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An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halves

An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halves


Postby Alteknacker » Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:34 am

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chreachain, Beinn Achaladair, Beinn an Dothaidh, Beinn Dorain, Beinn Mhanach

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a' Chaisteil (Auch), Beinn nam Fuaran

Date walked: 17/04/2017

Time taken: 13 hours

Distance: 29.8 km

Ascent: 3134m

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For various reasons – travel distance, a lack of snow in the Highlands, other commitments, etc., etc., - my last half dozen or so sorties have been into the Lake District and Wales. Indeed the last time I was in the Highlands was October 2016. So I’d been getting increasingly restive, and scanning the different weather forecasts with growing impatience.

There was a graphic illustration of the difficulty of accurate forecasting when mountainlove posted her report on her trip up Skritheall on 12th April: her pics showed clear blue skies and plenty of snow on the ground when the Met Office had been saying it would be overcast with snowfall! But I haven’t reached the point of being able to abandon the weather runes altogether, so the decision to scoot up to the Highlands on Sunday afternoon for a walk on Easter Monday was largely driven by a forecast that suggested that this would be the only decent weather day over the holiday period.

ImageForecast

Leaving on Sunday afternoon, and working on Tuesday, meant that time was going to be somewhat tight, which pointed towards something reasonably near (= less than 7 hours drive). The Orchy group fitted this criterion. I’d never felt very inspired to walk them in the past, because from the A82 they seemed like rather characterless lumps (absolutely nothing to do with that monumental slope up to the summit of Beinn Dorain, honest :roll: ). But then recently I happened to look at some pictures of the hills taken from different viewpoints, and I realized, that, rather like the Cairngorms, there’s big difference in their apparent attractiveness depending on which side they’re viewed from; and this had motivated me to work out a route.


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5 +2 +3: 5 Munros, 2 Corbetts, and 3 tops.

So with a route ready and waiting – and one that should fit comfortably in a day – the choice made itself. The only decision was: clockwise, or anticlockwise? With that likely motivation-sapping ascent of Beinn Dorain going clockwise, it was easy to decide that it’d be better to go anti-clockwise and descend it :-)

Traffic on the journey up to Orchy was okay; but it rained very heavily passing the Lake District, and the Crianlarich Hills were wreathed in post-rainfall cloud as I drove by. And then it started to rain just as I arrived at my planned camping spot at Auch.

But it was great to be back in a tent again, for the first time in over 6 months. It's very hard to explain to someone for whom the cramped damp conditions of a tent hold no attraction, why it is so enjoyable. I guess because there is no good explanation. But then, why do we like to do anything? Everything we enjoy in life has no ultimate or logical explanation... The only things that do have a rational explanation are typically of minimal personal or emotional importance...

I get myself sorted out in reasonably short order, and then, before settling down, take another look at the map; in a flush of over-enthusiasm arising, I suppose, by the adrenaline rush that results from being back in the Scottish hills, I notice that in principle the walk could be extended to include Beinn Odhar and Beinn Chaorach. But quite a bit more ascent, and a quick estimate indicates that it would add about 3 hours to the walk, meaning it would be quite a challenge to get it done in daylight, even if I was able to manage it physically. So I decide to make a decision in the morning: if conditions are perfect, I might chance it: if not, then the originally planned walk should still be a good day.

I fell asleep to the sounds of the river a few metres away, the rain on the flysheet, and the piping of Oystercatchers. Sweetest dreams :) .

camping in the rain.jpg


I’d set alarm for 04.45, assuming I could get myself sorted out in 30 minutes. But – surprise, surprise - it actually took 60 minutes of prolonged faffing before I was ready to leave. 8) :thumbdown:

Image20170417_054338. A dusting of snow on the top of Beinn a'Chaisteil and the other hills as I strike the tent. It's raining slightly, and it looks like this is falling as snow at high level.

