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Corbett Meall Horn: It’s not always sunny

Written by Fiona

October 03 2022

I am sure that the northerly Corbett, Meall Horn, located in Sutherland, offers fine views. In fact, I know it does because I have read about the route from Loch Stack. Walk Highlands, for example, reports: “Meall Horn may attract little attention, its rounded dome rather overshadowed by the more distinctive mountains around it, but it offers a grand circuit with some superb views of those illustrious neighbours.”

Sadly, on Sunday, my friends Cath, Katy, Maggie, Karen and Peter and I saw very little of the promised “superb views”. However, we did enjoy a chatty walk with the benefits of physical and mental health, plus a good lesson in navigation.

Keeping it real, I am writing about a walk in Scotland that isn’t sunny!

Corbett: Meall Horn

Meall Horn is one of Scotland’s most northerly Corbetts. Our walk started from the A838 between Lairg and Laxford Bridge and we headed along a southerly edge of Loch Stack.

At first the route is on a private tarmac road, which then becomes a track. This winds  and undulates uphill in a north-easterly direction.

We were below the clouds to start with and we could see the lower slopes of many mountains in the area, although the tops were shrouded in the day’s heavy clag.

At a track junction, we chose to stay north with the aim of avoiding some of the worst of the strong winds. In the end, we followed an out-and-back route, rather than competing a circuit along the more southerly ridge.

The northerly track climbed mostly gently uphill at first. We walked between two huge boulders – like a gateway – into a small wooded area of tall pine trees.

The path then headed uphill in a series of steeper gradient sections, linked by flatter contours. We crossed a couple of streams, too, and by now it seemed pointless worrying about getting wet feet!

Meall Horn was to our right and although we could not see much of the shape of the mountain, it was fairly obvious we would need to come off the wide track at some point and on to the terrain of rugged vegetation and peat bogs.

Checking the map, we veered more easterly and started the main climb.

By this point, Peter had decided to return to his car because an injury was making his shoulder sore. Karen also made the decision to continue on the track to reach a bealach before returning to the start. She was also nursing an injury.

The push for the summit of Meall Horn

At times, the clouds faded a little and we enjoyed glimpses of a beautiful autumnal landscape all around and down towards Loch Stack.

I heard my first eerie stag roars of the season.

As we headed into the thicker cloud, Katy stopped to pull out her map. It was a chance to consider the route. We all voted to head straight up to the summit and Katy set a bearing with her compass.

Without the compass, it would have been very difficult to stay on the route to the summit because we unable to see very far ahead.

This section was mostly a trudge uphill on a steep slope and in strong winds and rain. We chatted where the wind allowed us to – and we also reminded Katy this was great training for her forthcoming Montane Spine Challenger North Race, when she will need to be able to navigate in new surroundings and potentially in bad winter weather.

The higher we climbed, the stronger the wind became, although it was still mostly at our backs, which I was grateful for.

We finally reached a fine cairn at 777m elevation. After a couple of photos and another bearing check, we headed back downhill the way we had come.

Return route from Meall Horn

I was sad that we had not enjoyed any views from the top. The descent walk was into the wind and rain and I found it tricky because I was wearing sunglasses.

Side story: Annoyingly, that morning I had lost my normal prescription specs in the sea during a quick dip. An unexpectedly large wave submerged me, pulling my glasses from my face. My only choice after that was prescription sunglasses.

The rain combined with the dark lenses meant it wasn’t easy to see my footing.

Eventually, Maggie, Katy, Cath and I came down out of the cloud and enjoyed being able to see further ahead again. The autumnal colours seemed all the more vivid after spending so long in wet clag.

We arrived back at the wide track fairly swiftly and then headed back downhill chatting still more.

I made a promise to myself to return to this mountain because I felt cheated of the potential for fabulous views. However, I still enjoyed the rewards of a mountain day with good friends, despite the weather.

Meall Horn: Route details

Distance: 18.5km

Total elevation: 801m

Route details: OS Maps and Strava.

Corbetts bagged: 104.

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