Date: 28th May 2011
Time: 6hrs 00mins
Hills: Meallan nan Uan (Corbett, 838m), Sgurr a’Ghlas Leathaid (Corbett Top, 844m), Sgurr a’Mhuilinn (Corbett, 879m)
Weather: Cloud above the tops, some sunshine, heavy rain showers turning snowy and more persistent later.
Route: Click to view on OS Map
Cresting the brow of the steep final descent it was a great relief to see the car parked next to the sheep pen at Strathanmore, a small hamlet deep in picturesque Strathconon. The final rain shower had proved to be the worst, drenching us from head to foot as we waded our way through boggy peat and new burns that were springing into life more and more quickly. Back at the car it was a joy to be able to peel off soaked trousers, socks and shoes and change into dry clothes. My Montane eVent Jacket had stayed completely waterproof and so my top half was dry. It had taken us just six hours to do a quick round of a couple of Corbetts in a conditions that gave us everything from sunshine, to high winds, snow and stinging hail.
The day started out almost as wet. We kitted up at the car as the first of the day’s showers broke over our heads. By the time boots were on and preparations made the rain was off though and we quickly made the ascent up by the side of the allt an t-srathain mhor. A faint muddy path came and went but we largely picked our own way up to the bealach and then headed left to climb the steep grassy slopes of Creag Ruadh.
In four layers (!)* I was pretty warm but glad of the protection when the next shower passed through. As the land came back into focus the swift ascent meant that the views had already opened out. A bright rainbow spread across the glen between us and the day’s final hill Sgurr a’Mhuilinn and behind Strathconon was a verdant green, the fields and pastures, woods and dotted about with white farm buildings and cottages. Away to the west dark clouds pestered the Strathfarrar Munros.
The climb up to Creag Ruadh took us out of the shelter from the wind, exposing us to strong, buffeting blasts blowing down from the northwest. We had a brief stop before battling our way along the interesting ridge that curves around to the final climb to the summit of Meallan nan Uan. The wind at times was strong enough to knock you off balance and certain steps became great acts of will power, stumbling forward over uneven rocky ground.
On the way, when not concentrating on keeping your balance, it was possible to stop and admire the views west towards the hills around Loch Monar, Craig and Achnasheen, which were visible in between breaks in the heavy clouds.
Eventually the rocky ridge gave way to a winding path that took us quickly up to the summit of the Corbett from where we found the wind was even worse. Thankfully its craggy summit offered ample shelter for a lunch break which we consumed whilst enjoying views back to Strathconon and across the wind-whipped lochan to Sgurr a’Mhuilinn.
After this the weather sadly deteriorated and we made the long, undulating crossing to the far Corbett top of Sgurr a’Ghlas Leathaid in the face of wind and increasingly heavy rain.
The clouds parted briefly to give a view along to the head of Strathconon where the River Meig wends its way between shapely hills, and further off to where snow lined the upper reaches of the mountains north of Loch Monar. Again the weather closed in and the next views were had after a stiff pull up to the summit of Sgurr a’Ghlas Leathaid.
This is reputedly the best vantage point on this circuit and the views glimpsed through breaks in the cloud were certainly impressive. The wide expanse of Strath Bran could be seen, with Achnasheen away in the distance. Sadly the Fannaichs to the north were hidden by cloud.
From here we dropped down slightly and then climbed up to the second top, Sgurr a’ Choire-raineach. Here the clouds once again swallowed us up and we spent little time on the summit before returning down to the boggy bealach that would take us up to the summit of Sgurr a’Mhuilinn. On the descent we came across a small family of Ptarmigan.
At the bealach we paused to take in the views that had returned before making our way up to the Corbett summit. We wound our way up its broad ridge on a clear path that helped as the weather closed in once again, this time sending stinging hail into our path. It was with some relief that we reached the summit, huddling in the shelter of the cairn to escape the worst of the storm. The descent of Sgurr a’Mhuilinn started in a blizzard, sticky wet snow turning the grass into a lethal slide but as quickly as it had come the shower passed through and the sun came out. We could see that we were descending the steep south side of the mountain and quickly adjusted our course to regain the slightly easier south-east ridge. This dropped us rapidly down, passing between a series of crags and gullies, until we came to the boggy floor of the glen.
We reached the boggy banks of the allt an t-srathain mhor in sunshine but as we made our way along its course to get back to the car the rain returned, once than ever. It was a trudge on pathless ground, with a leap across the rapidly swelling river to get back to the crest from where we had turned to ascend Creag Ruadh earlier in the day. As we dropped to the car the rain eased and it was in a welcome dry moment that we got back to the car and were able to change out of soaking clothes for the trip back to the hostel in Glen Urquhart.
*Strangely for the whole day I wore a Merino 200 weight baselayer, a 100 weight fleece, a Rab Vapour Rise Jacket and a Montane eVent shell. Given the ongoing wind chill and the air temperature hovering around 0oC at 800m or so, I was actually glad of this somewhat unconventional armoury of layers! Certainly I could probably have got away with a baselayer, my Montane Extreme Jacket and a shell during the worst downpours, but the four layer approach kept me dry, warm and protected all day.