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Sunshine and snow on the Corbett, Beinn nan Oighreag

Written by Fiona

January 28 2020

Ben crosses one of the iron girder bridges in Glen Lochay.

My friend Ben and I took a chance on the weather for a walk of the Corbett Beinn nan Oighreag from Glen Lochay on Sunday. Yet again, I think we were fortunate with the overall conditions.

The forecast showed a little bit of hope with some sunshine peaking from behind snowy clouds. It looked better in the afternoon and we held our nerve, setting off a couple of hours later than we usually like to.

We knew that there would be plenty of daylight so the 10.45am start from a single track road close to Killin seemed sensible enough.

This is the same glen where I accessed the Munro, Meall Ghaordaidh, many years ago.

Goodness, it was 2014!

It felt like spring in the glen

Beautiful Glen Lochay.
Beautiful Glen Lochay.
There was even sunshine.

The weather was oddly warm for the time of year and as we left the roadside to climb the tarmac track the winds up the hill, it felt positively balmy. I wondered if I might have added too many spare layers and if the crampons stowed at the bottom of my pack were a little ridiculous.

I decided that it is always better to have more kit than less – and then stopped to take off a layer and add that to my rucksack, too.

My legs felt weary after a couple of long runs the previous week, including nine miles in the hills near Abernethy the day before. I had to tell Ben to slow down a little!

A faint path leads away at right angles form the tarmac after about 15 minutes of walking and we almost missed it (mainly because we were absorbed with our chat).

The path climbs steeply through boggy grass to reach another wider path at around 320m height. This muddy, boggy and grassy track then contours and gently undulates around the hillside for several kilometres.

The path, as described by Heritage Paths, was once a drove road that served a number of shielings (we saw the remains dotted alongside the path) and also offered a path between Glen Lochay and Glen Lyon.

It was fairly easy to follow, especially thanks to the remains of (slippery) old railway sleepers. There are several bridges made of iron girders that cross high above mini gorges filled with gushing water. Most are double girders although one was a single girder that requires walkers to balance as if on a beam in the gym.

The first set of double iron girders.
The first set of double iron girders.
A broken bridge.
A broken bridge.
The boggy ATV track.

First sight of the Corbett summit

For the first part of the 16km walk, it is not possible to see the summit of the Corbett. Instead, the views are of the beautiful glen, with gnarly-looking Tarmachan Ridge to the right and the higher summit of Meall Ghaordaidh to the left.

It feels like it takes ages to make any significant ascent and with a number of rivers to cross – they were in spate so they were quite tricky – the going seemed slow. I also ended up with a wet foot after one river crossing that proved too wide for my legs! (I had spare socks so I changed them after the river crossing.)

But then, suddenly, we could see the top of Beinn nan Oighreag high above and clearly requiring a fairly steep push upwards. The Corbett was once thought to be a Munro and is actually only five metres shy of the required 914m (3000ft).

The climb begins on Beinn nan Oighreag

After the final river crossing, an ATV track heads uphill and west. It is obvious, especially because it offers a dark peaty-boggy route. After recent rain it was particularly wet underfoot but it was not long before we left this wider track to join a narrow path that comes and goes.

What is noticeable is that where the ground is drier, there is a more obvious path carved out by many walkers’ feet but where it is boggy, people tend to find their own routes and so a path does not become so worn.

The faint path wound its way up the south ridge of Beinn nan Oighreag. As we climbed higher the wind became stronger and this is when the snow started.

Wind and snow can be painful because it pricks exposed facial skin and occasionally gets in the eyes. Several times I winced in pain with a pin-prick of snow in my eyes. I was annoyed that I had not packed my ski goggles for this walk, but it had seemed so mild at the base.

Ben and I push on and up, talking less and straining our eyes to see ahead. The first (false) summit of the Corbett is reached at about 750m before a bit more up and down towards the south summit at 876m.

At this point we could see the top of the Corbett looming in and out of the snowy mist and it seemed surprisingly close. The top is marked by a large boulder with a cairn on top. Having been caught out for “fake” cairns on summits before, Ben and I made sure we were actually on the highest point.

Finally, the top of Beinn nan Oighreag.

See a previous blog:

A quick descent

It was bitterly cold at the top of Beinn nan Oighreag. The wind was biting and the snow was “sore”! We turned around and made a swift descent to a set of large rocks that we had noted earlier. We were both hungry and the rocks would provide a shelter from the wind so we could have our lunch.

I think we both needed to eat because we seemed to become enlivened again and as we continued the descent we got back to our usual chatting.

I went to school in Peebles in the 1980s with Ben and after an interlude of some 30 years when we did not see each other, we became friends again at a High school reunion event in 2016.

Since then, we have become firm walking pals and we are rarely short of things to chat about. Easy company while walking mountains is a real pleasure.

Rivers & crossings

Why is it that river crossings are always easier on the return? Perhaps you care less about wet feet or maybe it’s because you have already worked out where the narrowest crossing will be? Anyway, we made much easier work of the crossings on the way back down the Corbett.

The walk back along the glen was again blessed with sunshine and it was lovely to feel warm again after the chill of the higher altitude. I was still wearing my winter down gloves to 350m altitude and then pulled them off declaring due to sweaty hands.

Finally, we stomped down the last short and steep incline and on to the tarmac road, before winding our way back down towards the car.

I have now bagged 31 of the 222 Corbetts and many of them have been with Ben in the last year. See Walk Highlands for route details of Beinn nan Oighreag from Glen Lochay.

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