You realise you’ve made a mistake when it becomes obvious that what appeared to be a covering of frost is actually a covering of frost…and pockets of underlying ice. My problem was that it was damn near impossible to tell under which part of the frost layer the ice was actually lurking. I should have been more sensible…or less stupid, depending upon how you measure these things. The single track road across to Glen Lyon from Loch Tay via the Ben Lawers car park is not the finest at the best of times, but in winter it becomes a beast of unpredictable moods. From where I was sitting behind the wheel of The Tank its mood could at best be described as skittish.
There was nothing much wrong with the condition of the road up until the car park but beyond…that was another matter. The ice threatened descent down into Glen Lyon was a lesson in wussiness as The Tank c-r-a-w-l-e-d around tight blind bends with plummeting drops off to the left. I take it as a tribute to my gross stupidity that we met no cars on the road; neither did I notice any in my mirrors…not that I had the bravery to look at my mirrors very often! The painfully slow traverse complete we arrived at the Innerwick car park in one piece and without too many mental scars.
At least my choice of hill was sensible. Meall a Mhuic 745m (hill of the pig) looked an easy Graham, a short hill day that would fulfil my physio’s requirements, as long as I took my time. With only 4km to the summit, over 50% track walking and no steep gradients, this was as near perfection as I could get for my hill re-hab programme.
The prospects for the day were as yet uncertain. The cloud was sitting down over the top of the adjacent Corbett (Beinn Dearg) and possibly touching the summit of our destination (Piggy Hill). The mwis forecast suggested the tops would be clear by about lunchtime. Given it was now 10.15am that would suit us nicely. After her successful trip to Cnoc Coinnich a few days earlier The Fatdog appeared anxious to get started, tail wagging furiously. Once more it was fingers crossed for a walk with no sharp noises.
Only a short distance eastwards along the road from the car park we picked up the signed track for Loch Rannoch. The gate was open but there was also a wooden stile over a low fence immediately adjacent. A short distance beyond there was a second road gate with an opening side gate. No dog tossing required – has to be a big plus point.
The scenic Innerwick War Memorial
Follow the right of way for a few hundred metres
A bit of info about the right of way
The walk’s only gates – in foreground and background
Such was our elation at tackling a second hill in the week we shot past the direct path to the bridge over the Allt Gallabhaich (581, 483) and so had to double back down an estate track at the next junction. We only dropped about 5 minutes at most due to this minor diversion. Remember, if you’re gaining height on the track…then you’ve missed the path (just beyond the concrete weir).
Veer left at the plantation on the left of the track
The bridge over the Allt Gallabhaich
We were now on the right track…well…maybe? This one looked a bit fresh, possibly only up to a year old. It appeared to work its way around the west side of Meall a Mhuic so we were going to have to be careful to pick out where the old estate track up the south spur cut away from this new one.
A very fresh cut track
Beware of what looks like the beginning of a track on your right hand side which goes nowhere. This is where the old track kicks off, but not in the exact location you might automatically look for it. Distracted by the new construction I almost missed the old track, running uphill parallel to the new one but a couple of metres higher. But maybe that’s because I didn’t have my glasses on at this point.
Time to change tracks
Looking back on the junction of the tracks
Suddenly there were the muffled sounds of two shots coming from another glen. The Fatdog stopped…and looked…and (tail down) started to think. This is not generally considered a good sign. I gave her no time to ponder over it and began to trot uphill, calling on her to hurry. A game! FD instantly forgot about the noises and galloped after me. Fortunately there were no more disconcerting sounds and in a minute or so she settled back down to her normal hill routine.
FD in thinking mode – generally considered a bad idea
The old track was a bit of a gem; solid compacted stone now seeing the gradual encroachment of moss and heather. Where the new track was a garish scar on the landscape, this old hill route somehow fitted; now well disguised as part of the Glen Lyon landscape.
The old track
The view back to Innerwick
It ended just beyond what appeared to be the remains of a sheiling. I say appeared to be as there did not appear to be any regular house foundation shapes on the ground, but the quantity of similar sized stone suggested it had been, or was intended to be, used for building. Linear heaps of stone lay along the sides of the track. Maybe existing buildings had been stripped of stone ready for further track building (which never happened). I’m afraid it’s all speculation now.
