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Meall Dubh... almost

Meall Dubh... almost

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Jan 12, 2021 10:49 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Meall Dubh

Date walked: 03/01/2021

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 14.3 km

Ascent: 649m

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We first climbed Meall Dubh (or Beinn Bhreac as older maps call it) in February 2017 and honestly, we never expected to go back to this Graham, but with my leg injury restricting the difficulty of our walks, we had little choice. Meall Dubh is a gentle little mountain, mostly overlooked by walkers, as it is situated next to Beinn Dearg/Seana Bhraigh group. Malcolm and Jackie have visited it recently and their report reminded me of this hill - so thanks for the inspiration :D

Our Meall Dubh stroll turned out to be quite an odyssey with knee deep snow, whiteout conditions and wet socks, but at least we can say, we'll never forget this trip! :D

Track_BEINN BHREAC 14.3KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The day started cloudy but with a good chance of sunny spells later. There was only one car in the car park when we arrived but we expected more to show up later, it was the New Year Bank Holiday after all and still before the lockdown:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 001.JPG

Ben More Coigach in the morning light -an absolute stunner of a Graham, even when seen from the distance:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 006.JPG

We booted up and set off up the track through the forest. Here, there was only a thin layer of snow and walking was easy on hard surface:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 009.JPG

Turn left here:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 017.JPG

The forest track leading up the northern side of the glen is quite steep but thankfully, someone has broken the trail for us (probably the day before). It was lovely to be walking in the true winter wonderland:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 024.JPG

The gate leading out of the forest plantation and onto the hillside was locked and climbing over the iced up stile required some tricky, ballet-like moves, but as soon as we were in the open, we were gobsmacked by the spectacular views:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 033.JPG

We continued on the wide track, soon to startle a small herd of deer, enjoying a salt lick. They moved up the slope when they saw us, but didn't bother going too far away, probably just waiting for us to pass so they could return to their favourite snack.
I posted a few photos of deer in Wildlife section.
As long as on the track, we still had a set of footprints to follow so didn't have to break the trail. It was to change soon, but we were not aware of the upcoming trouble:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 102.JPG

Looking back into the glen and the forest:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 045.JPG

Weather still cloudy:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 048.JPG

Kevin spotted a small flock of grouse sitting on the snow:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 054.JPG

We reached the top of the track and here, to our disappointment, the footprints we followed so far ended. Obviously, whoever left them, only got as far as 450m and then turned back. Also to our disappointment, the cloud thickened and settled over the summit of Meall Dubh, giving us no hope of so much expected views to An Teallach.
Into the whiteness:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 109.JPG

We could have turned back here, but Kevin decided to make a wild attempt at the summit. Having started very early, we had plenty of time. My leg was behaving at the moment. We agreed we would go as far as we feel we can in given conditions and even if we don't reach the top, it won't matter. We had already climbed this hill so we didn't care about statistics.
Kevin braving the deep snow:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 114.JPG

A glimpse of hope to the south:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 119.JPG

We had about 150m of ascent on relatively gentle slopes, but what in normal circumstances would be a stroll in the park, changed into a serious workout, as we fought through deep snow. My knee started sending out first warnings and I was lagging behind, happily letting Kevin break the trail...
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 066.JPG

As soon as we entered the whiteout, we felt blinded. It wasn't snowing in the cloud and there was little wind, but the snow was getting even deeper. Kevin still went on first...
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 121.JPG

About half way up I took pity of him and volunteered to take over the trail breaking. 5 minutes later, I was stuck thigh-deep in a snow drift and he was helping me clamber out of it, moaning something about a short-legged, knee-knackered woman trying to prove her invincibility. Of course, I was more than happy to allow him to be my hero and let him have fun with the white stuff :lol:
Panther not in a hurry:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 074.JPG

We kept on going and after what felt like an incredibly long time, covering only about 400m of distance every half an hour, we walked out onto the summit plateau. We were still in the whiteout and had no chance of visually locating the summit but according to our Garmin we were about 200m south of the summit cairn. On more even surface, the snow was constantly knee deep and we were really tired by now. At least my knee was still holding on (just about). We tried to walk in southern direction to get closer to the true summit (we didn't dream about locating the cairn as it would be buried now) but suddenly, Kevin's leg went down into a booby-trap! He uttered a few ***s and at first, I was worried he might have just twisted his ankle, but thankfully, he was just stuck. :lol: :lol:
So this is how my husband found the little lochan located just south of the summit. :lol: :lol: :lol: He stepped into it!
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 124.JPG

