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Silver Linings

Silver Linings


Postby bernadettewalsh » Wed Jan 15, 2020 4:45 pm

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

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

Date walked: 06/05/2019

Time taken: 5 hours

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By 7.00am I had pulled myself out of my sleeping bag got dressed and driven to Bridge of Orchy, from my overnight camp at Victoria Bridge. I had also downed a quick cup of coffee and was taking the underpass, beneath the fabulous West Highland Railway, before embarking on the day’s walk. It has to be said that the view ahead didn’t inspire total confidence in the forecast but… I was placing my trust on a blast of wind that would sweep away the cloud, and reveal the sky that had been predicted; they promised dry weather and sunny intervals all day.

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This leap of faith postponed the necessity to don the full waterproof kit, a work of not insignificant manoeuvring. After fifteen minutes however, and much wetter than I needed to be, I admitted defeat and acted out that strange dance unique to hill walkers, pulling on waterproof over trousers. This ritual is usually conducted when there is nothing around to hold onto and give stability. The obvious thing to do is take off the walking boots, slip on the trousers and then replace the walking boots. However, this always seems such a drag. Witness instead, the attempt to get a hulking great walking boot through a small aperture in material while standing on one leg, just as the leggings are doing their own salsa with the wind. Not only does the protracted hop-a-long provide a hugely amusing spectacle but, the actor in this pantomime has - during the ten minute routine - endured a soaking that will keep them wet (inside their waterproofs) for the rest of the day. Inevitably - performance over - rain stops, clouds clear and the promised sun reigns supreme. This bemusing little ceremonial is then reversed and the curious habit will repeat itself throughout the day. Most Munros, worthy of the name, will offer up this tradition all year round, as walkers and weather play a game of catch me if you can, in response to fronts from the Atlantic that assault the hills of western Scotland and totally confound the forecasters.
Having completed today’s little boogie I just couldn’t be bothered to unburden myself of the extra clothing, when it looked like the conjectures might be accurate after all. As I continued, the wet clothing inside my waterproofs met with heat generated by the effort of ascent, so that I carried my own personal sauna up to the ridge, from which to ascend Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh.
However, ‘it ain’t over until the fat lady sings’ and, as there are very few fat lady’s on the hills – singing or otherwise – the jury about the direction of today’s weather was still out. The next waft of wind carried yet more cloud and, what had been rain further down the hill, was now sleet - with attitude. I was vindicated; the caper with the waterproofs could be justified.
By this time I was plodding through a boggy stretch, made particularly soggy by the current precipitation. When I spotted someone walking way off to my left, on what I could see to be a clearly defined path, I knew I was up to my old tricks. In trying to keep my feet dry I had wound my way around the squelchy ground and failed to look carefully enough for the route ahead. I made my way over to the path and continued the climb astonished to find that I was making up ground on the person ahead who, I thought, looked to be of the male variety and also youthful; this isn’t the normal way of things; what was going on? The conundrum was explained when I did, in fact, catch up. He was just back to hill walking after 18 months off work with a fractured spine. No need for smug hill superiority on my part here then! In fact, I felt vaguely uneasy as I strode ahead while the comparatively young man was “just seeing how far I can get”. He told me that I might catch up with his fitter friend who, “getting up the hill much quicker was now out of sight. I doubted that very much.
Once up to the bealach between the two mountains on today’s hit list, the sleet had turned to a very definite snow and appeared to have been falling at this height for some time. The short distance of hill that could be seen was wearing a coat of unblemished white. I decided to tackle the nearest Munro, Beinn an Dothaidh, first, still hoping the strong winds would push the clouds over. I started out for the summit in what can only be described as a blizzard.

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Wind was whipping up the snow, spreading it liberally around, with all the sorcery of a wizard playing mischievously with his wand. There is only one thing to do with such a conjurer and that is to outwit it, so I just continued up in what was becoming deeper and deeper snow. Just past a cairn, that marks a choice in which path to take to the top, a ghost like figure appeared through the clouds. He turned out to be the faster friend of the duo on the hill. “Be very careful if you are going to the summit”, he said. “You can’t see much and it’s pretty wild.”
Damn, blast, and many more expletives (blue shaded) passed near my lips. I was all but there and now with not another soul around on this bleak mountain, could I go on. I looked pleadingly at the sky but it was giving no quarter. I looked lovingly at where I supposed Beinn an Dothaidh to be, but it was hidden behind todays mistaken forecast. I knew what I wanted to do and I knew what the sensible course of action would be. I couldn’t quite give up the former by doing the latter so… I just hung around, like a demented half-wit, waiting for something to happen. Nothing happened except my waterproof sauna turned to a fridge and I became miserable. Now I had to make a decision in a state utter despondency.

