Meall Dearg and Garbh Bheinn

The waypoints are taken from my SPOT GPS transmitter

I climbed this Munro and Corbett in May 2012 in what can only be called a mini heatwave. The week before there had been snow over many of the Munros and I'd been expecting that I would probably be limited to climbing some of the lower hills such as Garbh Bheinn. This had led me to investigate the possible routes up this hill, one of which is from the West Highland Way south east of Kinlochleven. In the event the weather improved dramatically and instead of having to wear my Microspikes and winter gear I ended up with slight sunburn and walking in shirt sleeves all week!

Have decided that a possible route up Garbh Bheinn would be from the reservoir at NN 195602, it struck me that this could also be an interesting approach to Meall Dearg (the central Munro on the Aonach Eagach ridge). I'd planned to tackle this hill by taking the bus to the Caolasnacon caravan park and walking up Gleann a'Chaolais. I'd already confirmed with the bus driver that the Fort William to Kinlochleven bus would stop and pick up there, but the lure of the easy height gain on the West Highland Way convinced me that this would be a better option.

So the plan now was to walk up to the reservoir and then along by the Feith Nan Lab stream to the coll between Garbh Bheinn and Meall Dearg and then climb the north east ridge to the summit of Meall Dearg. At the back of my mind was the possibility of also climbing Garbh Bheinn from the coll on the return.

The day's walk started at the West Highland Way signpost in Kinlochleven...

.....and along the river bank...

....and then onto the hydro road by the side of the HEP pipes.

There was considerable leakage from some of the pipe joints, as can be seen in this photograph.

The WHW path follows the old military road until...

...there is a branch to the right just before the reservoir...

.....dam and a faint path then leads...

.....up the glen above the stream. The path is intermittent and faint but...

......eventually the stream and path come together near this cascade....

....and, just beyond, the coll I was aiming for came into view...

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......with Meall Dearg on the right and Grabh Bheinn's slopes to the right of the enormous corrie at the head of the glen. 

Click on the photo for a larger image.

Over to the south of the corrie is the eastern end of the Aonach Eagach ridge with Am Bodach on the left.

After crossing the floor of the corrie there's a pull up to the coll....

.....where a line of fence poles is met. This then turns at right angles and goes straight up the ridge to the summit of Meall Dearg.

Looking back to the coll with Grabh Bheinn's cliffs above...

.....and one of the small lochans at the coll.

The fence poles march on up the ridge with the odd traces of a path in places.

A glance backwards reveals Loch Leven far below down Gleann a'Chaolais. This is the more usual route up from this side of the hill but I can't help but feel that my route was better.

Most accounts of walks up Meall Dearg mention this dramatic outcrop of red rock.

Eventually, the grass ridge turns stony and care is needed clambering over boulders in places.

Further up conditions improve as the summit dome comes into sight.

There are dramatic views along the Aonach Eagach ridge to the west with Stob Coire Leith beyond the pinacles and the round summit of the Munro at the western end of the ridge, Sgorr nam Finnaidh, visible beyond.

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Over to the eastern end of  the ridge is Am Bodach - quite why this isn't a separate Munro puzzles me!

Click on the image for a large view.

The summit cairn of Meall Dearg....

.....sits just above this spectacular drop into Glen Coe,

A brief walk towards the Aonach Eagach ridge showed that this is certainly no walk for me - magnificent and terrifying - despite what the "hard guys" sitting at the cairn told me. "Oh! it's not really that difficult." Then they casually mentioned they'd tied themselves together with a rope....

Across the glen is Bidean nam Bian, still with a lot of snow on it.

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Click on the photograph to see the full size image of the panorama over the Mamores to Ben Nevis.

Walking back down the ridge a possible route up Beinn Garbh was obvious - traversing right across the hillside from the coll to the low point on the hill's long ridge and the doubling back to the left to the summit.

On the way back down the ridge there's another small lochan and that dramatic red outcrop..

....which looks even stranger from this angle.

Down at the coll I could see where I need to aim for across the hillside below the scree slopes.

There are numerous deer tracks along the hillside which help gain some height...

......but there's no denying that walking along a slope as steep as this is hard work. This is the view back towards Meall Dearg.

Eventually the steepness of the climb slackens and...

....the broad ridge of Beinn Garbh can be seen.

Once up on the ridge it's an easy walk, although the wind was surprisingly strong...

.....but soon enough the summit cairn came into view.

There are several cairns so I made sure to visit each one.

The view from the western end reveals the Pap of Glencoe in the centre, Loch Leven to its right and Loch Linnhe beyond.

The return to the West Highland Way was down the long ridge. Loch Eilde Mor can be seen on the left and the Blackwater reservoir on the right.

Halfway down the ridge there's a small lochan...

.....and a fence and dyke which I followed to the summit at the eastern end of the ridge.

There's no path down into the glen so it was a case of...

.....heading down the slopes avoiding the craggy section.

The descent was enlivened by two deer, one of which stood and stared at me for some time.

The easy ridge descent comes to a somewhat sudden end at some crags, but there are plenty of ways down into the glen... the streams leading down to the Feith nan Lab.

Having rejoined the outward route near the waterfall.. was simply a case of following the stream back to the West Highland Way and Kinlochleven.

The walk had taken from 09:15 to 18:30 including several quite long breaks to admire the views.

112 Munros and 12 Corbetts are now ticked off.