It took us several minutes to get him out of the booby-trap, as his foot was sucked into the mud like into quicksand. When his leg was free, he was in no mood to continue looking for the summit cairn so we decided, we have just about reached the top, we can now turn back.
The hidden trap:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 122.JPG

I could just as well pretend this was the summit. Just me and white snow everywhere:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 078.JPG

We started the descent, just retracing our own footprints, but soon Kevin said his boot was full of water and his foot was getting numb. I was worried he could get frostbite so I told him to stop and take the boot off. Thankfully, I was carrying spare socks in my rucksack so Kevin could get rid of his soaked ones and replace them with something warm and dry. We dried his boot as well as it was possible when standing on the mountain slope. With dry socks, his foot soon started warming up and by the time we were back on the track, he could feel his toes again.
As we descended, weather began to improve and the clag thinned, offering us at least some views to the surrounding winter wonderland:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 080.JPG

2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 082.JPG

An Teallach revealed:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 087.JPG

2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 135.JPG

Kevin back on both feet:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 134.JPG

Descending on the track was much easier than fighting through deep snow and we were soon joking and giggling about the whole adventure, which should be named "How to find a lochan in winter conditions" :lol: :lol:
The afternoon sun:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 091.JPG

Cows near Inverlael Farm had more sense than us and stayed safely in the glen, where fresh hay was provided and no risk of getting your hooves booby-trapped :wink:
2021-01-03 beinn bhreac 149.JPG

I hope you will forgive me for marking this hill as "ticked off" in this report. I decided we were close enough to the summit to treat it as done, come on, give poor Kevin some slack. He nearly lost his foot in that lochan :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
As a matter of fact, as we had already visited Meall Dubh in the past and had it ticked off anyway, it doesn't change anything in our statistics so I decided I'm not going to be a purist on this one occasion.

The day after Kevin's booby-trap experience, we added another easy Graham to our tally of winter walks, no nasty mishaps this time, just pure winter wonderland in the last minutes before lockdown!
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Re: Meall Dubh... almost

Postby gld73 » Wed Jan 13, 2021 2:17 pm

I tried to play it safe a couple of years ago in winter on a really cold, sub-zero day with a lot of snow around - parked in the big car park at Drumnadrochit to avoid getting my car stuck somewhere obscure and headed for Carn Macsna (not a classified summit to be ticked off as it's a subsidiary top of Meall a'Chrathaich apparently, but my OS map showed it had a trig pillar at its 525m summit so something to aim for at least!). The map showed there were a couple of small lochs to the east and I thought I was avoiding the one I came to .... it was ice covered, so I skirted round on the snow and thought I was staying well clear (turns out I wasn't quite...).

I was so lucky that when my foot went through the snow covered ice into the end of the loch and got stuck in mud I fell backwards so my other foot and my hands were on solid ground, rather than forwards leaving me completely stuck! It really was frightening, felt like I was struggling to free my foot for about half an hour, when it was probably only 5 or 10 minutes :lol: . I was on my own, in a dip with no chance of phone signal, and on a hill few people would ever go up, let alone on a midweek winter day. I was so relieved when I got free that I abandoned any thoughts of going to the summit and followed my exact footsteps all the way back down to ensure I didn't do it again. I've never returned to Carn Macsna!! :shock:

So I have full sympathy for Kevin and his Meall Dubh experience! Thank god for spare socks!! :lol:
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Re: Meall Dubh... almost

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Jan 14, 2021 7:04 pm

Good Lord, that sounds horrific! I had a few incidents with wet feet myself, but not usually in winter. Once, I fell into a stream when descending from An Socach (the Glen Affric one) and had to walk all the way back along Loch Affric in wet boots, but it was in late March so considerably warmer!

Out of curiosity, I had a look at the map to check where Carn Macsna is. I might actually be tempted to visit it at some point, but I'll wait for a dry summer day :lol:
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