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Scotland's Watershed Part 7 Crianlarich to Black Mount

Scotland's Watershed Part 7 Crianlarich to Black Mount

Postby rohan » Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:35 pm

Date walked: 17/04/2018

Time taken: 8 days

Distance: 132 km

Ascent: 9429m

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See also Scotland's Watershed parts 1-6
This report covers 4 outings of 2-3 days each. Actual Watershed stats for this section are as follows
83 km , 52 miles Height gain 7633 m
Below is the route of the Watershed. later maps will show the routes I took to reach the Watershed or were I had to deviate from it.. All photos are taken with my phone

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Wind, wind, wind, wind or substitute whatever four-letter word you favour. I was just over 7 miles into my walk from Crianlarich to Tyndrum along the Watershed and the high wind was doing its best to defend the summit of Beinn Dubhcraig from my approach. Remember April when the MWIS was forecasting that we were in for a period of good weather starting sometime in the week beginning 16th April and continuing to the weekend. This was after what seemed like months of bad weather. I was booked for Knoydart on a John Muir Trust work party but with some regret cancelled that. These good weather spells cannot be ignored and I hoped to get along the Watershed as far as the Glencoe Ski Centre , Hey ho when will I ever learn not to count my Watershed miles.
I travelled down to Tyndrum on Sunday night, prepared to catch the 06.22 train to Crianlarich in the morning, leaving my van at Tyndrum Lower Station to await my return. An update on the weather when I arrived– rain and upland gales continuing through Monday – and I postponed my start to the Tuesday the forecast being rain and upland gales in the morning, improving in the afternoon and then on through the week with increasingly warm weather. The rain drummed on the roof of the van overnight on Monday through to Tuesday but I was confident that it would clear and happily donned all my waterproof clothing, hoisted my sack on my back and caught the train. I was clambering over the dry stane dyke onto the wet, rain-sodden hillside at 07.00. I was expecting wet and it didn’t let me down but as I squelched up the hill next to the fence-line of the plantation I realised that despite the sogginess the ground was remarkably firm under the surface. Unfortunately, the song that popped into my head and stayed there was D Ream’s “Things Can Only get Better”.

ImageStart of the Watershed on other side of A82 by Seal54, on Flickr

A single stag stared at me just long enough for me to start pulling out my phone (camera). I knew it would be off by the time I was ready to shoot and it was and I that was the last glimpse of wildlife that day.. There is very little route finding necessary on this first section, just keep the fence on the right-hand-side. Occasionally the Watershed dips into the forestry but I declined to nip back and forth over the deer fence to oblige. The weather, the vegetation, the forestry all made me think back to my starting point on Peel Fell. In more ways than one this trip was to evoke that first outing on the Watershed. No West Highland Way there mind you. At this early hour there were no WHW ers out as I crossed it and continued on up to Craw Knowe (465m) , even the name was reminiscent of the Borders. The cloud level was about 550m and the extensive lower slopes of Fiarach (652m, a Graham) gave the impression of being part of a much higher mountain so much so that it took me a few minutes to realise that it was indeed Fiarach and Ben Dubhcraig (978m) hadn’t moved eastwards. The rocky summit of Fiarach juts above a lumpy plateau of lochans and hillocks that could have presented a navigational challenge but keeping to the eastern part of the plateau and following each burn upstream to its source I was able to use the Watershed as a navigational handrail. This was helped by the sheer amount of water rushing to find a path down the hill. With the mist lightening somewhat (things can only get better) the summit of Fiarach loomed out of the murk and I scrambled up its rocky ridge, almost being upended by the wind, to its summit

ImageFiarach Summit by Seal54, on Flickr

Then it was about turn and again keep following the burns uphill to their source but this time on the western side of the hill. The cloud started to lift, was this the better weather coming? Woo hoo! I hadn’t hurried so far (no, Rohan tell the truth) my progress had been slow but it didn’t matter, I felt fine and there was a lot of day left. Dubhcraig was now in view and occasionally I glimpsed the summit as the cloud lifted. I was still being battered by the wind but there were breaks in the rain.

ImageBeinn Dubhchraig by Seal54, on Flickr

The route goes up and down over some named, Creagan Soillier (630m) and Cruach Cruinn (492m), and some unnamed lumps (618m and 646m) before a final down and up to an unnamed lumpy prominence of 4 summits, each around the 580m mark. I stopped for sustenance and studied what I could see of the route up Dubhcraig. It looked steep with crags interspersed with snow but as far as I could see there were ways through. Of more concern was the speed that the traces of clouds were whipping across the hill. The wind had not really dropped and now the brief improvement in the weather was also disappearing with the rain back on. I wondered about contouring around to the North East shoulder where I thought I would be protected from the worst of the southerly wind.

ImageSlight improvement in the weather by Seal54, on Flickr

I never fully made up my mind on this before I set off across the bealach. All the burns were in full spate and one right on the watershed had so much water flowing down it, a small rivulet had broken away from the Atlantic bound water and was heading for the North Sea.

