Meall Tairneachan

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Winter Arrives on Meall Tairneachan

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Welcome folks to a new development here at The Fatdog Broadcasting Corporation.  Today is our first instalment of MrP’s conquest of the Corbetts.  With, I believe, some 87 Corbetts under his belt already we’ve sent him out to bag a few more and to report back his thoughts on his travels and, more importantly, to detail precisely how many times he’s fallen over and the extent of injuries sustained.   While we cannot guarantee excessive blood loss and mangled limbs we will endeavour to make these reports as real and vivid as possible so that you, the reader, can revel in an experience unrivalled since the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome.

MrP’s first Corbett report comes from beautiful Perthshire.  At this time of year Perthshire is ablaze in shades of red, brown and gold as leaves fall and glorious autumn takes hold. 

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Meanwhile, in the Outdoor Broadcast Section nerves are a-jangling as the first of the new series of hill reports is about to go online…

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“Team…are we ready?”  “This is the big day. Mr.P is all ready to go up there in sunny Perthshire.  Everything in place?  Yes?”

“OK… 5.4.3.2.1…roll ’em!” 

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“Winter Arrives on Meall Tairneachan”

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Date: 17 October 2011
Weather: read on
Participants: just the one
Distance: approx 5km
Ascent: approx 500m (but a lot less descent)
Dog-doability: low              (“Yes FD?  Mention of doggy-do-s unseemly and disgusting…I’ll pass that on to the script writers”)

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Having been stuck in a classroom all week I was up for a few days walking. I had a long but very pleasant outing on the Sunday; sunny but chilly. For the Monday MWIS was promising apocalyptic conditions – from memory summit winds gusting to 100mph, heavy snow arriving suddenly in mid-afternoon and white out conditions lasting up to an hour. And that was just the local South-west Highlands local forecast. I shudder to think what Geoff was prophesying for the high Cairngorms. So I picked my hills with care.

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“FD…should we point out now, that in no way does The Fatdog Broadcasting Corporation condone taking unnecessary risks with regard to walking in severe weather?  Quite frankly I feel that if MrP needs to pay his bills or be evicted that is his choice and his choice alone.”

“What’s that?  No need to mention it, the disclaimers in his contract anyway.  Excellent…”

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For the morning I went for Ben Vrackie. I had heard that it had a good path more or less to the summit and reckoned that I could find my way back down it, if necessary, on my hands and knees even in the worst possible conditions. An easy enough walk up with the cloud getting lower as I got nearer to the summit

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On the top it was indeed breezy, I would estimate around 50mph. No view at all, but I loitered and was rewarded with intermittent views

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Back down, taking more care than usual on the greasy rocks of the path. Sat in the car whilst considering my next move. As things didn’t seem too bad, I decided to go for another Corbett – Meall Tairneachan. It should be a quick bagger’s cairn kicking exercise – less than 8km in total, although 4 of those would be across highish, exposed and pathless heather. But if MWIS was right and the four horsemen did turn up I had a cunning plan B.

I parked by the lime kiln at NN777546. Headed east between the tumble down dry stone dyke and the forest fence. 300m of steady ascent with the merest hint of a path. For some reason I didn’t take a photograph, but there was a high grey cloud base and it was cool with a gentle wind. I remember thinking that it was close to ideal walking conditions. On top of Meall Odhar Mor I paused at around two o’clock for some lunch and noted that, as promised, the cloud base was descending. Some snow was also drifting by. Pretty, I thought…

I carried on alongside a wall until it started to descend.  With hindsight – a wonderful thing – I should have stayed with the wall, but I opted for a more southerly route to avoid losing height. Visibility wasn’t actually that bad…

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“We seem to be missing colour team – quick, put up an apology for the viewers before they start bleating.”

