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To Munro or not to Munro – going solo on Beinn Dearg

To Munro or not to Munro – going solo on Beinn Dearg

Postby Borderhugh » Thu Jun 02, 2016 4:13 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Dearg (Blair Atholl)

Date walked: 01/06/2015

Time taken: 5.2 hours

Distance: 29 km

Ascent: 990m

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As I had to get my walking buddy, Jackie, back down the A9 on the Sunday to collect Blondie (her car) for work on Monday (she wasn't open to sickie excuses – attack of the keds didn’t work!), I had a slight dilemma of what to do with my free Monday. I didn’t fancy being a loose cannon for the day in some soulless shops or being ‘interrogated’ in some shape or form by my good old ‘repetitive’ mum. Decisions, decisions! As I had my bike with me in tow and as the forecast was looking pretty stonking I opted for the good old hill time option in Beinn Dearg.

I was in 2 minds about doing this given the loose verbal commitments I had made to Jackie as she catches me up on the Munro count; the plan of course being we do them and ‘compleat’ together. At the rate she is going she is going to overtake me and finish in no time at all. I had thought about doing some corbetts on the A9 but was unprepared with routes etc. Ben Vrackie is and had been high on my to do/wish list and was an option but I have got that one down as one to do on a perfect winters day, again with the Jaxter. I shall just say, the MetOffice prognosis had the final say 8) .

I awoke at my hostel in Pitlochry in usual fashion on Monday morning feeling a little hot footed (have I been walking on hot coals?) and thankfully not too stiff from my weekends exploits in the Fisherfield (Saturday) and 2 more Munros on Sunday, Am Faochgacach (Summary: boggy with great views of Beinn Dearg and Cona Mheall) and my nemesis, Carn na Caim - fist punch! My roommate was in a different state having cycled a sportive around Cairngorms the day before. He was incapacitated and could hardly move. I just hope he made it to the station in time for the long trip back to London.

I left the hostel promptly around 08.30 and got to the fairly fullish car park at Old Bridge of Tilt around 9ish. I had tried to consume part of my breakfast on the way but had to consign it to the bin. My enthusiasm or appetite for food wasn't great and my taste buds were feeling pretty shot. My chocolate brioche tasted more like marmite brioche! Whilst I like marmite in small doses it tasted yuck :( !

As I was getting ready in the car park, I struck up conversation with a foreign-accented attractive lady with a portly black Labrador in the car park who was also doing BD. She had been consigned to easier hills for the day with someone else’s dog whilst her husband was off doing ‘bigger stuff’. She had done the walk before and confirmed to me the bike was a fine idea.

Around 9.10 I was on my way. The initial part of the cycle in this part of the world is a real joy. The combination of morning sunshine, open, glorious green, rolling fields and woods at this time of year around Blair Atholl are really special.

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Leaving the fields

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Beinn A'Ghlo

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Entering Banvie Woods

After I had overtaken the attractive lady with the dog, I started what looked like the relatively easy, benign incline up to the beautiful Banvie Woods. It was at this point my legs decided to protest :o and I had to get off and push. I know I am not bike fit but this was ‘pushing’ it. It was akin to the contented dog sitting by the hearth, who refuses to move when called for walkies. I spent a few minutes trying to loosen off and then got on my way again. Once I was into the dark woods, I was glad for the coolness and shade, I had been perspiring profusely. After a few minutes, I came to a slight sun-blasted clearing where I chanced upon a real bambi. It was a beautiful thing standing timidly at the side of the track staring at me for what seemed like ages. Sadly cool hand Luke here was too slow on the camera draw and the target was off. Damn it, there goes my coup for my WR! :shock:

After about 10 minutes, I reached the end of the tree line and the gate. Once you get past the gate the views really start to open up to heather clad rolling hills around Glen Banvie, classic Perthshire. Once out into the open the 2 spur track takes on a stonier consistency as it winds its way up and over to the Allt Sheicheachan bothy. The incline doesn't really go away and I was regularly having to jump on and off. Progress was slow and during this time, I was starting to question my decision to do this at all and felt somewhat empty in the energy stakes :( . Clearly the exertions of the day before were catching up with me. I WAS missing my banter companion and feeling a little guilty that I was off doing stuff without her :( .

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It was only when I got to the splendid cairn that I got my first view of BD. It looked a long way off. Having taking a few piccies and consumed my take on trailmix, I was off again.

