A daywalk over the Munros of Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich which sit between Glen Lochay and Glen Lyon in the southeast Highlands
Date: 9th May 2015
Hills: Creag Mhor (Munro, 1,032m), Beinn Heasgarnich (Munro, 1,078m)
Weather: Sunny with a cool breeze and occassional shower
Route: View on OS Maps
A half decent forecast had me packing my bag for a return journey down to the southeast of the Highlands. Last year Rich and I abandoned an attempt at circuiting the Mamlorn hills around Glen Lochay. With just a day available (stormy weather was forecast to come in during the evening and set in for Sunday) I decided to focus my attention on the two Munros of Creag Mhor and Beinn Heasgarnich which sit on the north side of Glen Lochay, separating it from neighbouring Glen Lyon. These are bulky hills, craggy on their northern sides, separated by a low bealach but easy enough to combine. Despite recent snowfall and low temperatures I decided to leave boots, crampons and ice axe at home, figuring I was mostly avoiding north and eastern aspects and that the temperature was forecast to be fairly mild.
After a pleasant drive through the early sunshine listening to Out of Doors and then a dissection of the election results I wound my way down beautiful Glen Lochay to the parking area near Kenknock farm. A popular spot with several different hill options, the car park was almost full at just before 10am but I did manage to get a space.
I was soon off, following the easy going farm track besides the river and then through fields near the farm. Here there was a feeding station being used by a small herd of cows and calves. I was a little trepidatious making my way amongst them but they parted amicably enough and soon I was past the farm and at the crossroads where I look a left turn to climb up the northern side of the glen.
This track ultimately crosses over to the end of Loch Lyon but I only had to follow it up a few zig-zags until a smaller track branched off past the pipe inlet and followed the side of the glen westward.
This track is excellent. Undulating slightly it offers grand views down over Glen Lochay to the southern hills of Meall a' Churain where Rich and I had descended the previous year. On the glen floor road a landrover made its slow way down the glen and ahead the eastern side of Ben Challum began to appear showing its interesting profile and plastered with snow.
I made quick progress and after a quick snack break by the Allt Bad a' Mhaim left the track and followed a muddy imprint up besides the stream towards the crags of Sron nan Eun, the hill which would lead me up to Creag Mhor.
The prow of Sron nan Eun is guarded by crags but the slopes are grassier on the east side and so I followed the hill around until it was possible to ascend. The first obstacle was a new deer fence that required clambering over and then it was a matter of picking my way up the slope, avoiding the remnant snow patches that were still lying on steep ground. There were a lot of people about and I had groups both in front of and behind me.
As I ascended the views started opening out with the pale blue thread of the River Lochay leading my eyes back to the snow of the western Lawers hills. To the southwest the high hills around Crianlarich were starting to become visible beyond the upper part of Glen Lochay.
The level eased off and a pleasant ridge now led the eye towards Creag Mhor. There were still some snow patches on this southeastern side but it looked like they wouldn't pose any problem. I was soon following the clear path towards the Munro.
The ridge climbed steadily towards the summit and soon there were glimpses down to Loch Lyon and further north to the hills of the Central Highlands away beyond Rannoch Moor. Off to my left, the big lump of Beinn Heasgarnich, the second hill for the day looked like it would be easily accessible by the long western ridge.
I overtook quite a few people as the slope steepened, the promise of good views drawing me on and soon I was rewarded for my efforts as I arrived at the summit, a cairn crowning a large outcropping of rock and boulders. The views were spectacular with excellent visibility and I took a long look out at the Ben Lui group of hills to the west and the Bridge of Orchy hills to the north.
There were plenty of people sat around the summit and as it was about lunchtime I found myself a quite place to seat and enjoy some food. I sat with my legs dangling over the northeastern face of the hill looking over to Beinn Heasgarnich.
After lunch, and noticing that most people who had made the summit were now returning by the same route, I hoisted up my pack and left them all behind, descending down easy angled snow and boulder slopes in a northerly direction.
The intimidating crags of Creag Mhor were visible off to the right as I carefully picked my way down snow slopes, sticking to grass where possible. Across the low bealach was Beinn Heasgarnich. Behind me it looked like slightly more serious clouds were gathering as the skies darkened over the hill.
I reached the bealach without much fuss and picked my way through the peat and pools to start the ascent up Sron Tairbh, the western arm of the Munro.
The light at this time was quite spectacular as a brief shower of hail passed by. It was short lived and was soon followed by sunshine cascading over the hills and blue skies above once more.
The ascent was steep and occasionally pathless but as I reached higher up a path became clearer and I was soon making good progress with views down to Loch Lyon and back across the bealach to Creag Mhor.
The steep slope eased and I came out onto the wide ridge with a good view over to the actual summit, still some way off. The visibility was once again tremendous as the shower had passed by and fluffy white clouds now strung across the sky above the Crianlarich Hills and Ben Challum.
Creag Mhor was now catching the sun and I could see tiny figures of walkers making their way back down its southern ridge.
There was quite a bit of snow in the hollows of the undulating ridge which culminated in the top of Stob an Fhir-Bhogha but it was all easy to negotiate and I was soon at the small cairn where the views to the Lawers range and the end of Loch Tay were excellent.
Creag Mhor still looked close but the way was clear now to the summit of Beinn Heasgarnich and the afternoon was excellent with a cool wind the worst of the weather.
I followed the undulating plateau as it wound its way around to the summit, soon arriving at the stony cairn which has excellent views to Lawers.
A chap and his canine companion joined me and after a snack break I had a wander around the edges of the plateau taking in the views of the Bridge of Orchy hills beyond the end of Loch Lyon and further north to the white-capped peaks of the Rannoch Hills.
After a long break in the sunshine I started to pick my way off the hill. The eastern slope was plastered in snow but it had plenty of give and after a quick glissade I was on easier ground and making my way down towards the north top on the far side of the grand Coire Sheasgarnaich.
The going was rocky and uneven but I soon left the snow behind and enjoyed the interesting perspective on the bulky northern side of the Munro which is better seen from across Loch Lyon.
I now had a good perspective on the wide area of bog that gaurds the eastern approaches to the hill. There is no defined route but the line of the Allt Tarsuinn is a good handrail and I made my way down towards it.
I was soon passing by the last of the serious snowbanks where tumbling clear waters were rapidly swelling into a stream. In the shelter of the hill's bulk it was warm and I stopped for a final snack break and the opportunity to replenish my water supplies.
It was then a simple matter of following the south bank of the Allt Tarsuinn where a faint path made the going better than expected. The afternoon was idyllic and I passed several perfect wild camping patches as the stream meandered its way between heathery knolls and lumps.
Eventually the stream dropped into a steeper sided cleft and started to drop quickly down towards Glen Lyon. I caught a glimpse of the dam and then left behind the Allt Tarsuinn to cut across boggy ground back to the Glen Lochay road.
After taking a final look back up to Beinn Heasgarnich it was then a simple matter of following the road out. There was no traffic besides a few sheep and the views across Lochan Learg nan Lunn to the Glen Lochay hills were magical in the softer light.
I was soon dropping back down past the hydro pipe to the crossroads and then followed the road back past Kenknock farm to the car.