Beinn na Caillich

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On the north side of Loch Leven, a long range of hills sits quietly between the loch and the Lairig Mor behind. These hills are split about half way along by the pass from Callert on the lochside into the Lairig behind. I have never climbed these hills, but with a blown exhaust making my car noisy and (comparatively) uneconomical to drive, I decided that on a clear blue cloudless day I should head to Callert and see what the hills were like.

Callert

Callert is not so much a place as a name given to the sporadic string of houses along the north shore of Loch Leven. However, the name comes from the old Cameron home of Callert House and the pass lies just to the east of the house. Not that you can see the house, hidden amongst the trees, but Callert Cottage sits prominently on the hillside between the house and the path. I set off up the hill, finding it steeper than anticipated but pressing on regardless. After just under an hour I found myself at the summit of the pass, 470m up. Considering that I normally reckon on 7m/minute being a good rate of ascent, I was pleased that I had been able to exceed this for a whole hour - indeed at about 350m up I was averaging 10m/minute, but I then had a short stop!

All the way up, I had been turning round to enjoy the view behind, the great pool of Loch Leven between Ballachulish and Glencoe was spread out below me, I could see my house (or at least its roof), the shop, everything. And with the clear blue sky and the sun slowly rising behind the peaks to the south casting long misty shadows, there was something other-worldly about the view at times. As I had approached the summit of the pass, the view had narrowed somewhat, with the hills closing in around me, but now as I stood at the cairn, I could see north, through the glen that hides Blarmacfoldach and onto Corpach on the far side of Fort William. The Fort itself was hidden behind the hill, but beyond Corpach lay the misty peaks of Loch Arkaig and Glenfinnan.

Mam na Guallain

The path continued round the hill before dropping down to the Lairig Mor beyond, but as I was tackling the ridge, I turned right up the hill on a vague muddy path that aimed generally towards the ridge. Before long the path petered out, but I kept pressing on, ever upwards. My pace had slowed somewhat now, partly because the landscape was more difficult to traverse. However, in not much more than half an hour I spied the summit ahead. A burst of energy brought me to the top, only to see that this was one of those frustrating hills with summits stacked behind each other. The third summit was home to the trig point, and quite clearly the highest point, so I stopped awhile to soak in the view.
And what a view! Half of Lochaber must be visible from this ridge. To the north were the Mamores with Ben Nevis poking up behind, curving round the end of the Lairig to Kinlochleven with the glistening expanse of the Blackwater stretching out far to the east. Rannoch Moor was also visible, beyond Glen Coe, and its many peaks. Behind them, to the south, were the peaks of Glen Etive, with Ballachulish looking tiny on the loch shore. West was Morvern, Ardgour and so back to Glenfinnan and the hollow between hills where The Fort lies.

Beinn na Caillich

After a good 10 minutes of enjoying this view, I turned east once more to follow the ridge to Beinn na Caillich at the far end. It is 'only' 764m high compared to Mam na Guallain's 796, but they are both Corbetts. The ridge between the two is about 2 miles, but it was quickly dispatched and I was looking out over a similar 360degree panoramic view. I found a quiet spot looking east to sit and eat my lunch before dropping down the steep slopes towards Kinlochleven. I had been warned that the final zig-zags to the Lairig track were steep, and as they also added over a mile of walking, I decided to pick my own way down.

At about 400m the steep drop turns and follows a long ridge for a while, and it was from here that I decided to drop through a shallow corrie down to the river. This proved easy to ford, and soon I was on the West Highland Way in the Lairig. It was about two miles along to the fork where the Callert Path turns off, and then a long, gentle climb up to the summit of the pass once more. Now that the sun was higher and further west, the views out to the south were very different, those strange misty shadows long gone and replaced by bright green and brown hillsides instead. I averaged 20m/minute on my descent as I almost jogged down the hillside!