Santa delivered on Xmas Day, snow, lights winds and good visibility but snow conditions underfoot starting to deteriorate.
(Munros Completed : Meall nan Tarmachan (76).
Weather conditions were very good, no wind at all, mild but cloud cover was about 800m+ with visibility about 200-300m in the cloud. I was determined to make most of the conditions so didn’t want to miss the opportunity even though it was Christmas Day. To my surprise about 4 cars turned up in the morning. I was the only one doing the Tarmachan route anti-clockwise though, and actually only saw one person all day, whom I met about halfway round the route, who was doing it clockwise.
I didn’t leave until 08:50 slightly later than intended though it is still dark until about 08:30 at this time of year. The route is not easy from a navigation point of view and I was surprised about how much the route undulates once on the ridge. There is a well built track for the first part starting from the bottom of the Lawers car park. The wide track takes you all the way to a footbridge for the first part, then cross and turn up across heather for 100m to gain the wide track again. It finishes at a bridge where you turn North up the slopes. Once across the heathery slopes the ascent steepens to gain the ridge on Beinn nan Eachan & near the top it was quite steep and a bit hairy in places. Conditions underfoot were not good, as the snow was starting to melt lower down so I often found myself stepping through the crust and then fall up to ankle/shin depth, which became very tiring. Fortunately on the ridge, it was more packed though still not fully frozen to bound along.
The broad ridge is tricky because it undulates and is confusing with different crags & mounds around. I tried to follow previous footsteps in the snow as much as possible, mainly for the easy of walking of firmness. I came across another steep section where it was quite precarious, as at this point I hadn’t put my crampons on yet, so I was kicking steps in the snow and poles in hand with a dagger hold position I was ramming the poles into the snow for extra security. Whether this point was the notorious Tarmachan ‘bad step’, I’m not entirely sure though I suspect it was as I never came across another steeper section and it was in the right area. Looking at photos from the bad step (without snow), it’s difficult to tell whether I was specifically on the bad step, but I definitely didn’t do the easy traverse around to the right as I went straight up and it was certainly steep.
I then approached the Meall Garbh summit, which looked daunting from afar but I seemed to bound up it in 20 mins. Undulating from then on until you reach the very narrow tricky section which looks steep but actually isin’t difficult at all. It was here I first put on crampons and once past this summit it’s another 900m to the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan which is actually a very broad mound.
I summitted at 2:15pm but visibility was poor up here, so took a quick photo and descended. It’s a steep descent off the summit, but you actually can carry on beyond cairn for about 50m, then move down and traverse back to below the steep and then down to the next minor top. The remainder of the way down is fairly straightforward and I was glad to get on the marked path without snow for the last 45 mins. For the last half hour, the sun came out and gave an beautiful glow. I returned at 16:00 literally minutes before darkness. Meall nan Tarmachan had been a Munro that I had wanted to do for a long time and it certainly didn’t disappoint.