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Munro series: Only 10 to go

Written by Fiona August 15 2011

I’m dedicating a (hopefully) short blog series, “Only 10 Munros To Go”, to the G-Force. He would have preferred to have finished the full Munro round of 283 (maybe only 282 now) a year ago. His goal had been to walk all the peaks far faster than he has. He blames me for this. I think it’s a tongue-in-cheek blaming, since he says I distracted him from his goal when we got together, and he has enjoyed the distraction because we’re done a lot of fun things – instead of walking Munros – over the last couple of years.

Anyway, on Saturday morning, the G-Force had 10 Munros still to tick off to compleat his first round. By 3.30pm he had only eight to go.

A tiny bit drowned!

Our Munro bagging adventure yesterday was one that we had both been looking forward to. The G-Force still had the two Munros, Sgor Gaibhre and Carn Dearg, to walk and the best way, according to those in the know, is to head off from Corrour Station. There is no road to this remote location on Rannoch Moor but there is the West Highland Line Railway. The advantage of starting from here for these two Munros is that by the time you jump off the train you’re already at a height of 400m!

I loved the idea of catching a train to some remote spot and then walking the Munros before catching another train back. You’re tied to the train timetable (there are a couple of trains a day that stop at Corrour going north and south) and so part of the excitement is in the timing.

The only downer of the day was that the weather forecast was for rain. But we decided that given this year’s summer, if we waited for a day that didn’t promise rain we would most likely be waiting a very long time indeed.

Ticking off the two Corrour Munro summits

The adventure starts at 6am. Wake up, grab some breakfast, throw the packed ruckacks in the car and drive to Crianlarich to catch the 7.44am train north. (We could have caught the train at Clydebank, closer to home, but driving to Crianlarich allowed for a longer lie-in.)

Just over an hour on board the train, which offers some of the best scenery you’ll come across on a railway journey, we reach Currour. Alighting the train we are treated to the first of numerous downpours but we’re kitted out in full waterproofs and we remind ourselves that we’re not “fairweather” walkers.

The Munro walks circuit heads along the edge of Loch Ossian following an easy-going trail. The view across the loch and through fairytale style trees and woodland is truly beautiful. There is not another person to be seen and with the sun occasionally glinting through the clouds  we walk and talk contentedly. This is the stuff of memories for Munro baggers.

En route we pass close to the SYHA Loch Ossian hostel. I’d heard about this hostel from friends. It is one of the most environmentally friendly SHYA premises and boasts its own wind-turbine and compost toilets!

Within an hour or so of pleasant walking we reach a point where the terrain ascends a little more steeply and for a while we lose the path. (Or perhaps there isn’t a path!). The hiking is on thick, heathery ground, which slows us up a little and involves a few more stops for snacks and to take in the views (and to enjoy a breather). The rain comes in waves of drizzle and then turns into heavy, full-on downpours.

It is one of those days, however, when a glimpse of a view through parting clouds, or thanks to the occasional glimmer of sunlight, really lifts the spirits. I do wish we could have seen more but what we did catch sight of was beautiful. The landscape on Rannoch Moor might be bleak at times but it is also peppered with glorious lochs and beautiful waterways. In fact, we spend much of our ascent within sight or sound of a stunning, overflowing waterfall.

It's over there: The gesture of a man with only nine Munros to go!

The top of Sgor Gaibhre

The summit at the first Munro revealed very little in the way of views. The cairn offered shelter from some of the rain and we hunkered down to enjoy sandwiches and tea. Top tip: Get your partner to make the sandwiches because they always taste so much nicer than your own, especially if you happen to be walking with the G-Force who buys delicious ingredients from M&S!

If you have read this blog, you’ll know that the rule on Munro summits is that there must be a descent and ascent of at least 500ft between each mountain. Sometimes the descent is right back to sea level. On this outing, however, the descent and ascent was about as minimal as it could be.

These are long but gentle slopes and although you’ll need to be able to navigate by map and compass (especially when all around you is rain and mist) these Munros do not punish the muscles too much.

We walk down a rounded ridge, via a bealach (a mountain pass) and over acres of boggy peatlands, before beginning to ascend again.

The face of a man with only 8 Munros to go

The summit of Carn Dearg seems to arrive too easily and after that it’s a fairly straightforward descent, mostly on a narrow path, back towards Loch Ossian and the path back to the station. During this section the clouds do lift and we’re suddenly mesmerised by a stunning views of Blackwater Reservoir in the distance.

If we’d only known this at the time

We had allowed ourselves many more hours to walk this route that we actually required. In the event, we had a spare 3.5 hours to wait at the restaurant at Corrour Startion, before the train arrived to take us back to Crianlarich. As we walked back from summiting Carn Dearg we chatted for a while about walking another Munro Beinn na Lap.

The G-Force had already hiked to the top of this 935m Munro on a previous Munro walking outing, but it would offer me the chance to summit a new Munro. But while the Munro looked like a fairly straightforward ascent we couldn’t be sure how long it would take and making a rough calculation we reckoned 3 to 3.5 hours. This would leave us very tight for catching the trian.

So, instead, we headed to the warm station restaurant, drank tea and cider, read books and magazines, chatted to other walkers, enjoyed meals of venison burgers and fish soup and then jumped on the 6.25pm train. During a chat with one walker we found out that he had ascended and descended Beinn na Lap in just 2.5hrs. I mulled this over and wondered if I was disappointed not to have tried a third Munro. But I decided I’d prefer to repeat the train-catching-Munro-walking adventure another time, hopefully when the sun is out and the views are better.

So now the G-Force has only eight Munros left to walk. Of these, there is a huge five Munro day in Glen Affric to contemplate. He’s hoping for better weather this weekend, and he might even try to “catch” another Munro on the way back home on Sunday.

Don’t miss the next in the “Only 8 Munros to go” series in the next couple of weeks.

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