Saturday 22 April 2017

Meall Greigh, Meall Garbh and An Stuc - Halfway through the Munro's!

Meggernie Estate Upper Car Park

We spent the night in Cyril, in a little car park above Glen Lyon - so we got an early start for our walk.

We walked a couple of the Munro's on the Lawers ridge a couple of years ago, in high summer, but we got very wet! The forecast for today, for our ascent of the other three Munro's on the ridge (Meall Griegh, Meall Garbh and An Stuc) was pretty good - sunny spells and light winds

Loch Tay from Lawres Hotel car park

Even though we were early, we weren't the first to pull into the car park at the Ben Lawers Hotel - there were a couple of other groups of walkers there already, pulling on boots and adjusting rucksacks  - and we were all on a mission to get access to the hotel to pay the fiver charge - we had just about given up, when the owner poked his head around the door. Once we had paid, we headed east along the road for a few hundred yards, following another of the groups, before taking the track beside the horn carvers cottage, north up the glen.

Near the start of the walk, north or Machuim

The track wound past a couple of cottages and through a farm - the way was well signposted - and once we were in the woods the way was obvious. There were a couple of stiles - but Rafe had no difficulties, both had little dog gates - and we were soon out of the trees and onto the open hillside with great views of our first grassy objective - Meall Greigh.

Views over Loch Tay from the woods north of Machuim

We followed the obvious grassy trod, above the eastern bank of the Lawers Burn, as we gently ascended, the gorge to our left got gradually deeper...

Beside the Lawers Burn - views north to Meall Griegh

Views back to Loch Tay from above the Lawers Burn

Just as the path dropped down into this gorge, we spied the little cairn marking a good spot across the moor and the start proper of the ascent.

The start of the ascent of Meall Geeigh

There wasn't much of a path - we basically made a bee line through rough grass towards Sron Mhor, a minor top en route to Meall Greigh.

Views back to Loch Tay from the ascent of Meall Greigh

Initially it wasn't to much like hard work, but once we had crossed the bottom of the glen (a touch boggy in places!), the ascent stiffened and it was a serious and sustained slog up the steep gold and green grasses of Sron Mhor.

Ben Lawers, An Stuc and Meall Garbh from the ascent of Meall Greigh

Good job the views were good, and they got better every step - a good excuse to stop regularly for a breather and to take in the panorama behind us - Loch Tay to the south and the Lawers massif to our west - Ben Lawers with a sprinkling of new snow across the summit.

Although the skies were grey and looking a bit ominous over the highest tops - the views were clear and crisp.

Views to eastern Loch Tay from above Sron Mhor

There was a bit of a nasty false top on Sron Mhor - another 100m or so of steep grassy stuff - but something resembling a path had materialised, so there was less in the way of stumbling through undergrowth.

Jim and Rafe - Ascent of Meall Greigh

Once over Sron Mhor - Meall Greigh was another 200m or so of grassy bank - just not quite such a steep grassy bank, There was a path though!

Views back over Sron Mhor and Loch Tay from ascent of Meall Greigh

Many photographs were taken of the moody views all around as we made our way up to the summit - and it really wasn't very far...

Eastern Loch Tay from ascent of Meall Greigh

Jim nearing the summit of Meall Greigh

There was an icy wind blowing from the north across the summit of Meall Greigh (Munro 136, 1001m) and whist the views had opened up in all directions, it wasn't a place to hang about today. Once the obligatory summit pictures had been taken, we were moving on across the undulations to the east, eventually descending into Larig Innein.

Meill Greigh summit ( Munro 136, 1001m)
Views to Ben Lawers, An Stuc and Meall Garbh

Looking back to Meall Greigh from descent to Larig Innein

An Stuc and Meall Garbh from descent into Larig Innein

Meall Garbh from descent into Larig Innein

Once off the summit, the wind dropped off a bit, but we were soon looking for a quiet nook out of the breeze for a first lunch.

Rafe - First lunch out of the wind in Larig Innein

We found a spot in amongst some rocks just to the south of the bealach - when out of the wind, it felt almost balmy.

Ben Lawers, An Stuc and Meall Garbh from Larig Innein

Rafe and Jim - ascent of Meall Garbh

We were soon off again and ascending our second Munro - Meall Garbh - the path following a line of fence posts across the bealach and up the ridge.

Looking back (east) to Meall Greigh from ascent of Meall Garbh

Purple saxifrage - Meall Garbh

Meall Greigh from ascent of Meall Garbh

It was briefly steep - but we were soon pulling up onto summit, through the odd patch of snow and the very top was white with frost.

Mell Greigh from ascent of Meall Garbh

Frost - nearing the summit of Meall Garbh

The summit was on the northerly of two parallel ridges that ran along the top of the hill. The path wound its way up to the highest point on the southerly ridge - the perfect spot for a photo shoot...

Ben Lawers from near the summit of Meall Garbh

Ben Lawers and Meall Garbh summit ridge from near Meall Garbh summit

...before winding it's way across to the northerly ridge and to the Munro summit.

Jim - ascent of Meall Garbh - views north east

Views north from near the summit of Meall Garbh

Meall Garbh (Munro 36, 1118m) had the most marvellous views over the rest of the Lawers Group.

Meall Garbh summit (Munro 36, 1118m)
Views west to Ben Lawers, Beinn Ghlas and An Stuc

Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas to the south west, with Meall nan Tarmachan beyond.

Views north west over Meall a'Choire Leith from Meall Garbh

Meall Corranaich and Meall a'Choire Leith to the west, with Meall Buidhe further to the west.

Views west from Meall Garbh

It really was a superb viewpoint - and on a clear day like today...