But probably not enough to justify crampons and boots, so I take only the ice axe. I just remember from a Glen Etive walk at this time of year just how useful it was on soggy slippery slopes with a light dusting of snow. This turns out to be a very good decision! But clearly not perfect conditions for a variety of reasons, so => stick to the original plan and leave Beinn Odhar and Beinn Chaorach for another day!

Image20170417_060754. A steepish ascent, but quite acceptable at this point in a walk!

Image20170417_062021. Looking across at Beinn Dorain.

Image20170417_062337. ... and South towards Beinn Odhar.

Image20170417_063133. Looking back towards Auch: doesn't auger particularly well for a clear day.... :( .

The ascent is pretty straightforward until about 650m. At this point the snow starts, and the ground is really quite slippery. Moreover, there's quite a lot of exposed rock. So: not enough snow for crampons to be feasible, but enough to make the risk of slipping pretty high, and, on a slope this steep, one could slide quite a long way before being able to stop :shock: . The ice axe, used in axe mode, proves invaluable as a point of reliable support. But it means that progress upwards is rather slow; but much preferable to rapid and accelerating progress downwards :roll: .

Image20170417_073314. Eventually - and fortunately, uneventfully - I get to the summit, and it's snowing lightly. I begin to fear that pics like this may well be the only ones taken today :( .

Visibility is not great, so after a quick wander around the area to check I had actually got to the true summit, I take a careful bearing, and head off towards Beinn nam Fuaran. I'm very glad I'm using a 1:25000 map because they show the fences, and it's a welcome confirmation of the compass indication.

The descent to the bealach Mam Lorn is straightforward enough, but rather slow: the ground is very boggy, with the thin snow covering concealing this fact. Again it's slow going therefore, but I'm pleased to get to the low point without more than one bum-plant!

Image20170417_080539. The terrain in the bealach looks horribly boggy, but it is much better than it looks, the peat being firmer underfoot than I'd feared.

Image20170417_083405. It begins to snow on the ascent of Beinn nam Fuaran - I don't think this was forecast!!

Image20170417_084616. But it's nonetheless no problem to get to the summit, albeit it's slow because of the slippery ground. Another snow-bound summit cairn!! No reason to stay! Careful compass bearing, and onwards towards the first Munro of the day, Beinn Mhannach.

Image20170417_090352. Descending towards the bealach Srath Tarabhan on the way to Beinn Mhannach...

Image20170417_091012. ...Loch Lyon comes into view.

Image20170417_091605. And ahead Beinn Mhannach, the upper 200m of which is shrouded in cloud.

The map shows a ford of Allt Tarabhan, and since it looked on the map like quite a hefty stream I've brought rubble bags in order to be able to cross it (again, thanks to BlackPanther for the tip). But it turns out that there are a couple of bridges, so no need to unpack the bags.

I take a bearing about 10 degrees East of North and strike off up the hill. This works fine in good visibility; but once into the clag at about 650m, it becomes more tricky to be sure I am really following a straight bearing. So I keep a shade West of the exact bearing so that, hopefully, I'll arrive on the summit ridge to the West of Mhannach; and fortunately this is what happens. But the clag is really quite thick - about 50m visibility - and very disorientating: all I can see is white on white. Thanks goodness it isn't snowing as well. I orientate myself by topography and compass and, somewhat to my relief, arrive at the cairn without event.

Image20170417_103059.

I wander around a little, just to be sure that I really am on the summit. Then head off West towards Beinn a'Chuirn.

There are signs now of a bright sun just above the clag. The cloud base seems to have risen quite quickly to around 900m.

Image20170417_103932. This is the view looking towards Beinn a'Chuirn.

Image20170417_104438. Then all of a sudden it clears completely...

Image20170417_105725. Hopefully this will be the last pic of a snow-enveloped cairn!!!

Image20170417_110456. Very quickly now the cloud is lifting. This view is looking North from the shoulder of Beinn a'Chuirn towards Beinn a'Chreachain.

