Meall na Teanga, Meall Dubh, Sron a' Choire Ghairbh, Meall an t-Sagairt, Meall na h-Eilde & Glas Bheinn and Torr a' Chronain, Ruighe na Beinne, Meall Coire Lochain & Meall a' Choire Ghlais
Thursday 23rd April 2015

Weather/Conditions: Perfect spring weather.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 25.8km / 2630m / 9h
Accompanying: Alone

Some days just stand above the rest, remembered clearly long afterward. This was one; and amazing day where I rode high on the motivation of my Torridon trip earlier the same week. The Loch Lochy Munros were remaining on my second round, but I was also keen to make a bit more of the day and see new ground. I always prefer this to treading the same routes as before. I had in mind a route starting from the south, taking in a broad circle of hills surrounding Gleann Chia-aig.

A hard beginning

I was up early and away from Glasgow to reach the hills by mid-morning. Lochaber was misted in; low cloud pushing through the glens, dull and shrouded in white.

There were also construction works on the go. Perhaps as part of an upcoming hydro scheme here (still to be, as of 2019!), the glen was a construction site from top to bottom. There were folk around starting work, vehicles trundling by. To avoid being somehow denied access (I did not know the code here), I disappeared into the bushes and went among the trees, which turned out to be a rubbish idea. The forests here are lush and I disappeared into a bush battle, quickly knackered and exasperated.

I stopped by Torr a' Chronain which is just a little forest top - and on this occasion encircled by the construction. I was utterly drained by the forest bashing. It was annoying to start the day this way. I slipped unnoticed across the construction tracks and went into woodland above.

The woodlands receded to open moor and I plodded upward until the skies began to glow, break, and burn with morning sun. The plod was unending, but at last I was on my way to the tops. I went over Ruighe na Beinne, a moorland top on the route. Then I continued to the rim of the high corries, where a couple of tops, Meall Odhar and Meall Coire Lochain mark the start of the high tops.

Munros: Meall na Teange & Sron a' Choire Ghairbh

A carpet of low, bubbling cloud was sitting in the glens. On the horizon the big Lochaber hills soared into the sky. And on these Lochy hills, the snow rims were stuck to the coire edges, sagged and melting. Stray cloud sailed by, burned off by the bright morning sun.

It was a good day to be on the tops. The start had been hard, but I was rolling now. The bulk of the Munros effort was really done. James S called me at this moment to ask about climbing for the day. "Nah sorry, finishing off my second round!" I was glad to be here.

I continued over to Meall na Teanga, the first Munro. Then I picked up the eroded Munro tracks, and cut off again to Meall Dubh which is an intermediate top in the centre of the range. Mist was continuing to tear and lift off the tops, and I continued to the second Munro, Sron a' Choire Ghairbh.

Part of me was sad to know this hill was to be given over to hydro. For some years now, plans have been in place for to build a reservoir filling Coire Glas. Pumped storage is a damn sight better than burning fossil fuel, and a great deal less visible than wind power on the hills. But perhaps the developing battery technology will make pumped storage somewhat redundant, where you can achieve power on demand without needing to release water from a high Scottish coire to create the shortfall.

I walked around the edge of Coire Glas and saw to my astonishment that a cornice collapse had scoured a full-depth avalanche from the top to the coire floor. It was, without doubt, the largest avalanche debris I've seen in Scotland, starting by the summit of the mountain at 900m altitude and ploughing a tongue of avalanche debris down to the 550m contour. Incidentally, if the hydro had been in place, this trail of debris would have broken the reservoir’s surface.

I continued to the final top of this range; Meall a' Choire Ghlais. I descended a bit into Coire Glas to get a better view of the coire, and the avalanche. And then I cut back across the ridge and headed off west for the next set of hills.

Meall na h-Eilde & Glas Bheinn

The day changed markedly in character, and was not diminished for it. Leaving the Munros behind, I went to a tangle of hills to the west, modest in character with grassy slopes falling into gurgling streams and empty glens. I crossed the upper Abhainn Cia-aig and headed straight up the side of Meall an t-Sagairt. This hill forms a clear pair with the neighbouring Meall na h-Eilde, a Corbett. The body was in a rhythm, the sunny silence and the fitness carried me across these, a tremendous sense of simple freedom and a wish that once the day was done, I might come back again soon.

But these good experiences aren't only due to the hills themselves. It is a cross between physical state, weather conditions and the good feelings coming from these. A few years later, I came back to Meall na h-Eilde on a soaking December day: the great desire then was just to get warm again!

I dropped off Meall na h-Eilde and south to Allt Tarsuinn. There was one more hill for the day; the broad, crescent-shaped Glas Bheinn. This hill bounds the west side of Gleann Chia-aig. I wandered up this to a cairn, and then fell asleep on the summit slopes. In the west, the full length of Loch Arkaig glittered in afternoon sun. It was strange to consider that this region has a reputation for its quietude, hardness and remoteness. The loch looked nothing but inviting today; hard to believe it gave access to some of the hardest hill country in Scotland.

I finally went straight down to Gleann Chia-aig. I knew the construction works were ongoing, but at the end of the day the hills were done, and it was downhill to the car. I was curious as much as anything. In the lower glen I quite literally walked straight into the construction site. The guys stopped work and I nipped straight through it. I wondered how many walkers they might get like that. But they were decent enough to ask where I’d been, one of them at least being familiar with Glas Bheinn.

I battled a last bit of tree and shrub back to the car, to trip one minute from the end, and arrive back with legs scratched to bits. It had been a superb day, a long glorious day of many summits.

I stopped for photos all the way home, an awesome light in Glen Coe that picked out the features of the cliffs as I hadn't quite noticed before. I was home to Glasgow; this was a flying visit, up and down in a day. And it had simply been a stunner of a day.

Heading Home

360° Panoramas

Meall na Teanga

Meall Dubh

Sron a' Choire Ghairbh

Meall na h-Eilde

Glas Bheinn
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 9.10am Eas Chia-aig
(1.40) 10.50am Ruigh na Beinne
(2.45) 11.55am Meall na Teanga
(3.23) 12.33pm Meall Dubh
(4.05) 1.15pm Sron a' Choire Ghairbh
(5.19) 2.29pm Abhainn Chia-aig
(5.55) 3.05pm Meall an t-Sagairt
(6.20) 3.30pm Meall na h-Eilde
(7.37) 4.47pm Glas Bheinn
(9.00) 6.10pm Incheril
Written: 2019-06-06 - yet I recall so much...