A high level route around Loch an Daimh in Highland Perthshire taking in the Munros of Stuchd and Lochain and Meall Buidhe
Date: 2nd-3rd March 2013
Hills: Stuchd an Lochain (Munro), Sron a’ Choire Chnapanaich (Corbett), Meall Buidhe (Corbett), Meall Buidhe (Munro)
Weather: Mild air temperatures but snow underfoot, occasional breaks in high cloud.
Route: View on OS Maps
A couple of years ago Fraser put up his report of a weekend trip around Loch an Daimh in Highland Perthshire and I immediately added the round to my to-do list. From this initial idea I spread out the map and picked out a slightly extended route that, rather than dropping to the end of the loch to camp as Fraser had, stayed high so that the addition of the two Corbetts was possible without much loss of height. I had a few vague ideas for camp spots but decided to see how far I got on the day and then make a final decision as to whether to camp higher up or find a more sheltered spot lower down.
After a bit of faffing I was on the road by 9am and despite numerous diversions arrived at the end of Loch an Daimh at almost exactly midday. The drive up Glen Lyon is glorious and only gets better as you get further in. I’d previously been down here in May 2009 to climb the four Munros above Invervar. The drive from Aberdeen had been sunny but by Aberfeldy the cloud, coming in from the west, had taken over and it was chilly at the 400m high dam road where I parked up.
After a sandwich and a hot drink I got my kit sorted, finding a cunning way to attach my crampon bag to my backpack, and then heading off along the metalled road which loops up through the woods below the Giorra dam to eventually emerge right on the lip of the reservoir. Still largely frozen, the loch provided a smooth grey backdrop to the initial steep climb up to the eastern ridge of Creag an Fheadain. This climb was the toughest part of the whole trip. Ice covered the well-worn track and so I scrambled up on tussock and heather beside it until I reached the snowline.
Although sets of deep bootprints arced up skyward from here I decided to put my crampons on and swapped out my walking poles for the axe. Below me there was nothing to stop a fall until the loch waters. Properly equipped I safely made the ascent of the upper slopes to reach the ridge. A steep climb up compacted snow brought me to the bleak summit of Creag an Fheadain where I got my first view of Stuchd an Lochain, the summit cone wreathed in cloud.
There followed an enjoyable wander around the lip of the coire, admiring the impressive cornices and wondering whether the cloud would shift at all. Finally, as I plodded up another steep snow slope to the summit it did indeed and though there was still mist around, the views opened up with the skeletal forms of snow-streaked mountains emerging all around.
The summit of Stuchd an Lochain, my first Munro of 2013, was a quiet place and I took some time to snack and hydrate, peering out through the mist to the great cornices which hung over the northern edge. The north ridge of the mountain looks fun and away to the west the rest of the day’s route was unfolding.
On the southern and western slopes there was barely any snow and so freed from the crampons I made quick progress down to the minor top of Meallan Odhar. On the way the sun briefly appeared and this certainly lifted the spirit. Ahead of me I could see across Rannoch Moor to the gates of Glencoe.
After Meallan Odhar there is a deep cut-in as a narrow coire rises up from the loch to a bealach. I wound my way across to the bealach where I found it sheltered and with plenty of flowing water. This then would be my backup plan for a pitch. However with plenty of daylight remaining I now ascended the long slope of the Corbett Sron a’ Choire Chnapanaich enjoying the views back up Loch an Daimh and back across to Stuchd an Lochain.
The weather was now closing back in again and as the mist started to fall I took a bearing off the Corbett, heading for the next bealach which would lead me on to a smaller summit that should have a commanding view over Loch Lyon. This was my planned camp spot. In the hollow the snow was deep and soft but I was soon climbing up to the flat summit of Creag a’ Chaorainn where a number of cairns all seemed to be highest.
