Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
25th & 26th September 2010
Creag Meagaidh from the shores of Loch Laggan and Carn Dearg across the "Parallel roads" of Glen Roy.
This was my first sortie into the hills for a good few weeks and I was looking forward to seeing how much fitness I had retained. Nathalie and Enzo were also keen for a trip out of Aberdeen so we set off Saturday morning in the hope of catching some good weather and fine scenery. Creag Meagaidh is one of my favourite mountains or should I say group of mountains as the name is generally associated with the wider area covered by the Nature reserve. Situated on the northern side of Glen Spean a number of fine ridges radiate out from the large flat summit plateau. We started from the car park at Aberarder that serves this national nature reserve and followed the path leading up Coire Ardair. The deer numbers in the reserve have been controlled for a number of years now and this has led to positive re-growth of the native woodland. The fine path climbs up through birch, alder, willow, rowan and oak leading into the wonderful V shaped Glen.
Coill a' Choire, gateway to Creag Meagaidh
On our right hand side the southern lower slopes of Carn Liath stretched up into the mist that was blowing across its upper reaches. A fine ridge runs along from Carn Liath to a second Munro to the west, Stob Poite Coire Ardair, before it drops to a high bealach that connects Creag Meagaidh. This high bealach is called "the window" and would provide our route up to the summit plateau. The easy walking continued and we enjoyed the onward route up toward Coire Ardair, the cliffs that form its backdrop growing in stature as we approached. We paused a little while at Lochan a’ Choire enjoying the scenery and watching Enzo taking a paddle.
Enzo about to check the waters of Lochan a' Choire
Although sheltered from the wind it was still a little chilly in the corrie so we dallied no longer and started our climb up to the window and soon warmed up. After clambering over a boulder field higher up we made our way through the narrow gap in the crags to emerge at the bealach.
View from the "Window"
We were greeted by a large group of walkers out to celebrate with a friend who was about to "compleat" her last Munro. Another steep-ish climb brought us out onto the corner of the plateau to be greeted by a strong wind that numbed our faces with sub-zero temperatures. A large cairn before the main summit was covered in hoar frost but provided a welcome windbreak to allow us to don hat and gloves and an extra layer.
Frosty Cairn with Creag Meagaidh summit beyond
Prepared we headed over to the summit itself to enjoy the bright but hazy views that had opened up now most of the mornings mist had departed. The Munro party approached as we departed, heading back to gain the shelter of the larger cairn to enjoy our lunch. We continued our circuit of the corrie by returning by way of Creag Meagaidh's East Ridge over Puist Coire Ardair and then Sron a Ghoire.
Creag Meagaidh Plateau leading to Puist Coire Ardair
The walk over the plateau and along the ridge was very enjoyable and afforded a fine vantage point to view the corrie from above. The descent back into the glen however was harder work, the hillside being covered in ferns that hid much boggy and slippery ground. Back at the van it was a quick change of footwear and then off to find a campsite. John had recommended the Bun Roy campsite at Roy Bridge and it proved to be a good choice, it was very quiet with only three other tents on show. The evening skies remained clear and the temperature was dropping rapidly with the now disappearing sun. After showering and having our tea we thought it would be nice to enjoy a drink or two, although I think the idea of getting a warm by the fire was most appealing to at least one of the party. The pub did indeed have a fire and at the end of the night I think Nathalie was a bit reluctant to leave it behind. The stars were shining bright and it already felt well below freezing, it would be a good test for our sleeping bags. A thick frost covered the van and tent the next morning but we had all managed to sleep well. Nathalie's tent had a good layer of frost inside as well, the extra condensation created by Enzo probably making a big contribution. It was a lovely day with not a breath of wind and it started to feel warm as soon as the shadows peeled away across the campsite. After de-icing and packing we headed off up Glen Roy for another look at the parallel roads and a walk up Carn Dearg. Glen Roy is well worth a visit even if it is to only view the unusual geological feature described as the "parallel roads". Gaelic folklore has it that the roads were built by the warrior Fingal for use during hunting trips. Louis Agassiz however came up came up with more scientific theory; During the last ice age passing glacier’s damned the entrance to Glen Roy creating a huge loch. The height of water in the loch settled at three different levels over time with erosion of loch shore forming what are now known as the “parallel roads”. We parked just before a small wood near the road end up Glen Roy a couple of km short of Brae Roy lodge. A short way back up the road was a bridge that allowed access to the opposite side of the river Roy. Our intention was to follow the river bank and cut around the lower slopes of Carn Bhrunachain and into Coire Dubh. The ground proved to be quite marshy and very wet in places so plan B was put into action and we took a more direct line up the hill. A rounded ridge runs steeply up Carn Bhrunachain in a south easterly direction alongside the burn running out from Coire na Reinich. The grassy hillside provided another good test of fitness levels but meant that we gained height quite quickly. The ridge soon turned south west parallel to another burn as the gradient eased. Passing over the burn near its source we made for some firmer ground that lead the last 500m to the top.
Beinn Laruinn from Carn Dearg
The summit of Carn Dearg was now in view across a boggy col looking deceivingly close. It was however a good 30 minute plod across the damp ground before reaching the final ridgeline and its small rocky outcrops. Another couple of walkers arrived not long after us having come up via the corrie in our original plan A. A longish lunch followed as we enjoyed the sunshine and the surrounding views.
Nathalie and Enzo with Loch Lochy hills in the distance
Looking to extend our walk we headed along the north east ridge for a short while before dropping down the eastern slopes. We followed the gently angled hillside down to a bealach before heading over the top of Creag Tharsuinn spotting a lone stag as we did so.
Me with Creag Meagaidh in the background
After weaving through some rockier sections we dropped deeper into the glen toward Uisge nam Fichard and the waterfalls below.
Lone Tree and Creag Meagaidh
Having reached the river we followed the western bank as it made passage down and through the impressive Dog falls. A series of cascades and waterfalls has created some wonderful carvings in the bed rocks of the river were it descends to the burn of Agie.
We picked up a rough path just after a small footbridge below the falls, the path did improve noticeably as it started it climb away from the river over the lower flanks of Torr o' Sonn toward Annat. From here we picked up a land rover track that lead to Brae Roy Lodge and then onward to the parking area were we had left the van. We made a quick brew in preparation for our journey home and left the Glen just as the light was beginning to fade.
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