ImageTwo-way burn by Seal54, on Flickr

Climbing up the lower slopes of Dubhcraig, the wind wasn’t too bad and still I didn’t make up my mind about the route, conscious that I probably needed to as there appeared to be a more or less continuous a bastion of crags circling the mountain at about 700m. At 650m, I took one more look at the clouds zipping over my head and made a sharp exit to the right. With the wind at my back I made reasonable progress round to the NE shoulder and started once more for the summit. Step forward, blast back - the wind was as ferocious here as on the east route. I couldn’t believe it but also knew that however bad it was at this level, the summit and route onwards to Oss wouldn’t be any quieter. I still had a good 7 hours of daylight but what if there was nowhere sheltered to camp. I scouted around where I was, dropping below the ridge, still wind and nothing light-hearted about it,. It was scouring the mountain, flushing out anything that wasn’t fixed. Lots of sweary words. I dropped down to try and find a sheltered spot where I could campa and wait for the better weather tomorrow.
There was nowhere out of the wind and I decided to call it a day. The MWIS had mentioned care was needed in crossing burns that would be in spate with rain and the snow melt. That isn’t a problem on the Watershed until you leave it and I had set out with the intention of walking all the way to the next road crossing. My 1:50,000 map doesn’t show the bridge over Alt Coire Dubhcraig at NN333284 and even at the top edge of the plantation I didn’t fancy crossing it to gain the northern bank. I last climbed Dubhcraig 21 years ago and my memory could not summons how we walked to and from the hill (apart from parking at Dalrigh). I was pretty certain it didn’t include wading rivers. Knowing that the further downhill I went the harder it would be to cross, I somehow remained optimistic something would turn up. At the point where the Alt Glean Auchreaoch (on the map apparently a much larger stream than the ACD) joined the ACD, I ran out of options but managed a crossing of the smaller AGA and an interesting climb out up a rather disintegrating bank. Then it was just a matter of walking back along the WHW to the van.
Unable to raise a signal and a forecast I met up with another JMT member from the NE who was walking the WHW and that night was in Crianlarich. As a retired meteorologist, I knew that James would have the forecast. He did, more of the same heavy rain and upland gales. I turned for home. An attempt to do a calendar Munro on the Wednesday came to nought as the Grampians were similarly adversely affected. I sulked through Thursday and started Friday in much the same negative mood. Around 10 am I checked the forecast. The promised good weather had finally arrived. It took me a couple of hours to get sorted and after hold ups on the road (they were fixing the road between Crianlarich and Tyndrum, much needed) I was back at Dalrigh by 4.30 and camping 200m below the summit of Dubhcraig by teatime.

ImageView from camp by Seal54, on Flickr


Oh what a beautiful morning, up with the wheatears who were singing away, I had shivered rather than slept through the night, my warm spares left in the van by mistake. The summit of Dubhcraig (978m) came easily but so did the cloud which enveloped me as I descended to the bealach 170m (approx.) below.

ImageBen Oss and Ben Lui from Dubhchraig by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorma art summit of Beinn Dubhchraig, Looking to Ben Lui by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from top of Dubhchraig Looking back to Loch Lomond and Watershed so far by Seal54, on Flickr

Thousands of feet have worn a path so I didn’t make any attempt to take a bearing until I realised that the path I was following wasn’t going up Oss but contouring around. I retraced my steps to the bealach and started up the ridge and duly found another hillwalkers path to the summit of Oss (1029m). I had only climbed these hills once before, way back in 1997. Then we had a clear day unlike today. I sensed that the cloud would clear but decided not to wait and pressed on (this time on a bearing to avoid any straying). I came out of the cloud at around 850m and the sight of Beinn Bhuide above Loch Fyne momentarily threw me, not ever recalling seeing it from this angle and realising that it was much closer to the rest of the Arrocher Alps than I remembered. Across the bealach the various lochans bubbled and boiled as the frog-life interrupted its mating rituals and dove into the muddy depths as they sensed my approach. Attempts to photograph this proved futile.

ImageSummit Beinn Oss by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20180421_100015228 by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBealach between Oss and Lui with bubbling lochans by Seal54, on Flickr
The day was beginning to improve and I could see that the cloud had liberated the summit of Oss where a tiny stick figure could be seen walking about. Similarly, the cloud was lifting off Lui and soon the sun came out in celebration. I have climbed Ben Lui twice before; once from Cononish, once from Beinn a’ Chleib and now I was coming from yet a different direction. About halfway up the climb I met my first walker of the day (Dougie from Cowdenbeath if my memory serves me correct, if not, apologies). Not only had he heard of the Watershed but he had also read both “Walking the Watershed” and “The Ribbon of Wildness”. He had walked parts of it himself. Further on I met more people and there looked to be a veritable Sunday School outing on the actual summit (1130m). Pleasantries and conversation were held with most but I felt patronised by 2 males who both told me in quick succession “Not far to go now”. I bit off the reply “No only another 500 miles” before it escaped my angry mouth. I lingered by a trio of young skiers preparing to shoot off down the Central Gully. I obliged them by taking a photo of them (secretly wondering if the photo would survive) but didn’t have the stomach to watch them go.

ImageExtreme skiers off Ben Lui by Seal54, on Flickr

The summit was fair crowded with folk enjoying what was now a fantastic sunny Saturday and it dawned on me that this was the first summit on the Watershed that I had not had entirely to myself. Views were magnificant, over to Cruachan, The Black Mount, looking very white, the hills of the Watershed above Tyndrum, The Glen Dochart Munros, Ben Lawers and Oss and Dubhcraig of course.

ImageCrowds arriving on Ben Lui by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMore people and skiers climbing Ben Lui by Seal54, on Flickr

I didn’t linger aware that a significant descent of over 700m awaited, with substantial crags that had to be negotiated. Melting snow made the rocks slippy so care was needed. Further down I thought that I could avoid the worst of the crags by traversing to the right, down climbing steep sections where I could. The steep grassy slopes were also very slippy, again due to the sheer amount of snow melt. Unfortunately, I ended up being pinched out by crags above and below and unable to find a safe route down, had to re-ascend for about 150 m. I eventually detoured around to the left, lowering my rucksack down with my ice axe and sling at one point then watching it roll for about 5 m before it came to rest (phew!), oatcake mash for tea! I finally made it down. Dave Hewitt mentions he took “over 1 hour” for the descent. I took treble that and was exhausted at the bottom.

