Talk about Garbh Bheinn in this area and most climbers will think of the great Ardgour rock peak despite there being another fine Corbett of that name sitting right above the village and blocking out the light! And that’s where I ran this afternoon after (wisely, from the reports coming in of folk getting stuck left, right and centre) shelving plans to go hill running elsewhere.
Took the ENE ridge (an option I can’t recall taking before) from the Penstock track, with a light covering of soft snow intermittently giving way to crustier slab and deeper driftlets and the bitter wind enough to send me scurrying down Coire an t-Sionnaich without stopping long on top. And here I took the chance to take a good look at the upper reaches of the Allt Coire an t-Sionnaich (scene of January’s true roadside ice episode), noting further climbing potential with two more major icefalls above the ‘cauldron’ and being horrified by the appearance of my right-wall ‘escape’ from this (really not soloing ground at all)! So there might be some long stretches of avoidable easy ground between the good little roadside pitches and the three bigger falls higher up (sitting in the 400/500m area and already more-or-less formed if not yet solidly enough for climbing) but, when it all freezes up, these are going to stretch an interesting little expedition (where else can you start your ice climbing from under the road?) into something rather more substantial with the best bits (thinking rope, screws and partner here!) at the top.
Happy to get the whole, wintry Carn Mairg group after another late-morning start from Glen Lyon (didn’t even pack my stuff till after the start of the S2S Ultra from Kinloch to Tyndrum), but might still admit to having been lured back by a fine MWIS forecast with notions of maybe (just maybe) finishing off Meall Greigh as well. However, that was never really on the agenda with cloudier/windier than expected conditions conspiring with the continuous snow cover (from about 700m) to convince me fairly quickly that this clockwise Carn Mairg circuit would be ample if I didn’t freeze before completing it!
Nothing much more to say here when I want to get the blog post done tonight, but might just explain the slight diversions before and (especially) after Meall Liath, where my self-printed (and should-have-been-laminated) A4 map finally disintegrated and I just had to get off the top for some shelter from the biting wind before digging out the full OS sheet (in map case) that I’d fortuitously packed (in my new OMM Adventure Light 20L sack) as backup before continuing on a better course.
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Yes, it rhymes (almost), or at the very least qualifies as assonance as defined in Educating Rita…
So this could have been a cheery blog post about seven Munros (five of which were new to me) snatched from a cold and windy November day on my first proper hill run since September’s rib injury, but now it’ll have to be a cheery blog post about six Munros (four of which were new to me) and one ever-so-nearly-Munro (the culprit being Meall Greigh) snatched from a cold and windy November day and all the rest of it!
Now, you might suppose that Irvine Butterfield knew what he was talking about when he described Meall Ghaordaidh as ‘quite the dullest hill in the Southern Highlands’, but Meall Greigh (being a very dull hill requiring a four-mile detour from a logical circuit of the Ben Lawers range) is possibly even duller. Especially when you miss the top and now have to go back for this hill-of-the-kind-you-swear-you’ll-only-do-once another time!
So what happened? Well, nothing that struck me as wrong at the time… it was very cold and windy and I couldn’t see more than a few metres, but the ground was dropping beyond the ‘summit’ and the altimeter said 1003 where the map said 1001 so I turned and legged it back to Glen Lyon. Then I got home, thought I’d remind myself what Butterfield and the SMC Munros guide had to say about these hills and discovered that Meall Greigh has two summit pimples separated by 200m of flat ground, with the single ring contour denoting the NW imposter neatly hidden by the ‘a’ of the hill name on the 1:50,000 map (silly, that). Knew instantly because of the way they described it that I’d goofed, so wasn’t at all surprised when importing my Forerunner track to Memory-Map confirmed the bad news and just ever so slightly took the shine off a satisfying round!