BUT for the West Highland Railway line giving easy access, Beinn na Lap would be one of the more remote Munros.
The usual route is from Corrour station. With a starting height of 400m and a walk of less than 3 miles to the modest 935m/3068ft summit, the station to station time can be as little as 3 hours. It is thus easy to dismiss Beinn na Lap as one of the easiest Munros – during the summer.
Jimbo and I were there recently and, “thanks” to the recent heavy dump of soft sinky snow, the station to station time was 5 hours; our hardest ever outing on this hill.
It is essential to be well armed with a railway timetable. The current timetable runs to 7 December 2013. We travelled mid-week. There are fewer trains and different times on Sundays.
Having stayed overnight at the Station Lodge hostel, our wintry expedition started from Tulloch station. The 8:13am train to Corrour was bang on time and the ScotRail personnel were extremely cheerful and welcoming. Coffee was quickly produced for our short journey and, following my enquiry, the location of the freight train derailment of June 2012 was pointed out. We would probably have missed it otherwise. After striking a boulder, likely dislodged during a landside, the locomotive ploughed down the slope, coming to rest on a natural ledge above the lochside. The very lucky driver, uninjured but badly shaken, was winched to safety by helicopter. The tarpaulin-covered locomotive has now been winched back close to the line. Because of the difficult terrain and access problems the locomotive will likely be dismantled in sections and taken out by rail later in the year.
From the station follow the broad track towards Loch Ossian. Just before the youth hostel the track forks left round the loch, then briefly follow the mapped path, in fact a narrower track, signposted Loch Treig, Road to the Isles. A short while later leave that track and head NNE over easy slopes towards Ceann Caol Beinn na Lap, the whale-back ridge. On our day there was no sign of the eroded path beneath the snow. Jimbo’s two dogs, their paws and coats clogged with balls of iced-up snow, were not overly happy and had to be helped a few times on ascent. For us the deep soft snow made for aching leg muscles, but hey-ho it is winter after all. The only firm walking was over the frozen lochan close to the summit.
What a change from the previous visit when the Mountain Lamb completed his round of Munros there; a glorious autumnal day giving wonderful views of beautiful Loch Ossian and the outlying circle of distant hills.
On our black and white bitterly cold day we did not linger long before a quick retreat following our footsteps. On descent, as forecast, we had flurries of snow and lowering cloud. We had been lucky with our timing. We met one hardy hillwalker who had been camping out overnight; Douglas Andrews, last encountered in May 2010 on the Cuillin.
The frisson of risk in getting back too late for the return train may add a little spice to what is (normally) but a short day. Our problem was what to do with the spare time until the 15:21pm train. Bad news. The Corrour Station House Restaurant (with bedrooms), 01397-732236, on the site of the old stationmaster’s house, was temporarily closed; the new managers having a well-earned break during renovation works, with workmen commuting daily by train. No bacon roll and coffee this time – no relaxing by a warm fire – we had instead a 90 minute sub-zero wait for the train. Thankfully it was on time