A Day in the Perthshire Hail

04 Apr


I looked up.

First mistake.  Eyeballs peppered with fine shot.

Blinking frantically to clear my eyes I looked back down at my feet again, to find The Fatdog looking up at me accusingly.  She had gone white on one side and was staring up at me through eyelashes heavy with melting hail.  She didn’t look pleased.

I sympathised.  I wasn’t feeling pleased either.  I stopped, turned, and leaned back into the wind for a brief rest.  I wondered if I could lean back far enough to fall over but I was sure that couldn’t happen.   Ol’ Steve was only some 10m behind pushing through the icy blast onto the bealach.

This was the sort of day you wonder “WHY?”


Ol’ Steve and I have worked in the same office for about 14 years.  Over the past few years, since I started hillwalking. we’ve regularly discussed our plans and exploits, but this was the first time they’d coincided…all because of a misleading forecast.  We had both thought Perthshire was to be dry and if not sunny then at least pretty much clear of cloud.  That was proving to be a load of old b******s!

From the start it hadn’t been pleasant.  As soon as the car stopped at the “parking area” for Beinn a Chuallaich‘s eastern approach, the rain had begun to piddle down driven by a strong westerly.  I loathe having to put on the wet weather gear right at the start of the day…it sets the tone and usually ends up in an undignified wrestling match with rapidly chilling fingers battling with unaccustomed items of clothing.

Although they’ve taken up near permanent residence in the bottom of my pack my waterproof trousers and I are relative strangers.  This became evident as I attempted to pull them on whilst balanced precariously on one un-booted foot.  The subsequent 5 minutes saw a comprehensive demonstration of octopus wrestling as I eventually pulled on both trousers and socks and footwear.  The rain went off.

At least the initial part of the Corbett looked straight forward.

Straight on...and up!

Two unlocked gates and a field crossing later we began our ascent of the bracken clad slope.  Perfect timing, I thought, the old bracken was almost gone and there was no sign of the new.  I reckon this slope could be a lot tougher in summer when you find yourself wading through metre high swathes of tough green fronds.  Today it was a steady grassy climb.  At about the 200m mark we ran out of grass and reached the heather.  This change in vegetation made for slow going.  Where the heather covered smooth hillside it was easy enough, but where it had grown through small boulders the going was less predictable.

Ol' Steve powering up the initial slope

Looking south towads Schiehallion

Rounding the spur through the heather into the corrie

I seem to think we made it as far as the shallow corrie before the cloud, which had been threatening since our arrival, eventually opted to deposit its payload.   Up went the hood as the fine driving hail swept across the heather- brown corrie floor.  It wasn’t long before I had to keep my head firmly pointed towards my feet as the gusting wind whipped up tiny pinpricks of ice, peppering my face.  I tried to look up a couple of times but as the tiny fragments bounced painfully off my eyeballs I reckoned navigation wasn’t really that important anyway.  Ol’ Steve was somewhere behind me but I sure as hell wasn’t going to try and see where.

A few minutes the blast subsided and I was able to see where I was going once more.    I studied the dark grey cloud over Beinn Chuallaich.  Sadly it wouldn’t be long until we were assailed by the next volley from the westerly blunderbuss.  Ol’ Steve and The Fatdog shot past me heading for the corrie end.

A photo blurred with hail and wind!

The short climb up to the bealach from the corrie was made interesting by the need to cross a couple of remaining swathes of snow.  Like the snowfields on the rest of this winter’s trips their crossing proved to be a lottery.  The snow was soft, with deep hollows discovered on every second footfall.  Whole legs had a nasty tendency to disappear.  We tried to avoid them but that proved impossible.  Once more I was carrying my microspikes and unable to use them!  Where was all the brick hard snow I’d slid and wobbled across in previous years when I didn’t have the bloody things!

I kicked steps as I led up the last short band of white, arriving on the bealach, my quads burning.  My God they ached…which was strange.  I don’t ever recall having had that particular problem before but at least I had gained a new complaint to bleat about.

Up until now we had been relatively sheltered from the full force of the wind, now it skelped us good and proper. But it was an easy stroll from the bealach up to the summit…or would have been if the wind hadn’t been trying to blow as away.  At least the quads had gone quiet again.  As Ol’ Steve and I veered left towards the big cairn and the trig point, The Fatdog veered right.

