Ardverikie Estate – Monarch of the Glen country

Beinn a’ Chlachair (1087m);
Geal Charn (1049m); and
Creag Pitridh (924m)

  • Pronunciation:             Bine uh Chlachear; Geeya Charn; Krayk Peetree
  • Translation:                  Stonemason’s Hill; Pale (or White) Hill; Petrie’s Crag
  • Total distance:              27.1km
  • Total time:                    6hrs 57mins
  • Total ascent:                 1307m
  • Weather:                       Started overcast with a few light snow showers. Blustery wind over summit ridges. Improved throughout the day – by early afternoon broken sunshine with lighter winds. Starting to feel warmer in the sunshine.
  • Start / end location:   Large lay-by on A86 by estate bridge over the River Spean midway between the SW end of Loch Laggan and NE end of Laggan Reservoir.  [OS Map Sheet 42 – Grid Ref: NN 433 831]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

The summit cairn of Creag Pitridh

Lochan Na H-Earba with Ardverikie Wall to the left

These three Munros are actually quite secretive, being tucked away some distance to the SE of the Spean Bridge to Newtonmore main-road, with Geal Charn and Creag Pitridh particularly well protected and hidden behind the steep-sided hill of Binnein Shuas. The area containing the three Munros belongs to the Arverikie Estate, made famous as it contains the estate house that was used as “Glenbogle House” in the BBC television series “Monarch of the Glen”.

Our route today began at the lay-by on the A86 between Loch Laggan and the Laggan Reservoir, with our aim being to use our mountain bikes to take us about 5-6km along the Ardverikie Estate land-rover tracks towards our goal.

The summit cairn of Beinn a Chlachair

Our cycle began with us crossing the River Spean via the estate bridge and following the track passing Luiblea (houses) on their north side before first swinging round to the SSE for 1km and then back east for another 500m. This took us to the junction where the left hand track followed the south side of Loch Laggan and the right fork, which we took, climbed slowly towards, and then passed, a small, unnamed lochan before continuing towards Lochan Na H-Earba. This lochan runs parallel to Loch Laggan but sits hidden behind Binnein Shuas and Binnein Shois. [Aside: Binnean Shuas has a very craggy top to it and on the SE face, which overlooks Lochan Na H-Earba, is situated a well-known “classic” rock climb called “Ardverikie Wall”: a four pitch “severe” graded route.]

Heading towards Geal Charn

On the summit of Geal Charn

At the SW corner of the Lochan we locked our bikes together and left them lying in the heather before picking up the walkers’ path heading SW for a few hundred metres before veering ESE to follow the course of the Allt Coire-Pitridh. At the 620m contour we left the path and headed due south to climb steeply towards the NW ridge that forms the NE wall of Coire Mor Chlachair. At around 800m we entered into the mist that was shrouding all of the high peaks – as has been typical for the last few weeks! We soon reached easier ground that sloped more gently towards the summit of Beinn a’ Chlachair, which lay towards the SW at a height of 1087m or 3,566’. By this time a stiff breeze brought considerable wind-chill, but did begin to blow away the mist and we soon started to enjoy longer views.

After a quick photo “beside the summit cairn” we turned NE and followed the broad ridge passed spot height 977m (marked on the map) and then dropped steeply to the bealach above Loch a’ Bhealaich Leamhain, avoiding the crags by veering slightly to the northern side.

Elaine on the summit of Creag Pitridh

The snow on this part of the descent was hard névé and so we donned our crampons to see us safely down. From the bealach we followed the stalker’s path back toward Allt Coire Pitridh for 250m and then took to the path northward that headed towards the col between Creag Pitridh and Geal Charn. At around a height of 810m we left the path and veered ENE up a broad ridge right to the top of our second Munro, Geal Charn at 1049m or 3,442’. During this ascent the weather began to brighten with the mist clearing fully to reveal broken cloud and sunny periods.

Looking back to Beinn a Chlachair

From the summit of Geal Charn we retraced our steps back for 500m before following a course west to intersect the path that passes between Geal Charn and Creag Pitridh, avoiding a little group of steep crags on the descent. From the col we continued NW directly up to the summit of our third Munro, Creag Pitridh at 924m or 3,031’. By this time the weather had really improved and was quite sunny and warm in the shelter from the wind. This summit offered a terrific vantage point to see the expanse of Ardverikie Wall and beyond to the Creag Meagaidh massif.

We descended from the summit by following a broad ridge WSW, which skirted a series of major crags before dropping back down to the stalker’s path beside the Allt Coire Pitridh. Once we rejoined this path, which we used earlier in the day, it only took a short time to return to our bikes, still lying safely where we left them in the heather. The cycle back to the main road was exhilarating as it was downhill because all of the hard work was done earlier in the day.

All told this was a great day’s walking in a superb location, and despite it being the weekend we only saw two other pairs of climbers in Monarch of the Glen country.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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