When I was venturing into the mountains a good few years ago, numbering around the 16-17 mark, number 50 still felt a helluva long way to go. To be honest it seems to have come up quite quickly, and I can still remember each of them fondly. I have always loved how each outing etches itself in the memory leaving a lasting satisfaction to look back on.
I completed 48 and 49 a number of weeks ago at Beinn a' Chochuill and Beinn Euanich and with a two week holiday to Canada in the middle, finishing in a three day canoe and camping trip in New Brunswick, I've been itching to get back outside and increase my total to 50.
This wasnt a specially picked munro, but one which was within touching distance to Glasgow which was still a red balloon in a sea of blue. How that walkhighland map plays with your head!!!
The now usual routine of a 4am start meant I was geared up and ready to begin walking around 6am. I've found i prefer the early starts to the late ones, being the first one out of the blocks into the empty glens and hillsides really appeals to my escapism. I parked up on the verge at the start of the private road to Auch Glen, surprised to find it was actually a lot wider than I was anticipating.
The walk begins on tarmac, plodding down into the valley floor before winding through the farm and fields, the cows studying me intently. Crossing the West Highland Way, nobody to be seen this early, I continued on the track up and under the viaduct. Wonderfully constructed but very slim, it must be a great route to be a train driver on, not just a passenger.
Under the viaduct and entering into the glen was like walking back in time, steep cliffs to the right under Beinn a Chasteil untouched for thousands of years the rolling hill to the left leading up to the steep side of a cloud covered Beinn Dorain. The river crossings I anticipated and described before me never really came about with all the dry weather we've been having, and I made excellent progress up the glen to Duncan Ban MacIntyres sheep dip at the end. I can see why he chose to live here, a poetic spot indeed. A sweep to the right at the end of the glen and I was at the foot of the pathless ascent to the top of Beinn Mhanach. Without stopping bar for a few photos and water I reached it in 1.5 hours.
The next part was to be the challenge for me, no path from here to the top and a cloud cover down to around 800m meant I would need to get navigating. Another part that comes with experience, had this been munro number 10-15, I would have been nervous, and worried of being a statistic on the mountain. Fortunately with experience comes a little confidence and I marched up the pathless hill, following the fence posts into the clouds until they bent NNW towards the bealach for Beinn a Chuirn. Checking the compass and map, and checking again, I headed onwards into the cloud, with visibility at around 30m or so. I've seen many out there say they enjoy being in the clouds, and I'm one of them. With views being restricted by higher mountains here anyway, I enjoyed the serenity and silence of the clouds. A light wind and the occasional (lost?) sheep kept me company! With my bearings spot on, I walked straight up and onto the top coming to the cairn as expected and sheltering behind the collection of rocks to savour my 50th summit. Out with the rum at 9am to celebrate!!!
With no photos to really take other than the souvenir shots, I revelled more in my ability to reach the top in low visibility and of reaching a landmark number. I headed back the way I came taking the reverse bearing and made it back to the fence line almost at the same point I left it. I decided rather than head round the walkhighlands route, to descend via the Allt a Churin and what followed absolutely made up for the lack of views at the top. With the water levels lower, I was able to walk down the mini gorges created by the water, scrambling down rocks and taking pictures of the numerous waterfalls from the top back to the track. It felt I was in an undiscovered almost prehistoric world and thoroughly enjoyed picking my way down the rocks and through the pools of crystal clear water. In spate or after heavy rain, this might not be passable, but today I felt lucky as it added to the exploration.
I made it back down to the track for the long walk out after around 4.5 hrs, smiling ear to ear at the descent which had not even registered on the knees for a change!!
Rounding the corner into the Auch Glen I met my only walking companion for the day, and stopped for the usual chat that comes from a shared experience. Sorry I didn't catch your name, but if you are reading, all the best with the craggy west coast!!!
I wandered without any sense of time back down track, stopping for photos and savouring number 50. This is why I do it...quietness, stunning landscapes and the sense of achievement of being where few go. I wouldn't change this hobby for anything!! By the time I made it back to the car around midday the legs were burning and I was feeling the strain of a lack of exercise over the past month.
I decided rather than heading straight back home, to take a drive up to Glen Orchy and found a picnic spot by some more waterfalls to munch some awful out of date pasties (they were reduced in Asda, its my own fault!!) , but some wonderfully sweet tea.
So number 50 came and went, once again with its memorable moments that will stay in the mind hopefully for as long as i stay sane, and I look forward now, to where next, and the following 50!!!
I bloody love this stuff!!
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