The second meetup I joined in Scotland was a lollipop hike to 3 Munros: Carn Liath, Stob Poite a'Coire Ardair, and Creag Meagaidh. You also get to go by Lochan Coire Ardair. Note that I found multiple spellings for these on hike descriptions/maps so please forgive me for any spelling mistakes.
After a nice night in Aviemore, me and my two new friends drove to the rest of the group. We met at the trailhead at the Creag Meagaidh Nature Reserve. It was very chilly so I had on several layers. After waiting for a bit for one other person who never showed, we started off on our adventure.
We followed a very well defined track that slowly increased in steepness it as climbed into some birchwoods. Then we branched off onto what I'd define as a route. It was in a boggy area and it went straight up. I think we climbed over 1000 feet in the first mile and a half and we weren't done going up yet. I made a joke saying that they had no idea what switchbacks were! Luckily, they all laughed at my joke.
We climbed up to a point in which then we contoured around to a ridge. While contouring I could see down to a lake that had what looked like a castle next to it. I was informed that it was where the BBC series Monarch of the Glen was filmed.
From there, we pretty much follow the ridge up to Carn Liath. Along the ridge the wind picked up and in my mind I thought of it as relentless. They later told me it wasn't so bad, however, I was pretty sure it was probably over 40 mph. We also started to get pelted with a bit of sleet and visibility declined to where you could barely see someone 10 yards in front of you. I made sure to keep up so that I didn't get lost (but never fear - I did have a gpx log that in emergencies could help me out). Our organizer kept his compass and map handy and often checked our route.
We continued up and down and up and down until we got to Poite a'Coire Ardair. Without the summit cairn I would have missed it. We just paused for a second and then continued on. The wind didn't make anyone want to linger long. I kept struggling to stay on the ridge as I felt the wind could knock me down off the edge at any moment.
We then descended to the Window - which isn't a window as we would expect. Instead it's a very steep drainage that allows views down into a canyon with a lake. At this point we couldn't really see what was down there. We did take a break here out of the wind before continuing up to Creag Meagaidh. I noticed that one side of me was slightly wet from sleet that had been whipped up by the wind.
We did another steep ascent to get up on the ridge to go to Creag Meagaidh. Along the ridge we encountered some snow. You see Meg's Cairn which we joked was there because Meg had wandered off a cliff nearby due to low visibility. This Cairn is often confused as the summit of Creag Meagaidh but since we knew that we continued on to the true summit. We crossed a couple of snow fields and then reached the summit. We took a few summit pictures. During one picture someone told us to do something daft in which the response was that we already were (hiking around on peaks in low visibility is definitely daft!) and then headed back to the Window.
On the way back to the Window, we stopped to check our direction again and the gut feeling of the organizer was not agreeing with his compass. He was going to power up his GPS to check when I pulled out my GPS and confirmed that his gut feeling was right. I was happy to have it to check since we couldn't see any landmarks.
When we reached the Window again, we did finally get to see the views. The cliffs were stunning and down below was the lake! The desert rat in me was excited! The bad part, was the descent down the drainage. Part of it was a snow field, part of it was scree. I did get to slide down a small part of the descent which made me happy! But the part down the scree was not fun. However, it was easier then Devil's Chasm!
The lake was beautiful. Only about half of our party paused very long at the lake. I guess they are just not as excited about water as I am
I would have loved to have stopped for a long break but we did have a two hour drive back to Glasgow so I didn't linger much after taking my photos.
We did talk about how nice it would be to "wild camp" there. I learned that in Scotland you can put your tent up anywhere. Even in the middle of some blokes pasture (if you thought that the sheep would leave it alone)! The public has the right-a-way and trespassing is not a concern.
The trek out was pretty benign. We were on a nice flat path that had just a few ups and downs. We got great views of the ridge we had blindly navigated as well as the opposite side of the canyon.
From this hike I learned that the Scottish Hillwalkers are very sturdy people in which weather does not bend. Nothing will cause them to turn around, not high winds, low visibility, or sleet! I was quite proud of myself to be able complete such a hike with them.
Just for the record, I have now completed 5 Munros!