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Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor - the wrong kind of weather

Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor - the wrong kind of weather

Postby mrssanta » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:04 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Heasgarnich, Creag Mhòr (Glen Lochay)

Date walked: 17/02/2017

Time taken: 27 hours

Distance: 26 km

Ascent: 1500m

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They say there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong kind of clothing. Well whoever "they" are, I would have to disagree with them. If we'd done this walk 20 years ago we would have been soaked to the skin and very miserable - as it was today with our modern gear we were not soaked to the skin. The weather was horrid and we had some "moments" of terror and excitement but from the safety of my nice warm kitchen I don't recall any misery (much)!
One of my work colleagues had the good sense to have a birthday ending in zero, meaning he took a week off, which led to my day off being changed from Wednesday to Friday. Yippee, we thought, a quick trip North to bag a few munros and we can pretend it has been a holiday!
We're getting a bit short of mountains within weekend distance of Teesside. We once drove up to the top of the pass between Kenknock and Glenlyon to have a look at Beinn Heasgarnich, when looking for nice high start mountains to climb with younger members of the Santa family. This did not look like an easy bag. Then the report by Jonny 616 from March 2012 when he got stuck waist deep in a bog struck fear into the heart. We decided that these hills should be done on a crisp, frosty winter's day when the bogs were frozen and the sunshine warm.
Last week there was a great snow fall and a nice cold spell.
Then there was a thaw, but it was too late to change our plans, our minds were made up!
We had settled on a nice four-bagger, arriving in Glen Lochay at about 3pm on Friday, camping up somewhere near the top of Beinn Heasgarnich, climbing Heasgarnich, Creag Mhor and then pop up Meall Glas and camp somewhere in a corrie between there and Sgiath Chuil, then back to the car and home in time for bed on Sunday.
Yeah right.
We had an adventure anyway, and this is where we walked.

heasgarnaich simplified.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

MWIS forecast was for low cloud but not much wind until Sunday afternoon which we thought was doable as we would be off the hill by then.
As planned we set off from the car at about 3pm, after a couple of false starts with indecision about crampons and axes - in the end we took both - and made good progress up the tarmac road to the bealach. It was actually quite a pleasant evening with high cloud shrouding the summits and a band of mist low down which was atmospheric. There was no wind and it was all we could hope for.
Glen Lochay on Friday afternoon

one of the locals

looking over to Sgiath Chuil (or bits of it)

down Glen Lochay from the zigzags

uphill towards Creag nam Bodach

Sgiath Chuil on the left, Beinn Cheathach on the right

The fearsome bog was not too terrible actually although the ground was very wet underfoot. We did not find any massive uncrossable peat hags. We walked west until we came to a burn, went upstream till we reached a good crossing point, then walked roughly west again until we reached Allt Tarsuinn. Following this upstream we crossed it when we could then headed west again towards our identified camp spot.
the boggy bealach at the top of the pass

At this point the navigation got quite tricky as it was getting dark, I couldn't see my map, the ground was really lumpy and it was difficult to make out which lump was which in the gathering dusk and clag. Anyway suffice it to say that we cheated and used the satnav occasionally to confirm our location, but eventually more by good luck than good management found a super camping spot just below the ridge line at about 930metres, with a flat sheltered spot and a burn, arriving at about 6.30pm, when it was quite dark. The last 20-30 minutes we walked by head torch and it started to rain. I found it hard going and realised how unfit I really am. We pitched the tent and had our grub and went to bed. My downmat which had been punctured at our last trip survived well and did not need any extra air until 5.30am.

It rained most of the night and there were huge gusts coming from all over the place. In the morning Rudolph had to go running after the lid of the kettle and the Happy Mugs after a gust caught them and blew them down the hill. Daylight improved the visibility, but not by much. We decided that we would go to the top of Beinn Heasgarnich as we were nearly there, and see how we felt. It was immediately hard going, and with patchy wet slushy snow, thick clag, a strong Westerly breeze and constant rain it was quite difficult to see where was up and where was down, until you got to it! Leaving the campspot at about 9am we reached the summit about 45 minutes later with a few false summits in between which we would probably not even have noticed if we'd been able to see anything.
Rudolph on Heasgarnaich

and me

We didn't hang around on the top but decided to head down to the bealach and make our next decision.
Heading South off the summit we found a bit of path taking us to Stob an Fhir-Bhogha which we promptly lost and after some heated discussion about which way was down, found it again as it wended its way down Sron Tairbh. It was a long, steep descent and we did find one patch of slush where we could bum-slide for about ten metres, which was fun. We came out of the cloud a little and decided to stop for first lunch by the burn on the Glen Lyon side of the bealach, where we found a nice patch of grass to sit on for a brew.
ice axes having a rest.