There are some cliffs on the North West face of Beinn a'Chuirn, and I know that descending any steep boulder-strewn slope with a light snow-covering will be a bit of a challenge; so I skirt the edge looking for the most favourable descent line, eventually alighting on one that cuts diagonally across the slope. Yet again, rather slow going because of the slip risk.

Image20170417_111523. Wow! Is this a mood raiser, or what??? A great view of the Eastern end of the ridge presents itself: from right to left, Beinn Chreachain, Meall Bhuide, Beinn Achaladair, Beinn an Dothaidh, and, on the extreme left, Ben Dorain.

Image20170417_111523 labelled.

Note the amount of snow on the lower shoulder of Beinn a'Chuirn.

Image20170417_113550. The views as I descend into the bealach Lon na Cailliche get better and better. This is looking back towards the first hill of the day - Beinn a'Chaisteil - on the left, and the last on the right - Beinn Dorain - still to come.

Image20170417_115200. It's a rough but not unduly taxing walk up from the bealach to the main ridge. The clouds are now well above the summits, and the views superb. This is looking more or less East down Gleann Cailliche, Loch Lyon showing in the far background, Beinn a'Chreachain on the LHS, and Beinn Mhannach on the RHS.

But the real visual treat awaits on the ridge itself.

Image20170417_121434. The panorama looking North defies both verbal description and the limited scale of a computer screen: it is quite literally, breathtaking (worth clicking to get the full pano if you're interested).

During the time on the ridge I must have taken 40 or 50 pics like this in a vain attempt to capture its spectacular beauty.

Image20170417_123008.

Image20170417_120714. The route ahead to Meall Buidhe: easy ridge walking demanding little attention, so one can concentrate on absorbing the wonderful views.

Image20170417_121508. Looking back WSW towards Beinn Achaladair, a pleasure yet to come on the return leg...

Image20170417_123214. and looking ESE towards Beinn a'Creachain from the summit of Meall Buidhe - perfect ridge walking...

Image20170417_125337. Looking back along the ridge from the final stages of the ascent to Beinn a'Creachain, with Black Mount featuring spectacularly in the background.

Image20170417_125740.
On the final couple of hundred metres up to the cairn I see there are already some folk there, the first I've seen all day.

Image20170417_130536. It turns out to be a fellow Walkhighlander, Scotdav63 (only the 2nd I've encountered in the Highlands), with his teenage son and daughter. We walk together back (in my case) to Achaladair, generally blethering about hills, and plans about walking hills, about scrambling and climbing - a most unexpected and pleasant interlude.

Image20170417_131303. On the start of the descent, evidence that there has really been a little more snow around earlier this year...

Image20170417_132636. The Ben viewed across Rannoch Moor, with (I suppose) Ben Alder to the RHS. This is a pano best viewed on maximum magnification....

Image[20170417_132850. Mhannach LHS, Ben Ach RHS - otherwise, lost for words.... :wtf: (scotdave and family are the tiny figures centre pic).

Image20170417_135856. Completing the 220m ascent of Ben Achaladair proves quite taxing - I'm rather feeling my age at the summit! Here's looking back the way we've come towards Beinn a'Chreachain.

Image[20170417_13592. Panorama looking East. The extent to which the snow on Mhannach and a'Chuirn has melted in the last few hours is truly astonishing.

Image20170417_135921_labelled.

Image20170417_142856. Just after Achaladair scotdave family and I part ways, they back down to Achallader, and I on to Beinn an Dothaidh (pronounced "Nee-haw" or "Duthy" - perhaps someone can enlighten me...???). From Ben Ach it's a gentle downhill ridge stroll to the 1002m spot height, after which there's a straightforward, not-too-steep descent to the bealach above Coire Daingean. This view is looking back towards the summit of Ben Ach from the 1002m point.

Image20170417_143023. The descent viewed from more of less the same position.

