An easier ascent was very welcome [# 80]

Meall Ghaordaidh (1039m)

  • Pronunciation:              Miaowl Gurday
  • Translation:                  Hill of the Shoulder
  • Total distance:              9.8km
  • Total time:                     3hrs 31mins
  • Total ascent:                 907m
  • Weather:                        Extremely windy. Bright and dry with cloud levels generally just above the summits. Warm on the lower slopes, but bitter cold in the wind above 700m elevation.
  • Start / end location:   At a tiny lay-by by the side of the single track road just beyond a small bridge near Duncroisk in Glen Lochay (WNW of Killin). [OS Map Sheet 51 – Grid Ref: NN 526 364]
  • 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.

    Looking west towards Loch Lyon from the summit of Meall Ghaordaidh

Today we travelled up the very beautiful Glen Lochay (out of the village of Killin) to climb Meall Ghaordaidh This was the shorter route that we had originally proposed doing yesterday – just 10km long and only 3hrs 30mins.

The snow that had been completely covering the hills for the last week or so had, today, thawed quite noticeably, with the glens, such as Lochay, as well as the lower slopes of the surrounding hills “all at once” having taken on the hues of spring.

Looking up towards the summit of Meall Ghaordaidh from near the bottom of the SE ridge

We parked up at a little lay-by just beyond Duncroisk and walked a couple of hundred metres back “down the glen” until a metal gate on the left, sign-posted for the start of the ascent of Meall Ghaordaidh, shepherded us northeastward along the course of the Allt Dhùin Croisg burn. We followed a tractor path through the fields until it reached a gate in a high dry-stone wall (locked but with a convenient stile nearby) and then continued to follow it on the other side. The tractor path climbed gently up beside a thin ribbon of trees that flanked either side of the burn.

Looking NE down Glen Lyon from the summit of Meall Ghaordaidh

Just before a series of sheilings were reached a single metal post could be seen on the lower flanks of the very broad SSW ridge extending down from Meall Ghaordaidh: a few tens of metres to the left of our position. Whether intentional or not, this post marked a convenient place for us to leave the tractor path and make for the open hillside. It was not without good reason that Meall Ghaordaidh translated into the “hill of the shoulder” because our ascent from the metal post took us directly up the SSW “shoulder” or very broad flank all the way to the summit.

It was a very straightforward ascent following the broad ridge, and up to a height of about 800m the ridge was really a very board grass and mossy flank – but never too wet underfoot. Above 700m the ridgeline flattened somewhat, but it was also at this point that the wind really picked up. It continued to increase rapidly in strength and buffeted us so much that we were forced to stand still many times and just brace ourselves so as not to lose our footing. The strong wind also caused Elaine’s eyes to stream (I don’t think it was the fear of being blown away!) so she put on my ski goggles, which helped enormously.

The last 240m of the ascent was a bit more interesting as the terrain steepened as we entered a rocky section, which we negotiated our way through. There were also a few steep snowfields to climb. The prevailing westerly wind by this point was now so strong that when we reached the upper-most snowfield, which took us to within a few tens of metres of the summit, we first had to traverse round a bit towards the east side before climbing it in order to gain a bit of shelter in the lee.

Buffeting winds at the Meall Ghaordaidh summit Trig Point

We soon reached the Trig Point on Meall Ghaordaidh’s summit at 1039m or 3,409’, which was surrounded by a circular arrangement of boulders offering some useful shelter from the biting gale force wind. The shelter was actually so effective that we stayed at the top for around 10 minutes before popping our heads above the parapet and facing the wind again as we made our descent.

The snow that we encountered was always on the soft side and because the slopes were reasonably steep we were able to slide down several of them on our backsides – always good fun it you avoid any immoveable obstacles in your path! At one point, a mountain hare dashed from cover and bounded effortlessly across our path and was gone in a matter of seconds. We did see it long enough, however, to notice that it was beginning to show signs of its coat slightly darkening into a mottled light grey colour: yet another sign of spring perhaps?

Inside the protection of the summit shelter on Meall Ghaordaidh

Below the snowfields the walking on the grassy slopes was very easy and before long we were climbing over the dry-stone wall and soon back at the car. It had indeed been an easy day, and if we had done this climb yesterday instead, Elaine would now, today, have been facing another four hours on the hills in order to climb Beinn DubhChraig and Ben Oss (yesterday’s pair). I’m not too sure if she saw the upside – if there actually was one!

Tomorrow, hopefully, we’ll get out again and climb two more Munros before taking a well earned couple of days rest – well that’s the plan anyway, but as ever, we’ll need to wait and see what the weather heralds.

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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