Up we got bright and early to head off. Well, not so much of the ‘bright’; the fog was still keeping us guessing.
We piled into the car anyway, and headed for Loch Tay for our first foray into Munro-bagging. The drive to Lawers Hotel (where we would start) was about two hours. It was a welcome sight when drab dual carriageway started to give way to something resembling mountainosity.
While I was still wondering how my boots would fare, since they were fresh on my feet that morning for the first time, the weather didn’t give us too much to complain about. By the time we got to Loch Tay we’d left most of the fog behind us. It was a bit hazy, but we set out walking into a great warm sunny morn.
We parked outside Lawers Hotel. Apparently you can park there for free if you buy refreshments there later. Sounds like a deal to me!
You don’t need to walk far down the road – just as far as the workshop of someone who specialises in “horn craft”. Such a profession, it must be said, gives bountiful scope for innuendo, and this didn’t go entirely unnoticed. Anyway, you pass the horn-artist’s [stop it!] studio, and turn left up through Machium Farm. The route’s well-marked from here, as you pass through the farm and up into a conifer plantation before getting out on the heathery hills.
We hadn’t built up a decent walking rhythm yet, and had to pause several times on the way through the trees to strip of various layers. The sun was quite toasty at this stage.
The first part of the ascent is a slightly steep ascent, so it doesn’t take that long before you reach a reasonable height and burst through the tree-line. Steve’s well-thumbed guide to walking the Munros suggested we turn right at the First Appreciable Burn. The appreciability (or lack thereof) of various burns gave us much food for philosophising as we made our way towards Meall Greigh.
As ever, Trig took the lead for a large part of the way with unstoppable enthusiasm and bounciness. Somehow I found myself in front, and looked back to see that the wee hill that had looked so high at first now looked like a dwarf. A fair bit of mist, but Loch Tay was still juuuuuust visible.
Glad to say that the emergency-bought boots held up well, and continued to do so right til the end. Ain’t modern boots amazing?
We reached the summit of Meall Greigh, and for five minutes came across the only other two human beings we’d seen all day. They seemed pleasantly surprised to learn that they were within spitting distance of a couple more Munros than they thought, and decided to add them on to their walk.
Apart from this brief encounter with other humans, it was amazing how silent the place was. There weren’t even that many deer, sheep or birds to be seen; the hills belonged to us and the bog plants. It was hard to imagine that somewhere below us was a world of motorways, express trains and people packed into fast food joints like sardines. A different planet.
After lunch (and a bit of a breather) we made our way on around the horseshoe and towards Meall Garbh. The sun was easing a bit by now, and a refreshing wind helped us to cool off a bit. There are three or four ups and downs along the way, but it would have been pretty hard to get lost. We got up Meall Garbh and stopped for a bit of a snack again. The view of An Stuc’s profile from the summit was beautiful.
At this point we had to have a pow-wow. Every one of us wanted to go on and climb An Stuc and further, but we all had a nagging voice in our heads about it. On top of which, M. had an old shoulder injury that was starting to play up, and I didn’t want to tax the new boots too much – the ascent of An Stuc is a fair bit tougher than the two summits we’d done so far. We were also keeping an eye on how much daylight we had left. Reluctantly, we saw sense and made our way along the valley. No point in false heroics!
We still had a fantastic walk – even if Steve, the real ‘bagger’ among us, sadly didn’t get to add a new peak to his list.
But listen. Remember that odd absence of animal life? Well, they must have heard rumours that we were coming down the valley and heading home. Because by the time we’d reached Lawers Burn again, all the deer had come out of hiding on the other side. 😀
It was a brilliant day. I felt the better for it all the following week. And I’m sure it won’t be the last day I’ll spend in the Scottish hills!