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Bridge of Orchy - a ridge too far

Bridge of Orchy - a ridge too far

Postby snowdonia7 » Sun Sep 30, 2012 10:32 am

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Achaladair, Beinn an Dòthaidh, Beinn Dòrain

Date walked: 28/09/2012

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 19.6 km

Ascent: 1791m

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Even the relatively late start (almost 11am before we left th car park at Bridge of Orchy) hadn't allowed the legs to recover from racing up Sgiath Chuil the evening before. So it was with heavy legs (and heavy boots - my Scarpa's hadn't dried out and felt like diving boots) that we set off up the hill.

We maintained a steady pace up to the bealach (only seeing an older gentleman and a younger lady on the way up) and climbed into increasingly poor weather. Having passed these peaks a few times I had formed the impression that it would be a fairly quick trip to Beinn Dorain, but I hadn't reckoned with the 2k from the bealach to the summit. Just before we got to the top we passed a group of guys having a brew in the shelter of some rocks and exchanged a few pleasantries (one of them was wearing shorts, which was pretty hardcore considering the weather).

We arrived at the summit cairn and sat down to rest and shelter before Neil pointed out that this wasn't the top and we had to press on for a few hundred metres more. At the true summit we agreed to take a couple of photos and return to the bealach for a lunch stop. As I sat on a nice an flat seat-height rock to pose for my summit photo the rock gave way and a large number of stones fell away from the cairn dropping me onto my backside. Once I was sure I hadn't squashed any fingers under this mini avalanche I could see the funny side of it - I know I haven't done a lot of trainng over the past few weeks, but I didn't think I'd put on that much weight :lol:

Beinn Dorain.JPG
Collapsing cairn on Beinn Dorain

Fortunately the cairn was a substantial one and didn't look to have been damaged too much, although Neil suggested I had just desecrated decades of stone gathering by conscientious walkers, so I piled a few of the stones back around the base.

On the way back to the bealach we stopped to speak to a couple of guys from Scandinavia who offered some tips on the next secion. They described the path leading north then north-west from the bealach, suggesting that if we followed that we would reach a wall that would allow us to shelter from the wind - beyond this was boulder field.

Well I'm not sure whether it was a language issue, but I was not to see a wall nor a boulder field on the way to Beinn an Dothaidh (is there a route that takes in these features?).

We stopped a little further on from the belach for a light lunch (I didn't have a lot of choice in having a light lunch as I had for some unknown reason hardly packed any food, which ironically was about to come back to bite me a little later on :lol: ).

As we started to climb towards our second summit the path grew more indistinct and then appeared to branch into two; as we stood considering our options the group we had seen sheltering earlier headed down towards us. We stopped to speak to the group wo were from Hawick and they advised us to take the path to the right although stating that this petered out a little further up.

So head down and press on towards the sumit, but I was struggling and I slumped on the small cairn marking the top contemplating whether I could go any futher.

Beinn an Dothaidh2.JPG
Decisions on Beinn an Dothaidh

Occasionally the weather would break giving us views over rannoch moor and on towards beinn Achaladair. I told Neil that I was on empty and that if I went for another summit I felt that I would struggle to get back. Neil didn't try to dissuade me and we were all set to head back; then for some strange reason I canged my mind and said I'd go for Beinn Achaladair, maybe it was low blood sugar affecting my rational decison making :-?

So we descended SW to the bealach at 750m and started to pull up the ridge heading north. looking at this from Beinn an Dothaidh I had figured that this would take a big effort for a couple of hundred metres after which it would ease off and allow me to recover. The first part of this assessment proved correct and it was a fairly tough climb to crest the ridge; however as we reached the top we were met by ferocious winds that made each step forward really difficult expending much more energy than I had. Even walking with poles I was frequently stopped in my tracks or blown of the path; occasionally having to plant my poles and crouch down with my head into the wind.

On the plus side the rain had stopped and there were some creat views over rannoch moor, but it took an age to get to Beinn Achaladair and by the time I got there I was shot :(

Beinn Achaladair.JPG
Putting a brave face on it on Beinn Achaladair

Heading back the wind made the going tough once again, and at one point I stumbled and twisted my left ankle again (well a trip to the hills wouldn't be the same if I didn't wrench my dodgy ankle). At least this gave me something other than my fatigue to focus on for a few minutes.

As we neared the bealach I started to fear that my intention of being able to contour round Beinn an Dothaidh had been a bit presumptuous. My fears were realised as I walked to the edge and looked across an almost sheer face - I would have to climb at least some of the way back up the sothern flank of Beinn an Dothaidh before I could cut across safely.

The psychological blow coupled with the lack of energy dealt me a real body blow and I had only gone about twenty metres uphill before I had to stop. My heart was racing and I had to lean on my poles and try to control my breathing. I walked another twenty metres before resting agin, with this cycle repeating itself, but with slightly longer pauses each time.

Neil was obvioulsly still feeling good and had gone from sight (well he's got a marathon next week, so you would expect him to have a decent level of fitness). I was too tired to think straight- other than feeling sorry for myself and just kept heading up bit by bit.

As I neared the top I thought I should move across to the left and see whether I had got higher than the crags yet. As I reached the edge of the ridge to my left I saw Neil far below me - I had climbed much further than necessary :cry:

Still at least now it was pretty much downhill all the way, although as I walked down to Neil I was wobbling like a new-born bambi and collapsed in heap when I reached him. I scrounched a cereal bar from Neil and after washing this down with some fluid and a few minutes rest I felt a lot better. In fact I hadn't really noticed, but the rain had stopped, so i decided to get rid of the waterproof trousers I had been wearing all day.

It started raining almost immediately we set off again :-x , but I wasn't for stopping again and just resigned myself to wet(ter) trousers.

On the descent back to Bridge of Orchy we passed three guys with huge rucksacs heading up the hill - it was well after 5 o'clock by this time. We stopped to speak and they confirmed that their intention was to find a spot to wild camp - rather them than me!

In fact after speaking to this group and considering the prospects of camping out Neil and I decided to change our own plans to camp (on a campsite) and we booked a camping hut for the night :) .

Probably the biggest disappointment was that I wasn't able to do Beinn a' Chreachain (I knew I would have been in all sorts of trouble on the way back if I had attempted it) and it doesn't look like it lends itself to a round with Beinn Mhanach - but looking for the positives I guess it's handy to have a couple of single munro days in the bag as a contingency :)
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Re: Bridge of Orchy - a ridge too far

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:08 pm

snowdonia7 wrote: Probably the biggest disappointment was that I wasn't able to do Beinn a' Chreachain (I knew I would have been in all sorts of trouble on the way back if I had attempted it) and it doesn't look like it lends itself to a round with Beinn Mhanach - but looking for the positives I guess it's handy to have a couple of single munro days in the bag as a contingency :)

Nice report :clap: - it makes me feel better, too - I had what I thought was a mildly disastrous outing at the beginning of December when I tried to do Mhanach, Achaladair and a'Chreachain from Achallader Farm, but bad weather, limited daylight and general knackeredness put paid to a'Chreachan for me too. In retrospect I'd agree that Mhanach is probably best tackled on its own, except maybe for fell-running types (which I'm certainly not) - it's a fairly remote hill, and awkwardly placed to link up with the other four Bridge of Orchy Munros.
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