For the third time in as many years the Moray Mountaineering Club had an excellent Springtime weekend at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel. Some arrived early, the earliest being Alan who arrived at Tulloch Station on Thursday, climbed Cnap Cruinn and raved about how good the cooked breakfast was at Tulloch bunkhouse after a night’s stay. He was joined by Babs, Gus and Brent on the Friday for the early train into Corrour and coffee and breakfast rolls at the Station House Restaurant. Definitely a pattern emerging here! Alan cycled to Loch Treig, climbed Creag Ghuanach in the rain, but thankfully below the cloud. He couldn’t manage his next objective for the day due to the river being too high to cross.
Babs, Gus and Brent climbed Beinn na Lap in the rain… “Cold, wet and windy and that was just Gus! No views, wet sarnies and then watching Babs slide most of the way down on her backside! To the hostel. Beer, food, whisky and storytelling from Heavy.”
Heavy and Derrick arrived on the midday train and as Derrick retold in the Book of Climbs “After assisting Heavy to the start of his ascent of Beinn na Lap (without oxygen and under his own steam) I headed off up the path on the north side of Loch Ossian for a wee stroll and enjoyed various weather systems. Quite refreshing.” Heavy’s report from Beinn na Lap records that it was cold and windy but the views were good. Just goes to show that in the hills timing can be everything.
Weekend revellers arrived on the next two trains from Tulloch or, in the case of Dan, by bicycle, and Ellen and Robert, on the last train from Glasgow. Robert taking the train all the way from London and Ellen very happy to have managed to get out with the club despite having to be in Fife for work on Friday.
Loch Ossian Hostel is a fine place to convene for the evening. No stereotypical finger-wagging rulebook-waving SYHA warden imposing curfews and the like, just the club left to its own devices, with resident warden Jan very friendly and welcoming as ever. As the sun set behind the Grey Corries plans were hatched. Maps were pored over as the whisky and wine liberally flowed.
On Saturday morning a contingent set off once again for the station and caught the early train to Rannoch. Heavy was a member of the party and he reckons the best part of the day was meeting “six to eight angels in lycra” on the train who departed at Rannoch Station to run to Fort William. Once composed he, Adrian, Babs, Derrick, Brent and Gus headed off to the elusive Corbett of Meal an Meoig. After summiting, Brent and Gus followed the “Road to the Isles” track back to Loch Ossian. They arrived at the hostel just in time for Cate to serve up hot cross buns. The rest of the party returned to the hostel over the hills and Mam Ban, all enthusing about this lovely hill, often neglected in favour of its higher neighbours that just happen to breach the magic 3000 foot barrier.
Alan, not a man to be beaten, cycled back to Loch Trieg and vanquished his nemesis. Beinn na Cloiche was not going to get the better of him two days in a row. Sure enough, he made the summit this time and returned with time to kill so cycled around Loch Ossian – a lap of honour perhaps.
Dan, Sarah and Brad set off on their mountain bikes for an epic tour… best told through Sarah’s excellent comic.
Cate, Ellen and Dougal set off for a low level walk along the banks of Loch Ossian and then onto Strath Ossian. They started off on the south side of the loch and saw lots of frogs and spawn in puddles and ditches. Flowering rhododendrons were passed closer to Corrour Lodge, and interesting architecture at the lodge itself. They may have seen an Anthony Gormley statue but weren’t entirely sure. Lunch was eaten by the River Ossian just before rain came in but it cleared for them to return to the hostel along the north shore of the loch.
