Thursday 16 March 2017

Stuchd an Lochain

Rafe - at the start of the walk by Loch an Daimh (Giorra) dam with Creag an Fheadain beyond

It's been ages since we've been up a hill!

Work commitments (mostly Jim's) and poor weather on the days we have been free, have kept us at home more than we'd have liked over recent months - so we grabbed the opportunity to get out and about, as soon as it looked likely.

Looking west along Allt Conait (NN510463)

Feeling a bit on the flabby side of fit, we decided to go for a shorter walk to ease ourselves back into the harder stuff - and Rafie's getting on a bit now!

We chose Stuchd an Lochain at the western end of Glen Lyon, short with not too much ascent - shouldn't be too much like hard work - and the weather forecast was reasonable, and it should improve as the day went on.

Jim and Rafe
crossing the Allt Conait below the Giorra Dam (NN509463)

We set off in the late morning, bags fully laden with winter gear - it was bright with the occasional spike of sunshine - the tops were shrouded, but we were confident that the cloud would rise and we'd get some views. It looked like there was a reasonable amount of snow up there

We crossed the bridge over the Allt Conait, just under the Giorra Dam - there was a locked five bar gate at the far side. Rafe did his grumpy suitcase impression as we lifted him over (the south side of the burn was well fenced!).

Loch an Daimh and Giorra Dam

It was a short walk through the wood on a good track up to the dam - the views opened up, along Loch an Daimh. We were here 18 months ago, when we climbed Meall Bhidhe on the north side of the loch - it had been high summer then, green and pleasant. It was very different now, harsh and bleakly beautiful.

Jim and Rafe on the track on the south shore of Loch an Daimh

Only a couple of hundred metres along the lochside track, the expected cairn was located and we headed off, up the hillside, on an obvious, if rough and sometimes boggy path.

Jim - the small cairn marking the start of the ascent (NN408460)

Jim and Rafe - ascent of Creag an Fheadain

There had been heavy rain the night before and added to the snow melt, everywhere was very wet - the path itself had become a watercourse for quite a bit of the way.

Looking back (NE) over Loch and Daimh from ascent of Creag an Fheadain

The 350m, or so, of ascent from the loch to the ridge were pretty steep - hard work!

Looking west along Loch an Daimh from ascent of Creag an Fheadain

As we ascended, we were soon wending our way through patches of snow - wet and heavy.

Rafe and Jim - ascent of Creag an Fheadain

West along Loch an Daimh from ascent of Creag an Fheadain

Once on the ridge, the expected line of fence-posts appeared in front - and were our companions to the summit! Despite the increasing mist and decreasing visibility, navigation wasn't going to be any sort of issue today.

Into the mist - ascent of Creag an Fheadain

Rafe's new coat - Creag an Fheadain

The clag was definitely down! Drizzle was blowing in from the south - it was driech. Waterproof trousers were donned (it wasn't bad enough for hardshell jackets!) - and Rafie tried out his new coat. It wasn't really necessary for him - although damp, it wasn't really cold - but we wanted to see how he liked it. He didn't seem bothered one way or the other!

Jim and Rafe - between Creag an Fheadain and Sron Chona Choirein

We continued on, wading through wet snow, avoiding it when we could.

There was a short very steep bit near the summit of Creag an Fheadain, there was ice on the rocks and the snow was deep between them - we could see that there was steep drops on all sides - so the ice axes were briefly deployed for safety - and stowed away again on the summit.

Rafe and Jim - descent from Sron Chona Choirein

The wide ridge continued between the minor summits, undulating through snow and bog - we had no views and the distances seemed longer than the map would suggest. We bagged the Munro Top of Sron Chona Choirein (MT 195, 927m), and followed the fence-posts around and above Coire an Lochain with the reputedly lovely Lochan nan Cat nestled in its depths - but we could have been anywhere, the fog was complete!

