To the west of Ben Lawers [# 76 & 77]

Meall Corranaich (1069m); Meall a’ Choire Leith (926m)

  • Pronunciation:              Miaowl Korraneech; Miaowluh Horrer Leer
  • Translation:                   Hill of the Sickle; Hill of the Grey Corrie
  • Total distance:              12.8km
  • Total time:                     4hrs 45mins
  • Total ascent:                  815m
  • Weather:                        Mixed. Mainly bright with some broken sunshine. Quite windy on the summits with noticeable wind-chill. Misty in places.
  • Start / end location:   Midway along the east side of Lochan na Lairige on the minor road that passes to the west of the Lawers mountain range – note that this road is only suitable for cars. The road was blocked by snow just beyond the end of the lochan (reservoir)  [OS Map Sheet 51 – Grid Ref: NN 598 406]
  • 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 back to the Lochan na Lairige dam from the snow-blocked road

This morning we left the Forest Holidays Campsite at Ardgartan on Loch Long early and headed back up the A82 to Crianlarich where we turned right onto the A85 towards Callander. Just before we reached the turning for Killin (A827) we parked the ‘van at a spot suitable for wild-camping and then continued our journey by car through Killin and on towards the Ben Lawers group of mountains.

Mid-March and the road remains blocked by heavy snow

A few miles beyond Killin, and on the north shores of Loch Tay, we turned left at Edramucky to follow the very minor road northwards that skirts around the west side of the Lawers group and on into Glen Lyon. At this start of this minor road users are warned that it is unsuitable for coaches, lorries and caravans – we assumed also motorhomes.

The road passes initially through a heavily forested area making it quite dark, before it bursts out of the tree-line and into the bright open hillside. It continues north / northwestward passing on the right the Ben Lawers National Trust for Scotland (NTS) car-park and information point and then on the left the Lochan na Lairige dam (reservoir) before finally reaching its high point of 550m. From here it then dropped down into the head of Glen Lyon.

Cameron makes a new friend at the summit of Meall Corranaich

[The Ben Lawers range (five Munros) as well as Meall nan Tarmachan, Meall Corranaich and Meall a’ Choire Leith (all Munros) is owned and managed by the NTS. For almost four decades the NTS had operated a Visitors Centre high up in the glen: this is marked on the OS maps. However, it was demolished in October 2010 as part of a cost cutting exercise by the NTS.]

Not long after we exited the forested area the already narrow road was made almost impossibly tight due to the thick snow having been recently ploughed to the edges into concrete hard piles. It was barely wide enough for a single car to drive along – let alone for two cars to pass one another. At one point, Elaine, who was driving, met another car coming back down the glen. The problem was that although the road had been ploughed the debris tended to build up in the passing places so Elaine was forced to reverse back down the very narrow road for some distance before she could dare to leave the security of the tarmac for the thick snow covered verge. The chap in the other car was very grateful and mentioned that the whole road was blocked with snow just beyond the north of the lochan (reservoir). This blockage was about 1km in front of our hoped-for parking spot and intended start point for our climb.

Heading towards Meall a' Choire Leith

Nonetheless, we pressed on to see how close we could get to where the road was blocked and more importantly whether there was somewhere suitable to park. Once we arrived at the blockage we managed to get the car turned and found a small pull-off along the verge that wasn’t too deeply snow-covered. We could now think about the start of our walk.

After kitting up we walked back along the road and crossed the snow blockage left by the plough and on up the snow covered road until we were in line with a prominent cairn perched on the nearby hillside. At this point we left the snow covered road for the even thicker snow covered hills and first headed NNE for 300m before swinging ESE and over a low rise. Beyond this rise we turned south before dipping a few tens of metres and picking up the bottom of a broad ridge heading ESE. We carried on climbing ESE and soon caught up on two chaps and a young boy making slow progress up the ridge. I think they were very grateful that we’d caught them up so that we could move in front and break trail for them through the deep and increasingly heavy snow (brought on by the onset of a thaw).

Elaine at the summit of Meall a' Choire Leith

Despite the heavy conditions we soon reached the top of the ridge, which intersected with a ridge running NE that was formed from the back-wall of Coire Odhar. From our vantage point we spotted a pair of peregrine falcons gracefully soaring on stiff wings. We also saw two ladies far below us ascending on touring skis.

We turned along the NE ridge and after a short steeper climb reached the summit of Meall Corranaich at 1069m or 3,507’. Just below the summit we saw another ski mountaineer looking like he was choosing the most favourable route of descent, whilst at the summit cairn we bumped into two other ski tourers removing the skins from their skis in preparation for their descent. [Skins are synthetic strips of fabric that get temporarily attached along the length of your skis to allow you to ski uphill. It is a sort of directional fabric that allows the skis to slide forward but inhibits (resists) the skis from sliding backwards.]

The two chaps on the summit had a little dog with them that was kitted out in a rather fetching navy and red overcoat. Because the chaps were focused on preparing their skis for the descent and not on their dog, the dog was more than happy to receive attention from Elaine and I and to pose at the summit cairn for a photograph.

Looking towards Meall nan Tarmachan from the slopes of Meall a' Choire Leith

We set off northward for our next Munro at the same time as the two skiers, but soon parted company as they headed down along the broad NW ridge towards Coire Gorm and we tended slightly more NNE to pick up the ridge above Coire Liath. Once on this ridge we followed it down to the col below the south ridge of Meall a’ Choire Leith where we then climbed steadily up to the summit at 926m or 3,038’.

After a quick photograph, as the wind had increased along with associated wind-chill, we plunged our way very rapidly down the deep snow covered slopes on the SW face until we crossed an upper tributary of the Allt Gleann D-Eig burn. Once across the burn we contoured around the flank of the ridge to the south of Coire Gorm and made our way to a small dam across the primary stage of the aforementioned burn. Just below the dam we crossed the burn and climbed over the brow of a hill to then drop down to the cairn that was the starting point of our walk. A short return walk along the road brought us back to the car, and after 2.5km drive down to the NTS car-park , we enjoyed a flask of tea and slice of homemade cake.

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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