Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
23rd & 24th July 2011
A weekend backpack starting with a train journey to Corrour station on Rannoch moor before returning to Spean Bridge
Corrour station sits lonely and isolated on the plains of Rannoch moor only connected to the outside world via some estate tracks and footpaths. Apart from the station cafe and the nearby youth hostel there is very little habitation nearby. Its situation does however offer up plenty of opportunities as the starting point for some fine linear walks. A trip running out from Tulloch station had previously provided the basis for a traverse of Beinn nap Lap on a 'wintry' May day. The train journey out to Corrour itself is an enjoyable albeit relatively brief experience of around half an hour. I had been looking forward to a return to Corrour and on Friday evening I hatched what I though was a cunning plan. There are limited trains stopping at Corrour, basally two from Spean bridge my starting point, 11.55 and 17.30. It normally takes around 3.5 hours from Aberdeen but not wishing to scupper plans by missing the train I factored in another hour and a half. As it was I was woken before my alarm by some noisy Seagulls which have become a bit of a pest again just recently. I gave up trying to return to sleep and got up at 5.30 and was ready to leave about an hour later. As usual the early start ensured good progress and I was soon in Aviemore stopping for a bacon and egg roll and a cup of coffee. I still arrived in Spean bridge a good two hours before the train was due so decided to travel along the road to Correilehall lodge. I parked near the bridge over the river Cour which happened to be the same place I had used when walking the Grey Corries. After a cup of tea I readied myself and took the half hour walk back along to the station thereby removing this bit of tarmac from my return leg. The clouds had started to disperse and it was developing into what promised to be a fine afternoon. The train duly arrived so it was time to sit back relax and enjoy the scenary during the 30 minute journey. Last time it was only me my friend Stephan who had got off the train under threatening skies and to some quizzical looks from our fellow passengers. Today there was maybe a dozen who alighted, a mixture of walkers but also a few mountain bikers filled with an air of expectancy.
Out across the moor to the south west stood Leum Uilleim my first target for the day.
Leum Uilleim from near Corrour Station
There was a cool stiff breeze blowing but it wasn't long before I was warm enough to remove my jacket and walk in my t-shirt. A feint path wound its way across the moor toward the entrance to Coir' a' Bhric Beag but seemed to peter out at the Burn running out of the corrie. The map showed a path starting up the slopes to An Diollaid but not finding it I made my own way onto the ridge. The going eased along the gently sloping ridge and the short grass made for pleasant walking.
Loch Treig from Tom an Eoin
The ridgeline was marked in places by MTV tracks which lead up over Tom an Eoin and onto the saddle that connects Beinn a' Bhric to Leum Uilleim. The local estates must use these vehicles frequently as there seemed to be a tangle of these tracks throughout the hills.
Leum Uilleim and Coir' a' Bhric
The craggy northern slopes of Leum Uilleim which dip into Coir' a' Bhric Beag were replaced by short turf on the way up from the saddle. The summit area was a little rockier and is topped by an impressive cairn.
Grey Corries and Easains from Leum Uilleim
I found some shelter from the cool breeze a little south east of the top and enjoyed lunch while checking my next destination on the map. It was back down to the col and then up onto the top of Beinn a' Bhric before following its south west ridge.
Loch Treig from Beinn a' Bhric
High pitched cries of Golden Plover accompanied me while I enjoyed the initial easy going down the broad ridge. I was heading for the east end of Loch Chiarain and should have continued down the ridge a while more before turning west. Unfortunately I ended up descending the steeper north west slopes which proved OK initially over grass but a tangle of thick heather and some crags made for hard work lower down. However I was soon across Allt Feith Chiarainn and onto a decent path as I made for the Loch. A frog jumped into a nearby puddle before something scuttled across the track in front of me, maybe a Lizard but I wasn't sure. There was no mistake further on as I came across a much more sluggish one, obviously full of lunch judging by his rather extended belly.
