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A long tough outing in Orchy

A long tough outing in Orchy


Postby teaandpies » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:00 am

Route description: Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh, Bridge of Orchy

Munros included on this walk: Beinn an Dothaidh, Beinn Dorain

Date walked: 09/02/2017

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 14 km

Ascent: 1228m

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:? Have you ever had one of those days when you wished you hadn't gotten out off bed? This day was one of them for me....

With a great deal of excitement the previous night I had prepared my gear...ensuring my crampons were at the right length for my boots, making my sandwiches as delicious as they could be without making them soggy, rolling up my gear nice and tight for the squeeze into the pack, putting the snow baskets on my poles etc etc

Bed...5 hour short sleep, 6am alarm, half hour snooze, up, breakfast and off to Orchy...

I arrived in what seemed like an oddly short drive from Glasgow, I was feeling pretty tired so perhaps I slept drove there? :lol:

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Empty car park

As I got ready for the walk the bottom section of my pole wasn't catching, turning endlessly so I had to leave it in the car and elected for the 1 pole and axe combo. I'd also left my map on the desk in the spare room but luckily I did have a digital copy on my phone.

Across the road and up to the train station is pretty straight forward, under the tunnel through the gate and head left equally so. There's a mast of some description and the walk starts proper immediately after it.

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The way up

The extremely eroded path(s) (20 foot wide scar at 1 point) takes you straight towards the Coire with zero effort, thus far.

It's dull, pretty bloody dull but still but I still stopped for a little look around.

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Loch Tulla

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Bridge of Orchy

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Glen Orchy

The coire seems so close but it actually took a bit longer than I though it would to get there. I soon got to the snow line which was exciting, the walk was starting to get interesting. It was easy going at first, the snow was soft and there were foot prints to follow, they didn't seem fresh but I couldn't see any return prints. As I followed them I was aware I had no idea where the actual path was. :roll:

The Coire closed in on me and the snow got deeper, stuff was getting serious now.

The photographs in the rest of the report are doctored, they were washed out so I enhanced them in Flickr.

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Coire an Dothaidh

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I continued to follow the footprints until I needed to pee, I broke off the path and headed for a large boulder as I did my feet went from under me and the next thing I knew I was knee deep in a rotten bog, the smell was disgusting. Initially I thought I had stepped on a dead sheep or something. There was no sensation at first then slowly a cold feeling crept into my boots they were soaked... :(

I considered quitting here, I didn't know what to do. Should I go on with soaking wet feet? Should I go home? A little time was spent swithering before

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Dirty stinking bog :sick:

...deciding to continue, off I went (after a pee). The steeper part of the coire was really difficult walking. The foot prints that had guided me up to this point had vanished, the wind was blowing from every direction and the snow was deep...this shi+ just got real!

I took a minute to get my new balaclava on, a fine Icebreaker one, I was glad of this bit of kit right now because the icy airborne splinters were tearing my face apart.

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Dull skies

Once the bealach was reached the large cairn that provided a tiny bit of shelter form the strong wind being funnelled between the hills. I had my sunglasses on to protect my eyes from the wind, spin drift and glare coming off the snow despite it being a rather dull day. However the sunglasses would prove to be an annoyance most of the day to come.

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Loch Lyon

I'm not sure exactly how I came to the decision but I chose to do Beinn an Dothaidh first. With no path to follow I elected to just wing it...I headed to the right of the crags in the below picture.

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The way I went

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Wind swept bealach

The going was ok at first, rocky and grassy tufts provide me with some good footing but soon after I made a huge error in judgement. I decided to head straight up the hill. I cut my way across the better ground before finding myself on steep ground in deep snow. I was in Coire Reidh but I didn't know that at the time.
I'd fall in 3ft snow drifts and struggle to find any way out. A few steps to the left no use, a few steps right no use, just keep ploughing forward in the hope of finding decent ground.
Each time I got my self onto a firm surface I'd have to rest and readjust my clothing my gloves my gaiters. Then a few steps after setting off I'd be waist deep again battling to reach some kind of solid surface. I was furious with myself for coming this way up the hill and I got a bit of a scare when I came across a deep looking gully in the snow. It looked like to much hard work going up through the deep snow to go around it so I headed down until I found a snow bridge...I plunged my axe into it a few times hoping to hit something solid but nothing. I decided to go for it anyway and luckily for me 2 steps later I was on the other side. :shock:

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Whitescape

I now battled my way between rocks, between tufts of grass small distances. Each time set off knowing I was going to lose my legs to the snow, knowing that I'll end up crawling as the unrelenting wind pounded into me. This was a real eye opener, welcome to winter walking big man :(

As I mentioned earlier I had my sunglasses on to cover my eyes but they didn't help me with much else. They are dark and polarised making everything look flat with little detail. At times I'd think I was stepping onto a flat surface but actually there would be a dip or step I couldn't make out causing me to stumble or fall.

Getting closer to the top the snow was thinning meaning more firm ground to be found. It had been a hell of a slog. It had taken forever to get here about 4 hours...I knew I at this point I wouldn't be doing Beinn Dorain. I was shattered, my feet were freezing, I had cut my leg through my trousers with my axe and a buckle on my right gaiter had broken so snow was packaging up around my ankle. I didn't have any spare cord to make a temporary fix :( I was also extremely thirsty so before I took a sip from my tube I spat the foamy saliva from my mouth completely forgetting I'd zipped my jack right up so I spat on the inside of my collar and it ran down into my beard, nasty :-|

I came over the horizon and saw a cairn with no more hill to climb, what a relief. I'm not religious in anyway but I couldn't help thanking the big man up there :angel: The words "Thank God"..."Thank you Jesus" fell out of my mouth in that breathlessly way and as I was about to lift my arms into the air in celebration I noticed a higher looking top away to my left. What a kick in the plumbs this was :cry:

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South top cairn looking to the summit

The walk along the ridge was easy enough in comparison to what I'd endured thus far but I was sure to keep my distance from the edge.

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Beinn Achaladair

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Perthshire

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Beinn Dorain

The summit was had with little fuss. I spent a minute or 2 looking around but it was bitterly cold so lingering wasn't really an option. I initially headed towards the other top but I was feeling pretty defeated so I broke off down hill.

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Beinn an Dothaidh's summit

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Looking to Beinn Achaladair & Beinn a'Chreachain

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The west top

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Ma tool

Going down the hill was far easier than going up it thankfully but I still spent half the time on my arse.

I spotted another walker at this point and I felt pretty bad for him because it looked like he was following my foot steps. Sorry fella :lol:

As I got back to the bealach the wind was equally as strong if not more so than it had been earlier. I was ready to leave the hill but something happened that I truly wasn't expecting....I carried on over the bealach and started up Beinn Dorain! :shock:

I got into the crags to try and find a little shelter but there wasn't really any. I ate a sandwich and tanned a bottle of Lucozade with my gloves off as I was changing gloves anyway.
My fingers went completely numb by the end of my piece but my fingernails were in excruciating pain. I pulled on my warmest gloves and set off I had balled my hand into fists inside each glove to try and get them warmed up, my pole dangling from one wrist my axe from the other. I walked like this for 10 or 15 minutes stumbling through the snow. Eventually the heat returned to my hands...now they were far too warm :roll:

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Hello ladies

I had read a report saying Beinn Dorain was a flat hill walk...I did wonder what hill they were walking? :lol:

A quick peek over to Beinn an Dothaidh to have a look at the hill that had caused me so much bother. I could see the other walker heading down...had he been to the top already? If so what was I doing wrong? :shock:

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Beinn an Dothaidh

Flat walk my ass. Each time I thought I might be getting there near the top I'd find myself crossing the horizon to be faced with even more hill to climb. I had cramp im my legs and for a while each step was painfully sore.

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Up

All the joy had been sucked from the walk the minute I fell in the bog earlier in the day. I wasn't sure if it was now stubbornness or sadistic enjoyment but I came to terms with the situation and there was no way I was going home without bagging both of these hills.

