Meall Coire an Lochain
Meall Coire an Lochain, Cromalt Hills. Section 15A.
Height – 517 metres. Map – OS Landranger – 15.
Climbed - 12 March 2011. Time taken – 4.5 hours.
Distance – 11 kilometres. Ascent – 575 metres.
Trip Report Details:
This was my last day in the North-West Highlands and with a reasonable forecast until later in the day I set off for the Cromalt Hills, an area I hadn’t walked in before. There are two Sub 2000 Marilyns on this range, one at either end but are around 8 kilometres apart so I settled for the westerly one.
I parked in the snow and ice covered car park at the Knockan Crag Visitor Centre just south of the hamlet of Elphin on the A835. From the car park I had fantastic views across Lochan an Ais to the snow covered Cul Beag and Cul Mor. There was a circular route round the crag so I took the south approach where there was a warning sign of ice, which was very appropriate. The snow covered path was well constructed and where it steepened there was quite a bit of ice to avoid.
The path levelled out and after several metres I left it and climbed over the snow covered heather to Cnoc an t-Sasunnaich before descending slightly to the Bealach a’Phuill and onto the 420 metre knoll. The going was rather rough with lots of bog and some peat hags. I wasn’t sure whether the snow was making progress easier or not but it did make the terrain more obvious while concealing the bog.
I had considered a direct approach to Meall Coire an Lochain but settled for staying high where possible. From the 420 knoll I descended to the east side of a frozen lochan and climbed Meall Odhar before continuing round the north-east side of Meall nan Dearcag Beag. Beyond some lochans the ground became rockier and steeper. I ascended the narrow gully splitting the north-west face of Meall Coire an Lochain and when the gully later opened up I climbed steeply onto the south-west ridge. It was then an easy walk to the summit cairn where I had lunch. The views south to Ben Wyvis and the Beinn Dearg mountains were now restricted as the cloud base began to lower.
My plan was to return by the ascent route but with all the undulations I decided to make a more direct descent and set off down the north ridge over Cnoc Donn a’Phris towards the Bealach na h-Imrich. Despite the snow cover this descent was relatively easy but it didn’t last. From around the bealach to the Abhainn a’Chnocain, the outflow from Loch Odhar, there was lots of peat hags and bog to negotiate. It didn’t improve either once I had crossed the stream with more peat hags to contend with until I climbed to and reached the north side of Meall Odhar. Here I located my bootprints and returned to the car park by the outward route before the snow started.
Photos taken on walk.