A not so slim Lizard
He eventually made a move into the undergrowth before I continued onto the bothy that sits on the Loch side. A box on the outside window ledge revealed a large assortment of fishing flies that someone had obviously misplaced. It was a large collection and I'm sure will be sorely missed, hopefully the owner will return and collect some time. A quick look around the bothy revealed a very tidy setup inside although I wasn't tempted to stay, I had other plans. My path struck a line toward Allt an Ruadha Dhreig then branched over toward the southern slopes of Glas Bheinn.
Bothy at Loch Chiarain
I lost the path for a while just after passing a tree curiously growing out of a large square boulder. The rough boggy ground had me thinking of making an ascent from where I was but my thoughts were interrupted as re-joined the path. The path contoured the lower slopes before making rising travese to a high bealach near Meall na Cruaidhe. Beyond Blackwater Reservoir I could see that Buachaille Etive Mor was starting to cast shadows. I had hoped to pick up some sort of path from this side of the hill but it was to be more walking 'off pieste' as moved up steadily increasing slopes.
Glen Coe hills from Glas Bheinn
Tiredness was setting in a little and I was quite relieved to eventually gain the top of Glas Bheinn. The long north east ridge now took me along to Carn Dearg were I managed to find a suitable camp spot below a small grassy knoll which helped dampen the stiff breeze.
Ridge to Carn Dearg from Glas Bheinn
Camp set it was time for a bit of courage and a wash in Lochan a' Chuirn Dheirg before getting the stove going for tea. I had thought the wind would drive me a bit lower but was pleased to be aforded a camp with more aerial views. To the south west along the line of Loch's Eilde Beag and Mor lay Glencoe, Bidean nam Bian showing above the serrated ridgeline of Aonach Eagach. West was Sgurr Eilde Mor at the start of the Mamores while northward was as impressive line of peaks. Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag and Mor and the line of the Grey corries while further east of Lairig Leacach was the Easain's above Loch Treig.
Loch Eilde Beag & Mor From Camp
The hoped for spectacular sunset never really materialised although the Ben and the Grey corries did catch a little fiery redness. I woke around 5.00am to the noise of the wind rattling the canvas but dozed on and off for a while longer. However the glorious looking day had me up and making a brew at around 6.30 but I took my time over breakfast and had another brew before breaking camp.
Ben Nevis, the Aonach's and Grey Corrries
As I readied myself a passing lone duck gave a noisy fanfare to signal my departure. I had a choice of routes that would take me to the upper reaches of Lairig Leacach and my hills for the day, Sgurr Innse and Cruach Innse. I could have headed toward the buildings at Luibeilt & Meannanach and taken the high pass that cuts between Stob Ban and Meall Mor. This would have been the quicker route but a more interesting prospect would lead down to the shore of Loch Trieg and pick up the Lairig Leacach pass from there. And so it was I decided on the longer option but the first job was to descend toward the waterfalls on Abhainn Rath. The ground became boggier lower down encouraging large numbers of Bog Asphodel which added a splash of yellow to the surrounding greenery. Tormentil also added to the colour while cotton grass showed in numbers, their white tufted tops bobbing in the still strong cool breeze. After following the north east ridge for a while I picked up more MTV tracks and decided to follow hoping for an easier descent into the Glen. They took me initially north west and down to some wet ground before a branch had me heading down a shallow gully toward my goal. I left the track as it started to rise again and made a direct line for the river below joining just above the waterfalls.
Ben Nevis & Aonach Beag
I was thinking I would need to wade across but managed to make it over were rocky seams partly damned the river at the falls. It was lovely and warm out of the breeze and I couldn't resist the temptation of the cool waters, so it was in for a quick dip.
Waterfalls Abhainn Rath
Suitably refreshed I now picked up the path and continued downstream. This section of the river was nicely lined with Birch and Alder which provided shade for the many pools. The tree cover reduced as I reached the river flats and the short croped grass that lined river bank made this section a pleasure to walk along. Staoineag Bothy soon appeared near some trees on the opposite side of the river but accessible by some stepping stones. A couple at the bothy didn't appear to want to be sociable as they went inside as I approached. Leaving them to themselves I decided to continue on my way without taking my intended look around.
