Meall Tionail - 895m
Stob nan Clach - 956m

Creag Mhor - 1047m
Beinn Heasgarnich - 1078m

Saturday 16th October 2010

Weather/Conditions: Good weather - cumulus and cloud, light wind. Cold at dawn though.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 48.2km / 1970m / 9h 50m
Accompanying: Alone

I always rely on car lifts to get to awkward hills and tend to leave certain ones alone if I know I can't access them. But increased use of the bike as well as a desire to finally do these hills made me go for them by public transport, not the easiest proposition in the world. But when there are only two Munros left in the entire area unclimbed, desire ramps up a little and I really wanted to get these done.

So I took the early (pre-6am) train from Westerton to Tyndrum, felt like death beforehand but got fantastic shut-eye on the comfy sleeper train. At Tyndrum I felt awake again perhaps in part due to the frigid air there. Cycling was especially cold without the sun's warmth, so I put on a couple of layers and started cycling up the West Highland Way towards Auch. The uphill was hard work but I was repaid by a fantastic early morning freewheel to Auch, with Beinn Dorain framed ahead lit by golden morning sun.

I had a long day ahead of me but there was nowhere I'd rather be. The cycle would be long (I estimated about two hours to the foot of the hills) so I couldn't think too far ahead yet. At Auch I turned east and headed beneath the Orchy Munros in the direction of Glen Lyon. At the time I didn't realise a slight uphill made for hard going, though I was fresh though and didn't notice. Slowly but surely, I passed Beinn Dorain, onwards to Beinn Mhanach and as I passed this hill, Loch Lyon pulled into view ever so slowly. And unlike maps or Google Earth suggest, there is a 4WD track all the way into Glen Lyon. It can be cycled relatively easily, which means no carrying the bike over bogs. I was happy to keep the momentum up. I headed around the loch side, and down to the river between Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich. Here I dropped the bike with a note to any passing walkers/stalkers/etc, mentioning I'd already been granted permission from the estate to walk here. (I'd phoned Auch Estate the night before using the phone number on their website. They were superbly helpful).

Meall Tionail

Enough of trains and bikes. Time to get on the hills!

Meall Tionail is a 'Corbett Top' of Creag Mhor and it was first on the list. But it's 600 vertical metres of slog, so I left the bike near the loch and resigned myself to taking the first steps of slog. I just flew the metres to it's summit. There were a few false summits but with music in my ears, I raced to the top and basked in the morning sunlight, munching on some food and taking in the most spectacular silence and space. Views extended to the horizon, the peace was almost overwhelming, the silence of this land so powerful.

Stob nan Clach and Creag Mhor

Stob nan Clach is a Munro Top of Creag Mhor, but on the far side from Meall Tionail. So I traversed Creag Mhor, went too high, and had to descended unnecessarily gained height all the way around to Stob nan Clach. It's a cool wee Top however with an interesting rock pinnacle on the southern slopes I checked out. It was insignificant up close but fun to check out. And with the Top in the bag I could finally get the first Munro of the day in the bag. It took long enough. I headed around the slopes, meeting a guy coming in the opposite direction from Dundee. He, like me, had left home at a stupid time in the morning to get out on the hills, but reckoned it had paid off. He was going from Heasgarnich around to Challum, which is a fair trek. After five or ten minutes chatting we left each other to our respective plans and soon after I was sitting on the summit of Creag Mhor.

Beinn Heasgarnich

From Creag Mhor, Heasgarnich looks miles away! And it is - so after a rest on Creag Mhor, I was on my way. I thought that by heading a short distance down the SE ridge, the terrain would be easier to descend than the steep crags that cover the descent slope. But hardly! Word of advice: just head in a straight line off the summit - it really is easier. I ended up traversing insane slopes to get on something that looked climbable, and once I got on the route coming straight off the summit, it was easy. With the excitement of exposure gone, it was time to get to the bealach. The descent went down and down and down...

When I finally got there it made me think about how long I had to go to get up Heasgarnich. The front 'pillar' (or is that too dramatic?) was 350m straight up and then the summit was a long way beyond that. I switched my brain off and with music in ears, began plodding and picked away at the altitude. Near the top and looking up, I saw two guys sitting on a rock. When I arrived there knackered and out of breath, they were sitting at the edge of the high-level ridge winding across to the summit. They reckoned it would take about half an hour, and as we spoke they said they had come across Heasgarnich and wanted to camp somewhere on Creag Mhor. I just wondered whether they knew the weather was going to be complete bollocks in the morning, and that a high level camp would be rubbish. But I left them to their plans and got on with my own, enjoying a high-level walk around to the broad summit ridge of Beinn Heasgarnich. This is a huge mountain but there is barely a cliff in sight. This is not a bad thing I think. It's simply a vast sprawling mass, unthreatening and rising in pleasant contours to a rounded summit ridge, throwing arms down to embrace the shores of Loch Lyon.

