Winter walking: Sgùrr Breac.

December 30, 2016
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Approaching the summit of Sgùrr Breac in cloud and with a 40 mph SW wind.

To counter the excesses of Christmas, I made an attempt to bag the last two Munros in the Fannaichs. A small weather window opened up on Tuesday (27th December) after the second of two very intense low pressure weather systems had blown through leaving a fresh breezy day to attempt the walk. I had no idea how much snow was left on the Fannaichs at this time, so went equipped with winter gear including ice axe for traversing snow fields which may (or may not) be frozen and extensive on the lee slopes of the hills. My targets were Sgùrr Breac and A’ Chailleach, the two most westerly of the Fannaichs.

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Loch a’ Bhracin near the starting point on the A832. A morning shot.

As it turned out, the wind was too severe to allow a climb of both Munros in the short time available in mid winter with dusk at around 15.45 hrs. depending on cloud cover. I was not keen on clambering back down through Allt Breabaig in near darkness, not even with a head torch and other light.

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I climbed up onto the ridge at Leitir Fhearna at the start of the walk to reach the start of a ridge walk along Druim Reidh that would take be to the top which lies between the two mountains. The wind chill and speed made walking challenging and with the turn back time approaching, I decided to leave A’ Chailleach for another day and concentrate on climbing Sgùrr Breac. Once completing the top, I walked down the south east side towards Allt the pass or bealach (Allt Leac a’ Bhealaich to the south of the pass and Allt Breabaig to the north of the pass) which separates Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala from Sgùrr Breac. The bealach was the route for the return walk which turned out to be relatively sheltered. I have used the Allt Breabaig bealach route from the north before and in much better weather conditions too!

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The view west from Druim Reidh on the approach to Toman Coinnich, a top which sits between the two Munros. The picture was taken just before entering the cloud sitting over the hills.

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A panorama from just below the summit of Sgùrr Breac. The shot was taken just below the cloud base. Loch Fannich can be seen in the distance and the Munros Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala also make it into the shot.

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Approaching the top of the bealach or pass from the south for the return leg of the walk.

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Shelter at the top of the pass. Beyond, to the north is the walk-out through Allt Breabaig which was very wet with snow melt. Even the path had assumed the role of a small burn!

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A sight for tired feet – Loch a’ Bhracin at the end of the walk at dusk. Only half a mile to go to reach the car!

 

 

 

 

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Sgùrr nan Each, Sgùrr nan Clach Geala, Meall a’ Chrasgaidh and Sgùrr Mòr (again)

October 11, 2016
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Allt Breabaig looking south up the pass.

A desire to hit the mountain trails reached crisis point this weekend past as a period of calm Autumn weather settled over the Scottish Highlands, presenting reasonably clear air and a good chance of cloud-free Munros. Back to the Fannaichs (Fannichs) to tackle a trio of tops which form a second arm of the mountain range with a north-south axis from Sgùrr Mòr towards Loch Fannich. The walk started at Loch a’ Bhracin near the A832 with a gentle ramble south up Allt Breabaig to a pass or bealach.

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The saddle between Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala looking back down towards the top of the pass.

 

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Mountains and more mountains – a long walk plus altitude equals happiness.

Upon reaching the top of the bealach, I turned east and climbed the saddle between Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala. Sgùrr nan Each is the most southerly Munro of this arm of the Fannichs and rises to 922 metres.

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Sgùrr nan Each 360 degree panorama with Sgùrr nan Clach Geala to the left of centre of the picture.

From Sgùrr nan Each, I turned north to retrace my steps back down the saddle of the mountains which was followed by the long climb up Sgùrr nan Clach Geala (1093 metres).

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Looking town the crags of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala with a rocky top called Càrn na Chriche in the back ground.

 

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360 degree panorama from Sgùrr nan Clach Geala. Summit cairn (south) to the extreme left of the shot. Centre of the image looks east with Sgùrr Mòr to the right.

Timing on this walk was important if Sgùrr Mòr was to be climbed again. I had to leave the summit of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala no later than 13.30 hrs to be sure to fit in all four Munros within the planned walking time. I have walked up Sgùrr Mòr before, in poor conditions which made good photography impossible. On this expedition, I approached the mountain from the opposite flank, starting with a good scramble down the loose rocks on the north side of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala, over the rocky top of Càrn na Chriche and a long clamber over the boulders of the north west flank of Sgùrr Mòr. Last time, I approached the mountain from the south east after climbing Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich.

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Last time!

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Second visit and a cloud-free summit!

 

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The 360 degree panorama impossible to obtain on my last visit to Sgùrr Mòr with some fellow walkers enjoying the views.