Rafe and Jim on the summit ridge of Meall Garbh
Views to Ben Lawers, Beinn Ghlas and An Stuc

Looking back (east) to Meall Garbh summit

But it was too chilly to be hanging about,

Jim and Rafe - descent from Meall Garbh - views to An Stuc

and we were soon moving on, descending quite steeply into the bealach to the south east, with An Stuc looking fairly savage in front.

Glen Lyon from descent from Meall Garbh

Descent from Meall Garbh - views to Ben Lawers and An Stuc

Rafe and Jim - descent from Meall Garbh

There wasn't much of a respite in the bealach of Cat Gully - we were straight into the ascent of An Stuc - initially an obvious path winding through the outcrops...

An Stuc from descent from Meall Garbh

Meall Garbh over Cat Gully from ascent of An Stuc

Views north east from ascent of An Stuc

Before long the path disappeared into the crags and scree and the going steepened. We picked our way through the boulders and over mossy rocks - Rafie needed a bit of help on the scramblier bits - but it wasn't too bad, going up anyway. It was quite nice to get hands on!

Jim and Rafe - scrambly bits on An Stuc

Meall Garbh from ascent of An Stuc

Rafe and Jim - ascent of An Stuc

The ascent soon relented and we were back on mostly grassy slopes.

Meall Garbh from near the summit of An Stuc

More great views - and the weather was brightening, which improved things further. We were very soon bagging our third Munro of the day and our 141st Munro (half way at last!) - An Stuc (Munro 34, 1118m) - exactly the same height as Meall Garbh. Apparently An Stuc was only promoted to a Munro in 1997 - after many years of controversy over whether it was a subsidiary of it's near neighbour.

Jim and Rafe - An Stuc

Strangely, there was no wind on the summit of An Stuc - and as we had the summit to ourselves, we spent a while exploring the outcrops and enjoying the views.

An Stuc summit (Munro 34, 1118m)
Views south west

An Stuc summit - views north east

But time was getting on. We still had some way to go...

Rafe and Jim - descent from An Stuc - views to Ben Lawers

The descent from An Stuc into Bealach Dubh was steep, but not as harsh as the ascent had been - we lost height quickly. As soon as we got off the summit, the wind whipped up again, howling through the gap in the hills - chilly.

Ben Lawers and Creag an Fhithich from descent from An Stuc

Jim and Rafe - Bealach Dubh - views to Creag an Fhithich

Soon in the bealach, and we took a left off the main Ben Lawers path, east into Ravens Gully.

We had discussed continuing on, up to the the big hill and descending via Ben Lawers east ridge - but only briefly - it would have added over 250m of ascent and would have made for a big day. Not sure if we're up to that yet!

Lochan nan Cat from Bealach Dubh

As soon as we dropped over the edge of the bealach into Raven's Gully the wind stopped. It was hot!

Jim and Rafe - descent into Ravens Gully from Bealach Dubh

And it was steep. Initially, there was a path, but this petered out and it was a case of picking our way down beside burn and waterfalls, mostly on grass - towards the very lovely Lochan nan Cat.

Rafe and Jim - Lochan nan Cat

It wasn't long before we were on flatter ground. Surprisingly, it was quite dry underfoot - only the occasional bit of bog to be negotiated. We found the vestiges of a path and followed this around the lochan and along the infant Lawers Burn.

Jim - Lochan nan Cat

Looking back to Ravens Gully and Bealach Dubh from Lochan nan Cat

An Stuc over Lawers Burn

The hills were soon dropping away behind us as we made our way down - an easy gradual descent - if a little rough underfoot at times.

Jim and Rafe - descent beside the Lawers Burn

Once past the little dam on the Lawers Burn, we followed the access road for a 200m or so, before continuing on a smaller path, marked by a cairn, following the Burn.

Descent beside the Lawers Burn

Rafie had a bit of a plodge in the Lawers Burn when the path crossed the water further down - it was pretty warm walking, I could have done with a paddle myself.

Loch Tay from descent beside the Lawers Burn

We were soon past the sheilings and joined our outward route...

Sheilings beside the Lawers Burn

Over the style (Rafie went under!) and into the woods...

We were soon back at the Ben Lawers Hotel - definitely time for a coffee and a chance to look back through all the photo's taken - and to celebrate the half way mark.

Loch Tay from the woods near Lawers and the end of the walk

Route:  Car park at Lawers Hotel on A827 (NN677395) (hotel charges £5 per day or a promise to buy a main course meal on return), 600m NE along A827, turn N on track beside horn carvers workshop (NN679399), follow well signposted track through farm and into woods on E side of Lawers Burn, path through woods and onto moor, continue N on path through area of shielings above Lawers Burn gully, at NN673419 (approx), where the path drops into the gully, head N at a small cairn, across open moor ascending Sron Mhor (vague intermittent paths), Sron Mhor (805m), N to Meall Greigh (Munro 136, 1001m), NW then W to Lairig Innein (sh 834m), continue W, then SW along narrowing ridge ascending to Meall Garbh (Munro 36, 1118m), descend SW to bealach (sh 991m), SW scrambly ascent to An Stuc (Munro 34, 1118m), descend S to Bealach Dubh (sh 942m), descend E very steeply into Ravens Gully (initially obvious path, then on open very steep grassy slopes), E to Lochan nan Cat and follow S shore on vague intermittent and sometimes boggy path and continue along infant Lawers Burn to dam (NN661427), 300m SE along good track to small cairn (NN664426) and turn E then SE on stalkers path, cross Lawers Burn (NN672420) (no fb as marked on OS map), continue S on stalkers path, joining outward route and continue to A827, turn W and return to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 16.5km  Ascent: 1240m  Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

Map:  OS Explorer 378 Ben Lawers & Glen Lyon

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