ImageLooking back up the summit ridge by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageThe way down by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking back up THAT descent by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageRaven by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from L-R Dubhchraig, with Oss then Ben Lui with Beinn a Cleibh behind by Seal54, on Flickr

I stopped and made my evening meal before tackling the short climb onto the ridge leading eventually to Beinn Chuirn (a Corbett, 880m). I would have liked to have continued over Beinn Chuirn but once again preferred the camp in hand approach and found a lovely spot. I looked back at Lui and could see one or two places that I could have descended but whatever I had made it down in one piece and I had the whole of the next day to walk to the A85 road crossing, 8km (5 miles) distant and only 347m of climb
Today I had covered a mere 10.5 km (6.5 miles) but that included 3 Munros, almost 1300m climb and THAT descent. I can’t remember when I last managed 3 in one day (ok I did start the day within 250m or so of the summit but once I pass the Great Glen there are going to few escape routes and I am going to have to up my game if I want to complete the Watershed. Fortunately, this worry did not prevent me from having a really good night’s sleep, catching up on the previous night's lack of sleep.

ImageBen Lui by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama of Lui group (with Loch Awe in distance) by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCamp looking to Etive Hills and Black Mount by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20180422_080120940 by Seal54, on Flickr

Sunday dawned with a lot of cloud and the day never picked up. Following the fence line up Beinn Chuirn (1st and only previous ascent with Heather in 2008) visibility at the summit was not good.

ImageBeinn Chuirn summit with Oss and Lui behind by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageWatershed on from Beinn Chuirn by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageNot the way down Beinn Chuirn by Seal54, on Flickr
I continued following the fence line for a few seconds before I realised that it disappeared into a snow bank, the edge of which could not be seen. Checking the map, it was clear that this was not the route to follow unless I wanted a very rapid and painful descent. Taking a bearing I followed the Watershed route first just west of north and then down the NE ridge and re-joining the fence at the bottom. The route to the next hill Meall Odhar (a Graham, 656m) was defended by a newish deer fence. It is clear that there had been a gate in the old deer fence, now left lying against the new fence but not any use as a ladder. This was the first deer fence since Grey heights but I fully expected more on the other side. I was pleasantly surprised not to encounter any difficult ones until after Bheinn Beag. With rain and mist coming and going I climbed the rough wet slopes of the summit. Odhar means dun coloured, a description that could have been applied to most of the terrain I had covered so far this trip. Nothing appeared to be growing apart from some green shoots of soft rush. There is little food for deer and sheep and there has been a high mortality for both these grazers this winter/spring.

ImageSummit Meall Odhar with Beinn Chuirn behind by Seal54, on Flickr

Meall Odhar was another pick and mix summit so I visited the 2 visible cairns. The easy way on is to follow the fence line of posts on a base of rocks but the watershed takes a dog leg round on damp and boggy terrain strewn with lochans and this is the way I went. I thought the rocky peak at the head of Drochaid an Droma more interesting than the Graham and then there was just one final hill (Sron nan Colan 590m) between me and the flesh pots of Tyndrum.

ImageView to Bheinn Bheag (in mist) from Drochaid an Droma by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSron nan Colan from Drochaid an Droma by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageL-R Ben Oss,(in cloud), Meall Odhar and Beinn Chuirn by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit Sron nan Colan by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMist closing in at summit of Sron nan Colan by Seal54, on Flickr

As I walked the easy ground to the last summit, I pondered over my choices for my immediate onward journey. My only limitation being the need to be back at the van in time to head for home today
1) Continue through the gold mine, down to the railway line to the A85, climb Beinn Bheag , follow the Watershed down across the A82 to the WHW and walk back to Dalrigh along it.
2) Head down the path to Tyndrum from the Gold mine and thence to Dalrigh along the WHW
3) Option one but miss going onto Ben Bheag and walk back along the road to Tyndrum then WHW to Dalrigh

ImageBheinn Beag from top of gold mine by Seal54, on Flickr

With cloud now settling firmly on Ben Bheag I eventually selected option 3. The descent to the railway line was straightforward with just stock fences rather than deer fences to negotiate. There were a number of windblown trees but by sticking to the larch side of the plantation there was nothing difficult to climb over. The short walk along the A 85 was depressing for all the amount of rubbish, clearly thrown from passing vehicles.

ImageGold Mine and Tyndrum by Seal54, on Flickr

Joining the WHW, I was walking against the tide of walkers and wondered what they made of me carrying an ice axe but when I passed 2 bright white jackets and pink trainers bearing friendly smiles and an aroma of expensive perfume, I also wondered what they made of my muddy trousers and damp bog smell. No-one asked about the axe but if they had, I pondered about expressing surprise that they had not heard of the deep snow drifts beyond Bridge of Orchy, oh wicked me. In this very accessible group of hills I saw almost no-one (a few people coming off Dubhcraig on my 2nd attempt to start) except crowds on the summit of Lui and the WHW.
The Watershed route between Crianlarich and Tyndrum is nearly 18 miles (29km). It was slightly surreal to get in my van and cover the road route in 5 minutes albeit from Dalrigh.