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From there. I retraced my steps back down the north west flank and back over Càrn na Chriche to reach the last Munro of the day: Meall a’ Chrasgaidh (934 metres). Nothing spectacular: a rounded summit with a cairn and shelter. The ground between Meall a’ Chrasgaidh and Càrn na Chriche presented some of the easiest walking of the day allowing some time to be made up by running part of it.

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Approaching Meall a’ Chrasgaidh as a brisk walk with Sgùrr nan Clach Geala in the back ground.

 

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360 degree panorama from Meall a’ Chrasgaidh allowing a view of Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich for the first time that day. Sgùrr Mòr is centre with Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich behind left and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala right of centre.

 

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A five-minute break to admire the view and pay due respect to the four Munros of the day before heading back to the car.

 

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Allt Breabaig on the walk out towards Loch a’ Bhracin.

 

 


Fun in the Fannichs

August 28, 2016
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Panorama taken from Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich before the mist closed in. Loch Broom and Ullapool can be made out in the distance.

I could little resist the call of the mountains once again. Just over an hour from home are the Fannichs, easily accessible from the Ullapool road. I started the traverse of the long eastern ridge from Sgùrr Mòr to An Coileachan with a long walk-in from the top of Loch Glascarnoch. The first Munro of the day was Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich (954 Metres) accessed via a top called Creag Liath Fannaich. From there, one drops off the western side of Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich to a convenient saddle linking Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich with Sgùrr Mòr. The summit was reached by climbing up the shoulder of the mountain (in the mist) with due regard to the drop to the right!

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Sgùrr Mòr is in the background of this image taken from Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich.

Opportunities for photography in these beautiful mountains were hampered by the low cloud and subsequent drizzle. The sheer drop off Sgùrr Mòr (1108 Metres) is no less impressive in not being able to see the bottom…

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Sgùrr Mòr summit cairn and the drop off to the left. Scottish mountains might not be the biggest in the world, but they are still dangerous.

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Looking down into the cloud…

Careful navigation through the low cloud brought me to the top of the third Munro of the day: Meall Gorm (949 Metres), not the most impressive one in the Fannichs. However, it has a lovely shelter stone to the east of the cairn and I am sure the views are spectacular when there’s no cloud.

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Meall Gorm shelter stone – comfortable, especially when a foam sitting pad is used.

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Meall Gorm in the cloud…and drizzle.

With three down and time to spare, it was decided to go for the most southerly Munro of the range: An Coileachan (923 Metres). There were signs that the low cloud was lifting and sure enough, as the top was reached, it cleared sufficiently for photography.

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An Coileachan summit and the view around the mountain. Loch Fannich can be seen from this summit and the saddle of land on the approach to the mountain from Meall Gorm SE Top

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An Coileachan cairn.

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Some sun light on An Coileachan. The weather window was not to last as higher cloud with rain on it was moving in from the south west.

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Loch Fannich in the distance.

The walk out was east, down the side of An Coileachan allowing superb views of Loch Gorm. It is a long, boggy and pathless route down to the river path.

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Loch Gorm with Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich in the distance.

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Loch Gorm with the top of Sgùrr Mòr behind.

It was a long traverse – four Munros covered in nine hours. The long walk out to the car was made much more pleasant by meeting a fellow wanderer, Roy, on the flanks of Meall Gorm.  He was grabbing as much mountain time as he could whilst on holiday from Sherborne in Dorset, although he was originally from Caithness. We had a good old blether!

 

 


Sgòr Gaoith and Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir

August 21, 2016
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Panoramic view from Sgòr Gaoith with south to the left in the picture looking towards Carn Bàn Mòr and Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir.

I returned to the mountains to the east side of Glen Feshie this weekend; to walk up Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir (1019 Metres) for the first time, a Munro which is located at the south end of Glen Feshie. I parked near Balachroick and climbed up to the long high and very exposed plateau between Sgòr Gaoith (1118 Metres) and Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir near a top called Carn Bàn Mòr (1052 Metres). I have been on top of the Munro Sgòr Gaoith before and this walk made it the third time I have had the pleasure of looking down on Loch Einich from this vantage point.

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Loch Einich in October 2012.

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Walking up the hill on really pleasant conditions. They soon changed however, and very quickly too.

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It was very windy this time, with a real blast of air screaming up the crags and over the summit of Sgòr Gaoith – in complete contrast to the mild conditions in Glen Feshie of earlier in the morning. The wind soon dragged a great deal of cloud over the plateau and its tops.

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The craggy ‘tor’ at the summit of Sgòr Gaoith. The walk up the west side tail of the mountain does little to warn you of the sheer drop into Loch Einich on the east side.

I turned into the south-east gale and walked over Carn Bàn Mòr, skirting the deep Coire Garbhlach, to reach Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir, a Munro, but with a very unimpressive summit with barely a cairn to speak of. There are few rocks to make one on this top and with the weather closing in, care was needed to navigate to the summit as visibility closed down to a hundred yards or so.

