To reach the summit of a specific hill it is sometimes easier to climb another on the way.
Meall a’ Bhuiridh and Creise spring to mind; close by, yet hills that could scarcely be more different.
Seemingly little more than a spur of the lower Creise, 1,108/3,635ft Meall a’ Bhuiridh has a surprisingly small area above 900m. There are no subsidiary Tops. Although not the prettiest summit, it is a good viewpoint to the lochan-studded Rannoch Moor. However, in overlooking the Glencoe Mountain Resort and the busy A82, there is not that get-away-from-everything feeling. I have a soft spot for Meall a’ Bhuiridh, the scene of my seventh-round Munro party in 1999, an event filmed by Scottish Television, though the helicopter hired for aerial shots had to be cancelled due to the 1,500ft cloud cover.
The name means hill of the roaring, but don’t expect to see rutting stags. Oddly enough ptarmigan are plentiful. There were plenty of birds fluttering about when we were there a few weeks ago.
By comparison, to the west is a two-mile long north/south stony plateau, mostly above 1,000m, in the middle of which is the high point at 1,100m/3,609ft, now called Creise. The name probably comes from cries meaning narrow, an apt description of the ridge which has two subsidiary Tops; 1,099m Clach Leathad, pronounced and known locally as Clachlet, to the south, and 996m Stob a’Ghlais Choire to the north. Creise, inexplicably not named on maps until recently, was promoted to Munro status in 1981, a straight swap with Clach Leathad, though the latter is a more attractive top. Clach Leathad’s one-metre shortfall is impossible to gauge by eye over a mile’s distance.
Glencoe Mountain Resort’s car park is reached on the minor road past Blackrock Cottage. With a starting height of 350m and just two miles to the top, climbing Meall a’ Bhuiridh takes only two hours – less so if using the chair lift – not that purists would ever contemplate such a short cut. The path by the line of the chair lift, though direct, is steep and rough. For an easier gradient and a more secluded approach, follow the line of the bike track that curves eastwards then swings back to reach the top of the chair lift at a height of 680m.
A direct approach from Coire Pollach passes through a craggy area and it may be easier to use the grassy then stony north ridge, but be alert to the sharp drop to Cam Ghleann.
From Meall a’ Bhuiridh, descend the short WSW spur to reach the narrow col at 932m. The sharp climb to the Creise plateau is steeper and more bouldery near the top; interesting and challenging if there is a lot of snow. There is a marker cairn on the plateau, close by Mam Coire Easain, a deleted Top. Turn to the north and traverse a vague-in-places path over the stony, gently undulating plateau by the rim of the sharp drop above Cam Ghleann. Though only a gentle rise and a short distance to the insignificant summit, it may seem a long way on a misty day.
Of more concern on return on a poor day is to identify the cairn at the top of the sharp drop. This could all too easily be walked past in thick mist. Despite the agony of a further 176m climb back to the summit of Meall a’ Bhuiridh, do not be seduced by the apparently easy short cut by the NW slopes of the hill. The traverse is slow, rough and not recommended.
Map Ordnance Survey: map 41, Ben Nevis, Fort William and Glen Coe
Distance: 6½ miles
Terrain: Path/track to grassy slopes then to stony summits
Start Point: Glencoe Mountain Resort car park, map ref 266525
Time: 5 hours
Nearest villages: Glencoe and Tyndrum
Refreshment spot: Glencoe Mountain Resort cafe