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The frustration was like having the very last piece of your self-assembly masterpiece missing, having spent hours and hours assembling it. I wanted to rage against the injustice of it all and felt even worse because there wasn’t – actually - any real injustice involved, making the rage even worse.
Eventually, cold, miserable and in one almighty sulk (not my most endearing characteristic) I turned back. Half an hour later, and about to go down from the ridge, I could just see the circumference of a translucent sun peeping through the clouds, before it disappeared once more. Then, about a quarter of the way down, it put in another – stronger – appearance, and did so repeatedly until ever widening expanses of blue sky pushed back the clouds, as more light radiated with every sullen footstep. I did entertain the thought of going back but not for long, thinking of: the long flog back up, the long traverse to capture the two Munros, the late return, and the four hour drive home, I just couldn’t get my boots to lift to the challenge, with the weight of my heavy heart, that had being pulling them down.

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Lower down the hillside all of this morning’s covering of snow evaporated into the ground and not a trace of the white stuff collaborated my story, as those going up looked incredulously at me, and then at the hills, as I told my story. However, they all concurred with the importance of safety and not punching above your weight. “The hills will still be there” they said. But… will I. How much longer will I be able to clamber up these hills? Today’s little outing hadn’t reduced the outstanding Munros by the two I was hoping for, so I was still left with 226 outside the bag and the need to return to these hills another time.

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Back at the Kangoo, and while licking my wounds, I started packing for home and, in my haste, managed to get the toggle of my sleeping bag stuck in the side door. It wouldn’t close fully and I couldn’t open it either; this really wasn’t my day. After nearly an hour of pushing, pulling, and trying to weave a technical miracle out of a penknife, a kindly wizard came along. With significantly more elbow grease than I could muster he released the toggle with just one pull on the door. Or, just perhaps, he waved a magic wand.
Extricated from my sulk, which had got ever deeper, I tried to view the positives. I had accomplished four more Munros this weekend, and I had proved myself to be an experienced hill walker on the slopes of Stob Ghabhar, as verified by the authors of the walk highlands routes. Additionally, getting home before nightfall meant I could crack open a bottle of wine (or 2), to share with the soul mate that evening. There are silver lights to every dark cloud.
bernadettewalsh
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Re: Silver Linings

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:07 pm

Turning back is usually the right choice! I’ve done it many times and never regretted it.

I was doing this exact same route in similar conditions a few weeks before. Finding the summit on Beinn a Dothaidh from the bealach in a whiteout took some careful planning, and Dorain too has a little trap for walkers https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=88179

tim
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HalfManHalfTitanium
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Re: Silver Linings

Postby bernadettewalsh » Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:41 pm

Actually, I could easily have done it but I too doubt myself too much. It wasn't ice hack and crampons type weather. I know I would have gone on if I hadn't been on my own. Glad you got it done :D
bernadettewalsh
Walker
 
Posts: 18
Munros:96   
Hewitts:47
Wainwrights:73   
Joined: Oct 1, 2015
Location: South West Scotland

Re: Silver Linings

Postby Phil the Hill » Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:55 pm

That putting on the waterproof overtrousers dance sounds familiar! :lol:
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Phil the Hill
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Re: Silver Linings

Postby nigheandonn » Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:59 pm

I can usually get my waterproof trousers *on* without too much dance, because you can put in one foot at a time then pull them up - but see getting them *off*, when I've usually forgotten to undo the ankle studs anyway...
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nigheandonn
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Re: Silver Linings

Postby bernadettewalsh » Thu Jan 16, 2020 2:54 pm

I always forget to undo the studs, before taking them on or off :lol: :lol:
bernadettewalsh
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Posts: 18
Munros:96   
Hewitts:47
Wainwrights:73   
Joined: Oct 1, 2015
Location: South West Scotland

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