THERE was a minor brouhaha once when a member of the Munro Society suggested many of its members were fakes. A retired chemistry professor from Dundee claimed only a minority of hillwalkers had actually climbed all the Munros under their own steam. “These are people who have led or soloed all the Cuillin tops. Being dragged 80ft up the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye, then lowered off by a professional guide or a friendly rock climber, surely doesn’t count as a genuine ascent,” he said.
I was chewing these thoughts over as I dropped on to the fine connecting rib between Creise and Meall a’ Bhuiridh, the two Munros that form part of the dramatic western wall that fringes Rannoch Moor. I was thinking how silly such an attitude was. My own first ascent of the In Pinn, as a youth, was on the end of someone else’s rope, and nobody would have convinced me then that I was a fake. I’ve since taken numerous people up the In Pinn and wouldn’t for a moment consider their ascent was anything other than genuine.
By coincidence I happened to meet a couple of Munro-baggers on the Meall a’ Bhuiridh ridge. They had just taken the chairlift to near the summit (3635ft/1108m). From there they were heading for Creise to bag the Munro. It was on the tip of my tongue to question their use of the chairlift, but I stopped myself. They were enjoying their day out, they were appreciative of the surroundings and, as far as they were concerned, the use of the chairlift was legitimate.
Our conversation made me realise there is no such thing as a genuine ascent. I make frequent use of the Cairn Gorm car park at 2500ft, or the Ben Lawers high-level car park. Is that cheating? Climbers on Everest fly in to Lukla, at a height of 12,000ft. The only “genuine” ascent of Everest I could think of was Phil and Pauline Sanderson’s expedition in 2006 when they and some friends cycled to Nepal from the lowest point on Earth, beside the Dead Sea in Jordan, then climbed the highest mountain in the world. But did the fact they cycled from Jordan to Nepal negate any claim for a genuine ascent?
Of course not – it’s all silly speculation and the important thing about mountains is in the being there, not how many peaks you can bag. And here was I, seriously considering all this nonsense, in one of the most spectacular settings in the land.
If you gaze across at Creise and Meall a’ Bhuiridh from the Black Corries on the edge of Rannoch Moor, you’ll see one of the finest mountain panoramas in Scotland, together with the deep defile of Glen Etive and the familiar shape of Buachaille Etive Mor. Creise itself, at 3609ft/1100m, is a steep-sided hill that offers superlative scrambling up the steep north nose of Sron na Creise. The rocky ribs that spill down eastwards into the Cam Gleann provide an easier way to the top, although there is good scrambling here too.
That had been my route to the summit ridge. I’d started at Blackrock Cottage, the Scottish Ladies Climbing Club hut on the road that leads to the White Corries ski area. I’d crossed the boggy heather moorland around the north slopes of Creag Dhubh to the mouth of the Cam Ghleann to reach the rocky slopes of Sron na Creise. Contouring west to avoid the rocky difficulties I’d enjoyed easy scrambling up the steep, rocky ribs that spill down from Stob a’ Ghlais Choire, the start of a long and scenic ridge that eventually terminates at Stob Ghabhar in the south.
Less than a kilometre from Stob a’ Ghlais Choire lay the summit of Creise, beyond which the flat top of Mam Coire Easain gave way to a stony rib which descends to a high bealach which, in turn, leads to Meall a’ Bhuiridh. It’s an easy climb to the summit of Meall a’ Bhuiridh with a straightforward descent to Blackrock Cottage by way of the ski grounds. And of course at the weekends you have the option of an easier descent – by the chairlift. But that would be cheating. Or would it?
Once out of the boggy moorland of Creag Dubh the slopes of Creise (3609ft/1100m) offer excellent opportunities for scrambling