Our blog - Orchy Munros, Mar'17A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !
Munros above Bridge of Orchy4-6 March 2017
A weekend of winter days on the mountains above Bridge of Orchy. John was leading the first two days and Steven the third day. Here's a tale of the days ...
You can start to feel hard done to y'know, as after a week of friends and colleagues posting pictures of blue skies and pristine snowy vistas, the weekend is forecast 50mph gusts, heavy rain and blizzards. Typical!
Undeterred of course, I met Katie, Glen, Lynne, Diane and Nathan at the car park next to the Bridge of Orchy hotel, and we battened down the Goretex hatches and set off. It was raining hard, and this turned to snow over 400m, there already being a covering down to the railway, which got progressively deeper as we ascended. At least it disguised the awfully eroded path, and we managed to dodge the boggy sections alright too. the wind couldn't make up its mind, as it swirled in the coire, sending spindrift all around.
After a snack at the large rock at 690m, we broke trail through the drifts to the bealach, and smartly onto the flanks of Beinn an Dothaidh, as the wind was pulsing through the gap. Once on the hillside, it wasn't too bad, and after donning crampons to deal with the ice and neve, we plodded up to the summit at 1004m, where it was even lighter, presumably being thrown over our heads after striking the cliff face. The visibility was poor, but sufficient to make out rocks, so not a pure whiteout. After some high-fives and photos, we turned tail and followed our prints back to the bealach, where we saw that a good few other folks had made use of our trail, but had headed off up Beinn Dorain.
We set off that way too, but as we had crampons on, we were able to make use of the water-ice to skip smartly up the rocky sections, where they had to skirt it on the softer snow. Indeed, I found it easier than in just wet weather! After a judicious bearing at the top of the initial steep section, we re-joined the footprints as they conjoined with ours onto the right of the shallow gully which takes you to the summit ridge and the first larger cairn, which is NOT the summit! I have told many a party this when I have bumped into them taking photos in the murk on here, and have had some comical replies! Just before this we met the first of the descending parties, and exchanged pleasantries about how the wind wasn't at all at the strength forecasted, as well as chatting about the cairn of course.....
One of our party was feeling the extra effort required in the crampons and snow, but they soldiered on, encouraged by the group, and eventually we got to the 1076m summit for our second quality winter munro of the day, all of us plastered in ice and snow - hurrah! The cold and lack of views meant we wasted little time, and cramponed safely and efficiently back to the bealach, and then on down to the station in a respectable 7.5hrs, given the conditions.
A MUCH better day than expected given that forecast....I don't moan when they get it wrong in our favour ;)
Sunday was a better forecast, with sunny spells and only occasional showers of snow, and best of all, light winds. The plan was for Beinns Chreachain and Achaladair from Achallater Farm car park, which involves quite a walk-in, especially as we elected to take in the wonderfully atmospheric Coire an Lochain and ascend by the NE ridge. After crossing the railway by the bridge before Crannach wood, we traversed along the hillside steadily, cursing the crusty snow as we broke trail, until we got into the coire where we rested.
Then it was into crampons and Route One up the slope onto the ridge, which felt quite Alpine with its cornices and snow drifts. The summit was just a plod up the snow, which thankfully was firmer than below, and we took some pics in the murk, before taking a quick bearing and off down to the bealach. It was too cold to linger! The cloud held on to us until the summit of Achaladair, but it didn't matter, as the wind was light, and we were enjoying the high level walking. The final slope starts very steeply, and we were thankful for a trace of footprints which made the going easier.
The first cairn is the largest on the ridge, but signifies the 1036m top. The real summit of 1038m is so insignificant that all the footprints went by it, and on to another smaller cairn which incorrectly purports to be it. We checked our GPS, and indeed where the OS mark it is just a rise in the ridge. I suspect many folks credit the final rocky outcrop at the Western end as the top, but who cares, we walked along them all, and the cloud lifted to give us excellent views.
We planned to descend directly Westwards from the 950m contour, but the snow was balling up under our crampons, so we decided to take the longer South ridge for both safety, and as the views to Ben More, Stob Binnein, Creag Mhor etc were superlative, let alone our previous day's haul. Wonderful! True, the path down the coire towards the farms and cars is a bog-fest of the highest order, but hey, we were happy. A very respectable 8 3/4hrs given the snow and visibility, so well done to guys.
It's Monday and today Steven was heading out to Beinn Mhanach with Nathan, Lynn and Diane...
We met all met in Crianlarich for the drive up the road in one car to save on fuel and minimise any parking problems. After a bit of a chat about the potential rivers in spate due to the amount of snow that was likely to melt over the day, we changed our route start from Glean a'Chlachain to Achallater. A quick drive up the road, we arrived at Achallater, got our kit ready and started up the boggy path. A new hydro scheme has a new track up from the farm, but alas, this is not the way for hillwalkers ! Snow level started at around 500m and we could then pick out footprints from the group's descent yesterday. Up to the col above Coire Daingean, where the sun came out, we then had a gentle descent to the foot of Beinn a'Chuirn, cutting footprints through the snow on the way. The mist came back in :0( ! A line of fence-posts was met, which took us to the bealach below Beinn Mhanach, from where I took a bearing and we found our way through the white-out to the summit. High-5's all round !
The return route was easier - we had a set of footprints to follow. Back to Coire Daingean, we took a slightly different route down stopping at a weird bit of rock on the way. Mica-schist, millions of years old, just peeled apart in our fingers. To the car in bang on 7 hours - exactly the time estimated !
More photos by John and Steven are here on Flickr.
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