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Weather closes in…

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Summit cairn of Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir. No views on this day!

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Looking over Coire Garbhlach and its waterfalls at Cadha na Coin Duibh. That’s a steep drop for the unwary…

One of the real pleasures of walking off Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir down the track past a small top called Meal nan Sleac is the chance of a view of the crags at Cadha na Coin Duibh overlooking the steep sided Coire Garbhlach.

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Mullach Chlach a Bhlair panorama

Looking back up Mullach Clach a’ Bhlàir from the small top called Meall nan Sleac with the Coire Garbhlach to the left. It had started to rain at this stage of the walk…

With rain closing in at low levels, I had little choice than to make my way down Glen Feshie past the farm at Achlean to return to the car. The complete circuit, including photographic stops and navigation took seven hours. Thankfully, the worst of the rain held off until after I completed the route and was sipping a much needed coffee back at the car!

 


A’ Chailleach, Carn Sgùlain and Carn Dearg

October 4, 2015
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A 360 degree montage from the summit of A’ Chailleach.

With the warm sun of a wonderful ‘Indian summer’ bathing the Highlands with wonderful light, the urge to seek out high places came over me once again. This time, I chose a circular traverse to tackle three more of the Monadhliath mountains, this time a little closer to home near Newtonmore.

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A small bothy can be seen on the way up through the heather to the top of A’ Chailleach.

The walk starts with an ascent up A’ Chailleach (The Old Woman) which finds you up on a plateau of tops which can them be traversed in a long loop round to the north and to the west taking in Carn Sgùlain and eventually Carn Dearg.

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It is a curious little building with decorative finials at the ends of the roof.

Summit of A' Chailleach looking north.

Taking in the view from A’ Chailleach.

To start the climb up Carn Sgùlain from A’ Chailleach, a deep gully called Allt Cùil na Caillach has to be crossed.

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Allt Cùil na Caillich.

Once over it and climbing again, the summit is reached by traversing slopes over long stretches of dead ground with peat bogs. The summit of Carn Sgùlain is nothing to get excited about – rounded with the minutest of cairns – I spent enough time on it for photographs before heading west towards tops called Meall a’ Bhothain, Carn Ballach and Carn Bàn.

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The view from the rounded top of Carn Sgùlain.

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Looking south east back towards A’ Chailleach.

However, from here the circuit consists of a lovely high-level walk over long stretches of grass and rock with the odd peat bog to traverse, taking in various tops on the way.

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Looking back towards Carn Sgùlain and A’ Chailleach from the first un-named top along the traverse.

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Taking a break on the rocky top called Carn Ballach.

The ground became much more strewn with rocks and boulders as the walk progressed towards Carn Bàn and Carn Dearg.

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Carn Dearg broods over Gleann Ballach, the glen to the left of the crags.

My route turns south to take in the ridge walk over Carn Bàn and eventually up Carn Dearg, a more classic crag and tail shaped mountain.

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Looking over the side of Carn Dearg into Gleann Ballach.

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Allt Ballach in Gleann Ballach which flows into the River Calder.

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A view of Carn Dearg taken looking north.

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Carn Dearg was the last Munro of the day – time to walk out along Allt Ballach by heading south towards the old croft at Dalballoch via a slot in the crags.

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Heading down the slot in the crags between Carn Dearg and Carn Macoul.

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Carn Dearg and Gleann Ballach from the old croft at Dalballoch.

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Lengthening shadows indicates that it was time to finish the long walk out in the Newtonmore direction along the River Calder. As good a day to spend in the mountains as you could wish for at the beginning of October when the weather in the Scottish Highlands can be truly glorious.


The smallest ‘Munro’ and Beinn a’ Chaorainn

September 11, 2015
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Beinn Teallach – the joint lowest of the Munros with Ben Vane. This view of the mountain was taken during the climb up Beinn a’ Chaorainn.

I am fortunate in having most if not all of the 283 ‘Munros’ within several hours travel of my Moray coast home making walking a low-cost hobby for me. It gets me away from model trains from time to time which can be a relief. Ninety-minutes driving from home is one of the joint smallest (allegedly) Munros which at 3001 feet (915m) could be demoted to a ‘Corbet’ if a careless walker was to dislodge a boulder from the summit. According to the Munro Magic web site, it is joint 282 of the currently acknowledged 283 Munros.

The trek to tackle Beinn Teallach and its larger neighbour, Beinn a’ Chaorainn,  started at Rough Burn on the A86 Loch Laggan road which, with extended stops for photography, took me about seven hours to complete. The typical time for this route is five and a half to eight hours, so that was reasonably good. I don’t believe in rushing things anyway, wanting to take time to enjoy the views and the experience of being on Scotland’s high places – the very thing which makes this country so unique.

