Meall na Aighean - 981m
Carn Mairg - 1041m
Meall a' Bharr - 1004m
Meall Garbh - 968m
Carn Gorm - 1029m

Sunday 29th January 2012

Weather/Conditions: Overcast wintry weather everywhere. Cold light in the glens and deep snow and mist on the summits. Quite wild on the summits.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 18.6km / 1380m / 7h 20m
Accompanying: Bealach M. C. - Struan, Dougie

I'd never climbed the four Munros of Invervar, and made a push to climb them and complete the SMC Section 2. Only this four remained. I invited some folk along from the club, and Struan and Dougie could make it.

The previous night was another day-before-a-hillwalk that I didn't get a lot of sleep. I was out the door early and actually decided to drive up via. Loch Lomond purely for the enjoyment of doing so. I crossed through Crianlarich and Lix Toll to arrive in Killin. Since I'd arrived before Struan and Doug, I parked up, wound the car seat back and tried to snooze. The town was grey and silent and I thought I better use the time I had.

I'd only shut my eyes for ten minutes when I got a call: Struan and Doug had got lost and had ended up in Aberfeldy. The amended plan was to meet at Invervar, the start of the hills. Damn! So I grabbed some hot rolls from one of the local restaurants (open early) and shot up Loch Tay to Glen Lyon.

Glen Lyon is a beautiful place. The little road that winds in from Fortingall is everything a Highland glen should be, as if the ravages of history had spared this land. The morning light was dull and grey. The road precluded going very fast as it wound among the hills and forests. I pulled into the car park where Struan and Doug were just about ready to go.

Invervar Estate are well known for being less than sociable about people walking on their land. But it might seem that these days things are a bit less heated: there was a car park, today full with cars. We'd see surprisingly few people for the amount of cars parked.

The summits

We walked up the glen and turned onto stalkers paths to gain the ridge of Meall na Aighean. Gentle slopes climbed to white obscurity all around and below, Glen Lyon seemed to be locked within it's own dark confines. The climb up was fun, as it always is with Doug and Struan. Higher up, conditions worsened until we were vaguely around the summit region with Struan trying to get a grid reference on a GPS he didn't know how to use, and me piecing things together on the map and compass. We found the summit eventually: a white cairn in white mist. And thus began the main portion of the day.

The route to Carn Mairg (the highest of the group) was done in very white conditions. Map and compass were helpful. We came across an innocent stream banked up with metres of overhanging snow - I wouldn't want to fall through that. It was a display of the dangers of innocent-looking hills. White slopes brought us to a wall of broken boulders. Through the white veil, they looked somewhat threatening and it was fun to climb straight through them onto the summit.

I did all the navigation for this trip. I'd been doing a lot of navigation recently, and when you master plateau walking in winter you're left with the feeling that there isn't much you couldn't navigate through. The way to Meall Garbh from Carn Mairg is quite simple. The key was just to go directly west, and we were in for a long walk over miles of featureless terrain. When we reached Meall a' Bharr, about half-way, I wondered if we were near Meall Garbh yet (not quite a master, then!) and when the terrain kept coming, I had a depressing moment of so much effort still to go.

But the cloud seemed to open back up towards the top of Meall Garbh and we reached it's hairy cairn without issue. It had been a long shift, though and I looked forward to getting the last Munro done and out of the way.

The conditions seemed to deteriorate towards Carn Gorm. I kept a close eye on navigation as we found ourselves in bad visibility at the bottom of An Sgorr (a Munro Top, so nothing vital...). Struan began climbing a long, unbroken snow slope. As I began climbing it, I got an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. The avalanche forecast had mentioned these slopes would be prone and now I was paranoid. Struan climbed back down and we decided to contour the west side of An Sgorr - it could wait.

Wind kicked up on Carn Gorm and the day started to darken. The winds got high and I was somehow paranoid we'd have to give up the summit. The paranoid probably had something to do with my Ballachulish trip one week before in which we ended up crawling and eventually not moving at all.

The fear was unfounded: we got to the summit without issue, but in high winds and darkness approaching. A couple of cairns and a fallen trig point marked the top. We left the summit soon, it was nowhere to be hanging around.

Descent and end

Descent seemed to go on and on. Since we'd been in this self contained world for so long of immediate surroundings and all-consuming white, it was a complete shock to finally walk out the bottom of the cloud again and see the whole world open up again. Suddenly things, like the opposite side of the mountain, were far away. It was a really surreal experience. (It can only be achieved by spending all day in the middle of a cloud and being immediately exposed to huge volumes of space!)

The land was darkening. Glen Lyon was cloud-capped, gloomy. Claustrophobic, almost. A long, weary walk back along the trees took us to Invervar, and back to the cars. And I remembered I'd finished the Munros in this area of Scotland - everything in the strip of land from Bridge of Orchy to Pitlochry. I felt pretty good about myself.

We left Glen Lyon and stopped by the pub in Fortingall. It was quiet - as quiet as you'd expect at this time of year on a Sunday night. There was a few other people sitting in, a roaring fire, and a girl behind the bar who told us she lived in Dull, just down the road. Good name.

After a drink I followed Struan to Aberfeldy - I was worried about getting petrol on a Sunday night, but I found a station here. I filled the tank (c. £35 out the account - ouch) and drove home via. Killin and Callander. It was a long drive which I wanted to get home. It was one of those long days that make you feel you've been away a lot longer than you really have. All in all it had been a good, long, day.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.00am Car park
(1.25) 12.25pm Meall na Aighean
(2.45) 1.45pm Carn Mairg
(4.15) 3.15pm Meall Garbh
(5.30) 4.30pm Carn Gorm
(7.20) 6.20pm Car park

Written: 2012-07-31/08-01