Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Loch Eilde Mòr (nearly)

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 23 January 2013
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gina Smith
Accommodation - 18 Callart Road, Kinlochleven
Start Point - 18 Callart Road (GR NH 07619 11760)
Start Time - 10:27
Finish Point - MacDonald Hotel (GR NN 18222 62260)
Finish Time - 15:03
Duration - 4hrs 36mins
Average pace - 1.20mph
Distance Walked - 5.50miles
Height Ascended - 521.65metres

Peaks visited
Route in orange shows extra 1.69mile loop we did not manage to Loch Eilde Dam as described in walk description below
Walk Summary
This walk was originally planned pre-trip as a fall back to bag a couple of Highland 5’s, allegedly easier peaks, if the weather turned out to be too severe to attempt Munros or even Corbetts. In spite of this the conditions of the day still beat us, but I have included in orange on the map below, the route we did not cover to get as far as the dam, which I am told gives lovely views of the Loch and surrounding Munros.

Following Gina’s efforts and the severe conditions we encountered to bag Am Bàthach earlier in our trip, it was clear that Munro, Corbett or even Graham summits were no place to be in anything other than perfect conditions. Furthermore, even with my experience of visiting nearly all 253 of the English 2000ft tops, it was not a place for me to be on my own.

I therefore looked to the route out of Kinlochleven to visit the two Highland 5’s of Meall Beag & the slightly higher Meall na Duibhe. Both by definition are above 500m and below 610m (2000ft), but because of the access difficulties and our late departure I did not expect to visit more than one anyway. Which one to visit would be decided once we had reached the dam over Allt na h-Eilde near Loch Eilde Mòr.

As it turned out we did not manage to get as far as the dam or even the Loch, let alone the peaks. The ascent started near Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfalls and quickly ascended to the snow line. As we left the trees the snow became deeper and we found it easier to walk on the grass rather than the snow covered track hiding rock hard slippery ice.

After an hour and continued disappointment that Loch Eilde Mòr failed to appear over the next ridge or round the next corner I attempted to cross Allt a' Chumainn at the same time sinking thigh deep into a snow drift. I looked back at Gina and was reminded of the expression she had on top of Am Bàthach. I asked her if she wanted to go back and her response was immediate. Having lost sight of Loch Leven behind, she was feeling decidedly uncomfortable in what, to her, were wilderness like conditions. She was adamant she wanted to go back so with a heavy heart I pointed the way home.

It was a shame really because we were so close to reaching the access track that the dam workers use, but the rule is only go as far as the first person does not want to go further NOT as far as the last person will go.

Gina was all for retracing our steps through the deep snow, she was not keen to cross the 100m of moorland to the fore mentioned track, but I managed to persuade her. It made it a circular route with different views on the way home, but more importantly an easier route which I know Gina enjoyed as judged by the number of photo stops. It also introduced me to a good access route for later use when accessing the more remote south easterly Munros of the Mamores.

Walk Description
1.) Opposite the Tail Race Inn follow the sign to “Grey Mare’s Falls” past the doctors surgery.
2.) At the T-junction cross the road and take the path signposted to the falls on the right of St. Pauls church.
3.) Take time to read the signs about the history of the path and area then walk the short distance to the path junction.
4.) Turn left along the prepared track, ignoring the old path rising sharply to your right.
5.) At the top of the path veer to the right and at the junction take the right fork to Loch Eilde Mòr.
6.) With Meall an Doire Dharaich straight in front of you, follow the path uphill to the memorial bench.
Meall an Doire Dharaich
straight ahead as we fork right to
Loch Eilde Mòr
7.) Go through the gate with electricity lines above and continue taking the left hand fork of the path.
8.) We had difficulty following the path due to the snow, but continue over several ridges along the path with the Munro Na Gruagaichean in front of you in the distance.
The view ahead towards
Na Gruagaichean
9.) Although you have finished the ascent for now Loch Eilde Mòr remains elusive as the path goes round and to the left of various hills, mainly the northern flank of Meall an Doire Dharaich.
10.) The path then fords Allt a’ Chumhainn for the final time, which is as far as we got due to the deep drift. However I expect the Loch to appear in front of you as you descend and loop around the 355m spot height to the dam across Allt na h-Eilde.
11.) At this point we crossed downhill to the track that I guess is used to access the dam and the Loch and branches to the north of Loch Eilde Mòr giving access to the Munros of the SE Mamores and then on to Corrour Station & Loch Ossian.
12.) To return to Kinlochleven follow the path west to a memorial marble bench.
13.) Then follow the track around in to Coire na Bà.
14.) Cross the bridge at the bottom and follow the path uphill to the stalkers cottage.
Bridge over Allt Coire na Bà
15.) Rather than go through the cottage yard, the path directs you behind and to the left of the cottage.
16.) When you rejoin the track follow it the disused Mamore Lodge.
17.) Turn left down the hill past Mamore Lodge and stay on what is now the Mamore Lodge access road until the path for the West Highland Way crosses the road.
18.) Turn left at the path  and continue your descent down the West Highland Way to the B863 into Kinlochleven.
The West Highland Way.
Turn left and down for Kinlochleven,
up and right for
Glen Nevis & Fort William
19.) To your right as the West Highland Way joins the B863 you will see the MacDonald Hotel where we were made very welcome in the Bothy Bar, enjoying excellent views along Loch Leven as the early winter sun set at the far end of the Loch and beyond The Pap of Glencoe. 

More photographs
A distant Pap of Glencoe comes in to view as we head home
Click on photograph to view slide-show

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