a meander on meall dubh and an affront to the senses

Thu, Aug 25, 2011

In which I ascend through bog and swamp and fall backwards amid exclamations of disbelief. This is what Victorian language was invented for but more of that anon.

I must say, the Corbetts give good value for money. Whereas your average Munro has a path the size of a B road up it and is infested with all types, from Philosophical Stravaigers (ahem, me!) to gear obsessed GPS-heads, Cairn Tappers and Compleationists with their accompanying throng, the Corbetts are wondering what all the fuss is. Standing well back from the road network and mostly pathless, they make you work for your summit. Of course I knew this already, not being a proper bagger and all that but it’s refreshing to explore out of the way places and to that end, I parked at the dam on Loch Loyne and made my way through a veritable swamp beside the Allt Garbh-Dhoire towards more open moorland.

I say swamp and it was but after half a klick you’re out of it and following the burn up through the delightful “doire” of the burn’s name. At the first burn on the left I made the tricky crossing and headed uphill towards Clach Criche, a very pleasant amble on soft ground up to 674m. It was from Clach Criche that my falling over backwards moment occurred as the ground falls away into a complex area of hillocks, tops and lochans, leading one’s confused eye towards the rising slopes of Meall Dubh 2km away but what really affronts one’s senses is the appalling sight of a wind farm on the side of the hill.

Meall Dubh from Clach Criche

Egads, gadzooks and blast my borehole why don’t you? Such an affront to decent stravaiging was never before seen in such a wild and beautiful place.

I’d never seen anything like it before. I was expecting fairly remote and rough ground but the sight of flailing turbines grounded my electric circuit and brought me down to earth with a decidedly urban thump. Where had the wildness gone? In the blink of an eye something had gone from the day. Nearer the summit, where the turbines disappeared behind the ridge, it looked for all the world like they were eating into the hillside, grinding their way across the landscape, dragging down the rocks and pounding them into cash to line the pockets of publicly subsidised power companies. It got my dander up and no mistake about it!

Windfarm on Meall Dubh

However, after 10mins the clag came down to 650m and everything disappeared and I made my way across to Carn Tarsuinn and down to the bealach, where I took a bearing for the lochan below the summit, then another one to the summit as the viz had deteriorated to 50m and it’s fairly featureless and flattish up there. A wild wind blew cold rain across the plateau where I huddled behind the enormous cairn although I believe the actual summit is the rickle of stones just south of the cairn, so I nipped across to check it out.

The big cairn on Meall Dubh

Me on the summit of Meall Dubh

I had thoughts of going back over Beinn an Eoin and tramping the road back to the car but the weather was awful and I fancied some navigation practice on the way back across the lochans so another bearing took me back to the high lochan and another took me down out of the clag to the bealach. I was pleased to note my route was spot on when I popped out of the clouds. It seemed a shame to waste all that complicated ground so I just kept navigating over Carn Tarsuinn and a selection of lochans and knolls all the way back to Clach Criche. I actually paced out the entire route from Meall Dubh back to Clach Criche in various sections to update my pace length but that’s the only way you can learn to navigate. Plus when it’s clear you can see whether your bearings are good or bad and you can take note of what features knock you off route. In fact it’s interesting to have a wander around bends in a burn as you’ll find that sometimes the smaller bends are left off the map and what seems like a straight 20m stretch of burn between two bends is actually much more twisty and bendy within those map smoothed 20m. Handy to keep that at the back of your mind when navigating for real.

Looking west towards the Glen Shiel hills from Meall Dubh

It was a cold grey day so I stuck to black and white photos but they came out a bit too dark I think. Nevertheless a grand day out indeed despite the grim intrusion of the urban mob.

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