Meall LighicheNow let me guess, you still have absolutely no idea where this hill is? Well, to be honest, neither have I. If you think of Ballachulish, and then think of Glen Coe, there's a big hill between the two called Meall Mor. If you know any Gaelic, you'll understand that one. Anyway, behind Big Hill is another, even bigger hill, and that's called Meall Lighiche. I suppose that you want me to tell you all about it now? Go on then...
Sgorr a'ChoiseBefore we go any further, let's start with Sgorr a'Choise. This is the funny pointy hill on the left hand side as you look up the glen from Ballachulish. Sometime way back last summer, I decided to try and tackle the thing, so I headed off up the glen, crossed the river and started the climb. Reluctant to double back on myself too much, I tried climbing almost up the nose of the hill, but the weather turned, the rain got much heavier and I was trapped amongst crags, so I reluctantly descended. Once I was back down at the forestry and could see the summit I realised that I was just 10-20m from the summit, but never mind.
Keen not to make the same mistakes again, I crossed the river further up and zig-zagged away from the summit, reaching the ridge about half a mile to the south. As I climbed along the narrow ridge to the summit, I could actually identify where I had come up before, and realised that if I'd turned right instead of left at the crucial point I could have made it with ease. Never mind! This time I made it to the top, all 663m of it (A Graham if you are interested (thats a hill from 2000-2500ft tall)). After a moment or two soaking in the view, I turned east and dropped sharply down to the long shoulder that pointed into the wilderness. As I dropped off the summit, I realised that I was in open country less than 2½hours from home and the only evidence that man had ever come this way before was a row of rusty fence posts in the grass next to me, oh and the huge conifer plantation down to the left, but we shall overlook that! There was no sign of any habitation, no road in the distance, nothing, just me, some rolling heather clad grassy hills and a small group of deer at the bottom of the hill.
So When does it get Dark???I'm going to roll the clock back a little now. I had decided to attempt this walk at about half 9 the night before. It wasn't too difficult, not too far, and I reckoned about 6 hours should do it. Therefore, if I could get up and out not long past 10, I'd be fine. The problems started when I woke up the next morning and my clock said 10:04. I left home at about 10:45, and by the time I had dropped down from Sgorr a'Choise, it was quarter past one. I stopped, sat down, and looked at the map whilst eating my lunch. Essentially, I had two options, turn left and head down Gleann Leic na Muidhe to the road, or go straight on and complete the plan. I worked it out three different ways and decided that if I stuck to the plan I should be at the road at about half four. The problem wwas, when did it get dark? I had had the foresight not to remove the torch from my bag... Ok, so I'm a lazzy devil but sometimes it proves useful!
Meall LighicheWell, you already knew the answer. I went straight on and tried my luck with dusk! I got to the bottom of the bealach between the two hills (320m) at about 1:50, and reckoned that I should be able to climb the 450m to the summit by 3pm (remember my 7m/minute rule?). I set off, pushing myself as I was constantly aware of the pressures of time. It was steeper than I had expected, though, and I was also tired from already having climbed one hill that day. Nevertheless I made the summit at 2:59... No. Actually, I reached the ridge then and had another 400m to go (horizontal, not vertical you'll be pleased to hear) before the final summit!
So I had done it! Dusk was now coming no matter what I did, so It was best to just set straight back off down the hill. As I followed round to the far end of the ridge, the path turned right, heading for Sgorr na h-Ulaidh, which I climbed back in February 2008. That was not the way I wanted to go, so I had to make my own way down the hill. I'm not quite sure, but I think that I dropped down a bit too soon. The map shows a quite narrow grassy slope coming off the end of the ridge, but I encountered quite a few crags and steep drops. Maybe the map just isn't detailed enough.
So did I make it before dark?Anyone who knows the A82 will know that it is a busy old road, and the bit I needed to walk along doesn't have any pavements. There was about a mile from the end of Gleann Leic na Muidhe to the visitor centre and the path back to the village, and as I came down the hill I was watching the sun line slowly creeping up the hillsides as the sun set. I was off the hill and crossing to the end of the estate road just past 4, and by the skin of my teeth I reached the road at half four. Alas, the sun had set and dusk was settling in. I had my torch out ready, and crossed the road so that I was walking towards the oncoming traffic. The first quarter mile was easy - the road was completely clear, but then there was wave after wave of traffic coming towards me, and each time I dropped three or four feet down the bank for some safety. The grass is deep, and littered with plastic bottles, beer cans and I dread to think what else!
Fortunately, I made it down to the visitor centre safely, and with five minutes to spare before the full darkness of night fell. I walked through the trees, letting my eyes adjust to the black, and only used my torch twice before I reached the streetlights of Glencoe. From there it was easy, following the pavement back home!