Trip Total; 44 km 27.5 miles
Watershed total; 29 km 18 miles Ascent 2563m Descent 2566
Watershed total from Peel Fell to A85; 435km 281.5 miles


Monday 30/04/18.

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

I had left the Watershed on22/04 where it crossed the A85 just west of Tyndrum. Home was calling and I had a busy week culminating in a lovely family get-together at my place. When everyone left on the Sunday 29th I fully intended packing up and driving to White Corries where I would leave the van and catch the first bus back to Tyndrum in the morning. In the event I didn’t get going and decided to leave first thing Monday morning. The forecast was good until Tuesday evening then it sounded grim but I hoped to get over the highest hills by Tuesday evening and be on much lower ground around Rannoch Moor on the Wednesday. The route started at NN320310, just by a house, and went up over the unclassified Bheinn Bheag, back down to the A82 then up over the group of 5 Corbetts that nestle together between Loch Lyon an Tyndrum. Back in May 2007 I had completed this group in just over7 hours (not including the walk out) but remembered a hard day with significant height gain and loss between each hill, Of course I wasn’t carrying a full pack then nor had I acquired the various ailments that seemed to have come when I turned 60.
I got myself and the van to the White Corries CP and checked that it was ok to leave it for a couple of nights and just managed to catch the 11.32 bus to Tyndrum. I had forgotten that the CP is almost a mile from the bus stop but flagged down a very obliging welsh couple who gave me a lift down to the stop. There was still as significant amount of skiing going on at the White Corries and I had seen from Lui that there was still a lot of snow on this group of hills which were only a few days walking away on the Watershed.

ImageWatershed at A85 by Seal54, on Flickr

The bus duly deposited me in Tyndrum and after last minute purchases I walked up to the Watershed in beautiful sunshine, starting at 12.45. A convenient gate in the deer fence saw me climbing through the plantation. Like the descent from Sron nan Colan there were windblown trees but nothing that could not be avoided. The dry stane dyke leads to the summit but my way was barred by another deer fence, no gate so it was find a handy strainer, hoist the sack over using slings to land it gently the other side and then follow. Above me, a para glider was making the most of the light, favourable winds and beautiful clear day. Like skiing off down Central Gully on Ben Lui or walking the WHW this is not something I want to hurry to do but what a way to see the beauty of Scotland.

ImageWay up through the trees by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageParaglider by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageThe Ben lui group from Bienn Bheag by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCrianlarich hills from Bheinn Bheag by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCrianlarich hills from Bheinn Bheag by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Dorain and Rannoch Moor, Black Mount in distance ( snowcovered) by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from top of Bheinn Bheag L-R Black Mount, Rannoch Moor, Beinn Dorain, Beinn a Chuirn, Beinn Caisteal, Beinn Odhar, Beinn Challum, Ben More Stob Binnienand Crianlarich Hills by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from top of Bheinn Bheag L-R Ben More and Sob Binnien, Cruach Ardrain, Crianlarich hills back to Ben Lomond, Beinn Dubhchraig , Oss and Lui, Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn Breac-Liath by Seal54, on Flickr

I could have done with a wing to get me over the myriad of fences that blocked my way to the A82. They were many but they were also rather broken down but not quite enough to make for easy passage. Crossing the road was straightforward and then there is a no brainer of a choice between deer fence, steep bank down, railway line and risk of £1000 fine according to the notice, steep bank up and 2nd deer fence before gaining the hillside of Beinn Odhar (901m) or an easy walk along a track 100 mtres to the WHW and a cattle creep under the railway and a 100 m back to the upward route. This latter route didn’t take long and then there was no option plod up for the near 600m to the summit. Sometimes when you dread something it turns out not to be so bad and this was the case with this ascent. The steepness meant that height was gained fairly quickly. At about 700 m the gradient lessens and the views start to open up. At the summit the drop to the next bealach looks huge as does the climb up to Bein Chaorach (880m) The drop is over 550 m and the re-ascent is 375m and this is roughly repeated for the next 4 summits. It is not the most enjoyable walking except for a perverse sense of achievement. Apart from Beinn a Chasteil none of the hills have any prolonged walking at height and the steepness means a lack of views until the summit is reached and then all too quickly you are diving down again. It is enough to make one feel sea sick. Still on the plus side the weather is fine and the well-grazed hillside gives easy walking.

ImageSummit Bheinn OIdhar looking to Black Mount, Beinn Dorrain on right by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageThe hills of the Watershed around Crianlarich Ben Lomond on far horizon . by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageWatershed back to Ben Lomond Lui group on the right, Crianlarich hills on the left by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Challum ( right) Cam Chreag (left) by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLoch Lyon and hills of the Watershed going on from summit of Bheinn Odhar by Seal54, on Flickr

Starting after midday meant that I would not get round them all before camping but with the highest behind me I headed for Beinn Chaorach and its circular trigpoint., the first since Maol Mor above Stronachlachar. The next drop is in the order of 200m and is relatively gentle, I picked out a likely campsite ahead and having been up since 05.00am feel that I have done enough for one day. The evening colours were wonderful with the brown grass turning to gold and streams of silver water running off the hills. Ben Challum with its remnant snow patches stands close across the glen. And I watch the sun go down as I sip hot chocolate. My camp at around 750m is one of my highest so far and near perfect.

