The walk Per­fec­tion de­fined in moun­tain splen­dour

The Herald Magazine - - etc OUTDOORS -


Lo­ca­tion: Lochaber Grade: Moun­tain walk Dis­tance: 8 miles/13km Time: 6-7 hours

While many would sug­gest win­ter is Scot­land’s best hill­walk­ing sea­son, my pref­er­ence would be spring or au­tumn. The prom­ise of spring tends to be in your heart, up­lifted by the thought of the sum­mer ahead, but the beauty of au­tumn is more im­me­di­ate and on a good day lies all around you in golden splen­dour.

Stob Coire Sgri­o­dain (976m/3,202ft) and Chno Dearg (1,047m/3435ft), the two Fer­sit hills be­yond Loch Treig, cer­tainly make a mar­vel­lous early win­ter round.

The cir­cuit of the pair also makes a fairly easy day out, although many Munro-bag­gers are happy to lengthen it by adding nearby Beinn na Lap. While it’s great to get the ex­tra Munro it does add a big de­scent from the sub­sidiary top of Meall Garbh. That’s fol­lowed by a long climb of nearly 500m to the sum­mit of Beinn na Lap be­fore turn­ing round and re­peat­ing it all over again. Al­ter­na­tively, you could drop down to Cor­rour sta­tion from Beinn na Lap and re­turn to Tul­loch by train.

I first vis­ited Fer­sit many years ago with Hamish Brown. We had planned a day on the tops but dread­ful weather forced us into low-level sloth. We thought that af­ter­noon tea with the late Nancy Smith at Fer­sit would round off a pleas­ant, if wet and windy, day but Nancy wasn’t in, although a note pinned to the door in­vited vis­i­tors to come in and make them­selves at home. Fer­sit, in those days, was one of Scot­land’s early pri­vate hos­tels, a role model for those to come. To­day the bunkhouse at nearby Tul­loch is al­to­gether grander, but equally wel­com­ing.

The road-end at Fer­sit is the log­i­cal start­ing point for the round of Stob Coire Sgri­o­dain. Once past the last of the houses, the track gives way to rough pas­tures which in turn run into the lower slopes of Coire an Lochain. Sev­eral burns tum­ble down­hill from the cor­rie and you can fol­low any of them be­cause they all even­tu­ally form one stream, the Allt Chao­rach Beag, that be­gins its life high be­low the crags of Sron na Garbh-bheinne in Lochan Coire an Lochain.

The first time I climbed these Mun­ros ev­ery­thing was cov­ered in snow and the steep, craggy face of Sron na Garbh-bheinne looked fairly in­tim­i­dat­ing. In­stead I opted to by­pass the crags and tackle what I thought would be the eas­ier east­ern slopes of the ridge. I even­tu­ally found a wide, snow-filled gully and even to­day I

can ner­vously re­call the trep­i­da­tion I ex­pe­ri­enced as the slope got steeper and steeper.

When I even­tu­ally reached the rel­a­tive safety of the ridge the ex­hil­a­ra­tion I felt was made even sweeter by re­lief but the sus­tain­ing and most re­ward­ing emo­tion was even greater – a sense of priv­i­lege at be­ing part of that mag­nif­i­cent scene.

Be­yond Sron na Garbh-bheinne the ridge led me to the sum­mit of

The ridge dropped down to a high

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