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Sneaking round the back way - Ardlui to Dalmally

Sneaking round the back way - Ardlui to Dalmally

Postby malky_c » Sun Sep 20, 2015 10:16 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Meall an Fhudair

Fionas included on this walk: Beinn Bhalgairean, Beinn Damhain, Meall nan Gabhar

Date walked: 19/09/2015

Time taken: 9.5 hours

Distance: 26.5 km

Ascent: 1925m

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Corbetts: Meall an Fhudair.
Grahams: Beinn Damhain, Meall nan Gabhar, Beinn Bhalgairean.
Date: 19/09/2015.
Distance: 26.5km.
Ascent: 1925m.
Time taken: 9 hours, 20 minutes.
Weather: Good start, then lots of drifting claggy drizzle with few views. Very mild.

Originally intended as a 2 day walk (perhaps also including Beinn Buidhe), I have been meaning to do this route for some time now. Once I stopped trying to work out how to do the whole thing by public transport, it soon worked itself out into a reasonable day's walking, using the train to get from one end to the other.

I wanted to do the train journey first to avoid imposing any time limit on the walk, and parking is way easier at Dalmally than it is at Ardlui, so that settled the direction. Now which train to get? Given the turn in weather, I should have just stuck to my guns and gone for the 6am one (leaving Inverness at 3am), but as I was still up after 11 the night before, that clearly wasn't going to happen. I settled for the 9:40am one instead, leaving the house just before 6:30 to get to Dalmally in time.

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I felt like I was pushed for time on the road down, so stupidly didn't stop along the south side of Loch Ness or Rannoch Moor to take photos of the impressive inversions and layers of cloud. The Black Mount and Buachille Etive Mor looked particularly fine in the sunshine/drifting cloud mixture, with some places in between being grey and drizzly. Of course after that, I arrived in Dalmally with almost half an hour to spare :roll: .

The train was busy but on time, and I was in Ardlui for 10:30, where the Royal Scotsman was heading north. Just checked their website out of curiosity - it is upward of £2,500 per person for a 2 night/3 day tour :shock: . It is probably worth walking south along the A82 to the turning for Garristuck, and a bridge under the railway, however I waited until the trains had departed and took a shortcut :oops: . I have to say I'm not a big fan of Ardlui - it is in a spectacular spot but everything is rammed into minimal space alongside the A82 and it is really busy.

Ardlui station:

No matter - I wasn't here to appraise Ardlui, so once over the railway I set to the task of getting to some hills. The lowest slopes of Stob an Fhithich were bracken clad with plenty of brambles in hiding, so not the easiest going, but it thinned out soon enough and the views back over the end of Loch Lomond were good.

Heading up to Stob an Fhithich:



Beinn a’ Choin and Loch Lomond:

Ben Glas on the NW ridge of Beinn Chabhair:

Loch Lomond:

Reaching the skyline, I slipped through a notch in the ridge and out onto shallower slopes on the NW side of the ridge. A small amount of descent took me into Strath an Dubh-uisage, where I was confronted by a deer-fenced strip where woodland was being planted.

Beinn Damhain across Strath Dubh-uisage:

Twin peaks of Binnein an Fhidhleir:

Strath Dubh-uisage

Following this SW, I reached a wide gap between two enclosed areas and was able to descend to the floor of the glen. A bit boggy in places but nothing too difficult. After all of the good weather, the burn was flowing low and easy to cross, after which it was a short climb up onto a new track not marked on my map (this must drop down to the A82 somewhere - worth knowing about).

After following the track a short while, I followed a fire break through the woods on the north side of the glen up onto the open hillside. I didn't pick the best one, and there was a little pushing through trees, but (this is becoming a bit of a mantra) after the trials of Cowal earlier in the summer, it was pretty easy. There are also numerous better options for getting through the trees - just see the photo above for the amount of clearings.

Ben Vorlich:

Out on the open moorland, things were getting greyer. I hoped based on the forecast that it would brighten up again (I rarely put complete faith in forecasts, but the MWIS has published possibly their most positive dead-cert forecast ever, suggesting almost zero chance of cloud on the summits and a high risk of sunburn. They never say things like that normally!)

Approaching the summit of Beinn Damhain:

Having not looked at a map up to this point, I almost wandered off in the direction of Maol Breac, one of the Graham tops away to the SW. It seemed a bit far so I had a quick look at the map and found I was almost at my first summit.

Arrochar from the back – Ben Vane and a sliver of LochSloy:

Glen Falloch and Glen Dochart. Sunnier weather is visible to the east:

Lochan Beinn Damhain and Glen Falloch:

The summit is a bit rockier than the surrounding land, and probably a good viewpoint for the back of Arrochar when the weather is better. I dropped down the northern flank to a lochan in Lairig Arnan, and stopped for a break there. Sadly, Meall an Fhudair looked like it would be in the clag. Certainly not what I expected.

Lochan Arnan and Meall an Fhudair:

Beinn Chabhair and An Caisteal from Lochan Arnan:

There was an easy enough climb up the southern flank of Meall an Fhudair to meet the indistinct path from Troisgeach. Turning left brought me to the summit with no visibility.

Back to Beinn Damhain:

I was going to head east to Troisgeach as it has a reputation for good views up Glen Falloch, but there would be nothing to see, so I dropped straight into the top of Gleann an Caorann to the north. The plan was to use some of the hydro tracks shown on the map to navigate my way across the headwaters of the Dubh Eas, but the more direct line along the county boundary didn't look too bad, so I went for that.