Image20170417_143041. Same view as a pano, Beinn an Dothaidh to the right, Beinn Dorain to the left of it - the route is a large zig zag at this point, so the mountains seem somehow reversed in position.

Image20170417_143343. BnD looks pretty dramatic from here...

Image20170417_144028.

Image20170417_144311. It's a well-trodden path down to the bealach...

Image20170417_144320.

Image20170417_152237.
Beinn Dorain is looking pretty sexy from here... Not at all the characterless conical lump it can seem to be when viewed from the A82.

Image20170417_154418. It's a short, tough (at least at this stage in a walk) ascent to the summit plateau of Beinn an Dothaidh, where it seems that there are 3 competing summits. The map tells me that the middle one is the baby, but the optical effect is quite deceptive... But this pic from the final cairn seems to be conclusive. :roll:

Image20170417_154508. Fantastic panoramas continue: here Ben Lui to the LHS, the Cruachan group to the right.

Image20170417_160507. The descent to the bealach between Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Dorain.

At the bealach itself someone has left a truly enormous sac face down next to the path. It looks like it can't weigh less than 30kg! A little way up the track I meet a big guy who claims ownership of the sac, attributing the size of it to the need to carry 5 days food around with him. He swears there's no kind of sink in there, not even of the kitchen variety. I'm struck partly by the strength it must take to carry such a load for 5 days; but even more so by the fact that he's wearing green wellies! I think about this as I continue on. I'm OK for a day with wet feet, but I don't think I could manage multiple wet feet days. Maybe this is the answer: as Andy Kirkpatrick says, if you want waterproof gloves, use marigolds....

Image20170417_162119. Early on the ascent to Beinn Dorain, looking back at Beinn an Dothaidh.

Image20170417_164704. View back to Beinn an Dothaidh on the later stages of the ascent to Beinn Dorain.

Image20170417_165609. Looking back North East the way I've come, Beinn a'Chreachain in the far background, more or less centre picture. Again, I'm forcibly struck by is the extent to which the snow has melted since midday. The first 200m or so of descent from Beinn a'Chuirn there was a covering of about 5cm of snow. Now there doesn't appear to be any!

Image20170417_170020. The northerly Beinn Dorain cairn (the actual Munro), with the Arochar Alps in the background, highlighted in the afternoon sun.

Image20170417_170316. Approaching the South summit, view South towards the Arochar Alps.

Image20170417_170850. The last summit of the day, Beinn Dorain South Top.

Image20170417_170953. From the summit cairn looking back along the ridge. It's just so amazing I'm completely out of superlatives. I must have run off another 30 or so panoramas while traversing this short ridge. What a perfect perfect day.
Overall, it turned out to be a 200+ pics day :D :D :D .

Image20170417_171225. View towards Ben More, framed either side by Beinn a'Chaisteil and Beinn Odhar.

Image20170417_171702. Looking down towards the Orchy rail viaduct from the start of the descent. The bit I really wasn't looking forward to: steep bouldery grassy snow-covered slope :( . In fact, although progress is painfully slow, in terms of safety it turns out to be much better than I expected, mainly because it's very dry, so I only take one slip fall... 4 all day - not too bad under the circumstances! :D

I get back to the car at 18.45, exactly 13 hours after I started.

Image20170417_190222. A last contemplative appreciation of Beinn Dorain. Perhaps not such a characterless lump after all :) .

I'm feeling pretty pumped up after a brilliant second half to the day - so much so that even the long traffic jam at the end of the A82 from well North of Luss doesn't spoil the day.

Image20170417_20214. Farewell, and thanks for a brilliant day... :clap:

I pull into my drive at 02.00am on Tuesday, well content.

Image3-D Route Pano
Last edited by Alteknacker on Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Chris Mac » Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:21 am

Outstanding! That's a monster of a day and tough looking route, great effort!! :clap: :clap: So I take it the wait to get back north was worth it then?! :D

Beinn Dorain a featurelss pyramid lump... I quite like that side of it! Good to see it won you over eventually! :lol:

Some stunning views and photos, top stuff, well done!
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Borderhugh » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:22 am

Great stuff Alteknacker. This must be one of your 'easier' days. I did those Orchy 5 relying on GPS in the clag, saw nowt and have marked my cards to do them again. I am glad it cleared for you and you got the clarity.

