Marhofn 84.04 - May 2002

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Tips for the Tops:

Tom an t-Saighdeir (19A)

Jon Metcalf: Following a failure the day before, I got up Tom an t-Saighdeir by Loch Awe on the Sunday of the Marhof 2000 meet. First the two failed routes: both ends of the loop path mapped from the road are unmarked on the ground and almost undetectable. These virtual start points can be worked out however. The southern one at NM975147 seemed completely choked with brambles, bracken and holly, and has no easy way off the road into the undergrowth. The northern one at NM976149 starts in steep mature woodland, near a dry stream bed. Zigzag steeply up 30m vertically to the SW of this stream as per the map, and above a line of crags you get a post with a green disk on it to confirm you are on the right route. I managed to force a way above this on a 2-in-1 gradient through head-high bracken another 40m or so, via assorted bog and thorns, and worst of all many rotten wind-felled trees and self-seeded new sitkas. I gave this up as unsafe since some of the trunks could be clambered over, but some I just stepped through. The black flies were hellish. Unlike higher hills these things should carry a higher grading in summer than winter.

The harder successful way up was from a quarry at NM986162. From here easy forest roads lead via left, right and left forks to a right-angle bend in the track at NM979164 where the area to the south of the track has been harvested. A fire break marked on the 1:25000 starts here heading WSW for 750m over tussocky ground to another dry stream and a very steep 25m grass bank (1 in 1 or more) at NM973159. Get up this to be met by even more trees, fortunately only five or six deep. These give way to the northernmost part of the deeply unflat summit 'plateau'. After some 800m of clambering over tussocks and peat grikes from here and another 50m of net up, you get to a trig point with great views of Lochs Awe and Avich, plus Cruachan etc to the north. This route is not recommended for the non-masochistic.

Now the easy way. The path marked on 1:25000 and 1:50000 maps is just a product of OS imagination. The area is very undulating and ungrazed, judging by the blaeberry crop. On the top near the trig point there are five posts spaced out, each with a green disk on. The posts lead to the top of the marked northern path, which from the tree line springs into existence steeply down on a lush carpet of grass with a good aggregate base. After the struggle this was a joyful release. The top section of the northern path corkscrews down through mature trees to an area which has been harvested then neglected for a few years. It's head-high bracken and more self-sewn trees, but at least the track under all the herbage is sound, and there are no precarious dead falls. This continues all the way down to the forest road at NM975152 where it crosses a small bridge over the ditch NW of the track. I put a few rocks together here by way of a cairn for future visitors. From the forest road the return to the quarry is mainly downhill on the track for about 2km. Looking back to the the section I'd abandoned, the hillside was solidly overgrown with new plantings and debris, and there was no sign of squashed herbage from my thrashing about the day before. I think the lower section has just fallen out of usage to the point of becoming a health risk. Very satisfying to beat the little swine after the Saturday's frustration. So, for stress-free bagging: go in spring, park at the quarry, take the forest road to the cairn, the good top section of the path to the plateau, and the marked posts to the trig. Deceptively easy.

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