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Sunday, 28 February 2016

The last three Munros of 2015 (9)

The summit cairn of Sgor Gaibhre is nowhere near as spectacular as that on Carn Dearg ... but there is no mistaking it when you see it. I reached the cairn at exactly 1 p.m., and sat down to have lunch at the summit of my second Munro of the day.

The last three Munros of 2015 (8)

As I approached the lowest point of the descent, it became increasingly obvious which of the little lumps on the skyline was Sgor Gaibhre. That was it ... straight ahead. Another steady ascent. 225 metres of a consistent, easy gradient would see me at the top of my second Munro of the day.

The last three Munros of 2015 (7)

From Carn Dearg, the descent to Mam Ban is a long, easy slope covered with delightful turf. The going is easy and the views spectacular. When I had had this route on my Challenge route card my route vetter had said it would be a special day ... and how right they were. My compass didn't come out all day. This was real heads-up-and-read-the-landforms navigation. The best kind, in my view.

The last three Munros of 2015 (6)

The views from this lofty perch were impressive - whichever way you looked there was something worth the seeing, and I took many photographs. My favourite of them, however, is probably this one - looking out across an inversion over Loch Rannoch to the unmistakable form of Schiehallion in the far distance (and ... one of the great joys of solo walking ... there was nobody there to argue with me about whether it actually WAS Schiehallion or not: but if you are in any doubt then take it from me, that IS Schiehallion!)

The last three Munros of 2015 (5)

I reached the summit of Carn Dearg a little before noon.

The last three Munros of 2015 (4)

Once I had gained the ridge line, and was making my way around the Coire Creagach, I could look off to my left and see the Corrour Shooting Lodge at the North East end of Loch Ossian, and beyond it Strath Ossian, Creagan nan Need, Loch Ghuilbinn, and in the far distance the mountains of the Moy Forest.

The last three Munros of 2015 (3)

The path to Peter's Rock veers slowly away from Loch Ossian, but the loch is still there to be seen off to the left, glistening in the morning sunlight. You can hardly miss it ... which is more than I can say of Peter's Rock. Arriving at the path junction where it is supposed to be ... well, I could see nothing which might conceivably be the lapidary landmark in question; but that hardly mattered because there was no doubting the location, or that the slopes directly ahead of me were those of Meall na Leitire Duibhe. My course lay straight ahead, up those slopes, then follow the ridge round the Coire Creagach and up to the summit of Carn Dearg. And so I stepped off the path, and began a steady ascent.

The last three Munros of 2015 (2)

Loch Ossian in the early morning of an autumn day is a truly beautiful place. I made my way to the Youth Hostel and went in to make myself a little breakfast. There was a family with two young daughters (about 7 and 10, I would say) who had been in the hostel the night before and were preparing for a day on the hills, and we chatted happily before I set off once more for Peter's Rock.

The last three Munros of 2015 (1)

On the night of 15/16 October 2015, I travelled North once more on the Sleeper. The weekend for this expedition had not been chosen by reference to the weather forecast, or anything sensible like that - because with the way they price rail tickets these days, the only way to get a reasonable price on your tickets is to book too far in advance to have any idea what the weather is going to be like. You just have to take pot luck ... which I did. Even so, I was unable to get a sleeper berth and so had to travel in the day coach ... which meant getting woken at Edinburgh at 4 in the morning and changing carriages, because the day coach on the Fort William portion of the train does not travel all the way through from Euston. It was certainly interesting ... but it is not a travel option I would willingly choose again.

By very great good fortune, the weekend I had chosen turned out to be absolutely glorious! The train dropped me at Corrour at about 9 o'clock. It was cold, to be sure, but the sky was clear and the air was still, and I just knew that I was destined for two days of absolutely stunning high-level walking. I had in mind to take two days walking through to Dalwhinnie, taking in some of the Munros I had omitted in previous years' challenges (Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre) and a Corbett (Meall na Meoig), then dropping down to Benalder Cott for my overnight stop; then on Sunday I would tackle a third Munro (Beinn Bheoil), drop down to Culra Lodge, and then walk out along the long, hard Loch Ericht shore path so well known and loved (not) by all Challengers. I had originally thought to try to get Ben Alder as well ... but I was concerned about distances and length of daylight in mid October, and decided to keep it down to a shorter, more enjoyable weekend of walking. Then on the Monday, I would travel back South by a variety of trains (the selection being dictated by price, rather than any desire to make the particularly peculiar transit which I had chosen).

I watched the train trundle off towards Fort William, and then I shouldered my pack and strolled down to Loch Ossian Youth Hostel.