ImageCrinalarich hills beyond trig point on Beinn Chaorach by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageTrig Point Beinn Chaorach by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Challum and Crianlarich hills beyond by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSunset, Beinn Dorain on right by Seal54, on Flickr

Stats 8.8km 5.5m ascent 1330 m descent 966m

01/05 May Day!

ImageBeinn Challuim early morning by Seal54, on Flickr

Yesterday had certainly felt more spring-like. Next morning the early morning held promise with Ben Challum now tinged with pink. The sky was a bit overcast but I hoped to be over the remaining 3 Corbetts in this group plus the 3 Munros before the bad weather came in.(in your dreams Rohan!) I was on the summit of Cam Creag (839m) by 08.00 and looking to Loch Lyon then it is another plunge down to about 410m across the soggyish bottom thenup the more gradual gradient of the slopes of Beinn a Chasteil (886m). Its western edge plunges steeply down to the Alt Kinglass were the railway line snakes round the lower slopes of Ben Dorain, a peak that dominates the road journey from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy. The mark of the WHW can be seen running parallel to this out to Bridge of Orchy. My eye is drawn to Beinn Achaladair and Beinn Mhanach, with just one more of these pudding shaped Corbetts to go before the last big ascent of the day to the summit of Mhanach.

ImageCam Chreag summit by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView on to shoulder of Beinn a'Chaisteil by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView down to bealach and Watershed by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageFollow the fence...again to the soggyish bealach by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCloud lifts at Beinn a' Chaisteal. View to Loch Lyon by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView on to (following watershed order) Beinn Mhannach on the right, Beinn a'Chuirn, Beinn Achaladair on left, Meall Bhuidhe and Beinn a'Chreachain, behind Beinn a'Chuirn by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking back to Beinn Chaorach (right) and Cam Chreag (left) with Beinn Challuim in between (behind) by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Odhar with the Lui group behind by Seal54, on Flickr

Beinn a Chasteil is, in my opinion, the best of these 5 Corbetts with its steep western sides dropping away dramatically to the glen below. The wind was rising, the cloud blowing in and out but the wind was behind me and therefore at this time assisting my progress. The descent from Beinn a Chasteil was the easiest so far and I expected the ensuing 260m climb to Beinn nam Fuaran (806m) to be failry quick. In a complete reversal of my climb up Beinn Odhar, this small but steep climb seemed to take forever and sapped my energy. The day before on the drive from home I had been listening to Carlo Rovelli talking about the elasticity of time and how it goes faster at the top of a mountain than at the bottom. Yes, I can identify with that, it was fair whizzing by on this mountain. (Nb the programme had been “Start the Week”, when I went home 8 days later by a strange coincidence Carlo Rovelli was again on, this time talking to Jim Al-Kalili in “A Life Scientific”). I let out a bit of a cheer when I finally made the summit. Total ascent on this group of 5, 1893m total descent 1861m.3 of the summits had involved returning almost to the original height of the start. Conversely once Bheinn Mhanach was reached there was far less ascent and descent in the Munro group. At each summit there werre views of Loch Lyon;

ImageSummit Beinn nam Fuaran by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLoch Lyon from Beinn nam Fuaran by Seal54, on Flickr

All the while I had been heading towards Beinn Mhanach (albeit on a twisting route (Lets twist again). The weather was deteriorating, rain joined the wind and waterproofs were donned. In the mist Mhanach’s summit came and went and came again. I noticed another walker descending (later this turned out to be a pair of walkers) down Beinn Mhanach as I descended Fuaran, Then I spotted my first flower of the year. Not one I recognised, possibly mountain azalea?. Opposite I could see that a burn that had been feeding the Atlantic had been subjected to some engineering and its waters were diverted to Loch Lyon. This was a substantial alteration and now Beinn Mhanach’s waters would all flow to the North Sea. I was just 10 m short of the track when the couple reached it (separately) I raised my hand in greeting but there was no acknowledgement and they swept down the glen, without a by-your-leave. Oh well, maybe their mountain experience hadn’t been a success, they didn’t appear to be communicating much with each other eiher. There is no rule after all that says they have to say hello and if we had been in the middle of Glasgow their behaviour would have been totally normal.
Onwards and upwards as the cloud came down. I met another descending walker who did stop and speak and told me of difficult conditions higher up. The wind was stronger, the rain icier but not yet snow. I pressed on, found the fence crossing the bealach between the summit and the Munro top of Beinn a Chuirn. I took a compass bearing to the summit. There was a hint of a path but nothing more and I didn’t want to risk losing it in what was now seriously poor weather. The wind, broadside on, was whipping me painfully with a fine, sharp hail and constantly trying to push me off route. I battled to stay upright and on course. My hands were freezing, holding the compass but my waterproof gloves were buried a little way down. I had other ones in my pocket but they would be soaked through in minutes. My glasses were next to useless but I managed without my goggles. I tarried at the summit just long enough for a photo of the cairn then recommenced the battle back to the bealach. It didn’t take me long to decide to abandon the walk for the day despite it being only 3pm. 40 minutes of these conditions were enough. I did not want to repeat the struggle to the summit of Beinn a Chuirn, there would be no shelter on the bealach before Achaladair so I headed back the way I came, into the full force of the wind. I managed to find a bit of shelter down in Strath Tarabhain but with the rain now lashing down, the tent, me and just about everything got a bit of a pasting. I was as sheltered as I could be but the scar of my early camp in the borders still lingered and I feared that I was in for a sleepless night as gusts once again threatened to flatten the tent.