Joe also decided to do a low level walk and got to Corrour Station in time for the 9 o’clock train – the sleeper from Euston – to whisk him to Fort William, with the intention of walking back. Half an hour after the train was supposed to appear he phoned the enquiries number to find that the train had been cancelled. The next one was at 11:30 so this left enough time to return to the hostel, have a couple of mugs of tea and some brunch and then return to the station. The walk from the metropolis of An Gearasdan to Loch Ossian was very pleasant, if boggy in places. An almost direct west to east wander through beautiful and remote scenery. The walls of Glen Nevis gradually closed in towards the gorge before suddenly opening to reveal the splendour of Steal Falls, full with the recent rain. The wilderness to the east followed, with the occasional tree stump and ruined building giving a visual reminder that these glens were not always as bleak and quiet as they are today. The old drove road through Lairig Leacach was joined by the shore of Loch Treig and followed southwards. This route was featured in Simon’s excellent slideshow at the club’s recent AGM and was once the main road from the Great Glen to the south. This ancient route gave way to a brand new track, built alongside the new hydroelectric scheme, which wound its way up towards Loch Ossian and under the railway. The hostel was reached as the slender crescent moon rose above the water and the sun sank low towards the Atlantic.
The following piece in the Book of Climbs concludes the Saturday adventures of the weekend:
“At 9:00am an eclectic team set off along the south side of Loch Ossian. David and Robert were the early pace walkers before being caught by the chasing pack approaching the Lodge. Two committee meetings were convened in rapid succession to agree the route up the first top towards Sgor Gaibhre. Whilst David was confirming that the track out was viable but not direct Drummond escaped and held the lead for the next one and a half hours. The team regrouped before Jan, Fiona and Robert led the way over Carn Dearg – Drummond and David stopped for a chat. The return along the road was orderly and we all appreciated a day with weather way ahead of MWIS. Dinner at the station was outstanding.”
Yet another sociable evening was spent at the hostel, with some people heading to the Station House for dinner and others staying in to eat. The presence of the new hydroelectric scheme meaning that for the first time in the hostel’s history guests can cook with an electric cooker, boil water in an electric kettle and, perhaps most revolutionary of all, have a hot shower.
On Sunday morning Heavy, Babs and Derrick climbed Meall na Lice, just south of the hostel before retiring to the station for lunch.
Others climbed Leum Uilleim… from a process of elimination probably Robert, Brent, Alan and Gus but at this report goes to press the facts are unclear, indeed the alternative facts may be even unclearerer, so some of the above may have spent the day drinking coffee at the station house, a pursuit just as respectable as hillwalking.
Almost everybody else climbed Beinn na Lap. The top had been covered in cloud early in the morning but it gradually lifted above the summits and, by afternoon, blue sky and sunshine were revealed. People left the hostel in dribs and drabs and gathered at the summit. Drummond, Fiona, Jan, Brad and Adrian sat on the lee side of the cairn eating lunch and admiring the terrific views. Dougal desperately tried to work out if that really was Ben Lawers, and what the twin summits of Ben More and Stob Binnein should look like from this aspect. Dan and Joe muttered about the lack of snow and consequential lack of skis whilst Sarah generously offered everyone pitta bread and hummus and Ellen glowed with a sense of achievement from having climbed her first Munro. By the time everyone was down at the hostel there was time to eat up the remaining food. Bread, cheese and scotch eggs were gobbled up and Cate’s toasted buns were enjoyed by many.
But the weekend wasn’t quite over for all… Dan takes up the story:
“After quite a long mountain bike ride on Saturday, a quick jaunt up Beinn na Lap was an attractive prospect. But, having completed that by about lunchtime, there was the question what to do with the afternoon? The lap of course! Several folk had mentioned it, but they all disappeared quicker than a Balvenie at a MMC meet. The tradition is that if you run around Loch Ossian in less than an hour, you can add your name to the list of other nutters in the YHA book. Shortly after setting off, I began thinking that the preceding 36 hours were probably not the best preparation, and by the time I was half way around my legs were definitely getting heavy. However, after 57 mins and 32 seconds I was welcomed back by much cheering, followed a few minutes later by a mass departure as everyone went to get their train home, leaving just me and my bike. But wait…I can beat Scotrail! With the benefit of a tail wind and a good bit of downhill, I was back at the Loch Laggan lay-by just in time to see everyone heading east along the A86.”