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The August 2021 Scottish trip had gone to plan – by sticking to the Southern Highlands and the Cairngorms we had mostly avoided the dreaded Highland midge, and had enjoyed some good hill days in great weather conditions (see posts #306, #307 and #308) We were due to head south at the end of the month to welcome a new grandchild and to get our second Covid vaccinations, but there was still time for an extra couple of hill days. Ben Lawers would do nicely!
We had been in the Ben Lawers area in October in the previous year, but the weather hadn’t been kind and Meall nan Tarmachan had been a good consolation prize (see post #292). What’s more, Chris was starting to get the taste for bigger hills and longer days, so a trip up Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers fitted the bill nicely.
The two hills make a great day out if done together. The path leaves the car park and heads through a conservation project, where deer and sheep have been fenced out, allowing the native woodland to regenerate. Beyond the trees, the route gets much steeper and suddenly becomes real mountain walking.
The start didn’t bode well. Our ascent through the conservation area was a misty, moisty walk that brought back memories of Meall nan Tarmachan the year before, but as we left the trees behind the mist started to lift. From there, it was a constant companion, drifting in and out as we gained height – it did give us constantly changing views though.
The constantly changing views included a distant Meall nan Tarmachan, and it’s true to say that we saw more of the hill from the slopes of Beinn Ghlas than we had when actually hiking up it ten months earlier. Longer views included the mountains over by Crianlarich to the west, while nearby we had Meall Corranaich as a companion. This was a contender for a third top, which could be collected more easily from our return route, with an additional 600 metres horizontal distance and 180 metres of ascent. (Spoiler alert – we didn’t!)
From the summit of Beinn Ghlas, we had our first real view of Ben Lawers, the star of the show. The height gain from the upper edge of the conservation area to the summit of Beinn Ghlas was almost 500 metres, on top of the initial 200 metres through the woodland from the car park. Beinn Ghlas is 1103 metres (3619 ft) in altitude, but we had to lose 100 metres down to a col before getting to grips with the 1214 metre (3983 ft) summit of Ben Lawers.
The final 200 metres of ascent from the col below Ben Lawers wasn’t a big deal, just a steady plod being required. No mistaking the summit in this case, with a rather tatty survey triangulation column and a much more attractive summit cairn. Lawers is the tenth highest mountain in Scotland, but the fact that it misses being a 4000 ft mountain by just 27 ft does nothing to diminish its popularity.
Having taken in the views, it was time to turn round and head back. We had a variation return route that avoided crossing Beinn Ghlas a second time by going round the mountain on its northern slopes. It was this route that gave the best approach to Meall Corranaich, but the day was drawing on and we decided that our two summits were enough for the day – it was time to head for home.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock