Meall Buidhe - 910m
Sron a' Choire Chnapanich - 837m
Stuc an Lochain - 960m
An Grianan - 864m
Sunday 20th January 2019
Weather/Conditions: Grey to start out with, and a bit of wind and occasional sleet/snow showers. Patches of blue and sun breaking over the successive hills to a sun-washed afternoon. Lovely.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 20.4km / 1400m / 5h 15m
Accompanying: Struan and Andy
Meall Buidhe and Sron a' Choire Chnapanich are two Corbetts near the top of Glen Lyon. They are typical of the area, rolling summits that occasionally shear off into steep coire walls. But in spite of being so near to Orchy and Rannoch Moor, they have more in common with the rest of the Lyon hills, where the arable glen floor extends into sheep farmed upper slopes, finally rounding off to gentle summits.
In spite of good intentions I almost slept in, and had a bit of a mission to make up time on the drive north. The Lawers road wasn't blocked with snow which helped enormously, and I drove up toward the Lyon dam: my first time ever in this upper part of the glen.
Struan and Andy had already left for Meall Buidhe while I packed. Shortly I was off, first up a Landover track, and then off onto the hillside. Knowing I had to meet Struan and Andy gave urgency to the effort and I enjoyed the push.
I went over the SE top of Meall Buidhe first, Creag a' Chaorainn; a sizeable chunk of hill. Up to the cairn, I began to head on a bearing toward Meall Buidhe and somewhere here I bumped into Struan and Andy wandering through the mist from another direction.
It was good to catch them. It turned out I hadn't been too far behind them, 25 mins or so. We continued onto Meall Buidhe, following the broad north-eastern arm via a line of fence posts. Eventually the summit cairn arrived through the mist - not a difficult hill. But nice to be here nonetheless; it's in a great position on the edge of Rannoch Moor and looking immediately onto the Orchy hills. Though it was a bit of a shame not to see anything, I'll be back no doubt. I'll probably combine it with Meall Daill when the time comes...
Sron a' Choire Chnapanich
We headed direct down to the saddle, and took five minutes by Eas nan Aighean (the burn draining to Lyon). The continuing way to Sron a' Choire Chnapanich is a little deceptive and involves some traversing across a glen. It’s the most logical route, but it’s not obvious in the ground, simply the way these glens all interlock.
And the day was starting to open out. Having had some snow falling on Meall Buidhe, cloud was breaking into tatters with patches of blue sky between. Finally on the slopes of the Sron, I put the foot and raced to the summit, not stopping, but keeping the effort and breathing in sensible realms. I only stopped when I got to the summit cairn. Thirty seconds later mist engulfed the summit, another view almost denied!
Stuc(hd) an Lochain & An Grianan
The last big hill was Stuc an Lochain: this Munro forms the southern of the Loch an Daimh pair. It’s formerly ‘Stuchd an Lochain’, but the OS are getting pretty good at correcting all their bad Gaelic these days. It was also a third-Round Munro for me. Struan joined, so at the Bealach a' Mhaim, Andy headed back to the car and Struan and I went east.
It was a great walk up to the Stuc; the sun was out, we walked in the shade of the wind and the peppering of snow glowed bright. Up toward the summit, the terrain steepens and we followed a line of fence posts into the mist and to a summit cairn.
Suddenly there was a path again, and footprints everywhere. It's easy to forget just how popular the Munros are, and what impact their popularity has on the hills. A few photos, some food and drink; then we were off again, heading south down the ridge and onto the broad and open southern slopes. Coming out the mist, Struan made a beeline for Pubil and I diverted to An Grianan while it was nearby. This is a prominent southern top of Stuc an Lochain, rising as a spur high over Glen Lyon. I ran to the foot of the hill, plodded to the top, took a pano - the first clear summit view of the day - and then ran continuously all the way down into the glen to the west, only stopping when I caught Struan. The running was great, and it felt to be moving well.
The Golden Hour: magic and well-being in Glen Lyon
The magic hit on the walk back down to the car. We were nearly done on these hills; 20kms were slipping away under my feet almost unnoticed. The hillsides of Glen Lyon were golden in the sun, the mood of the place felt like sparkling November rather than the depths of mid-winter. Things just fell into place in a way that is difficult to define. A golden moment, special, that cannot be recreated at will. It can only be taken at face-value at the time, along with an appreciation of the moment and a sense of the positives that we can take away.
We walked down by Pubil, a cluster of houses that almost look out of place at the end of the glen. I don't know why I thought they would be in a state; perhaps their decrepitude was a myth I heard in the past. But it was nice to see so many well-tended houses and gardens so far up the glen, cars in the driveways and all.
Glen Lyon feels lived in and worked. It lacks much of the desolation of so many Scottish glens, and so retains something of its living self. Sheep graze on the hills alongside stands of Scots pine. A river meanders among green fields. As I drove down the glen a buzzard flew right past the front of the car. This is a special and quiet place - a long way, it seems, from the fast roads and pace of life only miles to the south.
We'd talked about warming up with tea at the Bridge of Balgie tea room, but it had been shut 20 minutes by the time we arrived. I said bye to Andy and Struan and headed home. I got great light on the way back; pink skies over Lomond, silhouetted, then a massive full moon rising as I got home.
I have been doing so much walking lately. I don't know where it's coming from, but as Andy said today, 'make hay' and all that. Conditions have been good for walking and the weather has been generally favourable. So I'll be out on the hills while that persists. I have lists to guide me: I'm chipping away at the third-time list of Munros. I have the tops that I'll likely focus on more once the third round is done. And if there's an opportunity to find a Corbett then I'm on it.
I also feel I've been all over the place geographically. Further north, I’ve been twive to Torridon and also into Monar. In the east, I've been right across the central Cairngorms. I've done a couple of days south of Glasgow and in Galloway, and four days out the back of Glen Dessary on some of the quietest and roughest hills in the country. In November I finally made big inroads to Ardgour and have unfinished business there. Things are really good. I don't imagine that when wandering up to Druim na Birlinn in November, not sure what to do with myself, I’d have known that I'd soon disappear down this insatiable thirst for hillwalking and peak bagging. It just kicked up out of nowhere.
An Grianan - 100° SE Detail
(0.00) 9.35am Parking
(0.45) 10.20am Creag a' Chaorainn
(1.29) 11.04am Meall Buidhe
(2.50) 12.25pm Sron a' Choire Chnapanich
(4.03) 1.38pm Stuc an Lochain
(4.32) 2.07pm An Grianan
(5.15) 2.50pm Parking