n early start to the day had me driving up the M90 at 5:45 for a 6:30 meet at Graham’s house. Unfortunately I took two wrong turnings and was late by 15 minutes. But by 7am we where all on board and heading up the A9 towards the Pass of Drumochter and our start location at the Dalnaspidal. We parked up near the level-crossing and set off down the side of Loch Garry towards our base for the two days, Duinish Bothy. We must of only walked 2km when I realised that my boots where beginning to rub the back of the heel on my right foot. I was wearing my winter boots (well Emma’s actually) because my three season boots where leaking water. I had used the boots for the duration of my winter mountain leader course the previous March with no issue so I was a little miffed to say the least. I took my boot off and my fears where confirmed, there was a huge ‘hot spot’ on my heel. I put a Compeed on and decided to double up on my socks and continued with the walk.
The path was good going along the loch side and then a little boggy as we passed underneath Meall Doire. When we approached Allt Shallainn it seemed deep and fast flowing so fording it was out of the question. We headed upstream a couple of hundred metres to a bridge and picked up a land rover track which took us direct to the bothy. We where really impressed with Duinish Bothy; two decent size rooms downstairs, a sleeping area upstairs and some really comfortable looking chairs. The fireplace was huge and there was a decent amount of wood left by the estate owners although we had carried in a fair amount of coal so we where ok in that department.
By the time we arrived at the bothy, both my feet were pretty sore and blisters where developing. I considered quitting and hiking back out but the guys would need a lift back the next day and the lure of the peaks was to strong. Drastic measures where required and a combination of two bandages, Compeed and some duct tape strapped up my feet enough to prevent any further significant damage.
We unloaded the coal and the other items from our packs and discussed our plans for the day. There was three Corbetts and a Graham within reasonable distance of the bothy although an ascent of Stob an Aonaich Mhor located on the side of Loch Ericht would involve some serious cross country trekking to get to and back to the bothy. We decided to hike up to the nearby Beinn Mholach and take it from there. The logical route seemed to be over the top of Creag nan Gabhar then follow the broad ridge to the top. Although the ground was rough we made decent progress up onto Creag nan Gabhar and then up towards the summit. Unfortunately, once we went through 600 metres we where in the cloud so the chances of any views looked slim.
Apparently, this Corbett is one of the least frequented although which is a shame because the huge cairn at the summit is worth a visit alone and I suspect that on clear day the views across Loch Rannoch towards Schiehallion would be impressive. We hung around for a while and in the hope of the cloud miraculously lifting but apart from the odd glimpse of the Loch it was to no avail. Heading back down from the top we managed to pick up a deer track that took a more direct route down the hill and by 3pm we where back in the bothy stoking the fire and settling down for the rest of the day.
There was a huge stash of wood and combined with our coal we managed to get the fire roaring in no time. It was a nice way to relax, sat in front of the fire with a dram of whisky and some ‘chillout’ tunes playing in the background. Our plans for the next was to set off early before daybreak and hike up onto the summit of Creag a’ Mhadaidh and arrive in time for sunrise. Even if the weather prevented us catching the sunrise, at the very least we would of made a decent start to the day especially as Creag a’ Mhadaidh was in the opposite direction to our destination.
By 9 o’clock we called it a day and set about getting an early night. There is a sleeping area upstairs but with the fire downstairs area nice and warm and no one else staying at the bothy, we decided to sleep there instead. We added the remaining coal and a couple of huge logs and then drifted to sleep. When the alarm went off at 5:15am the following day I was already half awake so it was no huge issue rising out of my toasty sleeping bag. By 6:20am we had eaten breakfast, packed our rucksacks (now significantly lighter because of the lack of coal) and tidied up.
We stepped outside and although it was still dark you could just see the moon through the misty sky. The cloud was quite high though, so there was a reasonable chance of a decent view from the summit of the first peak. We set off along the wide land-rover track that leads (eventually) to Loch Rannoch. With head torches illuminating the way ahead we made good progress towards the high point between Gualann Sheileach and Creag a’ Mhadaidh where we would head east up the fell side. Incidentally, Gualann Sheileach is also 612 metres in height but it’s neighbour was chosen as the Graham.
We headed east across the marshy ground that leads up to the west flank of the hill. I was expecting a boggy mire but the ground was nice and crispy so there was no issues with wet feet. By the time we started the climb, we where already at 500 metres so it was only another 112 metres to the summit. By the time we reached the cairn at the top it was light enough to dispense with the head torches and to be fair there was a decent view across Loch Errochty, even though it was cloudy.
By 7:45am we were heading north off the summit towards our second (and final) peak of the day. Meall na Leitreach is 5kms north, rising up from the side of Loch Garry. There was no path from Creag a’ Mhadaidh so it was going to have to be a cross country yomp. We decided to head north west until we hit the Allt Poll Dubh-ghlas and then follow this past a series of waterfalls pretty much to to the summit. We dropped down north west flank of Creag a’ Mhadaidh and across to the burn. The ground was wet underfoot and I was glad I had my gaitors on. Once we hit the burn we picked up a faint deer track and headed north. Progress was not fast but we were in no rush and it was an enjoyable walk.
Unfortunately a huge patch of cloud was stubbornly refusing to move from the top of Meall na Leitreach and as we hit the snow line we also hit the cloud. Kev was convinced the cloud was going to lift and for a moment it looked like his prediction was going to come true as the sun started forcing itself through. We waited hopefully but as soon as the sun came it disappeared so after a refueling on some snacks we headed off north east and picked up the land-rover track that would take us back down to Dalnaspidal Lodge.
Kev’s prediction did come true though and fifteen minutes later as we looked back, the cloud was starting to lift. It was to late now though and I doubt anyone fancied a trek back to the top so we continued down the path to Loch Garry. As the cloud gradually lifted there was good views to be had. We arrived back at the car by noon and at 2pm I was back home in Dunfermline. Great trip!