Friday, June 04, 2010

Sunburt in Laggan: Beinn a Chlachair, Geal Charn and Creag Pitridh

Lochan na h-Earba

The road from Dalwhinnie/Newtonmore to Spean Bridge and Fortwilliam is littered with high mountains, several of which I have managed to haul my reluctant limbs to the summits of. Just below the outflow of Loch Laggan, an ugly concrete bridge leads out into the wilds of the Corrour Estate. Many times, on my way to Fort William, I have looked at the cluster of cars in the layby, or seen walkers early on Sunday mornings heading out over the bridge in search of the three-high peaks that lay hidden behind the smaller hills in the foreground. My jealous gaze at this point was usually short-lived because around the next bend, the magnificent sight of the Grey Corries looms large, and claims the attention. Yesterday however, I replaced my jealous gaze at this spot for good, and replaced it with happy memories of long-tracks, stunning lochs, rounded-hills, astonishing views, and sun-burn!

My day began early, as I needed get back to Perth for before six, for the family, so I left the car before 8:30 to get a good headstart. Even before 9, the sun was cutting through the morning haze, and layers were removed and crammed into my rucksack. The Corrour estate has a nice 'walkers welcome - please shut the gate' sign at the entrance to their land; it also has many tracks, which are well-maintained and which penetrate deep into open country. These are visually appalling, but certainly give very speedy access to the hills.

The first stop was Beinn a Chlachair, a long stony-steep-sided ridge whose finest feature is a high bowl-shaped corrie facing Northwards. The views from this mountain over towards the Ben Alder group were quite stunning, and made me more determined than ever to engineer the circumstances where a trip out into that wilderness might be possible! In blazing heat, and with heathaze shimmering from rocks and heather, and walked from the summit, the length of the broad ridge and clambered down its steep north-easterly end, to the bealach. From here, the route up onto Geal Charn is longer and harder than it appears, but is a straightforward trudge upwards.

Picking a route down to the col between Geal Charn and Creag Pitridh would be tricky enough in mist. My concern by this stage was not the route - that was obvious - but rather my aching head and dwindling supplies of liquid.

In the distance, Ben Lui stood tall on the horizon; its graceful 'upturned hull' lines, like a great arrow directing attention upwards as if to indicate that its glory points us upwards to a greater glory; from creation to creator. Unlike the day on which I stood on Lui, with clouds foaming around the summit like an angry sea; yesterday she shimmered and sweltered in her sun-drenched magnificence.

The bulk of Ben Alder fills the view from these hills to the South. Grampian's crumpled skin wears Alder like a great boil. Creag Pitridh on the other hand is but a pimple, an afterthought, even amongst these Laggan Hills. That is not to say a pimple that I could resists squeezing, and so I picked my way up its steep side on a scratchy path and stood on top of its airy summit - chatted to a fellow-walker and drank the very last of my water.

The descent off the North of Pitridh is straightforward enough, and the tracks out to the road long enough and good enough to make me really wish I had brought my bike in. The view down Lochan na h-Earba (top photo) was the sight of the day. Another highlight was chatting to an older couple, a retired bank-manager and his wife from Yorkshire, who have spent their retirement walking thousands of miles all over the UK.

This was a truly magnificent hill-day, and I was almost back in Perth on time too! These hills may not be the most intrinsically delightful in Scotland - and they require 18miles of work to scalp them; but they certainly reward the persistent walker with memorable, open views across mile after mile of Scotland's stunning mountain scenery.

No comments: