Creag Meagaidh

Creag Meagaidh and neighbouring Munros, 30 November - 1 December 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Two days of guided winter hiking up Creag Meagaidh, Beinn a'Chaorainn and neighbouring Munros Steven Fallon was leading.

Creag Meagaidh and neighbouring Munros

Day 1 - Carn Liath to Creag Meagaidh

It's the end of November and winter has arrived in Scotland's Central Highlands ! Over this weekend we were intending to bag the summit of Creag Meagaidh and its neighbouring Munros of Carn Liath, Stob Poite Coire Ardair, Beinn a'Chaorainn and Bein Teallach.

On the Saturday we all met up in the large car-park at Aberarder by Loch Laggan. A hard frost covered the ground and above us crests were white, so the decision to take ice-axes and crampons was quickly and unanimoulsy made !

We had 10 people booked on, so had two guides - John King and myself. With a very gentle breeze forecast, we opted to do todays hike over Creag Meagaidh, Stob Poite Coire Ardair and Carn Liath in reverse, ie anti-clockwise so as to get the best possible views (we'd normally do the route clockwise so as to keep winds behind us for most of the day).

Leaving the car-park behind, we began our walk still in the shade, the sun hadn't yet risen. Up into woodland, we found the cairn marking the rough path up Carn Liath, the ground frozen and making for slippy progress. The regenerating woodland is doing well, so much so that in parts we felt like we were hiking though an obstacle course ! Higher up we came out of the woodland onto open ground and the going was easier. Sunrays began to touch us and the impressive crags came into view as we contoured around Na Cnapanan. Up to the summit of Carn Liath, our first summit in the bag and ice-axes and crampons hadn't been needed.

The group split into two, John leading the faster walkers, myself with the others enjoying the views at a slightly more relaxed pace. Much photo-snapping as we hiked over the wide ridge towards Stob Poite Coire Ardair. My group ate on the hoof and therefore caught up with John's group having a spot of lunch at The Window, so for the hike up Creag Meagaidh we were all together again :) !

The group sort of split again, John made a beeline for Creag Meagaidh's summit, I detoured to Mad Meg's Cairn on the way, but we were all together again for the summit photo.

Coire Ardair was in the shade, so instead of returning to The Window and walking out following the Allt Coire Ardair, we changed plans and went over Puist Coire Ardair and down Sron a'Choire direct to Aberarder. Hopefully the bridge over the Allt Coire Ardair marked on the map still existed ! It did and we were back to the cars just as the daylight was beginning to end.

Day 2 - Beinn Teallach and Beinn a'Chaorainn

On the Sunday we were aiming up Beinn a'Chaorainn and Beinn Teallach. There's limited parking for these two Munros, so some of us had to park a bit along the route, but we all met up by the entrance to the forest by Roughburn near the western end of Loch Laggan.

After yesterday we decided to take ice-axes but leave crampons behind saving weight. Like yesterday, we began walking in the shade, the sun hadn't arisen yet. It was very cold and frosty, the ground solid under our feet. Since the last time I'd been here, much of the forest had been felled, a bit of a sorry sight, but meant you could see further.

Out of the forest the Allt a'Chaorainn needed crossing. The usual spot wasn't wasn't on - ice covered the boulders and the fence-wire remaining over the burn was on its last legs. I found a good spot a bit further downstream where the flow slowed and the burn split into a few tributaries. The group across, we began our uphill hike.

Now in glorious sunshine we hiked uphill. The terrain on the southern shoulder of Beinn Teallach is normally a heather-clad soggy affair, but not today, the ground was frozen solid and the 'path' hard and slippy neve. Higher up we reached the summit of Beinn Teallach and its two cairns - from below the western cairn looks the higher of the two, but it's the eastern one that actually is !

Cloud was forcast to come in from the west later in the day and when we were on Beinn Teallach we could now see it touching the likes of Gulvain and Meall na Teanga - it wasn't far away ! Down the north-east shoulder, I tried to pick the easiest route avoiding rocks and crags and we were soon at the col below Beinn a'Chaorainn looking at the route choices uphill.

We could make out an ATV track heading uphill (neither John or myself had spotted this before - was it new ?) and decided to give it a go. It climbed probably around 100m before turning north, so we followed it to here then left it at that point to turn south-east on pathless gently rising ground. It's a bit of a slog from there on ! As we neared the northern summit of Beinn a'Chaorainn we headed into mist - Beinn a'Chaorainn can have a huge cornice built up above it's eastern coire and we were mindful of this possibility as we navigated southwards through the mist all the way onto the main summit. A touch of the cairn and a wee pose for pics, we opted not to hang around in the freezing cloud and quickly headed to Beinn a'Chaorainn's southern top.

For the descent, we tried to keep south-west and to grassy ground and away from scree and rock. This took us back to near the morning's river crossing from where a re-trace along the forestry track took us back to the roadside slightly earlier than yesterday.

A great couple of days in good company helped by fabulous conditions (for the most part).

More photos by Steven Fallon are here on Flickr.

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