”Nobody’s done a ScottishHills trip report for Meall Tairbh yet!”
“I expect there’s a bloody good reason for that!”
“Let’s do that one the next time we meet up for a walk. It’s only about 700m of ascent and 11km of a circuit.””
“May the Lord have mercy upon our souls!”
Mr P has been good enough to provide a number of penetrating insights into today’s walk. I have incorporated these into the text in red italics. You can skip over these if you so wish…
Thick drizzle smeared across the windscreen as I drove through Tyndrum. I wondered if Simon’s personal rain cloud had caught up with him again. It had been sunny most of the way up the road from Larbert but now, heading for Bridge of Orchy, the rain clouds were gathering and the sun had b******d off to shine on more deserving individuals.
Today we would be tackling a short 11km circuit taking in the Graham Meall Tairbh (665m) and the HuMP Ben Inverveigh (639m). All in all some 700m of ascent and (for us) an anticipated 5 hour shuffle.
I picked up Simon at the pristine white Bridge of Orchy Hotel before taking the wee road to Victoria Bridge. We parked the “Tank” just short of the Inveroran Hotel at the west end of Loch Tulla on a large open space on the left hand side of the road. Having exchanged the normal pleasantries vis-a- vis our respective ailments we unloaded the packs, The Fatdog and our zimmers, at the same time wondering just how long it would be before nurse noticed we were missing.
Mr. P had done his research well. Rather than making me face the rigours of a relatively steep uphill on the east side of Meall Tairbh (by walking in the conventional clockwise direction) he suggested we tackle it anti-clockwise, thus leaving us with fairly gentle ascents for both hills. A modicum of rational thought is always welcome…if somewhat irregular.
We trundled along the road past the hotel then cut off left over tussocky ground climbing the north-east spur, initially keeping parallel to a fence off to our left before picking an easy gradient onto the long summit approach to Meall Tairbh. There was still enough frost in the ground to make this initial section of the walk a pleasant experience. I suspect once our normal wet weather sets in that it could be quite a boggy route.
Simon appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself. For some reason he seemed to like the drizzle and the semi-bog. When I enthusiastically pointed out the rainbow, the herd of deer and the wee burd on the rock he became almost ecstatic in his praise of the day’s outing.
The wee burd on the rock
We meandered up the slope. It was grey. It was windy. It drizzled a bit. There was low cloud. Oh yes, this was Scotland. There were multiple false summits. As we got higher a panoramic view opened up of a majestic set of the bottom halves of Munros with their top halves in cloud. Ken saw a small bird sitting on a rock. Wild life. There was even a rainbow. I wasn’t sure if I could cope with the excitement.
Simon definitely enjoying himself!
Looking back down Meall Tairbh’s north-east spur to the Inveroran Hotel and Loch Tulla
Half way up Meall Tairbh Mr.P remembered that hadn’t taken his medication. I don’t recall him specifying for what but having read a good number of Mr. P’s trip reports I concluded that his forgetting must be a common occurrence. Hopefully it would at least prevent him falling over as much…but I didn’t really hold out much hope of that. It was difficult to tell if the falling over was a result of not having taken the pills or whether it was one of the side effects. Other, more peculiar, side effects became evident as the day went on e.g. increasingly poor vision. This would explain why he was taking photographs of the wrong end of The Fatdog.
Maisy lolloped around in the snow and the mud. She seemed full of energy and joie de vivre. It was quite depressing. (Time for more of the blue pills.) My legs kept reminding me that they were fresh from their first Munro in over four months. I told them to shut up, and to try not to fall over in front of Ken. He’d just photograph it and post it on his blog.
Behind us a near permanent rainbow was fixed over Victoria Bridge its intensity a useful indicator of impending weather. Pale rainbow…oncoming drizzle. Bright rainbow…oncoming heavier drizzle. No rainbow…hoods up! We were lucky, the rainbow scale of impending weather only moved to “hoods up!” on one occasion and even then it didn’t warrant digging out the waterproof trousers.
Mr.P racing a rainbow
Our views appeared to be cut off around the 600m mark as low cloud engulfed the summits of the surrounding Munros and Corbetts. The ascent was an easy stroll with no steep gradients. From time to time we came across what may have been a faint path but mostly we picked the easiest walking over and around the various knolls between us and the summit approach. It took us just under 2 hours to the summit.