Enough of the poetry. It's a beautiful hill and it's also a great viewpoint, so I took a panorama in four parts and chilled for some moments by the cairn. Views were long-reaching in every direction. Satisfied, and eating the last of my food, I headed northwards and back towards my bike for the cycle back to Tyndrum, a place that from here seemed a long, long way away.


The descent was okay but endless grassy slopes became tedious to walk down. Now I just spent time sucking in the atmosphere of the place, listening to the stags rutting in the glen enjoying this place while I was still here. I'd wanted to come to Glen Lyon for a long time. I see it as an immensely peaceful place, even if, I suppose, it seemed very empty today. With damp feet from the bogs at the bottom of the glen, I headed back over the last grasses to the bike. This is a part of every "bike 'n hike" (I got that name from Ed Viesturs' book) I look forward to and love. When I have sore feet and I'm in a bit of pain, I love to arrive back at the bike and jump on, content that the walking is over. All that awaits is a long freewheel down the glens, soaking in the freedom and space around me, freshening up again after a hard day. It's no wonder I love the life I set myself.

Cycle Out

And so a happy guy, I cycled around Loch Lyon a bit, diverting for a cow and calf on an otherwise uneventful journey. In the distance I saw a couple of people down by the loch side in a canoe who seemed to be heading back to the Glen Lyon road head, providing that's where they came from. They didn't see me but it was strange to see others in this place, even if at a distance.

It was a hell of a slog cycling back to the head of the Auch Gleann, but once I was over the top off the rise, it was a spectacular, fast downhill nearly all the way through the glen. I had to keep concentration to navigate my road bike through the gravel and potholes, and I picked up great speeds. Fast enough to start knackering the bike and remind myself I don't have a mountain bike nor a puncture repair kit! It went through most of the streams without problems and I was back at Auch early, almost too early to catch the train.

I had a couple of hours to kill until the train arrived and with no money, so there was no point in cycling back. Instead I walked back with the bike from Auch by choice, and took it very slowly, too weary to go quick. Less time here is more time sitting about Tyndrum. It was hard work pushing a bike along the uphill track but when I finally got to the top of the pass I lay on the grass verge and slept a while, only awoken by dad calling me on my mobile. Awake again, I freewheeled back to Tyndrum, keen to do the final bit in style.

And then there was the long, penniless wait (I spent my last 50p on a Mars bar in the Green Welly) before, finally, the train pulled up at Tyndrum Upper and I headed home.

So how's that for Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich, by public transport, in a day?!

It was only possible by taking at least one sleeper train from Glasgow, and also required taking a bike on that train. The Scotrail Sleeper claims "Reservations Compulsory", but in my experience it has been absolutely fine to get on without reservation or ticket. Even with a bike.

And finally, one more note to say that this trip was done by scraping 5p coins from every corner of the house for the train ticket (not my usual style) as well as making every effort to pack very light. I didn't take my normal pack went for a normal bag instead. I consumed about 500ml of Lucozade during the walk and some water beforehand and on the train up. It was all done on a whim but it was a superb day no less.


Creag Mhor 360°

Beinn Heasgarnich 90˚ SW - Crianlarich, Ben Challum and Creag Mhor, Arrochar, Ben Lui and Ben Cruachan

Beinn Heasgarnich 90˚ NW - Orchy Hills, Etive, Black Mount, Mamores and Nevis, Loch Treig and Ossian

Beinn Heasgarnich 90˚ NE - Laggan, Drumochter, Cairngorms, Glen Lyon, Lawers Range, Breadalbane

Beinn Heasgarnich 90˚ SE - Ben Chonzie, Loch Earn, Balquhidder and The Trossachs
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 8.05am Tyndrum
(0.35) 8.40am Auch
(2.00) 10.05am Bike drop-off
(3.00) 11.05am Meall Tionail
(3.10) 11.15am Meall Tionail (left)
(3.55) 12.00pm Stob nan Clach
(4.30) 12.35pm Creag Mhor
(6.20) 2.25pm Beinn Heasgarnich
(7.20) 3.25pm Bike pick-up
(8.15) 4.20pm Auch
(9.50) 5.55pm Tyndrum

Written: 2010-10-30
Edited: 2010-11-25