We opted for a late morning start to do the Ossian Hills on Monday and got the train up past the Orchy Hills which by 11am were bathed in blue sky as we went past. Stunning! :clap:
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Jaxter » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:56 am

Fabulous stuff :clap: always agreed with you about them being uninspiring lumps but they're fantastic hills once you get up them, I'm glad you got to enjoy the views in the end :D

I see river crossing rubble sacks are becoming common place. I should have patented them when I had the chance :lol:
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby dav2930 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:56 pm

Wow that's some round AK, all the more challenging with the dusting of snow on the tops and poor visibility at first. Quite an inspired route too adding on the 2 Corbetts. Must say though, I wouldn't fancy getting home at 2.00am after that, then going to work same day! :shock:

Haven't been up Mhanach yet but I liked the other 4 Munros - better to be on than to look at maybe, though I've always thought the 'pyramid' of Dorain's southern aspect has a stark grandeur about it. Excellent report and pics with some great panos! :clap:
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby teaandpies » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:32 pm

Epic is a word that's heavily overused these days but maybe fair to use here? :lol: :thumbup:
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Broggy1 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:11 am

Great report as always and a huge round :clap:

Blimey...Would they not let you take a few hours off the day after to rest? :D
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Mal Grey » Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:56 pm

Some people have too much energy! :clap: :wink:


Looks like a great day, impressive stuff!
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby martin.h » Sat Apr 22, 2017 5:52 pm

I'm a man of few words so I'll attempt to be generous,

Wow, Brilliant, Fantastic, Superb, what an epic day out and where do you get the energy from?

That only scratches the surface :D :lol: :lol:
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:24 am

Chris Mac wrote:.... So I take it the wait to get back north was worth it then?! :D

Beinn Dorain a featurelss pyramid lump... I quite like that side of it! Good to see it won you over eventually! :lol:

Some stunning views and photos, top stuff, well done!


Thanks Chris. The wait to get back north was definitely worth it - now planning the next couple of trips!

I think my feeling about BD was subconsciously - or maybe not so subconsciously - affect by the prospect of ascending that long long steep steep slope. Even the descent took an outrageously long time....

RTC wrote:I really enjoy your reports of your mammoth walks with long drives at both ends. Your energy and stamina is astounding. Mind you, my energy and stamina is being sapped more and more by waking up in the middle of the night and finding it impossible to get back to sleep.


Thanks RTC. Bummer about the sleep. That's only happened to me it times of megastress, but it was not much fun. I do sympathise. Hope you get a fix for it.

Borderhugh wrote:Great stuff Alteknacker. This must be one of your 'easier' days. I did those Orchy 5 relying on GPS in the clag, saw nowt and have marked my cards to do them again. I am glad it cleared for you and you got the clarity.

We opted for a late morning start to do the Ossian Hills on Monday and got the train up past the Orchy Hills which by 11am were bathed in blue sky as we went past. Stunning! :clap:


I missed your WR first time round, but having now read it, I can see I was very lucky with the weather: that was a truly brutal dispiriting day you had! Well done for keeping going!

Awaiting the Ossian WR...

Jaxter wrote:Fabulous stuff :clap: always agreed with you about them being uninspiring lumps but they're fantastic hills once you get up them, I'm glad you got to enjoy the views in the end :D

I see river crossing rubble sacks are becoming common place. I should have patented them when I had the chance :lol:


Thanks Jaxter. Honestly, given the views, it wouldn't have mattered what the hills themselves were like!

