Scottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UKScottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UK
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Meall Garbh - the narrowest part of the Tarmachan Ridge
Tarmachan ridge Map Photos
The traverse of the knobbly Tarmachan ridge is a classic introductory route in the Southern Highlands but it is not without a few 'problems' of its own.
Area: Southern Highlands
Grade: Ungraded (hard)   what does that mean?
Total Distance: 11 km
Total Ascent: 800 m
Time: 5 hours
  • Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50,000 Sheet 51
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer 378 1:25,000
  • Harvey Ben Lawers Map (1:25,000)
  • Avalanche hazard: Relatively safe.
    Avalanche Forecast area: SAIS do not currently issue a forecast covering this area. Distant Glencoe is the nearest.   more
    Gear: It might be worth taking a short rope (25 m) and a crab/sling in case the 'bad step' is icy.
    Tips: The minor road to the visitor centre and beyond is not kept open in winter and is best avoided if there is fresh snow about. If the road is impassable, park at the bottom and walk up. In this event, your best bet is probably the alternative route described.
    The Tarmachan ridge, though narrow in places, is broad and meandering elsewhere. If the path is obilterated by snow and visibility is poor, navigation will be difficult.
    Alternatives: The more usual approach is to park close to the Ben Lawers visitor centre, ascend the south ridge of Meall nan Tarmachan and descend via Creag na Caillich. However, this does not give as good a circular route as the route described here.

    From the A86 along Loch Tay, take the small road to the Ben Lawers Visitor Centre. Continue past the visitor centre, beyond the dam and past the north end of the reservoir (Lochan na Lairige). Park in a small lay-by marked by a cairn, about 500 m beyond the end of the reservoir.

    Grid Reference NN594416

    Meall nan Tarmachan 

    Cross the road and head up the long, undulating north ridge of Creag an Lochain. It is probably best to cross the electric fence using the first stile and stay on its left until just beyond the summit of Creag an Lochain. Then cross the fence via another stile and proceed across an area of flat ground to a lochan (Lochan an Tairbh Uisge).

    Head up broken ground at the southwest end of the lochan in the direction of the northeast ridge of Meall nan Tarmachan. Avoid a rock band by climbing an obvious gully on its right hand side; this gully normally holds a good amount of snow. Traverse right under crags for a short distance and then climb steepish slopes to gain the ridge. The ridge becomes more defined after this point and, after a series of bumps, levels off to bring you out on the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan (1044 m, cairn).

    Escape Route!
    If you wish to descend at this point, you can obviously go back the way you came. Alternatively, you can descend the SE ridge of Meall nan Tarmachan, via point 923. This is the normal route and leads quickly back to the road just north of the visitor centre. However, this variation does entail about an hour's walk along the road to get back to the car.

    Meall Garbh 

    From Meall nan Tarmachan, follow the broad ridge southwest, past a lochan, before a gradual ascent leads to the fine rocky peak of Meall Garbh. The ridge narrows considerably for a short distance here – this is the highlight of the day. After a short descent you reach the 'bad step' which is a tricky down-climb over an eroded rock band. It may be necessary to set up a belay or alternatively it is possible to bypass the step by descending steep slopes on the north side.

    Beinn nan Eachan 

    Continue over a series of dips and rises to the summit of Beinn nan Eachan (1000 m).


    Retrace your steps for about 300 m (distance) and start descending the north ridge of Beinn nan Eachan. The ridge is confusing at first but soon becomes better becomes defined. Follow the ridge over a series of humps until, about 1.5 km beyond the point at which you left the main ridge, the slopes on your right (E) become gentle enough to descend into Coire Riadhailt.


    Head ENE towards the other side of Coire Riadhailt, crossing a couple of burns, and pick up a vehicle track which heads back to the road. Turn right (E) and walk along the road for about 1 km to reach the car.

    © 2007