The pathway moved a little up the hillside before returning to more open moor. Boggy ruts cut across my pathway and meant keeping to a less than straight line as I headed toward the shore of Loch Treig. The path joined another at a brdige near Creaguaineach Lodge and its shuttered windows.
After rounding the end of the Loch I entered a narrow gorge following a nicely constructed pathway that lead onto the lower section of Lairig Leacach. This was the start of more pleasant walking as the Allt an Lairige became lined with more Birch and Alder. The grey quarstzite top of Stob Choire Claurigh was visable in the distance framed by the V shaped Glen created by the slopes of Meall Mor and Stob Coire Easain. I had been looking for a place to stop for a break and found a suitable spot beside a multi-tiered waterfall. I was quite content sitting there in the sunshine enjoying a Croissant spread with Jam while sipping a brew, heaven.
Waterfall in Lairaig Leacach
Rousing myself I set off again along the path as it gradually gained height. There were many large Golden-ringed Dragonflies along this section, yellow hoops providing a stark contrast to their black bodies. These were much larger than the Blue-eyed Darner dragonflies with their fluorescent blue bodies that I'd seen back at Loch Chiarain. The impressive broken quartzite ridges of the Grey Corries now stood high on my left while my hills for the day now sat perched at either end of a ridge on my right.
Cruach Innse and Sgurr Innse
After crossing the river to pick up the path on the lower slopes of Sgurr Innse I soon realised this was heading back to the main track beyond the bothy. There doesn't appear to be any way onto Sgurr Innse from the South so I continued to the high point of Lairig Leacach before heading back across the river.
I had to push myself on a bit as I reluctantly climbed the grassy slopes to gain the ridge that connects the two Innse's. Leaving my bag against a rock I suddenly regained a bit of spring in my step as headed over towards Sgurr Innse. A feint path developed as I climbed although petered out before a narrow boulder field but I soon picked it up again as it turned a large lump of rock before following the right hand side of the rock slide. The path splits further up but I dicovered the left hand route to be the slightly easier after tackling a short scramble on the other while descending. The top gained I enjoyed good views to the Easain's with Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin showing some patches of deep red scree on its upper slopes.
The Easain's from Sgurr Innse
To the west the peaks at the east end of the Grey Corries ridge seemed to tower over my vantage point. After savouring the views for a while it was time to head back down and over to Cruch Innse.
Cruach Innse from Sgurr Innse
After returning to the col I hoisted my pack onto my shoulders and wondered if someone had passed and added some weight! A reasonable path took me up Cruach Innse, steeply at first slopes before gradually levelling onto a quartzite covered dome with the summit set a little way back. It was time for a well-earned brew and late lunch while sheltering from the cool breeze behind the cairn.
Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin and Stob Coire Easain from Cruach Inse
I continued my traverse by following the north west ridge before turning down steep slopes of grass and many Brae Berrie bushes.
Stob Coire na Ceannain from the top of Lairig Leacach
Back on the main track I now had a steady walk down to Correilehall lodge. Turning a corner on my way I noticed a figure in a black coat standing by the road side, I was a little confused at first by the lack of movement before realising the figure was made of wood.
The Wee Minister
A plaque on a tree stump nearby the statue read:
A stone statue of the Wee Minister dating from the 1900's once stood on a site nearby and was said to bring good luck to climbers and walkers. The statue believed to be of the Rev. John McIntosh, was destroyed in the 1970's. However in May 2010 the local tourism group decided to resurrect him and replace him with this replica in cedar wood by Peter Bowsher, champion wood carver.
Good fortune to all who pass by this way.
However, there is some doubt that the original statue was of the Rev John McIntosh, who died in 1910. The Rev Donald MacQuarrie of Fort William is convinced that it is of Dr Thomas Chalmers, first moderator of the newly established Free Church in Scotland. It was gifted in 1886 to Fort William where it was erected in the manse garden of the Moderator, John McIntosh, hence the confusion.
The Wee Minister
After passing the lodge I soon reached the van and was glad I didn’t have to continue as far as Spean bridge station. A quick freshen up and it was time to head home, tired but happy after a great weekends walking.
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