Meall a' Phuill - 448m
Stob na Cruaiche - 739m

Friday 3rd March 2017

Weather/Conditions: Stunning spring weather, snow cap on the hills, deep blue sky, a light east wind which strengthened slightly as the day went on. Finally, a muted sunset as cloud rolled in from the south-east.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 24km / 700m / 5h 45m
Accompanying: Alone

With a virus in recent days, I got up at nearly midday with the sun blaring in the windows. It's maybe the first real, truly spring day I've felt while living in Ballachulish. The day was stunning.

But I was just apathetic. Unsure what I wanted to do. I had a thought about Bidean. But then I thought of Stob na Cruaiche, a long walk from Kingshouse, but low on vertical ascent. A long walk might be just perfect for me to clear my head and enjoy the afternoon. The car had a heat blast coming out of it (spring, eh) and I drove to Kingshouse, parking up by the hotel which is seeing work at the moment. I strapped boots to be back of my rucksack and walked in trainers as a good track snakes all the way into Black Corries Lodge and beyond. On the map you'd think it ends there, but it actually continues by Lochan Meall a' Phuill to the very foot of Stob na Cruaiche. This would have been the kind of day a bike would make fast work of, but I wasn't that bothered about speed, only that I wouldn't wind up walking well after nightfall.

Stob na Cruaiche looked a long way off, the summit itself was a tiny pyramid of white against the blue sky. The track climbs the northern side of Rannoch Moor, passing by Black Corries Lodge. It's a hell of a position, with the Glen Coe and Blackmount hills crowding one corner of the wider vista, the great Moor backed by the softer hills of Orchy and Lyon.

Unfortunately toward and beyond Lochan Meall a' Phuill, the track dramatically decreases in quality - every one of my steps would sink into the gravel. It's obvious it's been done cheaply, with gravel running off onto the vegetation. Yet at the same time, there was a pleasure in that it made this journey of mine so much easier. I could switch off and walk, whereas if my trip can been over peatbog and moor it would have likely been magnitudes more difficult. So I can't complain.

The track arches over the top of Meall a' Phuill, drops slightly toward Stob na Cruaiche, then runs out completely at a turning circle. After an hour and a half on the go, I took my first break, swapping trainers for boots, and taking some food. Here, the feeling of the Western Highlands begins to leave, and the skylines are replaced by the humpy curves of the Central Highlands. Packing up again, I headed off over bog toward Stob na Cruaiche.

I felt strangely 'out there'. I was in an area I know so well and yet I felt it might be more natural to continue into the unknown and keep walking to Rannoch or Corrour. If anything, I wanted to do that, and played with the possibility before writing it off. It might make my day shorter and even more interesting, but I didn't know train times and I wasn't prepared to get stuck at Rannoch or Fort William without an obvious way back to my car at Kingshouse!

After a plod over peat hags and through the snow, the summit cairn and trig arrived at last. A cold wind blew so I didn't hang around too long; just enough for a panorama and photos. But with that cold wind, I could feel the virus which has been over me for the past few days threaten to come back. With the physical effort and the cold it was working its way back in. Regardless, there was little I could do about it now than turn around into the western setting sun and retrace my steps back to Kingshouse, which by now looked so far away. I've had a lot of altitude-intensive mountain days out recently, so it's a pleasure just to walk and walk, and see the miles go by.

A weather front from the south east blew over the skies and eventually covered the setting sun; the final miles out to Kingshouse were under muted skies. The hills turned deep blue and so slowly, the Buachaille and Creise grew in size again. The final miles were a craze of deer (over 100 at least) and wild goats. The deer were quick to scamper, the goats just ran up to me in expectation of food. I had none to give even if I wanted, and I walked back into Kingshouse with hip flexors burning, feet sore from dampness. I was tired, but it wasn't a good tiredness, and a day of rest was called for the following day.

360° Panorama

Stob na Cruaiche

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 12.40pm Kingshouse
(2.55) 3.35pm Stob na Cruaiche
(5.45) 6.25pm Kingshouse

Written: 2017-03-04