Experience has taught me that when meeting a friend you have not seen for a while for a walk, it’s best to choose a route that is familiar, or that has a lot of easy-to-follow trail.
Too many times when chatting and hiking, I have found myself off track or a little lost. While I don’t really mind walking an extra few hundred metres and retracing my steps, it’s much simpler to walk where the route is straightforward.
So, when choosing where to walk with my old school friend, Kirstin, it definitely had to be a walk with a good trail. Yet, I was also keen that the walk was interesting, took us to a summit and had fantastic views.
I chose Meall a’Ghiubhais because it offered all the above and with the attraction of it being a new Corbett to add to my growing bagging list. The start is also easy to find, being one of the main Beinn Eighe car parks.
Walking and talking on Meall a’Ghiubhais
Kirstin has spent a great deal of the last 35 years sailing. Whether for work or pleasure, she is usually on a boat, or at her base in the Azores. This means I have rarely been able to meet with her in Scotland but when I can – and she has sailed to these shores – I am always keen to have a catch up.
This summer, she has been based on the Scottish west coast. For a week or so she was near Gairloch and because my new home is near Inverness, it was a relatively easy trip to reach her.
Meall a’Ghiubhais, located near Beinn Eighe, seemed ideal for a mountain walk. It is a steep and rugged Corbett but has the advantage of being accessed via the “Mountain Trail”, a much-walked path on the lower slopes of Beinn Eighe NNR. The Mountain Trail is billed as “Britain’s only waymarked mountain walk”.
It is very easy to follow the trail and that meant for this part of the walk there was very little to think about other than looking out for a few signposts. It allowed Kirstin and I to chat non-stop!
It never matters that we have rarely met over the past decades because somehow the years slip away and we easily reconnect. Kirstin always has so many interesting stories of her travels and I listen with envy to the many amazing places she has visited with her partner Gary.
We also chat about family, old friends, new friends, our past lives, our current lives and our plans for the future.
It often strikes me how wonderful it is that the friends we make naturally and spontaneously at school turn out to be lovely people as grown-ups, too. My regular mountain bagging friend, Ben, is also an old school pal.
The off-track ascent of Meall a’Ghiubhais
At the most westerly point of the Mountain Trail, and around half-way on the circuit, the route to the summit of Meall a’Ghiubhais heads on to a much less obvious trod.
There is a sort-of path to start with, just past a beautiful lochan, before you then make your own route on a steep traverse of the eastern slope of the Corbett.
We had great visibility so the route to the top was obvious. If planning the walk in poor weather, you might want to take a bearing and follow this uphill.
Kirstin and I walked and continued to talk, while also enjoying frequent stops for a breather and to look around at the magnificent views of the Torridon mountains. This area of the Highlands is one of my favourites and I love the vistas of numerous high peaks, beautiful glens and picturesque lochs.
The Torridon mountains are made of some of the oldest rocks in the world. These are mainly made of a type of sandstone, known as Torridonian sandstone, which over many hundreds of years have become eroded to offer the unique look of the Torridon mountain range.
The sandstone is mostly light and grey in colour and looks very dramatic. Many mountains have steep sides and the higher slopes are often covered in a scramble of loose stones and scree slopes. On a sunny summer’s day, the Torridon panorama is breath-taking.
Our climb eventually took us to a cairn at 887m where we stopped for lunch and more chat. I looked over at the steep neighbouring Corbett of Ruadh-stac Beag and made a note to walk that soon, too.
To return, we headed north-east across the mountain plateau for a different view and then returned on the same eastern side of the Corbett.
On regaining the Mountain Trail, we walked in northerly direction and completed the circuit top return to the car park.
I highly recommend the walk of 8.5km and just more than 900m of total ascent on Meall a’Ghiubhais, especially if you want to walk with an old school friend.
Corbetts bagged: 59