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MORE UP

I had skirted every deep looking snow drift, took the rocky option each time it was presented and never stopped for any reason. I was finally rewarded...

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Englishman's Cairn

...here I was at a massive cairn. Is this the top? Of course not! I had wanted this to be the top so badly but sadly no and if I didn't want to be referred to as English for the rest of my life I'd have to take the short but seriously annoying walk to the summit.

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Views from Carn Sassunaich

A cruel 10 minutes later I was on the top. Strong winds and whipping spin drift made being there less than fun so I took a quick snap and off I went.

I had texted the missus once I found a little shelter telling her I'd gotten to the top of the second hill and I was fine but I was running late.

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Beinn Dorain's summit

The walk down was long and lonely. I pretty much had given up trying to find the decent ground and had chosen the direct route down through the snow.
I must have fallen in snow drifts at least 200 times no joke. Seriously this was no longer funny, I couldn't be arsed being there any longer and I wanted off.
There was now something genuinely troubling me and I only noticed when I removed my sunglasses once back in the coire that my vision was a little hazzy with perhaps a little blue tint. I closed each eye in turn to see if I was just imaging. I wasn't, my right eye's vision was definitely impaired. I freaked out slightly and started walking 'fast' but in reality it was still slow. I managed to calm down, trying to think about what might have happened to my eye....could it have been UV leaking through a scratch on the lens? Or light coming in from the sides? Perhaps a stain on the lens than was forcing the eye to focus funny? Was it the wind somehow? Whatever it was it definitely real. I told myself I would sleep on it.

Travelling as fast as I could manage it took me 2 and a half hours to get from the summit to the train station. I removed my gaiters and flung them in a bin :lol:

Once at the car I needed a change of socks, a fresh top, a sandwich and a rest to ready myself for the drive back.
I slept well that night, well as soon as I got used to the involuntary twitching my thighs were doing. My vision returned to normal the next day thankfully but now I'm on the hunt for some better quality sunglasses 8)

The next 3 days I'd suffered I can tell ya, the legs were aching :(



Looking to get out ASAP to do it all again :lol:
Last edited by teaandpies on Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby basscadet » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:25 am

Wow that sounded character building :lol:

:clap:
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby teaandpies » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:00 am

basscadet wrote:Wow that sounded character building :lol:

:clap:


That what they say about these types of experiences.

To be honest I didn't expect to be wadding through ball deep snow all day. The weather forecast had said there was a big freeze so I thought I'd be skipping over the top of it but nothing was frozen at all :roll: :lol:
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby prog99 » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:24 am

What day was this (your trip date is this coming may..)
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby basscadet » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:06 pm

teaandpies wrote:
To be honest I didn't expect to be wadding through ball deep snow all day. The weather forecast had said there was a big freeze so I thought I'd be skipping over the top of it but nothing was frozen at all :roll: :lol:


Not sure when you went (I think you may of recorded this hill for the wrong day btw) but we had the same thing last weekend - supposed to be solid, but only powder to be had, which made any kind of mountaineering a bit scary and treacherous. All be different this week though, ah the joys of winter :D
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby jmarkb » Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:22 pm

teaandpies wrote: To be honest I didn't expect to be wadding through ball deep snow all day. The weather forecast had said there was a big freeze so I thought I'd be skipping over the top of it but nothing was frozen at all :roll: :lol:


Fresh snow doesn't just freeze solid! The main mechanisms for producing snow you can walk on top of are melt-freeze cycles (which form neve) and wind transport (which forms windslab). If the weather stays calm and cold, neither of these processes is in play (wind transport is also ineffective if the snow is a bit wet). Snow will eventually consolidate without either process because the snow actually evaporates and refreezes within the snowpack without ever becoming liquid, but that's a relatively slow process.

