A Solo Trip to Remember (part 1): An Overnight in Lochaber

With a half decent spell of weather coming up, I was keen to capitalise on some annual leave that needed used up. With Sarah in Spain for the week, I decided on a few days of hill walking to catch the last of the winter and work my way towards my 100th Munro which wasn’t too far away. My week started with a fantastic overnight trip taking in 3 Munros in Lochaber with a stay at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel.

[Mar ’22]

As with almost all trips to the Highlands, my day started very early and with a long drive, made even more tiring by the fact that I’d spent the weekend in Lochgoilhead with my Explorer Scouts and didn’t get home until about 1930. I had less than 12 hours in the house to unpack, repack and sleep before I was back in the car and heading up the A82 again.

A couple of toilet/snack stops later I arrived in Fersit, taking great care on the narrow and rather poor road that led off the A86. There were a few cars in the small car park, but I found a space and got myself and my kit ready for what was looking like a great day.

I had loads of hills in the area to choose from and having booked a night at Loch Ossian, I had a few different ways of getting there (and back). As it had been quite a busy weekend I opted for what was probably one of the easier hill combinations – Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg. The route is described on Walkhighlands as ‘gentle’ so that sounded like a nice way to break myself in to what would be a busy week of walking.

What a beautiful morning!

I set off just before 1100 and started by heading through the half-a-dozen-or-so houses that make up Fersit and followed a feint and boggy path towards Sron na Garbh-bheinne. The ascent was indeed gentle as ascents go and I made good progress, stopping now and again for a drink and a look around. Although bright and sunny there was a bit of a haze due to the climbing temperatures, but the views to the surrounding mountains of Lochaber were still superb. A short flatter section and then another ascent and I soon found myself on the summit of my first Munro of the day, Stob Coire Sgriodain. The view across Loch Treig to the Easains was absolutely awesome and I enjoyed a bite to eat whilst soaking up the scenery.

Loch Treig and the Easains

It had only taken me around 90 minutes to reach the first of the day’s 2 Munros, but I knew I had a long way to go so I set off south from the summit and followed a path in and out of the remaining snow patches towards Chno Dearg. Once again there wasn’t much by way of interesting stuff, but I made good progress and after a final pull up the grassy southern slopes of Chno Dearg, I reached my second and final summit of the day.

Loch Laggan and beyond

I had taken around 40 minutes to travel between the 2 Munros so on a day walk I imagine the circuit could be completed in well under 4 hours without having to try too hard. My obective wasn’t Fersit quite yet though, so I headed south again from Chno Dearg after another snack break, this time towards Meall Garbh. There was then the small matter of the very long ridge stretching to the SW for several kilometres. Much to my surprise there was an obvious quad/ATV track that stuck to the crest of the ridge, so this helped me make good progress towards the West Highland railway line that lay at the foot of the mountain. Things got a little bit steeper towards the bottom of the ridge, but I kept up a good pace and soon was on the vehicle track at a bridge under the railway line.

The Easains

After a quick water break, I set off on the final stretch towards the Youth Hostel, following the vehicle track as it headed for Loch Ossian. 50 minutes or so later (5hrs 30 mins and 13 miles in total) I reached the hostel – right on time for check-in. I was given a warm welcome by Jan and settled in to my home for the evening.

Looking back on Ben Nevis & neighbours

The hostel was absolutely brilliant. The setting was so beautiful and the surrounding mountains gives the place a real sense of remoteness (well, because it is…). It was very well equipped too, with a lovely warm shower and everything you’d need from a kitchen. I made use of the shower and got myself some dinner, before sitting down to plan the next day’s walking.

As the car was at Fersit I at least knew where I was walking back to, but I had a number of options I could have taken. The easiest option would have been out by an old right of way via Strath Ossian. I did consider this as I was feeling pretty drained after a busy weekend, but since I had walked all this way I thought it best to use the time, effort and money that I’d spent and tick off at least another hill! I settled instead for much the same route, but rather than heading towards the estate house I’d head over Beinn na Lap. From the summit I could then head along the mountain’s long NE ridge and join the right of way back to Fersit. Content with my plan, I headed to bed and enjoyed a warm and cosy night’s sleep.

A perfect evening

I woke relatively late for a hill walking day – around 0730 – and got myself fed and changed. I had around 12 miles to cover and couldn’t get into my next accommodation until after 1600, so there was no point in setting off too early. I enjoyed a nice relaxed morning and slowly pottered around with my kit before eventually heading off just before 0900, thanking Jan for the lovely stay.

I headed back part-way along the same track I’d followed the previous afternoon, before turning off to follow an obvious (but rather wet) path heading up and on to Ceann Caol Beinn na Lap. As with the day before the ascent wasn’t challenging in any way and I made good progress, stopping to admire the hazy views around Loch Ossian below.

Hostel in the haze

As the hostel itself sits at almost 400m above sea level there wasn’t a great deal of ascent to reach Beinn na Lap’s summit and I reached the summit cairn after 90 minutes of fairly slow walking (why rush when you have all day!). The views were very similar to yesterday’s as the hills are pretty close together, but there’s certainly a whole load of empty space in the Central Highlands to be explored and admired.

Plenty of mountains on show from Beinn na Lap

I had a wee bite to eat and tried to sit as long as I could, but I eventually got antsy and had to make some progress. Much like leaving Chno Dearg, I had a long and gentle ridge to follow that would lead me to a good track below. Once again I set off and trundled along at as slow a pace as I could manage (it’s not easy going slowly as it happens!), stopping often to take photos and enjoy being out and about in such wonderful conditions.

Towards the end of the ridge things steepened slightly for a short period and I was soon off the ridge and on to a grassy path that follows the Allt Feith Thuill. After a few hundred metres this joined on to the main track that heads to Corrour Estate Lodge from Luiblea. I stopped here again to enjoy a spot of early lunch at the bridge, taking the time to refill my water and get the winter boots off for a while.

Allt Feith Thuill

I managed a decent break before the antsy-ness kicked in, then it was time to head along the good track for around a kilometre before turning off and following the old right-of-way to Fersit. This was another delightful wee path and didn’t appear to be hugely popular, so there was a real feeling of isolation and adventure, something I do enjoy on my trips. This path topped out around 500m and slowly contoured around Chno Dearg’s lower slopes, before heading into some forestry a few miles from Fersit. The path in the woods became a bit rougher and wetter in places and passed a ruined cottage in amongst the trees – an eerie place indeed.

Looking towards Creag Meagaidh

Soon the path left the trees and I could see Fersit below me in the distance. I was sad to be finishing what was a beautiful couple of days, but it was only the 2nd of 4 days, so it wasn’t all bad.

I love these green signs! Bullet hole though?

I stopped for some water a short distance before Fersit and then reached the car around 1400 having covered roughly 12 miles. I was miles early for my accommodation (only a couple of miles away in Tulloch), so I took advantage of the sunny weather and gave the boots an airing, enjoying a rather large packet of Borders biscuits Sarah had been kind enough to give me before she left.

Many biscuits later I decided that I was antsy again and packed the remainder of my kit in the car before heading back along the rally stage to the A86 and then on to Tulloch Farm for my overnight stop. 2 days down – 2 to go!

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