On the rubble bags: I think it would have to be walking poles at dawn with Black Panther - I am pretty sure I got the idea from one of her reports. But irrespective of whence it came, it's surely a damned fine method :D . So if it was you, thanks :D
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Chris Mac » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:31 am

Alteknacker wrote:Thanks Chris. The wait to get back north was definitely worth it - now planning the next couple of trips!

I think my feeling about BD was subconsciously - or maybe not so subconsciously - affect by the prospect of ascending that long long steep steep slope. Even the descent took an outrageously long time....

Nice one, will hopefully bump into you one of these days while you are on yet another epic trek!

Alteknacker wrote:On the rubble bags: I think it would have to be walking poles at dawn with Black Panther - I am pretty sure I got the idea from one of her reports. But irrespective of whence it came, it's surely a damned fine method :D . So if it was you, thanks :D

Looks like jimandandrea were first... :wink:

An Sgarsoch and its mate: Thank goodness for MTB's!
Postby jimandandrea » Mon Apr 28, 2014 5:30 pm
Photo number 7 - Geldie Burn - Rubble sacks: Genius!!

:D
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:04 pm

dav2930 wrote:Wow that's some round AK, all the more challenging with the dusting of snow on the tops and poor visibility at first. Quite an inspired route too adding on the 2 Corbetts. Must say though, I wouldn't fancy getting home at 2.00am after that, then going to work same day! :shock:

Haven't been up Mhanach yet but I liked the other 4 Munros - better to be on than to look at maybe, though I've always thought the 'pyramid' of Dorain's southern aspect has a stark grandeur about it. Excellent report and pics with some great panos! :clap:


A bit shorter than your recent round in the LD, methinks :crazy: ! I think the only thing that Mhannach has to be said for it is the views it affords of the main ridge.
As to Dorain, I have to admit that I've rather warmed to it since being up there. As you say, it does indeed have a dramatic stark grandeur.

martin.h wrote:I'm a man of few words so I'll attempt to be generous,

Wow, Brilliant, Fantastic, Superb, what an epic day out and where do you get the energy from?

That only scratches the surface :D :lol: :lol:


Thanks Martin. I think it must be the homemade marmelade croissants... :lol:

Thanks also teaandpies, mal and broggy1 for the kind comments. As regards working on the Tuesday, that was my choice. I try to save as much leave as possible for getting into t'ills. :D .
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Mountainlove » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:43 pm

Brilliant report! I am with you regarding the camping experience :thumbup: and glad that I am not the only one who needs ages getting ready when camping. 8) Lol it just dawned on me that I forgot to change the date on that report...it automatically takes the one when you wrote it...and it fact I did the walk 2 weeks prior :roll: . There are days when I wish I would have had wellies!! Thinking about it...its maybe worth a try with a pair of hiking boots for reserve in the back pack? :problem: :think: You got some really cracking photos at the end!! :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby mamoset » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:49 am

Great stuff alte, another whopping day out :lol:
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Re: An Orchy Round - 5 +2 + 3: a day of 2 contrasting halve

Postby Alteknacker » Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:29 pm

Mountainlove wrote:.... Thinking about it...its maybe worth a try with a pair of hiking boots for reserve in the back pack? :problem: :think: You got some really cracking photos at the end!! :clap: :clap: :clap:


Not sure if you're thinking of yourself or me... For my part, I'm quite comfortable with having wet feet because since using 2-skin socks, I've never again had blisters.

As regards the pics, I certainly had THE most amazing views - I did more snapping than walking on the ridge I think. I just re-read your report on your repetition of the ancient Gaelic foot-washing ceremony (oh, and the peripheral ascent of B Mhannach), and you certainly got some superb pics, especially from the summit of Mhannach.

I can recommend rubble bags as a very lightweight means of fording larger watercourses (but you may need to seek permission to use the method... :D ).

mamoset wrote:Great stuff alte, another whopping day out :lol:


Thanks for the kind words. Not so sure it was so whopping - lots of other folk seem to have done the 5 in a one-er, and a darned sight quicker than I... :)
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