It was about 11.15 when we reached the bealach and we had a good rest in a sheltered spot and the rain stopped and for a very short period a small amount of blue sky came visible over to the East. This was a bit of a tonic and encouraged us to feel we might live!
told you the blue sky was brief

Although we could not see much of Creag Mhor at all we decided we weren't going to stop at one hill and set off to follow the line of the burn up to the ridge and then round in a curve to reach the summit while avoiding the cliffy bits. The right bank of the burn gave better going and we were relatively sheltered until we reached the ridge.
interesting bit of snow

Then the wind hit us full force as we came up the ridge and really slowed us (me!) down. With heavy packs it was really slow and difficult going and at one point we had to link arms for me to make any progress at all.
The top of Creag Mhor has two summits, one with a cairn where we took photos. In between the two tops we sat out of the wind eating trail mix, mightily relieved to get our breath back for a few minutes. It had taken us an hour and 40 minutes to cover the 1.9km and 400m from the bealach, which would normally take us just over an hour.
top of Creag Mhor at last

Rudolph was struggling to stay upright taking this.

the cairn from the sheltered-ish bit

By this time it was quite clear that we were not going up any more Munros this weekend although especially looking back we had a massive sense of achievement.
It was fairly straight forward to find the path down towards Sron nan Eun although we dropped off the ridge at the Bealach Slaidearan to get out of the wind. It was no problem to pick our way down the slope and it was nice to come out of the clag and see some views. My pictures are not very good as there was some muck on my lens but there was some lovely weather to be seen in the distance.
coming out of the clag, evidence of better weather elsewhere?

I was just too late with this pic to catch Rudolph upside down in the snow

There is an enclosure on the lower slopes but there is a gate which was easily visible next to the burn at 409358 and we aimed for this then followed the burn down to the track, stopping for second lunch along the way.
a pretty rock

These holes look to have been dug for trees. But there did not appear to be any trees

looking up the glen where there is a bit of sunshine threatening

Looking down Glen Lochay towards the Tarmachan ridge - and blue sky!!

the Happy Mugs put in an appearance at last

Then all that remained was the long walk back along the hydro track to the car, which was quite pleasant with the wind now behind us.
tree on a rock beside the track

soggy cattle - at least we had a tent!

We reached the car at about 5.40, with plenty of time to change into dry clothes and footwear before it got dark.
We weren't expected home till Sunday night, so we headed for Shish's house in the borders where there is always a warm welcome, stopping in Callander for super-friendly fish and chips on the way through.
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Re: Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor - the wrong kind of wea

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:45 pm

Wow! Reading this makes me realise what a wimp I am, when even the mugs are smiling! I think I'd have bailed out on hearing the forecast :shifty:.

Well done indeed! But glad to have done these 2 in fine weather....

BTW I know what you mean about modern gear. As a young scout I was perpetually soaked through when the weather got dampish on hikes, but nowadays it really is possible to stay dry - a whole wet weekend in Snowdonia a few years ago proved that to me.
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Re: Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor - the wrong kind of wea

Postby basscadet » Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:50 am

Brilliant Mrs S, its all about the grit and determination - Looks like your happy mugs have been been partying hard too.

Sheasgarnaich was similar for us - got blasted with icy sludge half way up which froze solid by the summit so that it was difficult to move arms and legs :lol:
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Re: Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor - the wrong kind of wea

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Wed Feb 22, 2017 10:35 pm

Some very atmospheric photos and a grand effort :clap: I am sure I am very to much of a softie to continue in those winds.
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Re: Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor - the wrong kind of wea

Postby jonny616 » Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:05 pm

Glad my report didn't put you off! Some of us mentalists were out in Torridon on the Saturday when modern clothing was a bonus. :clap:
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Re: Beinn Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor - the wrong kind of wea

Postby mrssanta » Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:33 pm

oh you're all very kind. Would have been just so demoralising to turn back. We think it was "character building"- I said to Rudolph, I could manage low cloud and showers but I wouldn't go if it was windy........
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