11th of June, 2011 – Loch Earning a Summit Whilst Killin’ My Legs

Nine years ago two of us set off to walk two hills west of Lochearnhead, Meall an t-Seallaidh and Creag Mac Ranaich, approaching them from the south at Balquhidder. In misty conditions up high, we failed to find the route to the second peak from Meall an t-Seallaidh and with daylight limited we opted to head for soup and a pint instead of persevering. My companion, Andy, returned some years after and completed the walk but until now I had never quite found the time to finish off unfinished business.

A bad weather forecast led to walking plans being cancelled and therefore with free time and the need to get a long run done in preparation for a race in a couple of weeks, I laid out maps in search of a suitable route I could make a big loop out of with a good amount of ascent. Three options looked good but the one that I settled on was to take me back, finally, to Creag Mac Ranaich.

My route began and ended at Lochearnhead with a run south out of the village in to and up Glen Kendrum to the summit of Creag Mac Ranaich. From there, I descended west and north in to Gleann Dubh until I met with the remains of a disused railway in Glen Dochart which I followed to Killin. East out of Killin then south I ascended through forest to a high point beneath Beinn Leabhainn where I stayed level and headed west to the top of Glen Ogle, again on the disused railway, for a final descent south back to start.

View up Glen Kendrum to Creag Mac Ranaich

Despite the bad forecast, things started dry but cool and I felt quite comfortable on the first part of the run, walking on occasion for steeper sections and reaching the summit in an hour and ten minutes.

200m of ascent to the top of Creag Mac Ranaich

Looking down Glen Kendrum with Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin behind

Lookind down to Killin at the head of Loch Tay, route followed is off the left then, to the right down Glen Dochart to Killin

Running across rough ground and descending in to Gleann Dubh was actually the most comfortable running of the day and good progress was made quickly, I had to remind myself not to get overly happy about feeling good when I was not even half way.

Looking down Gleann Dubh to Glen Dochart

Falls in Gleann Dubh

It was brilliant running somewhere new and varied and to begin with the landscape was the main point of interest along the way but as soon as I joined the disused railway that used to link Edinburgh to Oban, the human element became interesting. It is quite sad to see something that must have taken a lot of time and effort and have been of some use in the past now just left for nature to cover up. I passed an old platform with a ruined building set back from it, possibly some old station building or an inn but with so little else in the way of settlement nearby I can’t see any obvious need for it, perhaps instead this station had some kind of industrial purpose. The line to Killin which I would follow is actually an old branch line off the main line.

Disused railway platform in Glen Dochart

Falls of Dochart, Killin with Meall nan Tarmachan above in the distance

Arriving at Killin, I briefly enjoyed the view of the Falls of Dochart and refueled on wine gums before limping my way up through forest tracks to where I could follow a fairly level track back to Glen Ogle. By now it was drizzling heavily and cold and my motivation was seriously flagging and I struggled to keep running for any length continuously. It was a happy moment to see Glen Ogle where I thought I’d be able to run downhill for the remainder without stops…

A Roman road? Monotony is running a forest track.

… but it was not to be, the hard surface and time I had already been running were taking there toll and I continued with walk, run, walk, run till the end.

Final descent, on the viaduct in Glen Ogle

End in sight, almost back at Lochearnhead

Quite happy with this effort of 30+km in just over four hours but at the same time it was a struggle and I know for sure I am no long distance runner. Good preparation for the event I will run in two weeks time though and I now know that a fully packed camelbak doesn’t seem to make any difference to running or comfort levels, likewise running with a map in one hand and camera in the other makes no difference and having run (and walked) this distance now, I feel better prepared for the main event in a couple of weeks. The camera is a luxury if I chose to take it, but I think as well as making me enjoy stops more often it will give me a record of what I expect will be the only time I run this kind of distance.

Update: Had a quick look online to resolve the mystery of the oddly situated station / platform I ran through and it seems that it was not a station serving any settlement but just the join of the Killin Railway with the main Callander and Oban line. More info on that here, here and some photos here.

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