Imageunidentified flower by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit Bhein Mhanach by Seal54, on Flickr
I was conscious through the night of being woken to the sound of heavy rain and blasts of wind but rather miraculously I slept well. It was still chucking it down as I breakfasted and as everything was pretty damp, with the forecast for more bad weather, I decided to walk out to Bridge of Orchy (about 7 miles along good tracks) and catch the bus back to White Corries. Even as I made the decision, I wondered if I was just being a coward and giving in too easily. Dave Hewitt, Chris Townsend and the runners Elspeth Luke and Colin Meek could not bow before such weather pressures; another difference between a lightweight like me who choses when to walk and those who do it as a continuous journey. This sense of weakness of ambition heightened as the day improved with every step away from the ‘shed. The rain stopped, the cloud lifted and soon all the peaks were clear. However, at Bridge of Orchy, whilst waiting for the bus, a check on the MWIS indicated that there would snow and hail showers by the afternoon and again wind would impede progress. Thursday was to be abysmal. I had my annual date, marshalling at the Stuc a Chroin Hill race on Saturday so would not return until after that if the weather improved. It was on Saturday that I learnt that the Killin and Lomond MR teams had both been called out to search for a walker on Ben More (11 miles as the crow flies from Mhanach) on the self-same Tuesday I had been on Mhanach. He had got into difficulty in high wind. He wasn’t found until the following day and he survived but I now feel a little bit better about my decision to abandon, a decision that was proved even more right when I returned in fantastic conditions to continue my Watershed journey.
Watershed 11.7km 7.3m ascent 1526m descent 1225m
Trip Total 27 km 17.0 m
Watershed total from Peel Fell 446.7km 288.8m



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The weather for the race was poor. Low cloud but the forecast for Sunday and Monday was good so I determined to get to White Corries and catch the first bus of the day to Bridge of Orchy. From there I would walk up to the col between Dorain and Dothaidh and then contour round to the track leading to the col between Mhanach and Achaladair. I now had a time pressure, my long-suffering neighbour who looked after the hens and cat in my absences had to go away unexpectedly Mon-Wed. I needed to be back home by Tuesday.
The morning was excellent and at 09.00 there was already a trail of walkers heading up to the col. All were heading for the 2 Ds and once over the col I was on my own until the track. Again I passed dead sheep and near the end of the track, I saw a vehicle with a shepherd (?) and dog no doubt checking the sheep and lambs. I reached the col and fence at 638m and decided not to head up to Beinn a’ Chuirn (923m), maybe put off by Dave Hewitt’s experience there, maybe just laziness but my main mistake was blindly following the fence up to Achaladair. I knew the terrain ahead didn’t tally with what I expected; a more defined ridge with some crags instead of a wide grassy slope. Too late I realised that I should have ignored the fence and headed to the left. This would have been clear if I had taken in Beinn a’ Chuirn. Access to the ridge as now barred by steep snow fields, corniced at the top. I diverted to the end of these and then back tracked to the 1002 point. I met 2 men heading on to the main summit. The older and more vocal of the pair told me that this was his first Munro outing for over a year and he and his companion were up from down south to do a bit of hillwalking. He tried to pick my brains about snow cover on CMD arête as they hoped to do that next day. I couldn’t help. Ben Nevis and CMD were visible from Achaladair but at too great a distance to assess.

ImageBeinn a Chreachain by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBealach between Bein a' CHuirn and Beinn Achaladair, with Beinn a'Chaisteil and Beinn Odhar. by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCornice Beinn Achaladair by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit ridge Beinn Achaladair, view to Black Mount by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLoch Lyon, Beinn Mhanach on right by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMeall Bhuidhe and Beinn a'Chreachain by Seal54, on Flickr

The 2 guys kept approximately the same distance ahead of me for the rest of the day and although I saw other walkers (one young man doing all 5 Munros from Dorain round to Mhanach in one day, overtook me just before Beinn a’ Creachain) once again I had every single summit cairn to myself. Going was very easy underfoot, views excellent all around but there was a stiff breeze that was not to be ignored, especially close to the western edges of the ridge.
The descent to the first col was steep and again slippy with snow melt, then the gradual pull up over the intervening top of Meall Bhuidhe (987m and not to be confused with the Corbett Meall Buidhe which comes after Beinn a’ Creachain) the final summit of Beinn a’ Creachain came easily. My first (and only previous ascent of these Munros) had been with no views. Now I had views to the distinct gap of Loch Etricht ahead, over to Glen Coe, the Mamores and Ben Nevis to the West, Black Mount behind me on my left-hand side and the Watershed hills behind me on my right-hand side plus loch Lyon and Meal Buidhe.

ImageBeinn Achaladair and Meall Bhuidhe by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Dorain and Dothaidh by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageRidge of Beinn Achaladair and Beinn a'Chuirn, Beinn nan Fuaran, the lower hill between the two by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView across Rannoch Moor from Achaladair showing twists and turns of the Watershed by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageL-R Bheiu=nn Mhanach, Beinn a'Chuirn and Beinn Achaladair from Meall huidhe by Seal54, on Flickr

Judging by the number of voles I saw scurrying for cover Beinn Achaladair could be renamed Hill of the Vole
My sleepless night was catching up as I made my way down the ridge and onto the 961 height. I saw the 2 men heading off for the long walk back to their car. Tonight I only had a short walk to my finish, tomorrow was another matter.The descent was straightforward with crags easily avoided. I crossed the peaty floor of the glen, old bog wood helping my passage and a reminder of the former habitat in these parts. Now the wood lies bleached like old bones.