The northern end of Beinn Buidhe and Meall nan Gabhar across upper Glen Fyne:

Gleann nan Caorann and Beinn Dubhcraig:

Before that, I stopped again. The greyness was a bit disappointing (and quite typical of this summer), but I like these remote-feeling watersheds between the better known hills. It was crossing this little-visited ground to the south of Ben Lui which had been one of the draws of this route in the first place. I had expected to hear some stalking activity (contact with the two main estates that I'd be crossing today had suggested that there would be shooting on the southern flanks of Ben Oss), but there was complete silence instead.

Back to Meall an Fhudair:

The direct line to Meall nan Gabhar was fine as expected. Not the clipped green turf you'd find in the Lake District or anything, but nothing too difficult for Graham territory. It was probably about a mile shorter than the hydro tracks. The ground steepened as I climbed onto the south end of Meall nan Tighearn.

Approaching Meall nan Tighearn, the southern end of Meall nan Gabhar:

I had been hoping for some unusual angles on Beinn Buidhe from here, but it was firmly in the clag. Shortly so was I, and there was nothing to see from the traverse of the humpy Meall nan Tighearn/Meall nan Gabhar ridge. All that really remains in the memory is that some of the descents between the various summits were steeper than they appeared on the map.

I wandered off in what I thought to be the correct direction from the summit before pulling the compass out and averting a minor misplacement. I had been headed too far south, but soon corrected that. As I dropped out of the cloud, I remembered that my map of the forest between this hill and Beinn Bhalgeirean was out of date, and I had forgotten to pencil on the newer tracks and plantations. Turns out later that the latest versions of the map are not entirely up-to-date anyway, so it didn't really matter.

I dropped past some small weirs for the older Glen Shira hydro scheme (although it became apparent that new hydro schemes were also being constructed in Coire Lair to the north) and down to the edge of the forest. A slightly awkward climb over a deer fence put me on a well hidden ATV track. After following this a short way, I crashed across some felled trees onto a much larger, newer track. Above this, there was only a short section of newly-felled trees leading to the moorland, and because the ground beneath was quite good, it was much easier to cross than most felled areas.

Glen Lochy from Beinn Bhalgairean:

As I climbed across the moorland towards Beinn Bhalgairean, the sun came out on the slopes of Beinn a' Cleibh. Not likely to give me the promised sunburn, but better than nothing :lol: . I had hoped for great views of Loch Awe and Ben Cruachan from this summit, but before I reached it I was back in the clag again. The weather curse of the Tyndrum/Orchy area strikes again :wink: .

Again I wandered off the summit without checking the map, even though the compass was in my pocket. A steep initial descent led to featureless moorland slopes, where I hoped to pop out of the mist. I didn't, and eventually decided that I'd better look at the map. After taking a bearing it became clear that I was again wandering off at 90 degrees to where I wanted to be! I put that right, and eventually Loch Awe appeared in front.

Loch Awe from the western slopes of Beinn Bhalgairean:



Initially the cloud was right down on the Strath of Orchy, but it gradually lifted as I descended, ending in quite an atmospheric view of the Dalmally Horseshoe. Lower down the ground was rough and extremely knolly, making walking in a straight line difficult.

The Dalmally horseshoe emerging from the murk:

Beinn Donachain:

Beinn a’ Bhuiridh, Stob Daimh and Beinn a’ Chochuill:

I had hoped to hit the edge of the woods near Dalmally, thrash a very short distance through the conifers and join a track which came out right by the station and my car. However even getting to the edge of the woods looked awkward, so I crossed a couple of deer fences and picked up another track leading to Brackley. This wasn't entirely obvious in places, but as the ground was now easier going grazing, it wasn't so important. I popped out on the A85 before long, with a couple of minutes of verge walking before I met a pavement. Then back to the car.

Beinn na Sroine and Glen Lochy:

There was some rather featureless walking today, and the weather was a big disappointment, but on the whole this was a good route. While I hadn't minded the prospect of doing a shorter walk on the initial Loch Lomond/Glen Falloch pair of hills, the latter two as a short day out (potential views of Cruachan notwithstanding) hadn't really inspired me to jump in the car and make the 230 mile round trip. So including them in a long traverse of the area had been a great idea in the end.
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Re: Sneaking round the back way - Ardlui to Dalmally

Postby Collaciotach » Sun Sep 20, 2015 11:24 pm

Interesting route a 'bhalach

Your right about Ardlui tis a tight spot indeed .

Nice one :clap:
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Re: Sneaking round the back way - Ardlui to Dalmally

Postby litljortindan » Mon Sep 21, 2015 5:52 pm

A good read. Like the idea of a station to station walk. Doubt many people will have done this particular one though!
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Re: Sneaking round the back way - Ardlui to Dalmally

Postby Sunset tripper » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:55 pm

Good stuff. I can never work out how long a walk is going to take me so I either miss the bus or am far too early so very rarely use public transport but it does give loads of extra options. I was on the south loch ness road probably a bit later than you that morning though not much (I never use the A82 between Inverness and Fort Augustus now, too busy and too slow even early in the morning) Here's a picture from my phone showing what it was like when I reached the high viewpoint on the road looking down to Loch Knockie and Loch Ness.
20150919_073436 (640x480).jpg
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Re: Sneaking round the back way - Ardlui to Dalmally

Postby weedavie » Tue Oct 20, 2015 10:24 am

malky_c wrote:Originally intended as a 2 day walk (perhaps also including Beinn Buidhe),

I've done Meall an Fhudair on the way into Ben Buidhe and I seldom remember being so tired. I've looked at the end of your walk, thinking Tyndrum - Lui - Beinn Bhalgairean - Dalmally but that seems like a real trudge out. Well done anyway.
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Re: Sneaking round the back way - Ardlui to Dalmally

Postby scotneil » Thu Apr 04, 2024 1:27 pm

Very nice adventure - but you were certainly cutting it fine in terms of the daylight!
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