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Knowing when to turn back and wait for a better day

Knowing when to turn back and wait for a better day


Postby dogplodder » Tue Jan 11, 2022 5:12 pm

Route description: Beinn Achaladair and Beinn a'Chreachain

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Achaladair

Date walked: 30/08/2021

Distance: 16 km

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On 24th May 2019 Moira and I climbed Beinn Chreachain, but didn't include Beinn Achaladair, leaving it on our to-do-sometime-soon list.

North face of Beinn Achaladair from the ascent of Beinn Chreachain
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From the walk back to Achaladair Farm
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Due to covid restrictions the next opportunity we had was on 11th June 2021 from our holiday cottage in St Fillans. The trouble with pre-booking a cottage is that you have no idea what the weather will be doing, even in June, and the weather that week turned out to be mixed. We had a gorgeous first day when we climbed the Tyndrum duo but after that things went downhill and the best weather for Beinn Achaladair looked like being on our last day. So we hung on for that, doing Auchnafree Hill on an overcast day in the meantime.

The Met Office said there would be morning mist in the glens that would clear and MWIS gave a reasonable prediction of cloud free summits. So we set off fairly optimistic that things would pan out okay. Arriving at the car park we were a bit concerned about low cloud over Loch Tulla, but hopeful the forecast would prove to be right and we'd climb above any remaining cloud as the day went on.

Loch Tulla
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Remembering the way we had set off for Beinn Creachain we followed the track towards the farm, this time turning right towards it. Hesitating about which way to go round the buildings, the farmer working close by called over asking if he could help. Considering we shouldn't have been where we were (unknown to us we should have turned right soon after leaving the car park, avoiding the farm altogether) he was very patient and helpful. He said we had three options - return to the car park, go up by the hydro track or cut across a field to reach the path we should have been on. He said a cow had just given birth in the field we'd have to cross, but he knew that cow and she shouldn't be any trouble. That was our shortest option. It was kind of him to let us go that way (don't think he would if I'd had the dog with me) but to my mind it didn't seem fair on the new mum to potentially stress her, so we opted for the hydro track. We thanked him for his help and promised we would return by the correct route that bypassed the farm.

Achaladair Farm
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Beinn an Dothaidh and hydro track
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The hydro track gave easy walking at a steady gradient until it ended at the dam. We then had to cross the burn to reach the proper path, involving a short descent, a hop over on stones and a steep ascent on the other side.

End of hydro track
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The proper path was fine for walking and apart from a few muddy areas not as wet as expected. Looking ahead I could even convince myself the cloud was showing signs of lifting.

Coire Daingean
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Watery staircase
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But my hopes of the cloud lifting were cloud cuckoo land. At the bealach we couldn't see much at all, walked too far east and ended up on a path going in the right direction, but traversing the east side of the ridge rather than on the crest of the ridge where we should have been. The only benefit was we were sheltered from the wind which we were much more aware of after reaching the bealach. Realising our mistake we climbed the grassy slope to get on to the ridge proper. On the ridge visibility was poor and the wind was gusting strongly. It appeared to be one of those rare occasions the forecast (for this area anyway) was completely wrong. But we were here now and would just have to make the best of it.

On the ridge
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I was slightly ahead of Moira and shortly after taking the last photo I heard her call out. Strong gusts had twice almost had her off her feet and she didn't feel comfortable going on. So there was no question about it, we should turn back. We made our way down to the bealach, this time on the correct path. By now steady drizzle had turned into steady rain and by the time we sat down in the shelter of rocks to eat our sandwiches, not only were they soggy, but our nether regions were too - and that was despite wearing waterproof (or not so waterproof) trousers. Being so 'anorak' about multiple checking of weather forecasts we are very rarely out in conditions like these so I guess our gear is never fully tested. Fortunately our jackets had done a good job, we weren't cold and fortified by an albeit damp lunch we were good to go and descended the increasingly wet path without any mishap, apart from one slip on mud.

Heading down
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Gloomy Coire Daingean
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Brighter at glen level
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It was disappointing but absolutely the right decision to turn back. If it was only down to me I'd have tried to battle on in that buffeting wind and clag and had we got as far as the summit we'd have seen nothing.

Towards the end of August I floated the idea of a return. We'd be doing a long drive in the dark unless we went soon. We scanned the forecasts and found a day we were both free. From memory MWIS gave 90% chance of cloud free summits. We wouldn't get much better than that so were slightly dismayed by the amount of cloud when we arrived after an early start.

Loch Tulla and still looking cloudy
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This time we turned right at the sign marking the start of the path and were on our way up the now familiar Coire Daingean.

Correct approach this time
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It was drier than the previous time and we made good headway, very much hoping the cloud would clear enough to give us the views Achaladair is renowned for.

One of several crossing points
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Is it going to clear?
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View from bealach
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Black Mount now in the clear
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What a transformation from 11th June!
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Summit ahead
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Having a breather
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West end of Loch Tulla and Etive hills
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Rannoch Moor
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West over Loch Tulla to Cruachan and Etive hills
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North over Rannoch Moor
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NE over Rannoch Moor
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Zoomed east to Loch Lyon and Lawers group
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South to Beinn nan Dothaidh
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Made it to the cairn this time!
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Achaladair summit (1038m)
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To say we were buzzing is putting it mildly. Had we pushed on the time before we'd have seen none of this. Thanks to Moira's better instincts we were enjoying these fabulous views! We ate lunch in jubilant mood before easy walking down a beautiful grassy ridge. Hill walking doesn't get much better than this.

Achaladair's undulating south ridge
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So many peaks to the south
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Looking back up Coire Daingean
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Footbridge over the railway line
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Back at the car we decided to head for the refurbished Kingshouse which we'd not been to since we did the WHW in 2018. Back then it was a building site and we wanted to see the finished job.

Being tourist season the restaurant and bar were fully booked but there was space in the Way Inn (in place of the former climbers' bar) where we had chicken pie followed by honeycomb ice-cream. Never did chicken pie and ice-cream taste so good! When we came out the view of the low sun behind Stob Dearg had to be photographed but turned out wonky due to a midge attack that had me running for the car.

Stob Dearg from Kingshouse
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All in all a fabulous day. It's often said the hills will still be there. Our lesson from Beinn Achaladair is that when conditions are miserable it's worth waiting for a better day.
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dogplodder
 
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Re: Knowing when to turn back and wait for a better day

Postby shredder » Sat Jan 15, 2022 10:58 am

Shows what a difference the weather makes. Like you I'd have carried on and got no views! :)
shredder
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Re: Knowing when to turn back and wait for a better day

Postby dogplodder » Wed Jan 19, 2022 6:06 pm

shredder wrote:Shows what a difference the weather makes. Like you I'd have carried on and got no views! :)


My default position is to bash on as I never know if I'll get another chance... :think:

But on this occasion it was definitely worth coming back another day! :thumbup:
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Re: Knowing when to turn back and wait for a better day

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sat Jan 22, 2022 12:37 pm

A really wise decision to wait for a better day - these hills don't disappoint. I loved the photos of the contrasting weather and when you finally got the views they really brought back our own wonderful experience of Beinn Achaladair :clap: :D
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Re: Knowing when to turn back and wait for a better day

Postby dogplodder » Fri Jan 28, 2022 2:32 pm

Huff_n_Puff wrote:A really wise decision to wait for a better day - these hills don't disappoint. I loved the photos of the contrasting weather and when you finally got the views they really brought back our own wonderful experience of Beinn Achaladair :clap: :D


Thanks Huff_n_Puff, your photos from Beinn Achaladair are part of the reason I was pushing to go back after our first attempt! :D
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