Sunday 31 March 2024

Loch Lochy Munros

Nothing marks the passage of time like going back somewhere you haven't been for a while. You might think the hills would be an exception: they've barely changed in thousands of years. 

"We can see thirty miles," said my companion, looking northwest from Meall na Teanga, "and not a sign of human activity."

But though the hills haven't changed, wait long enough, and you will! 

I've written about Loch Lochy before (A Great Glen Adventure), and this was my first return to the two Munros west of the loch. The shortest and most popular route goes from Laggan Locks to the north-east. A forest road and signposted hill track takes you to a bealach at 2,000ft and a straightforward ascent of Sròn a' Choire Ghairbh on a fine stalker's path. From here, the round of the corrie looks a fine prospect, including the Corbett Ben Tee.

But we're not here for the Corbetts! The next objective is Meall na Teanga on the other side of the bealach, another Munro. Today, a short stretch of snow over an awkward step meant the ice axe had to come out. I was delighted. It was my first axe work all year!

After the step, the summit. A clear view down Loch Linnhe, then a big arc of wild country round Ardgour, Knoydart, Kintail, Glen Affric. But it was Ben Nevis that grabbed the eye, enrobed in snow.  

The hills today were bathed in spring sunshine and simple to navigate. What a contrast to the last time I was here in the 1990s! We tackled Meall na Teanga from the south. It was a wild wintery day, cloud down, nothing to see in the blizzard, hard to stand up in the wind, which made the descent off Meall Coire Lochain to Meall na Teanga particularly 'interesting'. The reascent to the second Munro was suspiciously quick, until we checked the map and realised we'd climbed an intervening lower peak (Meall Dubh) by mistake! Today I was appalled at the bog we must have crossed on descent of Sròn a' Choire Ghairbh back to Gleann Chi-aig. There's no way I would cross that sort of terrain today if there was an easier option. 

It's true what they say: it won't be the same if you go back. And it wasn't the same: today was far better. But even if the hills haven't changed, frankly, I have. I wouldn't even attempt these hills today in the kind of weather we experienced thirty years ago. 

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