A sheiling…or not a sheiling?
But as good as the track was it had to end and, as we all know, Glen Lyon wouldn’t be Glen Lyon without a bit of bog. Fortunately our timing couldn’t have been better. The crunch of boot on frosted ground confirmed that we would not be suffering the usual soggy fate encountered in this predominantly bog ridden part of the world. What I do like about Glen Lyon is the solid rolling tops covered by mosses and low growing springy heathers. Perfect walking. Sadly it’s the saturated morass surrounding these hills that normally detracts from the overall experience…and there’s generally a fair bit of morass to negotiate. But not today. Today was happy-crunchy bog day!
The Fatdog investigates…but I’m pretty sure it’s bog
Some 15 minutes later we had traversed the bog and were on solid. The cloud was taking its time, but it was lifting from the summit. The top of the adjacent Beinn Dearg was still fairly claggy though I thought I was beginning too see glimpses of the Munro, Carn Gorm, behind. The view south to the Lawers range was still fairly cloud covered though I was sure that too was slowly lifting.
Walkin’ on solid!
As promised the few wispy remains blew away from the summit of Meall a Mhuic just as we approached; a casual 1hour 45 minutes from the Innerwick car park.
The Fatdog was some 10m in front as we neared the cairn when suddenly she stood stock still, stuck her head forward and raised a front paw. My God, she was pointing!
FD is from a long line of gundogs but has never shown much indication of that heritage. Something interesting had caught her attention…and it wasn’t food.
I hissed at her to stay and slowly caught up.
Minus my glasses I struggled to pick up exactly what she’d noticed when a movement near a snow patch some 200m away caught my eye. About 50 head of deer…which, I later discovered from the photograph, were all staring in our direction. They stood around for a few minutes weighing us up before deciding that we were definitely not deer and thus must be something else…to their minds most probably deer-eaters.
Initially they pretended to saunter off nonchalantly in a westward direction…before noticeably picking up speed to a decent canter as they legged it as far away as possible from the two strange creatures invading their neighbourhood.
“Jeannie! …Jeannie! …is that wan o’ they lyons I keep hearin’ aboot?”
The Fatdog strikes terror into the hearts of the fleeing beasts…there’s always a first time for everything I suppose, however unlikely
FD grinning – never before have so many fled from so few
All around summits were beginning to appear as the cloud continued to lift. A number of the higher mountains in the Lawers range still refused to make an appearance but, with the advent of a bit of blue sky and a few bursts of sunshine it was no great loss. With the wind still coming from the north it was a bit chilly on the top so after a few photos it was time to head back down the hill and look for a decent rock to sit on for lunch out of the wind.
Looking north to Loch Rannoch
The cloud lifting off Beinn Dearg and Carn Gorm
South to the Lawers range
Smiling for the camera – yes, this is about as happy as we get
The usual tussle over the jammy hot cross buns ensued before we followed our upward route back down towards Innerwick. Once back at the footbridge we picked up the path along the east bank of the Allt Gallabhaich, a more scenic route than the track we mistakenly followed on the way up.
The scenic route
Meall a Mhuic provided a most enjoyable, effort free, stroll up a hill. There were no difficulties (other than choosing the correct path/track ) the only minor irritation being the boggy section.
The views from the summit were not exciting (a glimpse of Loch Rannoch being our best) though heading north from the summit then east down to the right of way from Glen Lyon to Loch Rannoch would provide a circular route and possibly better views northward. A late start may give better views to the Lawers Range and to the Munros to the east.
It is with some relief I can say that The Fatdog appears to be back on form. She hasn’t limped in days and now seems to be all set to continue hillwalking for another year. Random noises will still no doubt be a problem. Sadly I’m having trouble convincing her that earplugs are a good idea. I suspect she’s holding out for an i-pod.
For the record – we did not go back over the Lawers road but instead took the scenic (and much safer) route eastwards along Glen Lyon. There is only so much stupidity that can be allowed in one day.