Walk of the week: Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh
COIRE Glas, or rather a new £800 million hydro-electric scheme of that name, has recently been in the news.
Following approval by Highland councillors and given the Scottish Government’s pro-renewables stance, ministerial approval now seems highly likely. Described vaguely as being near Spean Bridge, the corrie lies beneath the craggy eastern slopes of Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh (SACG), which, along with its Munro neighbour Meall na Teanga, overlooks the north-west side of Loch Lochy.
The Allt a’ Choire Ghlais is to be dammed, converting the tiny Loch a’ Choire Ghlais into a large upper reservoir.
Scotland’s largest-ever hydro-electric and dam development, capable of powering one million homes, this would be a pumped storage operation, using water descending from the dam to drive turbines during periods of high demand and pump water back to the upper reservoir during off-peak hours. Similar in concept to the Ben Cruachan scheme, the powerhouse complex would be built underground with a series of tunnels to provide access and convey water, thus reducing the visual impact.
Many hillwalkers on Ben Cruachan are blissfully unaware of what is underground. SACG should be no different. On balance I approve of this controversial scheme.
Many hillwalkers look down on Coire Glas from SACG, nose of the rough corrie, but precious few visit the corrie and loch. Go before it is too late.
Follow the Kilfinnan Burn path as if going to Ben Tee (hopefully the surge of water over Kilfinnan Fall will be maintained) and follow the stream all the way to the loch. Subject to the steep snow-covered upper rim of the corrie, following the loch’s inflow should carefully lead to the summit plateau.
Ignore a branch to the left, which descends to the loch-side as part of the Great Glen Way. It is two miles to the start of a stalkers’ path, just before the Allt Glas-Dhoire, and while this distance is easily cycled, it is scarcely worthwhile. The path stays on the north side of the stream and leads west to Cam Bhealach. Once clear of the forest, the narrow wedge between the two Munros is less than two miles distant, and the good path makes it a short climb.
A very fine zigzag stalkers’ path at the bealach makes light of the final 300m ascent. At its top end, head north-west over flatter ground to the 937m/3074ft summit cairn where there used to be a visitors’ book, maintained by Richard Wood in his Invergarry days and kept inside a coffee jar in a wooden box. This happy tradition (sadly only now maintained in bothies) could be resurrected if someone was keen enough to collect opinions of the Coire Glas Scheme from passing hillwalkers.
SACG is typical of many hills in having a split personality, if hills can have such things. Its western slopes are steep but easy to ascend, whereas its eastern side is quite different. A narrow high horseshoe encloses the corrie and loch east over Sean Mheall (887m) and north-east over Meall a’ Choire Ghlais (890m). The latter arm, as an extension to the day, gives a charming stroll from where to look down to the corrie.
On return, be careful on a misty day as the start of the zigzag path may not be obvious. While living in Inverness, I regarded SACG as a winter hill. I remember one of the best snow slides ever – back down to the bealach, twisting in and out of the small gully of the stream to the west of the zigzag path. It was magic.
Map: Ordnance Survey map 34, Fort Augustus
Distance: 10 miles
Terrain: Track and stalkers’ path
Start point: Kilfinnan Burn, map ref 276957
Time: 6 to 7 hours
Nearest village: Invergarry
Recommended refreshment spot: Invergarry Hotel
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east