Monday, 26 November 2012

Meall nan Cleireach

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 26 November 2012
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gina Smith
Accommodation - Laurel Bank Lodge, Fort William
Start Point - Lundavra (GR NN 09580 66449)
Start Time - 10:01
Finish Point - Laurel Bank Lodge (GR NN 09418 73057)
Finish Time - 16:29
Duration - 6hrs 28mins
Average pace - 1.51mph
Distance Walked - 9.78miles
Height Ascended - 535.84metres

Peaks visited
Highland Five (771)
Meall nan Clèireach (2)

The red part of the route indicates where we went during the
first hour of the walk looking unsuccessfully for a
river crossing to give access to Doire Bàn.
Walk Summary
Today was the only day out of the four walking days the whole group did not walk, with three of the group going to Mallaig on the train, that left just Gina and myself getting in the taxi from Laural Bank to Loch Lundavra.
As it turned out it was the only planned route we did not complete or get anywhere near following, due to the ford near the Loch outfall being too deep and fast to cross so early in the walk. If it was at the end of the walk I would just go for it, but the thought of having wet boots, as well as persuading Gina to come across, was just not worth the effort.
After unsuccessfully, wasting an hour in the process, trying find an alternative crossing across Allt na Lairige Mòire, we decided to head home. But rather than simply following the farm road back through Blarmachfoldach we went for returning over the Highland 5, Meall nan Clèireach. It looked a pretty steep hill walk (no crags or climbing required) from where we stood and there was no marked footpath, but with the benefit of Scottish access laws it seems no two people go up a hill the same way, at least on the minor summits anyway.
I am realising there are many scenic walks around that do not involve a trig point or a cairn, but for me they provide the focus and motivation to visit an area in the first place, so in the absence of a better option we set off.
It was in fact a steep climb and very well done to Gina for keeping going no matter what and in spite of more than the average number of false summits, which included two steep descents and a scramble across a good sized grough before the final ascent to the summit plateau.
When we found the cairn (well half dozen rocks) I am sure I heard Gina says to me in a not so friendly tone "Is this all you have dragged me up here for". But then we noticed the views of peaks with early coverings of early winter snowfalls all round; west towards the Corbetts at the top of Cona Glen on the other side of Loch Linnhe, South to the Mamores, North to the snow covered peaks of Locheil Forest and of course East to Ben Nevis seemingly permanently shrouded in cloud.
A great walk for us both.

Walk Description
1.) After giving up on wading across the knee deep ford near Loch Lundavra outfall we returned to the bridge to find an alternative crossing over Allt na Lairige Mòire.
It really is too deep and fast
with slippery stones to cross ford
across Loch Lundavra outfall .
2.) Heading along the east bank south for about 400m we gave up and decided to return back to the bridge and the point where we had been dropped off by the taxi one hour earlier. Although the stream became narrower, not only did it get faster but also deeper at the bottom of an ever deepening gorge.
We won't be crossing here to get to
Doire Bàn beyond
3.) From the bridge we started what was now the walk proper heading up the marked farm track past the animal barn following and ascending the hill contours round to the left.
4.) Continue contouring round the hill to the left looking out for the fence, also on the left.
5.) Don't go any higher or for that matter lower just head straight for the fence in the least wet, most direct way you can find.
6.) As you approach the fence a gate should become visible which you should head for and go through rather than climbing over the fence.
7.) Look up the hill and head for the lone boulder, you may see a faint line of a track heading diagonally up to the left.
8.) From the boulder it is a choice just going for it and heading straight up the bank of heather or following tracks (sheep or otherwise) that take you vaguely in the right direction and of course up hill.
Ben Nevis still in cloud along with
indication of gradient we are climbing
9.) We were lucky enough to come across a collapsed peak bank near Sròn Gharbh, which made an excellent seat to stop and have lunch.
Handy seat for hot drink and
snacks - lunch. Just below Sròn Gharbh
10.) From Sròn Gharbh prepare yourself for at least 3 or 4 more false summits, I lost count, but when you get to one with a significant amount of descent there will be just one more.
11.) The last false summit will reveal a wide grough over (and down) which you will need to find the easiest and driest place to cross. We tended left until we found a place to descend into what is the head of Allt a' Choire Dhuibh.
12.) You can scramble out of the grough and head for the next ridge,knowing it will be the last false summit.
13.) Clearing this final ridge will bring you on to the summit plateau. Enjoy the views all round (because this is what you have really come for, apart from the physical challenge and just the hell of it) then head for the 535 spot height where you will find a small cairn.
The Corbett Stob Coire a'Chearcaill
from Meall nan Clèireach cairn
14.) Head north to start the descent and when you reach the edge of the summit plateau and in the absence of a worn path assess your easiest route down.
15.) Try to pick out the tongue without heading for the pointiest part at the end, in general this can often lead to an overhang. In this case the steepest drops where to the right, but nothing too serious.
16.) Very soon you will see the small hamlet of Blarmachfoldach, this is your marker for descent so head straight for it taking account of terrain ahead and underfoot.
Our line off the hill is follow the tongue
strait down heading towards
Blarmachfoldach and Ben Nevis
17.) As the rate of descent decreases and you get towards the forest boundary look out for gate and head for that after which you carefully pick your way through tree stumps and rotting moss covered branches to get to the forest track.
18.) By the time you reach the track you will have covered 2/3 of the walk in terms of time but only 1/2 of the route in terms of distance. From now on the ground is much easier but care is still required not to trip or come to any other harm on the uneven surface.
19.) Follow the track, mostly down hill until you reach the A82.
First sight of the A82 at 15:25,
still 4miles to go.
Snow capped Druim na Sgriodain ahead
20.) Turn right on the A82 and cross the road at the bridge over River Kiachnish  where there will be a tarmac footpath for the final 4 miles (maybe 1½miles to Fort William

More Photographs
Close up left to right - Sgorr Bhan, Sgorr Dhearg & Sgorr Dhonuill, south of Ballachulish
Click on photograph to view slide-show

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