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“I would take this opportunity to apologise to our readers.  It appears we have a technical fault.  MrP would appear to have his camera switched to monochrome”

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“C’mon people, let’s get this resolved.  Done?  Yes?  OK lets go live again.  Put up the continuity thread from earlier; the one that says that at this time of year Perthshire is ablaze in shades of red, brown and gold as leaves fall and glorious autumn takes hold…”

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But I wasn’t feeling too confident. I was, unusually for me, using a 1:50,000 map; either these just don’t show enough detail for this sort of micro navigation and/or I wasn’t experienced enough at interpreting them. As it happens I don’t think that I strayed too far from the optimum route, although one rounded lump in the heather looked much like another. The snow was coming down thickly, in large, wet flakes. As they settled they made movement across the deepish heather treacherous. Down quite steeply and slipperily, up even more so, and quite strength sappingly, to the west of what I rather hoped was a craggy point 780. Then I picked up the wall again

Surprising the difference that 30 minutes had made. (I was only about 50m higher, so it wasn’t due to height gain.) Followed this north to a confusing cairn where the wall died out. The SMC book had mentioned a cylindrical trig point, plus my dead reckoning put me some distance away from the summit. So I descended gently eastward over easy heather, but with a thickening layer of snow.

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“Mr.P!”  “Colour Mr.P!”

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“Oh God no!  First the pictures go monochrome and now the camera harness has malfunctioned.  Does he know how to operate that bloody thing…anyone?”  “Wos that?  It’s 50kg!  No wonder it’s pointing at his bloody feet!”  “What idiot gave him that camera, it’s far to big.”  “What d’ya mean…I did!”

Again my apologies ladies and gentlemen it would appear we’re having some difficulty with our pictures from Meall Tairneachan.   Or maybe not…this could be the prelude to the first tumble of the day…no…sorry,  it looks like he’s managed to stay on his feet.

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Hurrah, the trig point loomed out of the mist

This cheered me up

Even though views were limited

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“You!…” 

“Yes you…cameraman!” 

“Can you not switch this bloody thing to colour before the audience start battering their sets into oblivion.  We’ve promised them colour and all I can see is bloody grey!”

“What do mean it’s actually like that.  Nothings like that!”  “The guidebook says… “at this time of year Perthshire is ablaze in shades of red, brown and gold as leaves fall and glorious autumn takes hold.”

“I suppose the odd splash of colour is out of the question?  I thought so (sigh).  Okay, we’ll give up trying to bring in the colour, let’s just let it roll.”

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Ploughing back along the wall was unappealing, so time for plan B. I headed north towards the mining road. It was steep and some involuntary bum sliding ensued – one way to lose height. And so to the road. In good nick, if icy where the mining trucks had compressed the snow. Visibility was noticeably much improved. After a kilometre or so, I heard a deep growling behind me. It was a mine truck, although it was moving barely faster than me. Its timbre changed. I looked back. It had pulled in to let the following vehicles past.

Clearly the mine staff were knocking off early. I stepped away from the road and sat down to let them go past, receiving a couple of cheery waves. The big truck stopped. “Would you like a lift?” I was opening his cab door almost before he finished the question. During the, very slow, trip down the hill we chatted about the mine, his truck and his load. He was carrying 38 tons (or possibly tonnes) of baryte in a 22 ton (ditto) truck for a total of 60 tons

On the steep and snow covered road at times it seemed to be barely under control

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I have to say, that when I get lifts off hills I get interesting ones. Once back at ‘main’ road he dumped his load and insisted on giving me a lift back to my car. (No, in his car.) What had started out as something very much on the straight forward end of the spectrum had ended up as quite a memorable outing.

The next day some of the snow had gone; my summit trig point is just visible

Although the higher hills seemed to have quite a bit of soft looking stuff on them

Made me glad that I’m not still doing them.

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“Good try team…well done…first one down…shame about the pictures…better luck next time!”

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“Well that was our first outdoor broadcast from the intrepid Mr.P in which he failed abysmally to bring us any substantial views whatsoever and, more importantly, failed to fall over at least once during the walk.   Fortunately there are such things as contractual obligations, quite a number of which we’ll be discussing with our star reporter in the coming week…not to mention his travel expenses which we assess as being reduced dramatically by hitching lifts from strange men in big trucks.  I believe  MR.P’s next report will be from a bothy at an undisclosed location somewhere in the wilds of  Scotland.  If anbody happens to come across him will you please let us know where he is…   

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