ImagePanorama looking back along Watershed from summit Bhein a'Chreachain by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama on Summit of Bheinn Chreachain looking at route onwards by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBeinn A'Chreachain from point 961 by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBog wood "bones" by Seal54, on Flickr

Once again I faced a choice down in the shelter of the glen. Bearing in mind that it had been windy at height, should I go on up the route to Meall Buidhe, hoping to find a sheltered spot with views or stick to the sheltered glen and climb the last significant ascent of this outing with fresh legs in the morning? The camp in hand won out (again) and it wasn’t long before I was in bed and fed, shortly thereafter fast asleep, and it wasn’t even 8 o’clock!

ImageCampsite looking north west by Seal54, on Flickr

Watershed 9.27km 5.76m ascent 781m descent 1011m
Total for day 16.05km 9.97m

Up with the sun and on my way to Meall Bhuidhe. This public holiday Monday was meant to be better weather than Sunday but the skies were overcast. Some hills modelled fleecy blankets of cloud covering their summits, others had wisps of scarf-like cloud drifting around their necks but the majority had a firm lid of continuous cloud and I hoped that this wasn’t a catching trend. I came across my 2nd flower of this year on this walk within metres of the tent, a wood anemone.

Imagewood anemone by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMeall Bhiudhe to Rannoch pano by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBheinn Mhanach and Chreachain by Seal54, on Flickr

The fence reappeared at the first height (marked 800m but unnamed except as "Pile of Stones") and I followed it over to Meall na Feithe Faide (marked by another small pile of stones). I heard the mournful cry of the plover and despite their camouflage and the increasingly grey day I spotted a pair of them just below the summit. Rather typically (but I have come not to trust the fence actually being on the right route) the fence wandered off route just about the same time the cloud rolled in and blocked out the summit of Meall Buidhe. There are three cairns and “piles of stones” (marked as such on the map) In the poor visibility it wasn’t easy to pick which was the actual summit but the most likely candidate was the midsized cairn with an old iron fence post sticking out of it, but I went to all 3 to make sure but only appear to have taken photos of 2. I have climbed this hill before, from Glen Lyon and will need to dig out any photos I have of that occasion. I was sorry not to get a last look to the east before turning 45 degrees and starting the descent which will lead me to the edge of Rannoch Moor and the first leg of the journey around this amazing moor of bog, peat and lochans

ImageMeall na Feithe Faide by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit Meall Bhuidhe by Seal54, on Flickr

Image2nd cairn Meall Bhuidhe by Seal54, on Flickr

I picked up the fence line again, the other side of the mist and it gave the best route down, avoiding the worst of the numerous peat hags. I had many more miles of this to go before reaching my target today at the West Highland Way on the other side of the A82. Far below the straight lines of the plantation of sitka and the thin line of the railway imposed their mark on the otherwise desolate landscape. The fence again had the usual trip hazard of old wire, in this case it had not been replaced and was ancient indeed. At the corner of the plantation at the bottom of the descent The old fence ran into a newish deer fence, defending the plantation from browsing deer. Now the ancient broken wire was joined by rolls of discarded rylock and posts from the old fence deer and also an electric fence that had also ceased to be a fence of any description and whirls of silver wire joined the other discards. The approach to railway line grew evermore watery, with the line of old iron posts still giving the driest approach. A Fort William bound train passed shortly before I arrived and I was able to cross secure in the knowledge there wouldn’t be any more traffic for some time on this single track line. The stock fences on either side of the track were only slight obstacles to my passing, In the over-grazed habitat the gnarled trees on either side of the track had escaped browsing.

ImageOut of the summit mist. Ahead the route down to the plantation by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageRailway line and view back to bealach between Chreachain and Meall Bhuidhe by Seal54, on Flickr

The low cloud was at last giving way to some better weather and I enjoyed lunch on top of a little rocky mound of topped with heather and lichen. Working out the route to Creag Maronaig (surely a candidate for being called meringue) was actually fairly straightforward. The Watershed sticks to the slightly raised ground, missing the worst of the numerous peat hags and although my route resembled a drunken, wander (as does much of the ‘Shed) I was able to cross without getting my feet wet or losing a stick in the peat. I did think that my legs were getting longer as the day progressed. On the slopes of Creag Maronaig , wood anemones were in full sun-worshipping mode as the skies had cleared and the day was now warm and sunny with all the tops clear (and remained that wasy for the rest of the day). I also came across some anaemic violas, photographing them but not the later ones I found with full, vibrant colour. Then I found a daisy, spring has sprung! The reward for reaching this minor, probably rarely visited hill is the stupendous view that brought a rather hackneyed “Wow” from me.

ImageAcross Madagan Mioneach (lots of peat and bog to negotiate)to Creag Maronaig by Seal54, on Flickr

Imagewood anenome open by Seal54, on Flickr

Imageviolas by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20180507_123355225 by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking back at Madagan Moineach by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageThe high Watershed from the low Watershed by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMeall Bhuidhe to Achaladair by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMeall a'Ghortain by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageAcross Rannoch Moor looking to the Black Mount and Glen COe by Seal54, on Flickr

