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Solitude in Glen Loth - Beinn Dhurain and Ben Uarie

Solitude in Glen Loth - Beinn Dhurain and Ben Uarie


Postby gld73 » Sun Mar 08, 2020 6:00 pm

Fionas included on this walk: Beinn Dhorain

Date walked: 06/03/2020

Time taken: 4.2 hours

Distance: 16.5 km

Ascent: 840m

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Second day in a row of good weather coinciding with my days off, so after an enjoyable day on the Cromdale grahams the day before, I headed in the other direction, north up the A9 for another graham. I'd never been down Glen Loth before, but had a look at the walk reports on here and it looked like a nice option. Driving up the single track road to the base of the hill and walking straight up would be the quickest way to tick off the summit .... but it's a glen with some interesting things to see and I wasn't in a rush, so decided to make the walk a fair bit longer by leaving my car at Lothbeg on the A9 and walking the whole way instead.

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Lothbeg being a tiny place, I wasn't sure if there would be many suitable places to leave my car, but there's actually a large parking layby just a couple of hundred metres south of the Glen Loth turn off (The Last Wolf parking area) on the west side of the A9. From there, it's easy to walk on the flat grass verge (i.e. no walking on the A9 with its fast moving traffic) to the steep single track road with it's warnings of not being gritted in winter. Turned out there were actually a couple of places I could have left my car just a short distance along the Glen Loth road which wouldn't have impeded anyone - not that there was anyone to impede midweek in March in an uninhabited glen - but the Last Wolf car park was good as it meant I had a read of the inscription stone which I would have missed otherwise.
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'The Last Wolf' engraved stone by the parking area

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Start of the single track Glen Loth road, leaving the A9

It was about a 3km walk from the A9 to the old stone bridge (and much newer hydro scheme infrastructure - but that's all embedded and low key now, no ongoing construction work fortunately). On the way, Creag Riabhach is passed on the left of the road, the site of a WW2 plane crash ( https://www.northern-times.co.uk/news/sutherland-wwii-air-crash-marked-75-years-to-the-day-187841/ ), and a broch is passed on the other side of Loth Burn. I'll need to come back for a visit to the memorial on Creag Riabhach. My target hills for today soon came into view though.
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Beinn Dhurain and Ben Uarie come into view

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Druim Dearg on the left, Beinn Dhorain centre

Just after the bridge and cattle grid there are a couple of standing stones up a steep embankment - the walk could be started by going up there, but I just headed along another 50m or so to where a big gate was in the fence. It's a locked gate, but easy to climb over, and then I followed the track. It branches, with the left hand going down Glen Sletdale, but I continued right, taking the obvious route up the southern slopes of Druim Dearg. The path eventually peters out, but it doesn't matter where exactly you come out on the flat summit area of Druim Dearg (445m) as that's just the stepping stone on the way to the next summit of the graham, Beinn Dhorain. (In poor visibility you'd probably want to stay well back from the steep eastern crags dropping back down to the glen though).
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Bridge over the Sletdale burn where it joins the Loth burn. I left the road shortly after this.

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Standing stones near the bridge

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Having climbed over the gate and gone a short way up the track, this was looking at the way I was heading up the slopes of Druim Dearg
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Looking south west, I think the biggest hill (background left) is Col-bheinn

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Druim Dearg's plateau at 445m, Bheinn Dhorain ahead

From Druim Dearg it was just a slight drop down in a NNW direction to the dip between the 2 hills, across a snow-filled peat hag, and up the steeper slopes of Beinn Dhorain. Not much snow left on the southern facing slopes and summit plateau. I came out pretty much in the middle of the summit plateau with cairns at either end. I went to to the eastern cairn first for views back down Glen Loth, then across the shallow snow to the summit cairn at the western end, the 628m point. Views were such a contrast depending on the direction looked at - most of the western facing and southern facing slopes of the hills around were snow-free, but northern and eastern facing slopes were still white.
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The road up Glen Loth I'd walked is in the centre of the picture, coming up from the coast

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From the eastern cairn, the summit cairn is over there at the western end of the summit plateau

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Munros to the west.... I'm guessing this was maybe Ben Klibreck? Too far west to be on the map I had with me, and once I got home I couldn't remember whether I'd been looking west or north west with this shot!

