(click on photos to enlarge)
No self-respecting 'Munro-bagger', climbs the same hills twice - while leaving other peaks still unconquered. Very keen baggers might set out to complete the lot for a second time, but that is quite different from doing the same ones repeatedly! This year I am beginning to doubt my credentials as a bagger, as the last three peaks I have stood on have been repeats; but all for good reason! A week or so back on a church men's weekend we had an afternoon free - just time to trudge to the top of the familiar Cairnwell and Carn Aosda, located conveniently close to our base at the Compass Christian Centre.
This weekend I again found myself climbing a hill for the second time - and again for quite good reasons. Our daughter is now 6, and is quite a strong, steady and reliable little hillwalker, and so with a good forecast for the whole day we decided to attempt a family walk up a good sized hill. While she has been carried up several hills on my back when she was a baby, this was her first chance to climb a 'proper hill' without such assistance!
Meall nan Tarmachan was an obvious choice for a family walk. It's a beautiful hill, with a little exposure to enjoy on a delightful ridge. It breaks the mythical 3000ft barrier, adding a great sense of achievement for the kids. However despite its height and beauty, the starting point is relatively high above sea-level, reducing the overall climb, and there is a path to follow, meaning that navigation is not complex and so each of them can walk in front and be the leader!
There is another car-park beyond the busy Ben Lawers car-park on the little road between Loch Tay and Glen Lyon. From here a land-rover track crosses a bridge and traverses around the base of the mountain for several miles. We followed this track until we reached an obvious footpath deviating from it to the right, striking almost due westwards to make the south-eastern ridge of 'Tarmachan', upon which it turns 90' due North, and reaches a top at 923m. This was a long, hard pull for the kids, and there was some toiling and groaning as we worked our way up to this great viewpoint. The discomfort of the climb was made worse by the intense heat - as Scotland roasted in a mini-heatwave; which in turn led to further discomfort for me as I had the privilege of lugging several litres of drinks for the whole family in my pack.
The top at 923m gave the opportunity for us all to have a drink and a rest, and for the kids to look up at the summit, only a short, steep climb away. The steep path looked daunting, but they were encouraged by the thought that the coming climb was less than half the height of Kinnoull Hill - which they are compelled (under diverging levels of duress) to ascend most weekends!
The summit was made without difficulty, and we made our way along the Cam Chreag ridge to Meall Garbh, the rocky peak in the final picture above. The most interesting part of the Tarmachan ridge follows, as it winds it way across to the peak of Beinn nan Eachan. Young 'Norris' and I went along this ridge and enjoyed the little taste of exposure it gives, before working our way back to the rest of the family waiting on Meall Garbh. While the rest of the ridge looked inviting and there were plenty of hours left before dark, the smallest legs in the party were approaching their endurance limit, so we turned southwards from Meall Garbh, following an intermittent path, until we reached the landrover track which lead us back to the car.
Meall nan Tarmachan is justifiably a very popular hill. Shapely, dramatic, offering great views, and easily accessible, its a wonderful place for a family walk. Lying as it does next to the industrial bulk of Ben Lawers, The Tarmachan ridge feels friendly, soft, delightful and it is a sheer joy to dander from top to top, along its rocky spine. Hills like this, even a hardened Munro-bagger should climb often!