Mr.P racing The Fatdog
The summit was chilly so we decided to drop off the north slope to find a bit of shelter for lunch. Mr. P had an earlier attempt but the sight of a rampaging Fatdog lolloping towards him made him think twice about exposing the contents of his rucksack in such an open position.
This fails to capture the terrifying speed of the scene
An exercise in futility
The steeper north slope prevented FD from manoeuvring herself into food grabbing position, so much so that at one point she tried to plank her rear end down only to miss…and dropped bum first into a gap between rocks. Sadly we were too slow with the cameras to capture her attempts to get back out again.
The crossing of the bealach and the subsequent ascent of Ben Inverveigh found us both playing Russian roulette on large patches of snow. Grunting became de rigeur as the occasional unlucky step found feet shooting through dodgy crust, burying legs up past the knee.
Crossing the bealach
The Fatdog was finding the same problem and waded awkwardly through the treacherous white covering. Where possible we kept to the grass and heather border but inevitably we had to head back onto the snow as we approached Ben Inverveigh’s summit.
Ben Inverveigh’s summit ridge
The Fatdog on Ben Inverveigh
As we neared the summit the chilly wind dropped and the sun appeared. Over to the west the cloud was lifting over the Blackmount and Glen Etive Munros . To the east the thicker cloud over Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh was having none of it and stayed firmly in place for the duration of our walk.
Looking up Gleann Achadh-innis Chailein with Beinn a Chaisteil (886m- far right) and Beinn nam Fuaran (806m-centre right).
Beinn Dorain (1076m – right) and Beinn an Dothaidh (1004m – left)
On a couple of occasions I made a conscious effort (totally wasted) to educate Mr.P with my effortless Gaelic pronunciation of various hills. After a few “Sorry”s, “Beg Pardon”s and “that’s a nasty chest infection you’ve picked up”…I eventually gave in to the inevitable and resorted to “just read it as you see it”. It was worth it to see his little face light up as he peered at the contents of his plastic map case.
Mr.P used the giant mountain wall chart to point out the volcano like shape of the Munro Meall nan Eun (928m).
Meall nan Eun (zoomed)
A close up of the wee Aonach Eagach on Stob Ghabhar (1090m)
Given that this was a short walk on a small hill, the weather seemed determined that we would get our money’s worth. Drizzle, a touch of clag, surprisingly strong wind, dead calm, snow (!), on Ben Inverveigh even a bit of sunshine. Towards the end of the round the cloud lifted off the higher tops a time or two to give a 360 view of lots of snow clad big hills. Made us feel like right wimps. We gawked, snapped photos and played “what’s that hill over there then?”. Ken just coughed. I think he coughed; maybe he was naming the hill in Gaelic. Who can tell?
The ascents had gone well for me today, the near absence of steep gradients and only limited problematical snow had kept my legs relatively happy. Unfortunately there was no thick cushioning snow when descending from Ben Inverveigh which meant I had to slow down to prevent the inevitable jarring through the bum muscles.
Conversely Mr. P, who had tagged behind me all day on the ascents, suddenly charged off down the north-east spur like a demented wildebeest, albeit a wildebeest with a gammy hip. The wee blue pills seemed to have come online.
The NE spur of Ben Inverveigh to Loch Tulla thankfully clear of demented wildebeest
Looking east to Bridge of Orchy Hotel
As we moved into down hill mode we got to use a different set of muscles, in Ken’s case, naff one’s, in my case ones with some life in them. I started to develop a spring in my step. He’d tried to take his back, but been told that Munro bashing didn’t constitute normal wear and tear. He seemed to be suffering a bit, but just soldiered on. Even Maisy had lost some of her bounce, plodding along so close behind Ken that at times her nose seemed to be glued to the back of his left knee. I offered Ken a free choice of my various medications, there was bound to be something which would help. He declined, muttering about side effects. I have no idea what he was going on about.
A final view down Loch Tulla
We managed to miss the direct path back to the car and found ourselves further down the ridge than intended. This was of no real consequence as we joined the West Highland Way a few hundred metres further on. A sharp left took us back to the road within 20m of the “Tank”.
Even although the weather wasn’t at its best we had a good day out and had been lucky enough to be treated to views especially into Blackmount and across to the Glen Etive Munros. We took our time and completed just short of the 5 hours. Based on that I’m sure this would make an enjoyable half day circuit for most walkers. Full marks to Mr.P – he picked a good ‘un.