I had bought a new pair of snowshoes and was eager to try them out, and thought Corrour would be the ideal place to do so. While the other passengers on the early morning train at Airdrie looked forward to another day at work, my clothing would suggest that I wasn’t in the same boat. With a rucksack and ice-axe I was prepared for anything but a day stuck in an office routine. Having said that I’ve travelled up and down the West Highland railway line so often that sometimes it seems to be routine. A hot chocolate, a cake and a newspaper for the journey up, then a wee nap, before putting on gaiters and making a start. Today however the mountains were covered with a thick coating of fresh snow and there was a buzz about the train which I couldn’t avoid. Leaving Tyndrum this became even more palpable. The scenery in it’s white garb against a bright blue sky was stunning, and the sight of herds of deer, looking pretty fit and well fed, so close to the railway was fantastic. While some ran at the approach of the train, others looked on unconcerned. One passenger couldn’t contain his delight at the snow and leapt off at every station to take photos, much to the concern of his companion, who called out “If the train goes away without you, don’t think I’m pulling the emergency cord!”
As I readied myself to get off at Corrour there was another buzz, as I took my snowshoes out of my bag. I had a quick chat about them with a few other walkers, two of whom were headed for the same hill as me and then we were at the station. While the others left I took a few minutes to put the snowshoes on, giving me time to talk to a chap from Transport Scotland who had been sent up to inspect the station, checking it had been properly gritted and that all timetables and notices were up to date. That’s certainly a better day at the office than most folk get! I left him to it, and set off across the moor towards An Diollaid. There is a track used by the deer stalkers, but I avoided that initially. I wanted to get a photograph of a prominent rock, and I also wanted to visit a geocache I have stashed here. The rock was straightforward, as you can see from the photos.
The geocache was a bit harder, seeing as how it was located under around four or five feet of packed drift snow. I chose not to dig for it, and instead headed up onto An Diollaid, a long spur which makes one side of a horseshoe shaped corrie. I found the going straightforward enough with the snowshoes on until I reached the track which runs up the ridge. Exposed and wind scoured, there wasn’t enough snow here to make trying to ascend with them worthwhile, so I stowed them and headed up, to be met by the two walkers from the train. Richard and Dorothy were up from England, spending a week trying to tick off some of Dorothy’s last few Corbetts. We headed uphill together and I was glad of the company. Visibility was poor, and the GPS showed we had walked past the cairn waymarker we were all looking for. We almost missed the point where the path splits, with one fork going on up towards Beinn a’ Bhric while the other drops down to the bealach at the head of Coir’ a’ Bhric Beag.
The snow was deeper here, and I put on my snowshoes again before striding out across the snow. Behind me Richard and Dorothy followed, Richard sinking deeply into the snow, allowing me to assess how much the snowshoes would aid my progress. I engaged the heel lift on the snow shoes and we started upwards. There was little visibility, and I counted my paces as I ascended, grabbing a quick bearing using the GPS as a compass. I was breathing heavily, as even with snowshoes on it was hard going. 1,2,3,4….68,69,70..STOP. Breathe. Check bearing, start again. Broken down into stage it was made manageable, and I was just on the verge of having us spread out in a line to find the cairn when I saw it, a huge lump of snow plastered rocks.
Even taking in to account photo stops this had only take about 2hrs 50 min, so there was plenty of time for the journey back. This was my third time on top of this hill, and on both the other occasions I had done the walk as a horseshoe, with the return leg down the Sron an Lagain Garbh. Today I didn’t fancy that though. While it’s an enjoyable scramble, in winter it’s a different proposition. Instead we returned the way we had came, enjoying brief snatches of a view of distant hills before the cloud once again reclaimed them.
I kept the snowshoes on for the remainder of the journey, picking out deeper areas as we went, these being more comfortable to walk on. As the track levelled off we followed the track towards the station, where Richard displayed a knack for finding bridges, albeit after he had stepped off them!
The station was deserted, and we settled in for a two hour wait for the evening train. Richard and Dorothy were staying at Tyndrum, and would be fed and watered long before I was in sight of home. To break the wait up, I got the stove out and knocked up a few hot chocolates, supplementing my water with fresh snow (white only!), before enjoying the delights of a Pot Noodle. As darkness fell we noticed lights on in the old station building, a positive sign that it will perhaps re-open in the spring. I pottered around the platform in the darkness, taking photos, disturbed only by the roar of a military jet, it’s green light blazing up along Loch Treig like a meteor.
Soon it was a light of a different colour we were observing. Right on time, the train drew in and we clambered aboard. There were no views this time, Rannoch Moor was swallowed in an inky blackness, and there was no clamour to see the deer now. It was an altogether quieter journey back. I said farewell to Richard and Dorothy at Upper Tyndrum, where they were spending the night before trying to bag another Corbett in Glen Etive. With nothing outside to distract me, I settled in to my routine:a hot chocolate, a bite to eat, a book to read and and a wee nap before Glasgow…