THE cars and vans looked like miniature models as I watched them zip silently along the side of Loch Lochy some 3,000 feet below my breakfast spot.
It was 7.30am and I was sitting at the head of the Cam Bhealach, the mountain pass which splits the Munros of Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh and Meall na Teanga.
On this occasion I had walked up from the shores of the loch. Other times I have approached from the Mile Dorcha via the forest walk through Gleann Cia-aig.
Whichever way you approach, the view from the top of the pass always appears as a revelation. It’s an oasis of calm, a place to stop and gather body and mind before commencing the final climbs. There’s a reluctance to move on from here quickly.
I first tackled these mountains from the south, setting off from the car park in darkness in the wee small hours, the dawn rising step by step with me until the whole landscape was bathed in various hues of yellow.
It’s a bit of a bog trot at times but when you reach the head of the bealach all is forgiven as your eyes are drawn down the full length of the glen sweeping down the other side. You immediately wish you had come in that way instead.
So next time out I drove over the Laggan swing bridge at the northern end of the loch and took the minor road to Kilfinnan. There’s a parking spot just before the bridge. A few years back the local farmer was charging for leaving your car here, but after a few complaints it was ruled that so long as your vehicle stayed on this side of the bridge it was free.
Take the track past the farm and then along the shoreline. About three miles in, you will find a track slanting off to the right. It goes up through the trees before turning into a good path all the way by the waters of the Allt Glas Choire to the pass.
My target for the day was to sweep up all the minor peaks along with the big two and then return along the Sean Mheall ridge. Meall na Teanga was first (if you come in from the south, it’s best to tackle Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh first) and then Meall Dubh before dropping down for my breakfast reservation at the pass.
Then it was on to Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh and the circuit of the rim of the long, lonely Coire Glas. The view into this vast bowl of calm stays with you all way round to the cairn of Sean Mheall where you drop down carefully through rocky outcrops and occasional forestry to your starting point. Little did I realise at the time that I will likely never see this view again.
Over the next five years or so, the landscape will be transformed by an £800 million hydro-electric scheme which will see the little lochan massively extended into a reservoir and a huge dam constructed.
The scheme has divided opinion - the Mountaineering Council of Scotland has backed it while Ramblers Scotland is firmly against and the John Muir Trust is also showing concern.
Whatever happens, I suspect the calm of the Cam Bhealach and the view from the magnificent Ben Tee may be disturbed for quite a while.
(First published Daily Record, May 29, 2014)