Jim and Rafe - Stuchd an Loachain summit (Munro 197, 960m)

There was a short, steepish, snowy slope to the day's objective - Stuchd an Lochain (Munro 197, 960m), marked by a cairn, just to the north of the line of posts. Our first Munro of 2017.

We took photo's, trying to get the best of the non views. We could see that there was blue sky, through the grey clouds above - would it clear out?

Stuchd an Lochain summit

The white stuff was deep and dry here, at the summit. We dropped off the top, just to the north west and dug some seats in the snow out of the wind. It was a lovely, quiet spot, surrounded by the winter, for lunch and a cuppa - and to wait for a while to see if the fog would clear.

Stuchd an Lochain summit

But no - the clag remained - thick and stubborn.

Descent east from Stuchd an Lochain summit

We descended by the same route - it suddenly seemed easy - after something to eat and mostly downhill!

Instead of avoiding the snow, we jumped into drifts and waded through the deep stuff - good fun - Rafie chasing rolling snow.

Jim and Rafe - mist finally clearing on descent from Sron Chona Choirein

We gradually descended and the mist began to dissipate - the views started to open up. As we watched, the hills around us appeared on by one and Loch an Daimh appeared below.

Lochan an Daimh from bealach between Sron Chona Choirein and Creag an Fheadain

Unfortunately, by the time the very tops cleared, we had dropped behind Sron Chona Choirein and Stucd an Lochain was out of site - we never did see it on the day!

Looking back (west) to Sron Chona Choirein

But it didn't matter...

Looking west along Loch an Daimh to a distant Rannoch Moor
Stuchd an Lochain still in the mist to the south

Creag an Fheadain (888m) summit
Views east along Glen Lyon

Rafe - views south over Meall Dubh to Meall Ghaordaidh

Descent towards the Giorra Dam from
Creag an Fheadain

We managed to bypass the rocky/icy/snowy bit on Creag an Fheadain now that we could see where we were! We just ploughed down, through soft snow.

Descent from Creag an Fheadain

Glen Lyon from descent from Creag an Fheadain

It was warm in the watery sunshine - waterproof trousers were removed and Rafe's new coat was stashed away.

Views south from descent from Creag an Fheadain

We were heading off the hill too soon.

Meall Buidhe over Loch an Daimh from descent from Creag an Fheadain

Meall Buidhe, the Munro across the glen was now completely clear - it didn't look like there was much snow up there. Remembering our walk up there in the summer of 2015 and the amount of bog to be negotiated then - we wondered how wet the going would have been today!

Rafe and Jim - views north over Loch an Daimh 

Once off the snowfields our descent to the loch was quick - the path really was quite steep!

Descent to Loch an Daimh

We could see that there were lots of cars (at least eight!) in the car park by the dam. We hadn't seen anybody on our hill all day... were they all bog trotting on Meall Buidhe?

Views west along Loch an Daimh from near Giorra Dam

It was a gentle saunter back to the car.

Ben Lawers from Giorra Dam

We had another cuppa and our last sandwich whilst sitting on a couple of rocks near the car park. Rafe had found a stick and wanted it thrown for him - so much for being an old fogey!

A large herd of red deer stags flowed across the glen bottom - making he most of some hay left out by the keepers - lovely to watch - and a great end to our day.

Red deer in Glen Lyon

 Car park just before GiorravDam on Loch an Daimh (NN512463), road to foot of dam and across bridge (NN509463), track to south end of dam and continue for 200m, S on rough track, ascending steeply to line of fenceposts east of summit of Creag an Fheadain (NN501453), W to Creag an Fheadain summit (888m), SW following fenceposts to Sron Chona Choirein (Munro Top 195, 927m) W then NW around Coire Lochan nan Cat, continuing following fenceposts to Stuchd an Lochain (Munro 197, 960m), return to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 9km  Ascent: 750m  Time: 5 hours

Map:  OS Explorer 378 Ben Lawers & Glen Lyon

Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor

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