One of Two Will Do: Miserable Weather in the Great Glen

As part of any trip away, Sarah and I always like to try and fit in a hill walk. In fairness, we’ve been extremely lucky with the weather on almost all of our trips so far and have normally managed at least one day in the hills. We were spending a few days in Fort William in March and although not the worst weather ever, it wasn’t particularly favourable for hill walking. We opted to give some hills a go anyway and since they were isolated from any other big hills, settled on the Lochy Munros from Laggan Locks.

[Mar ’22]

Our day started with a fantastic breakfast in our hotel in Fort William followed by a pit-stop in Morrison’s for a meal deal and then a short drive along the A82 towards Laggan Locks. Rather than park along the long single-track road as per the Walkhighlands route description, I decided instead to leave the car at the large car park at the Locks themselves, which meant another kilometre or so each way on our walk, but less distance in the car and – more importantly – fewer narrow roads and potholes!

Boots (and waterproofs unfortunately) on and we were on our way along the single-track road towards Kilfinnan. We’d set off in the rain, but the weather was already looking like it was going to improve. This spurred us on and we made good progress down the forest track, making sure we took the correct branch at the fork where the route leaves the Great Glen Way.

Loch Lochy
Easy going through the forest

3 miles later, we reached the start of the hill path up into Cam Bhealach. The going was pretty steep at first through and out of the trees, but the clear path made matters simple enough. We soon reached the tree-line and continued towards the bealach, stopping now and again to admire the views back down towards Loch Lochy. The weather had actually been pretty good and the rain had subsided completely. There were even some spots of sunshine through the high clouds above. We were hopeful that things would clear – would we perhaps even get views from the summit?!

Path to the bealach
Approaching the bealach

We reached the high point of the bealach where paths head up both Munros on the route, opting first to tackle the slightly taller Sron a’Choire Gharibh. A series of zig-zags and a well constructed path made life easy for us, but as we climbed higher the wind picked up and the cloud seemed to be returning at a rate of knots. With it, naturally, came some absolutely freezing rain. We plodded on, crossing a couple of compacted snow patches. The gradient wasn’t too steep, but it would definitely have been a crampon job if there had been more of a slope. By now, Sarah wasn’t enjoying herself as much as she normally does in the hills (freezing rain and a stiff breeze can do that to you!) so we pressed on quickly towards the summit, touching the cairn and retreating as quickly as we could back down the zig-zags to the bealach.

The rain and wind were both increasing, so rather than head up Meall na Teanga (which, through the clouds, looked to have a couple of sections where crampons were a must), I decided that we should call it a day and head back to the car. Had I been on my own, I’d have probably persisted with the rubbish conditions, but if Sarah has helped me to remember anything over our years of walking together it’s that the views are normally worth it, so we can always come back!

We headed down the bealach path once again and shortly before the tree-line we managed to find a sheltered spot to have lunch. Sarah was a bit frustrated that the weather had forced us back down the hill rather than ticking off the now very isolated Meall na Teanga, but I’m glad I made the call for us to leave it for another day. Oh well, another excuse for a wee trip to the Highlands. What a shame…!

Heading back towards Loch Lochy

Feeling much better after a good feed, we headed through the trees and quickly joined the track through the forest, plodding our way back to the car at Laggan Locks. Despite the weather we’d been pretty quick throughout our walk, managing the 12.5 miles in under 6 hours. The extra hill would probably only have added an hour or so to our total if the weather had been good, but it could have been more in the poor weather and we could have ended up very cold and very miserable if we’d had to stop and get crampons on and off.

We got back to the car rather soggy and piled all of the wet kit back into the car, getting excited about the dinner we had booked for later that evening. I also had just enough time to work out how we’d get some of the wet gear dried in a relatively small hotel room, a logistical feat that isn’t as easy as one might think!

Overall, this was a slightly frustrating walk with very mixed weather and one less Munro than we’d hoped. But it’ll be even more satisfying the next time we’re back this way when we finally manage to tackle Meall na Teanga!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s