Onto Meall a’ Ghortain before heading slightly to the NW. I did not “nip” across to the Marilyn, Leathad Mor (547m) a mere mile off the route and a hill I am unlikely to return to but not a priority today. Instead I eyed the group of lochans that I had to walk through approximately half-way between Meall a Gortain and Ghlas Bheinn. 2 of them feed the Atlantic and one feeds the North Sea. It would be good to swim in both water systems. In the event when I finally reached the first I found them to be very shallow with deep peat beds and whilst I refreshed myself, it could not be called a swim. I was beginning to tire and the slight extra effort in dropping down to Dubh Lochan put me off. What followed was the lowest point, mentally and physically, of the day. I don’t really know what happened but just like the climb up Beinn nam Fuaran, I struggled. The summit of Glas Bheinn (501m a Marilyn,) is a little way along the ridge and with a number of false summits and I began to wonder how I would manage to complete the day’s walk now, feeling so worn out. Finally, I was there, another good view point but somewhat marred by the noise of the traffic and whine of motorbikes on the A82 below. My route skirted the edge of the woodland and the gate in the final deer fence is open to take me easily through to the high point of the A82. Given my struggle on Glas Bheinn, I was not looking forward to the 180m climb up to the summit of Meall Mor (another Marilyn, 492m) but I seemed to have acquired a second wind and I breezed up to the summit in the early evening sunshine. The views over Rannoch Moor with the jewels of the lochans reflecting a deep blue in contrast to the golden brown moorland gave another fillip to my energy levels.

ImagePanorama from Meall a'Ghortain facing west by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from Meall a'Ghortain facing east by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit Ghlas Bheinn looking back at Rannoch Moor by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLochan na h-Achlaise and Black Mount from Glas Bheinn by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking to Loch Tulla from Glas Bheinn by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBienn Achaladair by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLochan na h-Achlaise and Rannoch Moor from Meall Mor by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Achaladair, Meall Bhuidhe and Beinn a'Chreachain pano (high watershed). Glas Bheinn, foreground (low Watershed) ) by Seal54, on Flickr

I realised that when driving up and down the A82 I had never really noticed the low ridge that I had come across on this, my first leg of the journey around the Moor. They are overwhelmed by the heights of Beinn Dorain- Beinn Chreachain ridge above them but the Watershed is forever showing me how little I actually know. It also draws Scotland together for me. The east coast is so different in character from the west but the watershed links them together as I found myself thinking of where the water is flowing to.
I stop at the monument to Ronald Harvey. Lovely words but who was he and why was the monument built? I am not in favour of monuments on our hillsides generally but his friends and family certainly gave him a wonderful spot.

ImageMonument, but to who was Ronald Harvey? by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20180507_182501951 by Seal54, on Flickr

I reach the final summit of the day by 7 pm. The views continue and the Black Mouint hills which had seemed so far away not so long ago are within spitting distance. Now there is just 1 mile to go to the West Highland Way and I will have completed my biggest daily mileage on the watershed since reaching the Highlands. Of course the lack height gain was a factor in this. From Meal Beag (476m) I see a potential campsite by Lochan Mhic PheadairRuaidh a mere ½ mile along the WHW from where the Watershed crosses it. There are no walkers on the WHW at this time of night and no campers at this beautiful spot (or anywhere else that I could see). I thought about walking the last 4 miles out to the van, but not for long. The bird song from the woods was a delightful evening recital accompanied by the waterbirds in the lochan. For a 2nd year in a row I heard my first cuckoo of the year on the Watershed. I had a return ticket and I would be back to use it fully. Next morning, I had an easy walk out to my van and was rewarded by seeing a pipit chasing a cuckoo (the latter cuckooing madly). Go pipit, go!

ImageView across Rannoch Moor from Meall Beag/ Ben Alder was visible but hard to discern in this photo by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking over Loch Tulla down to Bridge of Orchy from Meall Beag by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCkach Leathad, Meall a' Bhuiridh and Beinn Chaorach, the Watershed going on by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageStob a'Choire Odhar by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageStob a'Choire Odhar (left) Clach Leathad (right) by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCampsite at Lochan Mhic Pheadair Ruaidh by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBheinn Chaorach from campsite by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageDarkening skies over Clach Leathad and Meall a'Bhuiridh by Seal54, on Flickr

Watershed 23.8 km 14.8m ascent 1263m descent 1384m
Total for trip 33km 20.5 m
Total for Watershed from Peel Fell 479.3 km 314.5m

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Last edited by rohan on Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Scotland's Watershed Part 7 Crianlarich to Black Mount

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:16 pm

Slowly but steadily you're eating away at those km - nearly 500km now!

It's a real pity for those of us that like to view panos on a large screen (eg the panos you took from Beinn Dubhcraig) that you can't sort things out with Flickr. I recall I had an issue when I first started using Flickr (I couldn't access my account), so I opened a new account, and that's worked fine since.

Pity the weather wasn't so good for you on that first run up to Dubhcraig section, but at least you managed to get it the second time in good weather.
Oddly enough, while you were on Dubhcraig on 17th April, I was doing a round of the Orchy Munros together with a couple of the Corbetts (covering some of the hills you did); and had rather cloudy weather in the morning, but absolutely superb weather from about 11.00am ! ( https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=71538 ).
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Re: Scotland's Watershed Part 7 Crianlarich to Black Mount

Postby Alteknacker » Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:22 pm

Alteknacker wrote:...It's a real pity for those of us that like to view panos on a large screen (eg the panos you took from Beinn Dubhcraig) that you can't sort things out with Flickr....

I've now got on to your Flickr account, and well worth it - some excellent pics! I'd forgotten that you had Flickr links on episode 11, which I read first!

Alteknacker wrote:...Oddly enough, while you were on Dubhcraig on 17th April, I was doing a round of the Orchy Munros...
Just realised I was doing it in 2017, not 2018 :oops: :roll:
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