Area: Glen Lyon to Glen Dochart and Loch Tay
Munros: An Stuc, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Meall Garbh (Ben Lawers), Meall Greigh
Date walked: 13/06/2009
Time taken: 6 hours
Distance: Walk 15 km
Distance: Bike 10km
The Ben Lawers range are a group of high hills East of Loch Tay. They can be bagged in multiple trips but its not too difficult to walk the ridge in one day covering Five Munro’s with a car at either end. Alternatively a bike can be used to get back to the car and other more hardy souls run around this group adding the two Western Munros, Meall Corranaich and Meall a Choire Leath, to the round.
I had been watching the weather reports for the end of the week and it didn’t look to good. On Friday night there was a weather front coming in over Perthshire. The weather on Friday night was blazing sunshine but there was rain forecast for the Lawers range between 6am and 9am on Saturday and showers forecast during the day. I have to admit that I often think the weather forecasters err on the negative side of things and with that in mind I decided to head of up to Loch Tay at 6.30am on Saturday morning. It rained on the way up but when I got to my destination at 8:10am there was only a slight drizzle.
My destination was the Cairn at the end of Lachan na Lairige. This is the reservoir to the north of the visitor centre, ( the visitors centre is deceased, bulldozed, gone.), about two miles further up the road. I had taken a bike with me so that I could cycle to the Lawers hotel from where I would start my walk. The reason I came so far up the road was that I was looking at the possibility of completing all 7 Munros which would lead to a finish at this cairn. If due to unforeseen circumstances I could only complete 1, 3 or 5 Munros then that would be ok so I was keeping an open mind about how many Munro’s I would bag today.
Ok, so kit on, backpack, gps, map + compass, on my bike and away. It was a steep 4 miles downhill and then 4 and a half miles along the road to the hotel. The drizzle had soaked my front and the back wheel had soaked my Backend lol but this amount of water never hurt anyone at least not in these warm weather conditions anyway.
So after reaching the hotel I parked the bike and off I went. Walking along the road for a couple of hundred metres then take a left onto the track. It’s pretty much straight up through the trees. The track is pretty small and the vegetation is growing fast at this time of year so it may be over grown in the not too distant future. After approximately one kilometre I emerge from the trees and continue following the track upwards. I caught sight of a couple of guys up ahead and continued on my way.
After another km or so the track sort of slowly disappears and there are a couple of options. You can head right and come around to the summit in a semi-circle or you can just go straight up. So I headed straight up the last km to the summit of Meall Greigh. About 100 metres from the summit I started to get cramp in my thighs.
I have suffered from cramp on a number of occasions in the hills and with such a short distance covered to this point my immediate thoughts are to return to the bike and go back to the car. The problem occurs when I fully straighten my legs, which completely shortens the front thigh muscle (Quad).
I continue ascending by leaning forward and taking shorter steps which seems to help so I decide to continue onto the summit of the first Munro to take stock. A short time later I arrive at the summit in the mist with poor visibility. I left the Hotel at 09:30 and arrived at the summit at 11:10. I have a good drink accompanied with a bag of salt and vinegar crisps. The guys I saw in front of me earlier arrive at the summit and we say hello. We have a chat and then I set off again.
My legs feel ok now. The route now descends for about 2km and then there is a steep uphill climb. I take it steady but near the top the cramp returns. It’s not bad enough to cause me too many problems andit’s easy enough now to get to the summit of Meal Garbh. One has to be careful here, from the cairn you have to go back 5 metres and then head off on the track to Anstuc. It would be quite easy in the thick mist to continue from the summit along what looks like a good path which probably takes you down to the Lochan. (I didn’t take a picture here but it would have been useful to explain). In clear weather you would not make this mistake.
I now head on to Anstuc, my legs feel ok and I am looking forward to the scramble up to the summit. The route descends 100 metres and then ascends 100 metres in the space of 1km approx. The downhill section is fairly steep but nothing to worry about and then you have the uphill section. Now this is meant to be a scramble but in truth with the amount of good tracks meandering upwards with good foot positions, even though it gets quite steep in places, I didn’t really feel much need for hands on scrambling. I soon arrive at the summit of Anstuc. My legs feel ok and I will be continuing on my journey. There was some cramp on the way up Anstuck but I think the salt from the crisps at the top of Maell Greigh has been absorbed into my system and I should be ok from now on.
It’s now 13:00 and time for lunch. I stop for 25 minutes, have a sandwich, plenty water, chocolate. raisons and salt and vinegar crisps. The two guys I met on the first summit arrive as I am leaving, they had stopped for their lunch at the bottom of the last climb. It’s now 70 metres descending a slope to the Bealach then 100 metres up to Creag an Fhithich over a distance about 1km. Then it’s a reasonable climb of 200 metres over about 2/3rds of a km to the summit of Ben Lawers. I arrive at Ben Lawers at 14:15.
There are now a lot more walkers around. Two young guys in running gear come past from the direction I have come from. They are doing all 7 of the Munros today and are going at a good pace.
There are great views from the summit and its very busy. The mist is clearing and the sun is coming out. Ben Lawers is easily accessed from the Killin side either including or traversing around Beinn Ghlas so it is a popular hill in all weathers. Its now a fairly steep downhill descent for 100 metres then a relatively easy walk to the top of Beinn Ghlas and I arrive there at 14:50. I decide that, due to the cramp and the fact I am tired, I will not be adding the 6th and 7th Munro’s today.
So I leave the summit and head down to the visitors centre (now gone). Its about 3km back to the visitors centre. I am not impressed with the path. Its HUGE!!!!. Someone has been up here doing crazy paving and although it might help the upward climb it certainly did not do my thighs any good on the descent lol. The visitors centre never seems to get any closer then all of a sudden I am there.
I am very pleased with this walk. I started in the wet and rain and finished in the blazing sunshine. Five Munro’s in a time of 6hr 20mins over a distance of 16.2km isn’t too bad and it’s my biggest walk to date. The two guys I met on the first summit kindly gave me a lift back to my car at the Cairn. I then head home after picking up my bike from the hotel.