Meall nan Tarmachan SE Top - 923m
Meall nan Tarmachan - 1044m
Meall Garbh - 1026m

Sunday 27th February 2011

Weather/Conditions: Sunny spring weather, on a winter mountain. Great snow conditions, clear summits and big views - and a lot of wind, gusting 70-80mph.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 9.4km / 750m / 5h 35m
Accompanying: Sam and Darren

In October 2010, my friend Sam Munro went trekking to the Khumbu region of the Himalaya, but got home finding herself without an urge to climb any mountains. I could relate because after Poland, I didn't touch the hills for a week or two. In Sam's case, it wasn't until February that she decided to get out again and with her old friend Darren we went to Meall nan Tarmachan in Perthshire, a mountain with a reputation for being fun in winter and also one with a car park half way up the mountain.

Without my own car, I needed to get to Sam's early on Sunday and slept on the living room floor Saturday night. Like me, Sam has a bookshelf put aside for mountain literature and I spent a considerable amount of time reading...

The weather forecast had been for rain in the morning clearing to blue skies. When I woke up it was already sunny outside, there was hardly a cloud around. We thought that we'd better get on our way, and Darren arrived at Sam's place from Kilmarnock. We headed up past Stirling, through Callander and Strathyre to Killin. It was striking to be in the car in the daylight - with no more night-time starts, it was signs that it was hardly winter anymore. It felt like one of the first days of spring and the hills looked so good. Grass and trees browned by the winter were vibrant now in the powerful sun. Add to that the spring snowfields of Ben Ledi and I had a great feeling about the day to come.

SE Top and Meall nan Tarmachan main summit

The Meall nan Tarmachan car park is at 460m above sea level, so while it offers a couple hours head start, it was also cold from the outset. A wind was blowing through the valley and it would be worse on the top. There were plenty of people around heading up and down - we took whatever space we could find the car park. Darren and I saw a line of snow snaking up to the south ridge and headed up over the moor to reach this, although it turned into a slight disappointment. There was plenty of snow, but it had been melted by the sun and any snow line required technique in swimming rather than climbing.

We met up with Sam again on the ridge south of Tarmachan's SE Top. It seemed only a short walk to this Top, but the car park had been half way up the mountain. From this vantage point, there is a good viewpoint to Meall nan Tarmachan, although the wind was screaming along from the north. It was very difficult to communicate or walk in anything like a straight line.

I had reached the top first, but I also moved straight on. I thought that the shaded south side of Meall nan Tarmachan would offer a place to stop, so I headed downward to the saddle, tiring somewhat with the wind but looking forward to finding an alcove to sit down. A group on a winter mountaineering course were out on a snow slope to the left, practicing ice axe arrest and the likes. I found a place to stop, Sam and Darren joined me and took some time before going the last way to the summit.

The final section to the summit began with a steep snow plod levelling out before a final headwall, where the wind in it's ferocity pulled my hat from my head and had it spinning off down the hill before I even knew what had happened... You know who to contact if you find the Nike hat on the south face...

Darren followed a steeper route to the summit since he had two axes, although I declined from following him with only one. Instead I went with Sam around the eastern side of the hill and we all arrived on the summit within a couple minutes of one another. The views were astonishing, although distant views were obscured by haze. The day was a beautiful blend between winter and summer - not one or the other, but the best parts of both. It's the best time of year to see the mountains in my opinion. Our MunroMagic friend James was also on Ben Challum at the head of Glen Lochay a mountain we could clearly see.

Meall Garbh

The wind however... It was murder trying to do anything. Understandably, we moved on quite quickly. Having been off the hills for a few months, Sam wasn't sure about doing the whole ridge, but we'd give it a shot anyway and whatever she wanted to do, I was also happy.

From Meall nan Tarmachan, Meall Garbh with it's pointed summit looks a long way off. It's very impressive too. But we walked downhill a short way and the 'garbh' (rough) summit was right there beside us. It's a deceiving top, probably a lot smaller than pictures would suggest. It's no less fun though for that and the main memories are of having fun. Sam had decided to go no further then Meall Garbh, so when we sat at it's summit, (strangely, in the complete calm) I couldn't help but walk along the narrow west ridge that leads directly from the top. I took a picture from the far end and it gives a nice idea of the knife-edge walking that is involved.


We planned to head off the south ridge, but before doing that we had a lot of fun glissading the slopes near Meall Garbh. We went up and down, then up again for another shot and some more. It was a great time. Meall nan Tarmachan is a fun mountain, wonderful with a plastering of snow. It was a bonus too we saw a very large bird sailing around above the ridge. (first picture on left below) I checked the markings when I got home and can only guess that it is a Golden Eagle - the huge wingspan and brown with light markings suggests so although I'd love someone else's input more knowledgeable than myself. I'll come back and complete the whole ridge, although there's no great rush to do so, and winter-time would be a great bonus. But heck, I haven't even stepped foot on the Lawers Range yet/ While there's a lot of unclimbed country to be done here, I won't mind at all coming back for Meall nan Tarmachan.

A plod down the south ridge of Meall Garbh was all that remained - the resounding memory is of Sam falling down a snow hole and landing face first on the ground. It was all laughs and giggles though and we arrived back at the 4WD track for a couple miles of walk-out. There was nowhere I'd rather be with the late-afternoon sun on snowy hills, Ben Chonzie and the surrounding Crieff-country casting gentle contours above Loch Tay.

Poetics didn't mean I was any less tired when we got back to the car. We drove back as the sun set and Sam left me to get home from her place. The only problem with being dropped there is that being in Hamilton (i.e. Greater Glasgow) means I've to spend another hour on the trains getting home. This makes for guaranteed tiredness when I arrive home, but why not. I love it.

360° Panorama

Meall nan Tarmachan
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.25am Car park
(1.45) 1.10pm M.n.Tarmachan SE Top
(2.35) 2.00pm Meall nan Tarmachan
(3.25) 2.50pm Meall Garbh
(3.40) 3.05pm Meall Garbh (left)
(5.35) 5.00pm Car park

Written: 2011-04-23