Above Orchy

A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Munros above Bridge of Orchy

27-28 October 2018
Two days of guided winter hiking on the Munros above Bridge of Orchy and River Tulla. Steven Fallon was leading the first day, Richard Kermode was leading the second day....

Day 1 - Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Dorain

A fine forecast for the weekend, chilly, bright and just the slight chance of occasional wintery shower and breeze. In the days leading up to this event snow had been falling, so everyone was asked to come with good boots and plenty of warm layers. We didn't anticipate the need for crampons or ice-axes.

Our group, Laura, Hayley, Izzy and Julia all met up in the car-park by the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. I'd not seen Hayley, Izzy or Julia for around a year - it was lovely to catch up with them again. This was the first time Laura had been out with us - she'd picked the perfect day ! As we sorted our kit, quite a few other folk had arrived, the fine weather was bringing people out onto the mountains.

We began our hike in the shade, following a few folk up to the railway station and onto the path. Normally this path would be quite mucky, but the low temperatures of late had firmed up the ground allowing us to make a good pace. Higher up, the path was frozen over and progress was easier on the grass, particularly the steeper ground. We reached the cairn on the col between our two Munro summits and were now out of the shade - time for a break to take in the stunning winter views all around.

Which summit first ? I don't know why, but I tend to head for Beinn Dorain first. This also seemed to be the choice of all the other parties today. But not our group, we were heading for Beinn an Dothaidh first and began the hike up the snow-covered path. Leaving the path where it became icy (and slightly dangerous), we made a beeline for the middle and highest summit on Beinn an Dothaidh's high crest. A fair breeze whipped up from Coire Achaladair below bringing the wind-chill to well below freezing - although we had the summit to ourselves, we wouldn't be hanging around !

After drinking in the vast panorama and posing for some photos, we re-traced our steps back to the col, passing a handful of people aiming up. At the col, there were a few folk debating - they were all mates, had just done Beinn Dorain and now pondered an ascent of Beinn an Dothaidh. One chap had shorts and summer boots on - he wasn't for continuing uphill, most of the others faffed around, but eventually aimed off uphill. The weather was glorious and encouraged them on.

Refreshed, we began our hike up Beinn Dorain. Above we could see winds and gusts blowing spindrift around - the wind was coming from the east, so Beinn Dorain is perfectly formed for a fairly sheltered keeping on the west side of the crest for much the way. Meeting some guys higher up, the wind was blowing them around, one guy seemed to be sliding on the snow with every footstep and another suggested we didn't go to the top as the wind was the strongest he'd ever experienced. Undetered, we continued only really experiencing strong winds and gusts on the last 100m or so to the "Sassenach's Cairn", thereafter conditions were suprisingly calm. Up to the top, yes there was a bit of a breeze, so after a few photos, we sheltered behind some rocks just down from the summit. Lovely.

We returned to the col the way we came up, Julia bounding ahead enjoying the snow. Down from the col required a wee bit of care, then everyone headed back to Bridge of Orchy at their own pace.

A great day out in lovely company !

Day 2 - Beinn a'Chreachain and Beinn Achaladair

I met up with Laura, Julia, Isobel and Hayley at the busy car park near Achaladair farm on a beautiful frosty morning. We set off along the track making our way out towards Beinn a'Chreachain first.

After negotiating some not frozen bogs we decided to head straight for the rough ground leading to a bridge over the railway that would give us access to the open hillside. It was was cold out of the sunshine and we wouldn't get back into it until we crested the ridge as we were on the northern flanks of the hills. The going was fairly tough through the tussocks and trees until we cleared the forestry and began the steep climb that didn't have any real natural breaks so it was a long hard way up and soon we were in the fresh snow weaving our way through it startling plenty of deer lower down.

When we reached the ridge and burst into the sunshine what a difference! The warmth more than compensated for the icy breeze and we were walking along the ridge and up onto our first summit, Beinn a'Chreachain for the day in glorious sunshine. The views were fantastic and sunglasses were required to protect our eyes from the glare of the sun from the snow.

We were able to have lunch at the top of Beinn a'Chreachain before we began our traverse to Beinn Achaladair. The walking was superb with great views north to Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries, Ben Alder and the Cairngorms with Ben Lawers, Ben More, Ben Lui and Ben Cruachan all looking fantastic with a little snow!

There were a fair few folk about and we met some coming the opposite direction to us as well as some going the same way though we saw a huge party in the distance on the summit of Achaladair only we never met them. We enjoyed the hot climb up onto our second Munro of the day with some dramatic ice having to be negotiated on the steepest section, but sat on the top in the sun for afternoon tea! It was proving a memorable day as we continued along the high ground and then down to the bealach before Beinn an Dothaidh. Here we picked up the path down to Achaladair farm dodging ice and boggy fields to reach the carpark as darkness took hold.

A fantastic day and brilliant start to the winter!

More photos by Steven Fallon and Richard Kermode are here on Flickr.

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© 2018 Steven Fallon