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Going for gold come hail or shine

Going for gold come hail or shine


Postby dogplodder » Thu Apr 27, 2023 3:38 pm

Route description: Beinn Chuirn, Dalrigh

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Chuirn

Date walked: 24/04/2023

Distance: 16.5 km

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This was a long awaited walk reunion after Ruth's birthday hill up Beinn Mheadhonach in 2020. This one was a birthday hill for me and was a choice between Ben Cruachan and Beinn Chuirn. Thinking Chuirn a tamer option I was tending towards Cruachan, but then the forecast warned of wintry tops and we didn't think icy rocks and hailstones at the top of Cruachan the best idea. So Beinn Chuirn it was.

We parked at the Dalrigh car park and took a short detour to the bridge over the river to get our first sighting of our target hill, which from that point looked a very long way off.

River Cononish and distant Beinn Chuirn
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Walking pals Ruth and Keira
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We then returned the car park to follow the WH route along Glen Cononish.

Under railway line
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Beinn Chuirn looking closer now
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It's a lovely glen and probably the more satisfying way to climb Ben Lui, as she gradually reveals herself in all her glory. A couple overtook us who were heading for that ascent. They were the only other walkers we spoke to all day and we saw no one on Beinn Chuirn. Seeing them stirred memories of the spring day in the late 90s when a few of us took a group of Chinese friends to climb Ben Lui via the glen but were forced to retreat due to heavy unrelenting rain. Today was a different day with good spells of sunshine interspersed by dark cloud - but visibility was always good.

Ben Lui appearing round the corner
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River Cononish
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Cononish Farm
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Beinn Chuirn with the dark gash of the Eas Anie gorge
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Last gate before leaving track
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We didn't hear a thing
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From the last gate we could see traces of a path heading diagonally up the hillside. We considered taking it but concluded there may be a good reason for staying on the track until the cairn, as suggested by WH. Footnote to that is we very quickly lost the faint path starting from the cairn so on the descent took the diagonal path straight to the gate, which was easy walking and also reduced the distance.

Small cairn marks the spot
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Despite having no path I found it less exhausting than the pathless ascent of Beinn Mhanach two days earlier, where the grassy slope was steeper, softer and more lumpy. We took our time, chatting as we climbed, and had a brief stop to add layers half way up. It was lovely in the sunshine and at this stage partly sheltered from the prevailing wind. But the sky was changing and, as the Met Office had predicted, dark clouds were gathering to produce sharp showers of hail that stung the face. MO had also said sunshine would follow so we didn't consider turning back.

Steady incline in bright sunshine
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Dark cloud
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We pulled on waterproof trousers and with hood up and buff over face we kept going, knowing these showers would blow over which they soon did. But the over trousers stayed on and kept us insulated in the full blast of the wind at the top. The sky very quickly changed from dark grey to intense blue as the photos will show.

Hail or shine the only way is up
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Dogs with their fantastic sense of smell are good at sensing the right way to go and true to form Keira showed us where to cross the burn. I'm guessing its down to smelling where others have walked and instinctively following that way. It's only anecdotal evidence based on the very small sample of 7 dogs I've walked with over my adult life, so perhaps best not to rely on when they could equally be following a deer scent!

A burn to cross - the Eas Anie
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We found the occasional peat hag dry enough to walk across and seams of broken rocks ahead were easily avoided. On the final ascent we were a bit to the west of the path that skirts the top of the cliffs of Coire na Saobhaidhe so only saw them on the descent.

North up the slopes under a deep blue sky
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Summit cairn ahead
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Beinn Chuirn summit
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Crianlarich hills and Beinn Dubhchraig
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Ben Lui
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It was cold in the blast of the wind so apart from taking a few photos we didn't linger. The top of Ben Cruachan was covered in cloud. A good call not to go there then.

Zoomed to Loch Awe and Ben Cruachan in cloud
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Having gloves off to take photos quickly had our hands numb. Further along the ridge looked enticing in the sun so we continued west to look for a sheltered spot out of the wind for lunch. Once along a bit we dropped down on the left side of the ridge to find a nice ledge of rock with a grassy seat below, It was too high to escape the wind completely but for us in all our layers it was perfect. We had comfy seats in the sun and a grandstand view of majestic Ben Lui, queen of the southern highlands.

Sheltering from the wind
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With views of Ben Oss and Ben Lui
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We had a relaxed leisurely lunch in this delightful spot before it was time to get going again.

Rucksack on and dog lead about to go over head for quick access
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We returned to the summit and the cloud had cleared enough to bring on another wee photo session. What a change in behaviour since the advent of digital photography. I remember in the days of film being very sparing in what photos I took and imagine hill walks didn't take quite as long as they do now for reasons apart from old age!

I had thought this hill the tamer option but as a vantage point for great views it couldn't be bettered. This is a stunning part of the southwest highlands with beautiful landscape on every side. I couldn't be sure but thought I could see Arran's shape through a gap and could clearly make out the distinctive curves of the Paps of Jura.

