A round of the Tarmachan Ridge above Killin
Date: 15th September 2012
Time: 4 hrs 30 mins
Hills: Creag na Caillich, Beinn nan Eanach, Meall Garbh, Meall nan Tarmachan (Munro) Weather: Early sunshine and breezy to later on low cloud and very strong winds Route: View on OS Maps
A quick drive north east took us to Killin and up the road to our high starting point for the day. We passed the new and very busy Ben Lawers car park to reach the Tarmachan starting point which only had a couple of cars parked up at this relatively early hour. Although the clouds had earlier been stuck to the summits, we booted up in bright sunshine with a blustery breeze blowing the long grasses.
Given the westerly wind we chose to reverse the traditional route, and so headed along the landrover track westward, the Tarmachan ridge opening up above us. A workgroup was spotted putting in new plantings but they were the last people we would see for a good long while - the western end of the hill was deserted.
We enjoyed the early morning sunlight that was illuminating Loch Tay and Killin and gazed hopefully up at the ridge as the cloud gradually burned off. A couple of forks took us gradually higher up the hillside.
The track wound its way gently up the hillside until we reached the ruins of the old quarry. Here there was no sign of a continuing path and so we took to the open hillside, picking a vague line of least resistance and aiming for the low point in the ridge some distance off at the head of the coire.
The craggy slopes of Creag na Caillich now stood off to our left as we made our way past small streams and over some wide patches of peat and bog. The ascent was much easier than expected and after a steepish climb up the head wall of the coire we finally emerged on the ridge just short of the summit of Creag na Caillich. My uncle and I continued up to reach our first summit of the day. From here we had a stunning view of the Tarmachan Ridge opening up in front of us. A little cloud lingered, particularly over Meall nan Tarmachan itself but we still were enjoying the sunshine.
From here we returned to where my aunt was waiting before continuing eastward along the ridge. It is a delightful walk and the views continued to be expansive, particularly over the wild, empty glens to the north of us. There was a steep pull up a zigzag track and then we on the summit of Beinn nan Eachan where the cloud finally caught up with us.
Out of the sun and with a strong wind blowing we rapidly got some extra layers on. A group of four Geordies arrived and told us of their interesting day out on the Lawers range the day before when they had been forced to crawl off the summit amidst a howling gale. The wind was strong today, but thankfully not that strong.
With outer layers and warm hats on we continued east, following the ridge down to the col before the impressive climb up to Meall Garbh. This has the infamous scrambly section which we would be climbing up rather than sliding down. The rock was damp and slippery and it took me a bit of time to locate e best route of ascent. Eventually though I emerged at the top of the crag and rejoined my aunt and uncle who had sensibly taken the steep bypass.
We climbed up and then followed the narrow arete along to the prominent top of Meall Garbh. In the wind it was an interesting place to try and stand, offering views east to Meall nan Tarmachan.
On the far side of Meall Garbh we found a sheltered spot to stop for lunch. We had been making good progress but the weather still looked to be getting ahead of us and so after a sandwich and some crisps we headed off, now making the final descent to the col before ascending the gentle slopes of Meall nan Tarmachan and the only Munro of the round.
As it turned out we spent the least amount of time on the highest summit. By some freak of geography it turned out that we had been largely sheltered from the true wind strength through the course of the day. Only when we emerged on the summit of the Munro did we find out just how windy it was. We could barely stand still to take a quick summit photo and so we moved off rapidly, getting just enough of a break to note that the cloud had descended over Lawers and was rapidly shrouding the ridge over which we had just passed .
We quickly made our way off the summit, passing a large family outing replete with numerous children and dogs, and then making our way down the excellent track to Meall nan Tarmachan’s south-east top.
The track made for a rapid descent and although Meall nan Tarmachan was now shrouded in mist there was sunlight elsewhere, finding its way through gaps in the cloud to send rays down over Killin and Glen Lochay.
The wind remained ferocious even as we lost height but the light was superb as afternoon crept onwards and we got closer and closer to Loch Tay. Ahead of us the cloud once again started to part from the Ben Lawers group of hills.
The path eventually met the outward vehicle track and then it was just a short stretch back to the car with the sight of Lairige Dam dwarfed by Meall Corranaich an impressive sight. Out of boots we had a quick run up to the lochan to look at the impressive eastern buttresses of Meall nan Tarmachan and then it was a pleasant drive back in the late afternoon sunshine to Stirling for a relaxed evening with lovely food and company.