Two startled ptarmigan had been mistaken for big white bunnies.  FD instantly realised her mistake and bounced back apologetically.  Normally she would just wander past these birds but half an hour earlier she had been tracking two mountain hares in the corrie, so I can only assume she noticed the two white mounds and thought “At last!”

A constant blast of cold air from the west meant we didn’t hang around at the summit.  Low cloud chopped off any decent views with the best of a bad bunch the view down Loch Rannoch and across the glen to Schiehallion.  I managed a couple of shots but between the sharp wind and me beginning to lose the feeling in my fingers, photographs came second to dropping back downhill out of the penetrating chill.

Nearing the big summit cairn

Loch Rannoch

An old sheiling

We were hailed on at various times, occasionally rained on and at one point I definitely detected snow sweeping past.  All in all there were very few moments when there was no form of precipitation bouncing off the waterproofs.  Ol’ Steve and I definitely need to sort out our weather forecasting  before the next walk!

Tired, soggy and wanting lunch!

Schiehallion from our lunch spot

Sun on the bracken with a hint of rainbow

Then the sun came out.  Ten minutes from the car…the sun came out!  We met two walkers just having set out from their car.  They were smiling in the sunshine.  I told them how bad it was on top.  I can be spiteful.


Posted by on April 4, 2010 in Corbetts


10 responses to “A Day in the Perthshire Hail

  1. Martin Rye

    April 4, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    The old sheiling is high up. Looked a fine walk despite the weather Ken.

  2. fatdogwalks

    April 4, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I think the photo made it look higher than it actually was Martin. At a guess it was probably a shepherd’s bothy. Mind you having looked at the photo again (and the dry-stane construction of the wall) it might just have been an old sheep pen 😆 .

    It wasn’t a bad walk…but it’s not one I’d be anxious to go back to.

  3. Simon

    April 5, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Very amusing Ken. Has Maisie forgiven you yet? Looks like you could do with a pair of goggles 🙂 . What date did all this merry making take place on? Whenever it was, I can only say that I’m glad that I wasn’t in Scotland then.

  4. fatdogwalks

    April 5, 2010 at 10:10 am

    27th March Simon. Given the vagaries of the weather on that day…are you sure you weren’t in Perthshire then? 😆

    It was another day with a near permanent rainbow (like our Meall Tairbh trip).

    Maisie appeared more at one with the conditions than I thought she would…though for a minute or so when we hit the bealach I’m sure she was wondering what the hell was going on – we don’t do this sort of weather!

  5. Simon

    April 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    The 27th. Took you a while to post didn’t it? Yes, I was winding up to losing my rucksack at the same time as you three were having all that ‘fun’.

  6. fatdogwalks

    April 6, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    I’m slowing up 😦 .

    Having trouble writing these days…mood permanently dampened by the lack of progess on the retirement front. In fact my mood swings are quite spectacular…hence all the p*****g about with the blog! I’ll be glad when my brain settles back down again.

    You made a right dog’s breakfast of that camping trip…impressively so in fact. 😆 . Hope you don’t mind the link…I thought the humiliation should be as widespread as possible. The tooth that abcessed…was it the same one that fell out on our earlier walk?

  7. Simon

    April 7, 2010 at 8:27 am

    No. The one next door to it.

  8. fatdogwalks

    April 7, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Now that was really bad luck Simon. 😦 Your dentist will soon be able to retire at this rate.

    Do you reckon that was your worst ever trip? I don’t recall quite as many things going wrong in the past, though it would be fair to say you do have your moments.

  9. Simon

    April 8, 2010 at 10:16 am

    You make me sound like Marvin the Paranoid Android: “The first million years were the worst; the second million years were even worse; the third … “.

    I reckon that Mullardoch was my worst trip. I was seriously off my feed. I also had tooth problems then, but didn’t report them. Those were the days before I realised my audience’s bottomless capacity for tales of misery.

  10. fatdogwalks

    April 8, 2010 at 11:32 am

    We do like a rollicking tale of pain and woe Simon 😆 .


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