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The Ardverikie Three - Beinn a' Chlachair, Geal Charn & Creag Pitridh Walking

With a wild feel, but easy to reach, the three big peaks of the Ardverikie Forest are an attractive trio, making a long but relatively manageable three-Munro round. In the neighbouring hills of the Ben Alder Forest the abiding themes are scale and inaccessibility, but Ardverikie bucks this trend, with convenient access from the Laggan road (made even quicker by bike). It's worth noting that 'forest' means here a big tract of land given over to hunting, and that thanks to the deer shooting industry these forests are strikingly tree-less. Despite the poor practises of landowners it remains a beautiful area, however, and the historic stalker's paths that weave through the hills do help smooth your progress.

Creag Pitridh (right) from Beinn a' Chlachair  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Creag Pitridh (right) from Beinn a' Chlachair
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Detailed description

1
NN4331283052 Cross a bridge over the River Spean and follow the farm track to a junction. Go left, passing through a gate, and stick with the track as it curves right onto open moorland above the Abhainn Ghuilbinn. Beyond a large quarry pit the track bends left, climbing to another junction near a pinewood. Turn right here, following the track roughly south, and then more east as it rounds the foot of Binnein Shuas. At another junction stay left, passing a small reservoir and then, after a further 1km, reaching the southwest end of Lochan na h-Earba. With a gorgeous sandy beach and a view of the impressive crags of Binnein Shuas (chiefly famous for the classic route Ardverikie Wall), this is a lovely spot.

2
NN4622281359 Cross a bridge over the outflow from the loch, then leave the main stony track at a small cairn to follow a grassy track across pastures by the head of the loch. Join the trail heading uphill alongside the Allt Coire Pitridh. Pass some ruined shielings and continue uphill to a ford. Instead of crossing here, turn left off the main path to pick up a vaguer trail. This climbs steadily east-northeast across boggy slopes. The path fades in and out, but the way is obvious - just make a beeline towards the summit of Creag Pitridh. This little Munro is a good viewpoint looking over Lochan na h-Earba and Binnein Shuas to the hulking Creag Meagaidh massif.
Heading up Creag Pitridh  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Heading up Creag Pitridh
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Oct 2019

3
NN4874481456 A direct route to the next col is blocked by steep ground, so first head south before an easier line can be taken down to the col - there's a rough path for guidance. Cross the col, then a stalker's path running at right angles to your route, before climbing towards Geal Charn. The ground is fairly complex in detail, and there's not much sign of paths; first aim for the broad southwest spur. Once you're on the high ground, stony terrain leads up to a vague false summit. The true top is a little further to the northeast, across a small col - a fact that could be easily overlooked in misty conditions (for the avoidance of doubt it's topped with a hefty cairn).

4
NN5045581202 Return the same way, then keep walking west-southwest off the end of the spur. Bear slightly right as you descend, to avoid a small band of crags on the south flank of the hill. Rough ground, with little trace of a trail, leads down to a stalker's path on about the 800m contour. Turn left onto this, descending easily to the Bealach Leamhain before climbing onto the obvious shoulder at the northeastern foot of Beinn a' Chlachair. This is the highest and most dramatic of the three Munros - a case of saving the best til last.

5
NN4911979691 Turn south off the stalker's path for a steep ascent, following vague hints of a path weaving up through boulders and outcrops. It's hard to discern the scrambling referred to in some guides, but if it's snowy this steep rocky slope does require some care (an axe and crampons may be essential). On the more gently-angled ground above, stride easily over a minor top, cross a broad col and ascend to reach the edge overlooking the deep scoop of Coire Mor a' Chlachair. The rolling plateau terrain calls for some careful navigation if the cloud is down. Follow the corrie edge before making the final steady climb onto the summit of Beinn a' Chlachair. A cairn and wind shelter mark the spot.

6
NN4711178140 Go back down east and then northeast around the corrie rim, but some way before reaching the broad col of stage 5, angle off to the left. Descend roughly north across open slopes, then follow a burn steeply downhill into Coire Pitridh. There's surprisingly little sign of a path on this go-anywhere ground. Pick your own line across the very boggy lower slopes to eventually reach the main burn draining the corrie. Cross this to pick up the stalker's path you used on the way in. This well-made old trail is a lovely contrast to the bogs, leading quickly back downhill to Lochan na h-Earba. Now just retrace your steps down the few kilometres of estate tracks to the road. At this stage, cyclists can feel smug.

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