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Following one of the tributaries of the Rough Burn.

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The Rough Burn.

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360 degree panorama from the top of Beinn Teallach.

It took me around 100 minutes to walk from the car to the top of Beinn Teallach. Most of the lower slopes consisted of quite boggy ground which I sometimes find hard-going, preferring to walk on rock which comprised the last quarter of the climb.

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Fantastic views and peace…always take the time to enjoy the experience.

Early morning cloud covered both Beinn Teallach and Beinn a’ Chaorainn for the first couple of hours of the walk. It cleared fairly quickly to leave a warm, sunny day with patchy cloud, allowing pictures to be taken at the top of Beinn Teallach. My planned route ran off the top, around a slightly lower hump of rock and down a craggy tail to the north of the summit back onto boggy ground.

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Beinn a’ Chaorainn summit viewed from the north top – looking south.

Beinn a’ Chaorainn was tackled from the north, up to the north top. Soggy at the base, rocky as the climb progressed.

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Looking down the east side of the mountain and its crags.

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Looking east from the summit of Beinn a’ Chaorainn towards another mountain I tackled recently – Creag Meagaidh.

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360 degree panorama from the summit of Beinn a’ Chaorainn. Loch Treig can be seen in the distance to the south-ish. The west highland line runs alongside the east side of the loch south of Tulloch station.

Beinn a’ Chaorainn has three tops: the north top; the south top and the summit itself. All three can be experienced on the traverse from north to south.

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Another day, another cairn – the summit cairn. Just a small pile of stones. That IS a Montana Rail Link baseball cap just in case you were wondering.

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Beinn a’ Chaorainn summit is in the back ground of this picture taken at the south top.

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Looking north from the south top.

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Tramping around with Loch Treig in the far back ground.

The walk out route took in a small pile of rock half way down the south end of Beinn a’ Chaorainn called Meall Clachaig. A tramp across heather, grasses and quite boggy ground took me back to the Allt a’ Chaorainn and the walk back down the banks of the Rough Burn to the main road.


Creag Meagaidh Nature Reserve

August 22, 2015

Walk-in Sron a Choire OMWB

The Coire Ardair is an amazing walk in to the climb up Creag Meagaidh and along the ridge to bag Stob Poite and Carn Liath. The six to seven-hour walk starts at the visitor centre (simply a car park and toilet block) and works it way through the nature reserve past the end of the hills marked by Sron a Choire (above).

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Re-forestation and preservation of the existing trees along the Allt Coire Ardair burn is one of the objectives of the nature reserve at Creag Meagaidh. The track into the Coire is well maintained and allows a fast pace at the start of the walk. It is a sheltered area and makes a lovely low-level walk.

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Creag Meagaidh looking from the Corie Ardair. The climb to the summit together with the east-west ridge to Carn Liath is through the col to the right of the crags.

The trail is about five kilometres long and ends at the Lochan a Choire (Coire Ardair). A rough path then leads north west up through a col called ‘The Window’. Creag Meagaidh has its head in the clouds at this point, which remained for most of the day.

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The view looking down from ‘The Window’…

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Scrambling up the rocks and loose stones.

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Looking down ‘The Window’ in a south east direction. Now for the climb up to the rounded top of Creag Meagaidh…through the damp cloud and to the summit cairn – cloud is just one of those things one has to contend with with Scotland’s Munros from time to time. There’s another small top on the summit and finding the true summit at 3700ft. in cloud requires a little map and compass work.

Creag Meagaidh summit cairn OMWB

Unfortunately, the cloud meant there was no chance of looking down those rocky crags at the Coire Ardair, nor taking any photos for creating panoramic montages – I will have to return to this summit when I tackle Beinn a Chaorainn.

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There was little point in lingering in the cloud on Creag Meagaidh, so to the second peak of the day – Stob Poite. I returned to The Window and climbed up in the opposite direction  onto the east-west ‘whale-back ridge which overlooks the Corie Ardair and forms the return leg of the walk. The image above is the view looking back towards Stob Poite and Creag Meagaidh beyond. The cloud began to lift a little, making the walk along the ridge above Coire Ardair more enjoyable, despite the buffeting south wind.

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Sheltering briefly behind some rocks for a bite out of the increasingly strong south wind which was blowing up the side of the line of hills with enough force to knock me sideways from time to time. The view above was taken looking east along the whale-back ridge towards Meall an-t Snaim and Carn Liath.

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Carn Liath cairn and sheltering from the wind!

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With my allocated time window quickly running out, there was time to prepared pictures for a montage facing south and east with Creag Meagaidh in the back ground. I then walked back west along the ridge for a few hundred yards before turning south into the Coire Ardair for the walk through the heather and woods to the car park.