Reading the SAIS reports and blogs should give you a good idea of the likely underfoot conditions.
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby rockhopper » Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:53 pm

teaandpies wrote::? Have you ever had one of those days when you wished you hadn't gotten out off bed?
Nope....at least not if it's for a day in the hills :) Think I must be doing something wrongly - you and others seem to have these interesting, challenging days whereas mine (touch wood) don't tend to be the same - may need to have a rethink :wink: :wink: [only kidding] - cheers :)
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby teaandpies » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:43 pm

prog99 wrote:What day was this (your trip date is this coming may..)


Don't know how that happened. Edited :lol:
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby teaandpies » Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:17 pm

jmarkb wrote:
teaandpies wrote: To be honest I didn't expect to be wadding through ball deep snow all day. The weather forecast had said there was a big freeze so I thought I'd be skipping over the top of it but nothing was frozen at all :roll: :lol:


Fresh snow doesn't just freeze solid! The main mechanisms for producing snow you can walk on top of are melt-freeze cycles (which form neve) and wind transport (which forms windslab). If the weather stays calm and cold, neither of these processes is in play (wind transport is also ineffective if the snow is a bit wet). Snow will eventually consolidate without either process because the snow actually evaporates and refreezes within the snowpack without ever becoming liquid, but that's a relatively slow process.

Reading the SAIS reports and blogs should give you a good idea of the likely underfoot conditions.


Lesson learned I assure you!

I hear Benviroment talking about the freeze-thaw thing alot on his video blogs so I have an idea of how it works but I made a couple of assumptions. One being there wouldn't be so much snow and the other being that it would be frozen ultimately leading me to a more difficult outing than expected.

It was the SAIS that made me think twice about heading for Creag Meagaidh. I didn't know it had its own special section the site.

rockhopper wrote:
teaandpies wrote::? Have you ever had one of those days when you wished you hadn't gotten out off bed?
Nope....at least not if it's for a day in the hills :) Think I must be doing something wrongly - you and others seem to have these interesting, challenging days whereas mine (touch wood) don't tend to be the same - may need to have a rethink :wink: :wink: [only kidding] - cheers :)


Obviously your experience would be a factor in perhaps finding things less interesting if you're always acutely aware of the conditions and risks. Being able to read the ground better under the snow etc. Leading one to find better walking lines and ultimately having more comfortable days out?
I certainly hope that's how my skills develop anyway, thats how I envisage it. So in a few years time I'll be a winter walking Ninja having more comfortable outings :lol:
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby katyhills » Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:56 pm

# Snow business like snow business.... :wink:

On the plus side - you'll remember that pair of hills! :D
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby Coop » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:34 pm

Fantastic report.
Someone actually had a worse time on these pair than I did :D
A pair I'd like to do again in dry clear conditions.
Was chuckling at times reading this but chuffed for you that you plodded on and did them against the odds
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby teaandpies » Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:20 pm

katyhills wrote:# Snow business like snow business.... :wink:

On the plus side - you'll remember that pair of hills! :D


In the recent report by Graeme D he mentions how you always remember your first Munro. I'd add you'll remember your first in the snow :lol:
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:04 am

As Basscadet says: seriously character-building!

A really entertaining read, and some great pics. I'd planned to be in Glen Shiel, but was put off by the gloomy (=rain) forecast, so we stayed low and south. It looks from your pics (from which I can't feel the cold!) as if - visibility-wise - it wasn't too bad in t'Highlands after all...
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby baggervance » Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:31 pm

Hi T'n'P

Tip for spinning walking pole - pull the section out until you can cee the mechanism - turn in locking direction and you will feel it tighten - loosen slightly in opposite direction and slide to desired length - twist in tightening direction and it should now work

Nice walk report

cheers BV
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Re: A long tough outing in Orchy

Postby katyhills » Sat Feb 18, 2017 1:06 pm

In the recent report by Graeme D he mentions how you always remember your first Munro. I'd add you'll remember your first in the snow :lol:[/quote]

Indeed - but it all adds to your experience, and it's a big learning curve. The kind of winter we've had especially - it's made it all been a bit hit and miss. Now you see it, now you don't!

Snow creates a whole new set of circumstances - including the hidden bogs.... :wink:
Glad you made it back safely. That's the most important thing.
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