Cruachan range now clear
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Zoomed to Ben Cruachan
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Standing at summit for second photo shoot
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Rather than retrace our ascent route exactly we took the path that would give us a view of the cliffs and followed it carefully. I called Keira away from the edge. It was too blustery to take chances.

Ben Challum and Crianlarich hills
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Cliffs of Coire na Saobhaidhe
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Path goes close to top of sheer drop
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That close
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Zoomed to Ben Challum
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Zoomed to Ben More group
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Thanks to jmarkb I now know this is Purple Saxifrage, one of the earliest plants to flower on high ground
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Burn crossing
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Ben Oss
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Glen Cononish
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I remember a few years ago watching a TV series about the newly revived gold mining in the glen and had wondered how much of an eyesore that would be. I was relieved to see that apart from the extra approach road and new fencing there really isn't much that's visible, certainly not considering how much is going on underground daily. We joked about hitching a lift with gold miners at the end of their shift and soon after saw a convoy of four white vehicles approaching. The first was full of men, the second had a flashing light on top and the last two had high visibility markings like a police car would. We wondered how much gold bullion they were carrying but decided not to try and find out. In the next photo the mine buildings can be seen above the trees on the right and the convoy is only just visible coming over the brow of the hill on the road far off. It felt a bit cheeky to take one as they passed.

Ben Lui and gold rush convoy
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All along the track I had Keira on the lead as sheep could without any warning suddenly pop up close by. Dogs can do a lot of damage around lambing time and dog owners can't be too careful. Some think their beloved dog would never attack sheep. But that's sentimental thinking. It's what dogs are wired to do and given the opportunity any dog could.

Watched by Blackface sheep and lambs
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Back at the car we agreed it had been a great day. Standing among higher and more often climbed mountains Beinn Chuirn holds its own as a hill of character and is an amazing viewpoint to its more celebrated neighbours. It also has the distinction of having a hidden heart of gold. :D
Last edited by dogplodder on Fri Apr 28, 2023 6:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Going for gold come hail or shine

Postby jmarkb » Thu Apr 27, 2023 5:39 pm

Nice report - some lovely photos there! Good to know that the mine's visual impact is not too severe, though it seems it is not doing very well as a business: https://parkswatchscotland.co.uk/2023/04/03/the-cononish-goldmine-and-scotgold-on-the-rocks-who-profits-and-the-future-of-the-planet/

dogplodder wrote:Someone will likely know what this alpine is


That's Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) - almost always the first spring flower on high ground.
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Re: Going for gold come hail or shine

Postby Gordie12 » Fri Apr 28, 2023 9:52 am

Hi DP

I love photos with plenty sunshine and the contrast of dark clouds so this report hit the spot for me :clap: :clap:

This hill has never been on my radar but the views look really good so maybe I should start to look at it (I think I got fed up driving the A85 about 3 years ago as I seemed to be on it every week).
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Re: Going for gold come hail or shine

Postby jmarkb » Fri Apr 28, 2023 10:45 am

Gordie12 wrote:This hill has never been on my radar but the views look really good so maybe I should start to look at it


If you are up for a slightly longer outing, going via Meall Odhar is worthwhile (starting from Tyndrum Lower station and going up via the old lead mines).
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Re: Going for gold come hail or shine

Postby Gordie12 » Fri Apr 28, 2023 1:09 pm

jmarkb wrote:
Gordie12 wrote:This hill has never been on my radar but the views look really good so maybe I should start to look at it


If you are up for a slightly longer outing, going via Meall Odhar is worthwhile (starting from Tyndrum Lower station and going up via the old lead mines).


Thanks for that, I see a few walk reports that include both hills so I'll take a look at them.
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Re: Going for gold come hail or shine

Postby dogplodder » Fri Apr 28, 2023 7:40 pm

jmarkb wrote:Nice report - some lovely photos there! Good to know that the mine's visual impact is not too severe, though it seems it is not doing very well as a business: https://parkswatchscotland.co.uk/2023/04/03/the-cononish-goldmine-and-scotgold-on-the-rocks-who-profits-and-the-future-of-the-planet/

dogplodder wrote:Someone will likely know what this alpine is


That's Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) - almost always the first spring flower on high ground.


I was just being lazy not looking it up so thanks for this. An amazing wee flower that has special hairs to trap the snow to form an insulating layer when the temperature drops. Thanks too for the info on the mine. Sorry to hear it's struggling - along with just about everything else these days. :?
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Re: Going for gold come hail or shine

Postby dogplodder » Mon May 01, 2023 9:38 am

Gordie12 wrote:Hi DP

I love photos with plenty sunshine and the contrast of dark clouds so this report hit the spot for me :clap: :clap:

This hill has never been on my radar but the views look really good so maybe I should start to look at it (I think I got fed up driving the A85 about 3 years ago as I seemed to be on it every week).


I know the feeling, having a similar relationship with the A82. :problem:
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