As there was insufficient snow for a winter skills outing a last minute decision was taken to head for the Munros lying between Glen Dochart and Glen Lochay. As we reached Glenoglehead it was clear that this had been the right call as there was precious little snow to be seen on the hills above Killin: what a difference from the previous weekend’s widespread cover above about 2000 feet.
The party of six met at the car park near Kenknock almost at the end of the narrow road that twists its way up Glen Lochay from Killin. After a short walk along the road we crossed a bridge over the river and were confronted with a notice hung on the stile advising that shooting was taking place here today and that we should ‘choose another route’. As it was Sunday we ignored the advice (a fellow walker commented that the estate was well known for leaving misleading notices) and crossed the stile. We followed the hydro board track winding up through the old forestry plantation and out onto the hill.
Heading for the ridge leading to Sgiath Chuill we encountered some rough and boggy terrain but it was easy to see where we were heading for and it was a case of keeping moving upwards, sometimes following an indistinct path and sometimes meandering around to avoid the wettest places. As the angle of the slope increased I found myself falling behind my long legged companions, but they waited for me before we crossed the final undulations to the top of the hill.
The views at this stage were extensive – all the hills on the south side of Glen Dochart, from the Corbetts of last November’s outing along to Ben More and Stobinian, which with the benefit of 800 feet of additional height still held substantial amounts of snow on their ridges, and Cruach Ardrain – the destination of a very hot Sunday outing in July. To the North we had fine views of Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor, Meall Ghaordaidh and the Tarmachans. To the west the foreground was dominated by our next hill – Beinn Cheataich and the adjoining Munro, Meall Glas.
After backtracking for a short distance it was a steep drop between the hills, picking our way down stony slopes to the bealach at about 600 metres where we stopped for lunch. We watched a party on the hill opposite pick their way down the steep slope and someone remarked on their dark outfits – a quick look around our party revealed that we were mainly clad in black too – though later when the rain came on we became a multi-coloured group which would have stood out on any hillside!
After lunch we picked our way across some peat hags before heading straight up towards Beinn Cheataich. I found it pretty tough going, though I later learned that Nigel and Calum had ‘run’ up it. My difficulties were compounded by getting cramp – it isn’t easy to take the weight off the cramping muscles when fighting to stay upright on a steep slope and doing stretching exercises was impossible, so I just had to persevere and get myself out somehow! As I pulled up off the steepest bit Nigel appeared above me and suggested contouring round the hill towards the next col: a suggestion which gained immediate favour with me!
Then we set off along the ridge towards the rounded top of Meall Glas. On the way there we had to kick steps as we crossed two small snow patches, but that was the extent of the winter skills we needed to apply during the entire outing.
On the top we all pulled on waterproofs as the clouds had descended and we were starting to get quite wet. No views and no time to linger so we set off down the north-west ridge, aiming eventually for the bridge across the river near Badour.
Initially the ridge provided nice easy walking but as we descended it became clear that another steep descent was going to be required to take us down into the glen.
The hardest bit of all was crossing about half a kilometer of comparatively flat, low lying ground to reach the river – it was covered in rushes which prevented us from seeing what was beneath our feet and was water-logged and full of unseen holes.
The bridge would have quelled lesser mortals – the steep ramp was missing some planks and others looked on the verge of falling apart – but there wasn’t really an alternative to taking courage in both hands, clambering up - avoiding the gaps and picking the least suspect looking timbers - and crossing as quickly as possible. It was a relief to reach the other side and stop for a quick bite before setting out on the last leg – a 5km walk down the glen on a rough track.
By the time we completed the walk out it was completely dark. There should have been a full moon but it was obscured by a thick layer of clouds so we were glad of our head torches to help us avoid the worst of the potholes. The lights of the cars were a welcome sight and it didn’t take long to pack the boots and wet outer gear away before heading for home.
It was a hard day out but a satisfying one – 13 miles, 1300 metres of ascent and two new Munros. Thanks guys for your company and for your patience when my slow progress held you up.