Our Walk of The Great Glen Way, with Meall na Teanga and Sron a' Choire Ghairbh
- Fort William to Gairlochy
- Gairlochy to Kilfinnan and then Cam Bhealach
- Meall na Teanga and Sron a' Choire Ghairbh (Munros beside Great Glen Way)
- Kilfinnan to Loch Oich
- Loch Oich to 4 miles past Fort Augustus
- 4 miles past Fort Augustus to Grotaig
- Grotaig to Abriachan
- Abriachan to Inverness
Tuesday 3rd January:
Gairlochy to Kilfinnan and then Cam Bhealach
We awoke before dawn to the orange glow of streetlamps through the flysheet, and dismantled the tent in the dark, an inevitable feature of walking long distance trails in Winter! Having crossed the canal at Gairlochy the night before, we continued alongside it on a winding forest path raised above the roadside which later turns down and crosses the road and continues beside Loch Lochy. In the pitch dark of the forest we had to make our way in small steps even though we had the help of a torch. At one point a small bay opens up amongst the trees and gives us a panoramic view point of the beginnings of the crisp winter sunrise.
To the North, we can see the first of the mountains bordering the Great Glen, obscuring Meall na Teanga beyond, the first of the two Munros we intend to climb along route. The trail continues along near-deserted road, onwards between tiny settlements and mountains to the North. A passer-by in a car stops, gets out and offers us a lift in quite a persuasive manner, saying he should be able to get our rucksacks in the boot. This amused us because this was the last thing we wanted; we put ourselves through miles of arduous walking on purpose! The road crosses the river Arkaig with colonies of ducks on the mouth as it empties into Loch Lochy. At Clunes, another small and quiet clump of houses, the Way turns right onto a forest track by the water for 7 miles. We were pleased at this point to encounter the first of the first of our "TAKE CARE, You are entering remote, sparsely-populated, potentially dangerous mountain country" signs!
|Breaks in the trees offer spectacular views across the water.||We eat lunch by the unspoilt shores of Loch Lochy.||Our rucksack covers are still on but they certainly aren't needed!|
For lunch, we hopped up a style over the wall, to sit beside the still waters of Loch Lochy. The loch sides, at this point anyway, were totally untouched by litter, greatly in contrast to some of the popular, but filthy picnicing and camping spots along the banks of Loch Lomond for example. We watched a shy red breasted robin peck at our oatcake crumbs before returning to the trail. Incidentally, there is a warning here, and at other points along the Glen, about blue-green algae blooms which can release toxins into the loch water, so it is advisable not to drink from the loch in these places. However, there is absolutely no shortage of tributary rivers flowing into the glen to fill up from.
|The track veers a little away from Loch Lochy and deeper into the forest.||Onwards towards Kilfinnan...||Views up to the broad ridge leading from Sron a' Choire Ghairbh, the Munro which we will climb later shortly.|
Beyond Clunes, the track is an archetypal trail, rising and falling along the loch side, perhaps to a height of around 200 feet or more, lined with tall pines through which the loch waters can be glimpsed. This can make for pretty tiring walking, though allows the hiker lofty views back down towards Loch Linnhe and up towards the approaching Loch Ness. A fast and busy road on the opposite side of the loch, perhaps a mile away, is faintly audible. As the day wore on, we enjoyed all of this in the blazing sun and were forced to strip to a single layer, though the icy campsite of the evening would see us back in full gear. So far, in fact, we couldn't have asked for better weather despite it being January!
If walking near-desserted forest trails isn't enough to satisfy your lust for adventure (which we fully understand), then shortly before Kilfinnan, there is the option to double-back along a higher track, from which you can climb the glen between Meall na Teanga and Sron a' Choire Ghairbh, and ultimately climb these two munros. This involves a back-track of around 2 miles before turning sharply upwards into the valley, and a further 2-to-3 hour climb to the watershed between the two Munros.
|So tempting to camp on top of!||Meall na Teanga looks little more than a green lump from this angle.||Once above the tree line we stop for a rest and food on the steep slope.|
|The path emerges below from Kilfinnan forest.||We follow the river Allt Glas-Dhoire up the valley towards the watershed.||The highest point between the Munro's becomes visible. Sron a' Choire Ghairbh is on the right and Meall na Teanga on the left.|
Look upwards from the initial "back-track" path to be rewarded with views of the flat stone walls of the broad ridge leading from Sron a' Choire Ghairbh. The right-hand path up into the valley rises steeply, especially at first, through the fir trees between false summits of the sandwiching Munros. At one point it crosses a tributary to the Allt Glas-Dhoire river tumbling down the glen and this makes a handy spot to fill up on water.
|Looking down the other side to the valley of Allt Cam Bhealaich.||A crescent moon hovers above the curved profile of Meall na Teanga to the right.||Looking back down Cam Bealach towards Loch Lochy and the other side of the Great Glen.|
Despite Alan's protestations that it would be a fun challenge to proceed straight to the summit of Meall na Teanga and pitch our tent there, we made camp at the valley watershed in the ice-crusted grass, after a thorough hunt in the twillight for a non-boggy, flat area, which was not entirely successful. It was to be an uncomfortable night as we were permanently slouched downhill into the lower part of the tent. We were further perturbed to realise that it would be 14 hours until daylight again, and we groaned that we would have to try and sleep the time off! However, the spot looked upwards onto the kind of view that brings to mind scenes from a fantasy novel; the curved ridge-like profile of Meall na Teanga illuminated in the dark blue sky by the cresent moon above.
|A triumphant star shape at the top of the valley - we're here!||Our tent perched at the watershed at the top of Cam Bealach, looking over towards the other side.||Frosted zips are difficult to open in the morning!|
Being adept sleepers, we pretty much managed to adapt to the "hardship" of excess sleeping, rising at about 8am, to find the tent zips frozen closed!
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