As the cloud returned any breeze seemed to have dropped and so it was easy to locate a flatish pitch for the tent, just beyond the summit and with a view down Loch Lyon a couple of paces from the door. Just as I got the tent up a sleety drizzle started up and so I quickly gathered some water a got inside to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.
Later, after dinner, and as a soft orange glow spread out from the Central Belt, a gap in the clouds gave me an opportunity to take my mat and sleeping bag outside and lie down gazing up into a starry sky.
The night was utterly still and so I slept with the door open and tied back. Another patch of drizzle must have passed through sometime before dawn because the ground was sodden when I finally roused, woken by the diffuse light rather than my alarm. Coffee and porridge were consumed watching mist drift over Loch Lyon and by 8am I was packed and away for a long day heading along the north side of Loch an Daimh.
The conditions were looking promising, with some cloud clinging to the higher tops but a weak sun already starting to find its way through chinks in the cloud. From my overnight spot I had a brief descent down snowy slopes before picking up a rib of the next Corbett, Meall Buidhe which sits at the extreme western end of the circuit. The going was easy and warmed me up nicely as the sun developed over the Mamlorns above Loch Lyon.
Gaining the ridge brought new views of the Loch an Daimh hills and over a Rannoch Moor covered in drifting cloud. I headed west and then turned south for the summit of the Corbett.
I had a snack, watching a couple of Ptarmigan wandering around on the snow patches and enjoying the increasingly sunny views to the Bridge of Orchy Hills and the more distant Black Mount. A few snow showers drifted over the Mamlorns and there was a cold feel to the air.
I picked my way carefully off Meall Buidhe, drifting westward to avoid cornicing and crags on the slopes immediately above the stream that would eventually fall into Loch an Daimh. The cloud over Rannoch Moor was lifting and soon there seemed to be blue skies all around, including to the east where I could follow the line of the hills off to Meall Buidhe.
The low temperatures meant the ground was firm and I made good progress across the heather. Occasionally a track would appear only to disappear at the next band of rocky ground. Ahead of me the views to the previous day’s hills were developing.
The rounded summit of Creag Riabhach was reached and now the views were developing northward to the hills around Loch Ericht. Closer by the trench of Loch an Daimh now gave views across to the shapely summit of Stuchd an Lochain. A happy snack break was taken watching amber sunlight dance and weave across Rannoch Moor, teasing me with views of the Buchaille.
The next summit was Meall Cruinn, which required a diversion from the track which was now much clearer as I approached the Munro. The flat summit of Meall Buidhe seemed close at hand now although in reality there was still plenty of heathery ups and downs to negotiate.
My route now took a large, mostly unnecessary zig-zag as I crossed to a top off to the north first, and then one to the south. From the former I got views of the end of Loch Rannoch whilst the later provided the first expansive views of this side of Loch an Daimh.
Soon though I was back on course, and was soon making my way up the final slopes to join the trade route on Meall Buidhe. All of a sudden, and after 24 hours of seeing no-one, there were people everywhere!
I made my way along the gentle ground to Meall Buidhe’s summit cairn. Here the draw of this otherwise unremarkable summit was immediately recognised as I spun 360 degrees to marvel at a panorama of mountain scenery. Schiehallion off to the east, Ben Alder to the north, Glencoe beyond Rannoch Moor to the west and south to the Crianlarich Hills and Lawers group. It was fabulous.
The way back to the car was now straightforward, following the bagger’s route off the south side of the hill to descend almost directly to the car back at the dam. On the way I chatted to a couple of folk, including a fellow Aberdonian and bumped into the famous Collie, Molly, the first dog to climb all the Corbetts.
Otherwise the descent, on springy turf following an easy track, was straightforward and I enjoyed the developing views of Loch an Daimh as I got lower down.
Back at the car it was good to change out of my heavy boots (the crampons hadn’t been worn again since the ascent the previous day!) and then head homeward, the sound of the new Frightened Rabbit accompanying me along the twists and turns of Glen Lyon.