton Bridge. Cross the bridge over the Almond a short distance from the bothy and another track goes over the hills to Glen Lednock and on to Comrie.

As we sat replacing calories we heard an estate ATV approaching and pretty quickly it sped by, rifles on the front. That's the second time we've seen estate workers with guns this holiday.

Dunan, a former cottage, is situated in a lovely spot at the head of Glen Almond and is now a locked bothy not available for accommodation. We wandered round it in the hope of getting a glimpse inside, but to no avail. It's strictly for use during the grouse shooting season.

It wasn't exactly warm at our lunch spot and we were glad of our ME jackets to fend off the cold wind as we made our return journey, but, right on time as we stopped for afternoon tea and biscuits, the sun appeared and we took full advantage of it for the next half hour.

Back at Claggan, the cattle delivered earlier in the day, complete with bull, watched us pass. With calves all around, the bull never took his eyes off us. Nothing to worry about though. Just don't bother his offspring.

The route we walked today is part of the RRW if you choose the variant via Amulree. In fact using the RRW routes and other tracks in the area a pleasant backpacking trip could be enjoyed.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Sunday - 19 May. Trail shoes and Aberfeldy

railway sleepers in garden?
A wet morning near Killin, with cloud well down even on the lower hills. It was supposedly slightly better further east, so Lynne suggested a visit to Aberfeldy and a walk through The Birks, and beyond, which would allow me to try out my new shoes and maybe give a half-decent walk as well.

The Birks were gloomy in dull weather and that's how I remember them from a visit in the dim and distant past, but things brightened up a bit when we emerged on the road to Urlar. A narrow path bounded by a fence and trees led to a track, which I think Martin and SueB trod recently on their current TGO Challenge - but in the opposite direction of course. The road to Urlar is private to vehicles and a sign makes it clear they do not welcome walkers near the farm either.

We didn't go far along the track which follows the Urlar Burn for a large part of the way across open moorland before finally terminating at a small lochan beside the twisting hill road from Amulree to Kenmore. Instead we retraced our steps but kept to the quiet road (the Urlar 'private' I one) down to Aberfeldy and Wade's Bridge across the Tay.

The new Merrell trail shoes were excellent and my Achilles gave me no problems whatsoever. It wasn't exactly a long walk, but had I been wearing my boots I know I would have been in pain. Whether they will be comfortable on a proper hill day remains to be seen, but so far so good.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Experiment

While mobile blogging last week I've been restricting photo size to 'medium' and that obviously affects image quality. This has worked fine with no problems uploading using 4G so long as the photos are added after the text. They then appear at the top of the post. The following photos are 'large' so let's see what happens.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Saturday 18 May - new trail shoes

On this wet morning thoughts turned to my Achilles problem and I starting thinking about footwear. For about 10 years now I've used Keen Targhee II mids and found them excellent in all but winter conditions for which they were not designed. However, there is no doubt that the cuff on the left boot of my newest pair is tapping away at my tendon as I walk and making it worse.

So, I went in search of footwear that might be kinder to my tendon and maybe allow some healing to take place without me actually stopping walking for a while, a prospect that fills me with horror. The Dutch owner of the shop in Killin, The Outdoor Centre, was extremely helpful and I bought a pair of Merrell MQM Flex GTX, which feel as light as a pair of non Gore-tex shoes. I've always liked Merrell and these new ones were comfortable around Killin in the rain. I'll try them properly tomorrow on a low level route, in the wet if the forecast is right. I recommend The Outdoor Centre. Not in any way pushy but very helpful and knowledgeable. I'll go back.

Friday 17 May - Meall Odhar 656m Graham. L50. NN298298.


Rising to the north of Cononish,  Meall Odhar can perhaps lay claim to providing some of the best views of Ben Lui, Beinn Dubhchraig and Ben Oss, all fine Munros, though Lui stands supreme in this company. The Corbett Beinn Chuirn holds it own though and so does rough Meall Odhar.

Starting from an almost full Dalrigh carpark in slightly cloudy weather, we were soon on the wide track which leads to Cononish farm and the gold mine. Two other walkers were following us heading for Ben Lui we assumed and the three others we met were on the WHW. The track has been widened and resurfaced since we were last here and if this sort of scar can be inflicted on a National Park, there is little hope for other areas in the long run. The River Cononish was very low.

