Belter of a Bivvi - Bridge of Orchy 5
This Bridge of Orchy 5 outing with Callum had been pencilled in for a while – nearly as long as it has taken me to get around to compiling this Walk Report (currently sitting at a backlog of 5!). Thankfully I think the wait will be worthwhile, at least on the photo side of things, as we were accompanied throughout our trip by the alignment of all the Scottish Weather Gods… what a boost.
Arriving in Bridge of Orchy slightly later in the morning on an absolute scorcher of Saturday meant parking was a bit of a scramble; thankfully we were both able to get a space, just.
Plane flying through Glen Orchy
The plan for this outing was always to attempt the five Munros – the exact order or direction was very fluid. Most of these pros and cons were weighed up on our long and steady ascent from Bridge of Orchy station towards the bealach between Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh.
View towards the bealach
I am unable to recollect the exact reasoning for our decision to go anti-clockwise and tackle Beinn Dorain first, leaving Beinn an Dothaidh to last, but I think it was a wise decision – one which I’ll attempt to explain later on.
Callum and the blistering heat
Upon reaching the bealach you, assuming the Scottish Weather Gods are on your side, are treated to terrific views towards Beinn Mhanach and Loch Lyon. At this point in time Beinn Mhanach was schedule to be the 2nd of the 5 and these views offered a greater perspective of how far away it “actually” was.
I say “actually”, because technically we knew exactly how many OS boxes away it was but I still tend to underestimate the distance, or overestimate my levels of fitness!
It was actually quite far, but not too far…
Setting off up Beinn Dorain on fresh legs was pleasant even with the increasingly sharp wind that had been non-existent on the approach to the bealach.
Couple of photos from the ascent towards Beinn Dorain
The last photo was taken from the false summit of Beinn Dorain and gives us a good view of Loch Lyon and Beinn Mhanach, Beinn a’Chreachain, Beinn Achaladair. I think Beinn an Dothaidh was just out of shot, however easily visible without the camera.
Beinn Dorain is one of the most instantly recognisable hills from the side of the A82 or the West Highland Way, but its distinctive shape is almost unrecognisable on the ascent up. Once at the summit we were treated to some vast panoramic views thanks to the clear visibility.
Looking south towards Loch Lomond
I am not, never have been, and never will be a fan of routes that involve retracing steps, so much so I actively go out of my way to avoid any repeated ground. This route takes some very re-traceable hills and makes them into a near perfect circle, with a few minor exceptions. Heading towards Beinn Mhanach was the first exception. We headed back towards the false summit, Carn Sasunnaich and headed down the shoulder of Meall Garbh.
View down the shoulder of Meall Garbh towards Loch Lyon and Beinn Mhanach
The descent was uneven, boggy, slippy, steep and everything you don’t particularly enjoy from a descent. Other than Callum’s minor fall we manage to escape pretty unscathed but we had sacrificed more energy than expected so early on in the day.
A long way down before a long way up Beinn Mhanach
Arguably the biggest mistake of the weekend was opting to try and gain height on Beinn Mhanach as quickly as possible. In hindsight we should have kept to the path and adding in a bit more distance.
Nearly at the bealach (and one of my favourite photos)
By just after 18:00 we had reached the summit of Beinn Mhanach – this felt like it had taken a lot of effort just for two Munros. The easy option was to patch Beinn a’Chreachain & Beinn Achaladair and set up camp, leaving just Beinn an Dothaidh for the Sunday morning.
This also proved that the anti-clockwise method was the best decision. If we had gone clockwise I think we may have bailed out of even attempting Beinn Mhanach due to its remote location.
Once visible we made a slight alteration to the route, aiming for Bealach an Aoghlain for the bivvi / camp site. Although this would detract from a more circular route it suggested greater views for the camp and the option to leave some weight in the morning when heading up Beinn a’Chreachain.
Bealach is the dip on the left. Original plan was dip on the right, but the approach seemed more brutal this late in the day.
Nearly at camp – still a beautiful day!
Our camp and bivvi site was almost perfect - relatively flat and enough distance from the steep drop northwards. We spent about an hour or so relaxing and boiling up some water from the remaining snow patches whilst waiting for the sun to set.
We had held a steady pace throughout the Saturday and when combined with the later start, it meant one of my later finishing times. My typical habit is to walk as fast as I can, finishing as early as I can to curl up into a ball and get to sleep long before the sunset.
Worth waiting up for
At this point in time I was still in the early stages of getting used to the bivvi bag, so as expected my night was slightly disjointed. It sure does take a while to get used to the “trapped” feeling when you wake up and can’t sprawl your legs out like a starfish. Vast differences from Callum in the luxurious 2-man tent – think he even carried an en-suite with marble finishing and a butler service based on the weight of his backpack!
Views from the bivvi early morning (05:49.18 – according to Flickr)
Isn’t technology amazing - bivvis that allow you to be fully cocooned without suffocating (yet) and photo hosting websites that will inform you the exact second you took a photo.
We set off early doors, leaving a bit of weight behind to make the easy ascent up Beinn a’Chreachain. Although it was panning out to be another beautiful day it was surprisingly cold with a sharp breeze. More bonus points for the bivvi, as I was toasty throughout the night.
Is there anything better than early mornings up in the hills?
I still think this looks like a fighter jet…
Just before 07:00 we had reached Beinn a’Chreachain, and for the first time in a long time, we were now heading back towards the car. The summit of Beinn a’Chreachain was worth the early morning, views in every direction. It was even claimed by Callum to be one of the most scenic summits he had been on – massive claim, but hard to argue!
Given the lack of heat we choose not to spend to long at the summit and retraced our steps back towards the tents.
Different perspective of our campsite – spot the tent and bivvi! (click on photo to enlarge)
After quickly packing up our overnight gear and getting a bite to eat our progress was swift up Beinn Achaladair. Amazing how the body recovers after just one night, even in the most bizarre locations.
Near the summit of Beinn Achaladair
Once at Beinn Achaladair, Beinn an Dothaidh, our final Munro appeared to be quite a significant distance away. It also seemed to have an annoyingly large drop in height – looking back it only really went down to 750m. Goes to show how the tired mind plays tricks.
View towards Beinn an Dothaidh
Callum on route to the top of Coire Daingean
View of the final climb
After a bit of a chore to get up Beinn an Dothaidh we had arrived by 10:30ish. The wind had eased off slightly and we had arguable the best panoramic views of our outing. I love the long multiple days out the in the hills and there is nothing better than getting rewarded with a cloud free summit to visualise the distance you have covered.
The early morning mist coming off Beinn Mhanach in the centre. Loch Lyon on the right and Beinn a’Chreachain on the far left.
All that remained was to retrace our steps back to Bridge of Orchy where we inevitably passed the hoards of people. By now in the shelter of the wind the sun was positively sweltering. We mentioned the idea of going for a wee dip in the burn that led down to Bridge of Orchy. The more we walked, the more this seemed like a great idea.
We passed a few paddling options but had firmly set our sights on one location nearer the bottom that we had noted on the Saturday. Just in sight of our chosen (probably much needed bathing spot), and lo and behold there was a rotting sheep already having a bath. This must have been the 4th or 5th dead deep we had encountered throughout the weekend – I guess the winter of ‘17/’18 must have taken its toll!
It only took minimal discussion to agree that a great weekend in the hills didn’t need to get spoiled by taking a bath with the sheep corpse.
On that note, I will draw this Walk Report to a close.
Thanks for reading / looking at the pictures!
The chosen route
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