It took two attempts to conquer this hill. The first time I had to turn back as I couldn’t cross a swollen stream and went up Ben Vorlich instead. This time I tried a different route in.
A work colleague who is a keen walker had told me the Glenartney route was hellish. However, he did a different route through there last weekend and said it was OK. For punishment gluttons he did Meall na Fearn then dropped west to the bealach with Ben Vorlich, straight up the steep side to the summit then down the SE ridge to pick up the path back. Sheer madness His description was the path is OK and there aren’t too many peat hags on Meall na Fearna’s southern ridge. The nightmare is to come up over Carn Labhruin and that long ridge on the way to Meall na Fearna. His words “The hags extend right across the top of the ridge and you have to go over not around. You can’t go round. It’s horrible”. So I didn’t go that way!
I parked in the car park at NN710160 where there is space for 30 cars. This is the last parking area. Really it is, you cannot park nearer. You then have a 1.8km walk to the start of the walk! So 20 or so mins later you reach the start. At the gate there is a bridge across the stream. Of course you’ll not see it when walking out and a few minutes were spent trying to cross the swollen stream without getting wet. D’Oh! It’s oh so obvious on the way back. I’m sure the people in the farmhouse never get tired laughing at the fools who miss the bridge. Then you follow the left hand track up the hill. Follow it up and then down past the woods not shown on the 1:50000 map. The path forks near a bridge. Left goes on to the bridge and Callander eventually and right leads on to Loch Earn via Glen Vorlich eventually. Right is right.
The path gets naffer now. From a good hardcore surface to grass and moss on glacial till and higher up stops being a vehicle track to a footpath that is very boggy. In fact the views up to the Bealach an Dubh Chorein that links Ben Vorlich to Stuc a’Chroin are magnificent. Especially as you’ve had to walk 3.8kms to get here. It’s fantastic here, the feeling isolation is massive, the lack of anything human (tracks/bridges excepted), the red kite wheeling overhead, the deer up on the ridges. The piles of moraine gives away how this place came into existence. I could have turned back now feeling happy after that view. It would have been nicer if I wasn’t in a grey roofed tunnel though as the cloud base was 600m and dropping all the time. At least it was mild, dry and there was no wind.
From here it’s another 2.25km to the start of the climb up the very boggy path. Now it has rained a lot recently but if you haven’t got waterproof boots or are susceptible to trench foot then I’d give this a miss. The feeling of isolation just gets better and the Allt an Dubh Chorein is an amazing sequence of rocks and white water. This place would be nirvana after a good frost on a blue sunny and crisp winter’s day. Even though it started to shower a bit it was still wonderful.
Anyway 1hr 50mins after leaving the car I reached NN658159 which is shown as a 1 pixel wide stream on the 1:50000. After it there’s a looping section shown on the path. Well the map is wrong. There’s no way you can cross that stream as shown as it’s 4m wide and 50cm deep. OK you can wade it but without wading technology it’s a boots off job. Except there’s path that starts to run up the side of this stream which 100m later comes to a lovely footbride. Crossings made simplesss as those meercats would say. The loop in the path is drawn too far north! I had a drink and a banana here and wished I had my gaiters. From here it was a slog through calf length grass up the hill. I followed the ridge up into the mist and to the first summit which is rather haggy but you can walk around them. It’s not too boggy at the col at NN652179 and then up to the summit. This seemed to take forever as the mist was right thick and the hags seemed very gloopy.
Another 3km from the bridge and I was at the top just out of the now stronger wind. I looked at my wet-to-the-knees trousers with disdain. At least the eye-wateringly expensive Meindl boots were doing there job, toasty warm and dry feet still. 24hrs later my boots are still drying out nice and slowly: Goretex and leather working in harmony. I wish Goretex jackets worked as well. Mine didn’t let in but it didn’t seem to let much sweat out either! Or perhaps I simply leak too much. Setup was straightforward and conditions seemed reasonable. It started to rain heavily during the activation and by the time everyone had been worked on 60m it was monsoon conditions. Well that meant no 40m SSB or CW and I didn’t get to try my new CW filter. Of course by the time I’d packed away the rain stopped. Pah!
The return was a nightmare. As I came out of the lee the rain started again and I was met with howling wind. I don’t where it came from but for the next 30mins I was lashed with hard horizontal rain and blown over twice. My navigation off wasn’t the best partly because I had the hood pulled up so tight. Anyway after 3 small detours in all points of the compass except south I dropped out of the mist and rain and walked the wrong way for another 10 minutes. After some quality cursing I started the correct way and finally got back to the bridge for a well earned cuppa and Mars bar. I had a nice 15 minutes of relaxtion here, repacking stuff and preparing myself for the 1hr30 walk out to the car. I knew it would be dark when got to the car but there was enough light before I got to the easier tracks so I left the head torch in the bag.
At the bridge I met a walker who had started from the car park at the same time as me. The sky started to clear and there was quite a lot of blue visible for the walk out. We walked together or he slowed down whilst I tried to keep up as he was about 6ft3 and had Basil Fawlty legs compared to my Ernie Wise models. Nice chap though. Back to the car at 16.50 having left at 9.30am. More tea, clean t-shirt and an easy 1hr30 drive home to a fantastic roast dinner where Mrs. FMF informed me it had been sunny all day. Double pah!
Total walked: 20.1km, total ascent 858m, distance driven: 122 miles.
Not many pictures taken, one of the view from the bridge and one of some deer. The rest of the time the camera was in a drybag. I can see why this hill has remained unactivated for so long. It’s far too hard for 4 points. Except points don’t matter but the walk and the view does. It would be nice if it was dry for a change though.