We had to stand aside a couple of times to allow mine traffic to pass and were glad to eventually spot the gate through the deer fence giving access to the hill.

Deep grasses led through a firebreak where we stopped for the inevitable tea. Higher up, firmer ground with small slabs of rock scattered about brought us to the summit where a few more layers of clothing were needed against the cold easterly wind. A clump of moss campion added some colour around the cairn. There was a distinct lack of bird song.

The cloudy conditions had quickly improved as we walked so we took lots of photos of the surrounding hills, both near and far. Much duplication I expect.

It's possible to make a circuit over two small tops down to Tyndrum and back along to Dalrigh by the WHW but we declined. It does avoid a return along the track which is a definite plus.

Nearly back at the carpark there is a small information plaque in the vicinity of the lost township of Newton. Dating from 1867 it is thought to have housed workers from the former Lead Smelting Mill. The horror of working in the lead mines is captured by a photograph of a miner's graffiti. Courtesy of John Pickering Archaeology, it reads: "God save us here or anywhere". You can feel the despair.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Thursday 16 May - Coffee and cake (loaf) at The Paper Boat, Kenmore.


After the exertions of a drive along Loch Tay and a walk down to the lochside we headed for The Paper Boat coffee shop. What a delightful place.

The banana loaf served warm with a pat of butter was superb, the coffee excellent. Highly recommended.

Wednesday 15 May - Beinn Bhreac 716m

As mentioned in the previous post my left Achilles tendon is recovering, so an easy day seemed in order to help it on its way - hopefully.

Looking at the map, a track, starting just north of the bridge over the Allt a' Chilleine at Ardtalnaig, caught Lynne's eye and looked promising for an easy day, including the ascent of a Graham Top, Beinn Bhreac at 716m. We are not 'doing the Grahams' let alone the Graham Tops, but it looked a worthwhile ascent and not too taxing for my aforementioned tendon.

It was hot and there was no cooling breeze until we were well above Coire Cruinneachan and things improved as we gained height.

As expected the view of Schiehallion was splendid - little did we know that TGO Challengers Martin and Sue Banfield would later be camping in close proximity to it, by the Temper Burn. Our day was going to be considerably shorter than their 30km.

We contemplated going out to Dunan but opted to descend the broad ridge to Meall nan Oighread and so down to Ardtalnaig at a leisurely pace. Dunan will be for wet weather, forecasted to arrive on Saturday.

Back on the grassy track, some geologists were hammering away at rocks and told us there were lots of old lead mines hereabouts, but working for a commercial company they were not forthcoming about the purpose of their activities.

My tendon had caused me little trouble so fingers crossed that it truly is on the mend.

Tuesday 14 May - Meall Ghaordaidh. Munro 1039m


It came as a bit of a shock when I realised that it was forty two years ago come 26 November when we first climbed Meall Ghaordaidh under blue skies and in perfect, crisp, snow conditions. It was a quick ascent but with time enough to sunbathe on the lower slopes too.

I don't remember starting at Duncoisk but that's where the obvious start is nowadays (large sign saying so and I am suspicious of this practice, but that's another story).

The route through the pastures on the west side of the Allt Dhuin Croisg, past some old shielings, is a beautiful one with Meall Ghaordaidh in full view. Thankfully, given the high temperatures, it was gentle, easy going most of the way and on the final, steeper slopes a good path winds its way through the outcrops of rock - the sort of ground I enjoy - to emerge at the large shelter with trig point inside. I only have vague memories of these upper slopes and summit environs in the snow. Should have kept a journal.

People were following us early on but we had left them well behind and after a leisurely lunch they still hadn't appeared at the top. Views were excellent, if a little hazy. Ben Lawers dominated with Vorlich, Stuc a' Chroin, Ben More and Stob Binnein most notable among the many other peaks.

We'd just descended to below the outcrops when two walkers appeared, a father and son up from Fife for the son's 32nd Munro. We had a grand conversation and when asked 'how many have you done', Lynne said we'd finished in 1991. "I wasn't even born then", he exclaimed. He was at Dundee University but not a member of the Mountaineering Club, worried in case that took over his time. I teased that St Andrews University had a better club anyway! As we got ready to leave, both he and his father shook our hands - something very common when I was young and met other folks in the hills, but hardly in evidence now. Among climbers on reaching the top, yes, but the walking community is too varied now for those traditions to survive. That's my experience anyway. More's the pity.