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The cairn and 1st views of the target

It took me about an hour and a half to get to the Allt Sheicheachan bothy. Once I had stowed my bike, not very imaginatively around the back and had a quick recce of the facilities (I didn’t realize there was an upstairs!), I got ready for some pole action and headed off up he track that goes up the wee glen behind the bothy. Instantly I found walking easier and was able to make good progress.

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Down to the bothy


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Looking back

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The way ahead

As I got to the start of the zigzags, I saw another walker who had obviously come in on the higher track. He was about 100m in front of me. As I came out on top of what might be considered a bealach mor, I tried to quicken my pace in the hope I might be able to catch him. After negotiating the 2 bogs and the penultimate climb around the wee hillock, Meall Dubh nan Dearcag, I had to stop because for a quick breather I felt I had over-exerted myself. After about a minute of taking in some air, I encountered an elderly couple and we had a good chat about all things hills. That 5 minutes did me a world of good and after no real time I was feeling refreshed and hopping over the boulders up to the summit. It had taken me just under 3 hours.

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Looking up the way to BD

The summit cairn

At the summit, I dropped my pack and climbed up onto the enclosed cairn to enjoy the views. BD has a very remote feel and is a great place if you want absolute solitude which I was more than happy to lap up; this was definitely a day to feel alive. I was quite content and a million miles away from my busy life in London. The views from the summit cairn were fantastic in every direction. There was a slight haze but you could easily pick out (not my camera though) the Gorms, Sgarsoch/Fhidleir, Beinn A’ Ghlo, Schiehallion side-on, the hills around Loch Rannoch and Dalwhinnie. Carn na Chalamain, which I had done on a wintery May day last year in near whiteout conditions, was looking well-defined, albeit dwarfed by Beinn A’ Ghlo :D

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Dalwhinnie Hills

Beinn A'Ghlo & Carn na Chalamain

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Trying to pose

As I sat down to enjoy my lunch - all I could muster was an apple, I got chatting to the guy who had been ahead of me. As soon as I mentioned we had been in the Fisherfield on Saturday he started talking about his 2 mates from Cumbria who were camping up there and who had been tweeting. Did you see em? He asked in a thick gritty northern accent. ‘Of course’, was my reply. In fact, we had met them twice on that day. It’s a small world!

Unusually for me and probably in part due to the fab weather :clap: , I spent over half an hour on the summit. In that time the attractive lady and dog had arrived. I was amazed by their progress. It proves a bike isn’t necessarily any quicker.

As I hadn’t planned for the extras Beinn Bhreac or Beinn Mheadhonach, I was going to return more or less the same route. Once I got to the top of the zigzags, I decided on a more direct descent down the track and burn. Its fairly easy going straight down the heather but I was ever so mindful of walking thru prime tick country. Once I got to the track I had a quick brush off for the little blighters :(

As I neared the bothy, I had a quick drink and headplant in the burn to cool off. In front of the bothy, I met the elderly couple again who were enjoying a rest on the pub bench. After a quick barney, I could sense his envy of me having a bike for the return journey – they had started out at 7.

In all the return journey took me about an hour and a half. Once I had lugged my bike up Meall Tionail from the bothy, it took me literally 15 minutes to get back to the car park at Tilt. Wow! There was some pedalling here and there to be done but the return was pretty much free-wheeling all the way and I welcomed the cooling effect of the breeze but not the damned flies :roll:

Once I got back and loaded up the bike, checked for ticks and extricated the dead insects from my eyes, I took the leisurely drive back through the foothills of the Angus Glens to the gorgeous Howe of the Mearns to get cleaned up.

Whilst I enjoyed the outing, I did miss the presence of my sidekick who I have been walking with since November. I have promised her I will do this one again if she is up for it maybe with a few hidden extras (the 2 surrounding Corbetts, Tarf Hotel etc..)
Last edited by Borderhugh on Sun Oct 25, 2020 9:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: To Munro or not to Munro – going solo on Beinn Dearg

Postby 2manyYorkies » Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:49 pm

Bit of a wordsmith there eh, Borderhugh? All things considered, did you feel the bike was useful overall?
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Re: To Munro or not to Munro – going solo on Beinn Dearg

Postby katyhills » Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:10 am

Nice to see what the view's like from the top! :wink:
You had a lovely day for it - some great pix

This was my 100th Munro - no bike though. It's a long walk in and out but the solitude's nice. This made up for it too

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