Our descent was leisurely with a stop at the old shielings for a last cup of tea and some photographs. I was looking forward to some cool Highland Spring sparkling water back at the car but alas Lynne thought I'd brought it and I thought she had. Not as serious as the time this happened with ice axes on Skye!

I have been suffering with a very painful left Achilles tendon but it seems to be recovering at last much to my relief.

In the meantime (16th) we are having coffee at the Kenmore Hotel sitting in sun. Hopefully a Graham tomorrow.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Monday 13 May - Corbett. Cnoc Coinnich 763.5m L56 NN233007






We were away relatively early for the forty mile drive to the the small carpark at Coilessan on Loch Long, our hill for the day being a Graham promoted to Corbett status in 2016. 

Military activity was taking place. Dutch soldiers, in full camouflage and armed, were everywhere and our hearts sank as we anticipated being turned away. One might argue with a landowner but...

Fortunately no such problems were encountered and we were off up the utterly ghastly forestry road. The Brack (Corbett) was in view most of the way up this road and lifted our spirits among the devastation of felled trees and heavy machinery constructing yet more tracks. This is the Cowal Way and perhaps only Scotland could create a route with such an unpleasant passage through otherwise grand surroundings. 

Cuckoos accompanied us all day and I cannot for the life of me understand why people find its call irritating. It is the sound of early spring and summer in the Highlands, here for a brief time only, and we both look forward to its arrival each year. 

Much relief was felt when we took the small woodland path which deposited us on the open hillside. White posts marked the Cowal Way 
and we followed them over boggy ground to reach the north ridge of our hill. Pathless to begin with, a faint line eventually appeared through the tussocks and led to the cairned top. Graham or Corbett it was a fine place to be. A hazy Jura, Loch Long, Gare Loch and the Firth of Clyde were all visible. To the NE, the Cobbler, Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime prominent, Ben Lomond a bit too distant to be of note.

Shelter in a hollow below the summit for a snack then back to the car along the busy Loch Lomond road, Glens Falloch and Dochart to Killin. Another satisfying day. 









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Monday, 13 May 2019

Sunday 12 May - Meall a’ Mhuic 745m Graham. L42, NN579508



It’s a very long time since we were in Glen Lyon but it still felt familiar as did the drive over the narrow hill road by Lochan an Lairige. The Ben Lawers car park was a seething mass of humanity and nothing would have enticed us to set foot on those hills today.

By contrast were were alone setting out from Innerwick towards the The Kirk Road, otherwise known as The Lairige Ghallabhaich, on our way to Meall a’ Mhuic. The estate track was pretty ugly, as they all are, though I’ve seen worse, and fairly soon it gave way to an older, more mature grassy one which in turn petered out on a heathery and sometimes boggy expanse. It made for slow-ish going and it seemed to take a surprisingly long time to cover the ground. In fact the final short stroll over the dry, crisp, mossy summit slopes brought us to the cairn exactly on time according to the guidebook, despite a missed junction which involved short diversion to regain the route and stops for photographs. Tea and rolls were enjoyed, though the strong wind was a bit too cold for sitting around in the running shorts I had donned earlier in the walk. 

All day the best views had been to the south and we were forever stopping and looking back, but from the top it was Ben Nevis, the Mamores, the Glen Coe hills, the Loch Ericht hills, Schiehallion - too many to mention - which set ‘memories dancing’ (Hamish Brown, I think). The eastern hills above the A9 looked to be holding much snow.  This was not a long day - a mere 8km round trip - but was an enjoyable start to the holiday 

Back at Innerwick we visited the Telford church and War Memorial. An appropriately peaceful place for both.

I’ve limited the photos to three in the hope they’ll upload OK. 









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Saturday, 11 May 2019

11 May - Arrived



A short journey from home with a pleasant stop by the side of Loch Earn for coffee then on to Killin. All the backpacking gear is with us but for the moment we have some hills to climb locally and further afield. As is usual these days we've brought the car as well as the motorvan which makes getting about that bit easier.

Tomorrow we have a Graham planned then later in the week a recently elevated Corbett.

Signal is good here so some posts should follow.

Thanks to A&D for looking after the house.

Photo is from our pitch across Loch Tay. Don't know how good it will be.

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