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Morven, Scaraben and pals.... hopefully I'll be over there and looking back south in this direction sometime soon

Although Beinn Dhorain is the highest point in Glen Loth, it's the adjoining hill Ben Uarie which has the trig point for some reason. It's only a small extension to the route to walk down the snowy slope to the bealach between the two, and up to the trig point at 623m with its snow-filled stone shelter. Morven was the real eye catcher from there; hopefully this year I'll get round to doing the Morven, Scaraben, Maiden Pap and Smean cluster of nice looking hills.
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A short hop over to the next summit (Ben Uarie) which has the trig point

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Looking from Ben Uarie's summit back to Beinn Dhorain, things look quite wintery

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...a lot less wintery looking north to Morven though

Having read walk reports where people had ascended/descended the steep eastern gully between Ben Uarie and Beinn Dhorain alongside the stream, that had been my planned descent route back down to the road in order to to do a circular walk. I hadn't considered how very, very different the conditions were in that shaded gully compared to the rest of the walk though - steep, thick, icy snow. I ventured a bit closer to see if there was a safe way down but couldn't see one, and decided not to risk it just in normal hiking boots. My ice axe and crampons were in the car and wouldn't be much use to me there in the highly likely event of having a slip. So I played safe, and returned the way I'd come, back over Beinn Dhorain and Druim Dearg and back down to the gate to climb over and return to the road. On the way, I had nice, clear views over to the sub-2000 hill Beinn Mhealaich (592m) on the other side of the glen and could see what would probably be a good route to do that by. I'll need to come back to Glen Loth before I forget it!
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Hmmmm, now where did I leave my crampons and ice axe?! This is as far as I dared go before deciding to retrace my steps, the freeze-thaw weather had left the steep snow too icy. (Beinn Mhealaich is the hill across the glen in the background)

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Walking south on my route back, views seemed a lot snowier as I was facing the northern slopes

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Descending back down Druim Dearg towards the Glen Loth road

The 3km stroll back along the road was quickly over, and it was only when I got back within earshot of the A9 I realised that I hadn't seen a single person since leaving Lothbeg - no other people on the hills and no cars driving the single track road. Seems surprising finding such solitude on a sunny day given I'd started the walk from such a main road - but I'm certainly not complaining :D
Last edited by gld73 on Sun Mar 08, 2020 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Solitude in Glen Loth - Beinn Dhurain and Ben Uarie

Postby Coop » Sun Mar 08, 2020 8:56 pm

Glad your out on the hills again - and got your car sorted. February was indeed a miserable month for the hills. Hopefully March is more fruitful. Not been up the far north east myself much. Need to rectify that and get up on that north coast for some puffin and whale watching maybe.
Looks a nice wee hill with some good views you had there. ( I slogged up through the snow to Beinn Mhanach on Friday- with no views !!)
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Re: Solitude in Glen Loth - Beinn Dhurain and Ben Uarie

Postby gld73 » Sun Mar 08, 2020 10:04 pm

You've done more munros than me in 2020, I'm still to break my duck!

Yes, the far northeast might not have the munros of elsewhere in the Highlands, but there are still some great hills to head up ...... and they're relatively quiet too, being so far from the central belt. They're a long enough drive from Inverness, never mind Glasgow! :lol:
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Re: Solitude in Glen Loth - Beinn Dhurain and Ben Uarie

Postby BlackPanther » Mon Mar 09, 2020 4:40 pm

We did the same ascent route on Beinn Dhorain, climbed over the same gate :lol: :lol: A nice hill, much underappreciated but lovely views.

The crash site on Creag Riabhach is on our radar for this year. There is also another one on Beinn Mhealaich - Consolidated B24 Liberator, crashed in 1944 (The Aircraft Wrecks Bible gives the exact grid ref.:NC973153). I was thinking about visiting both sites and climbing Beinn Mhealaich (Sub'2 Marylin). Hopefully weather improves now spring has arrived. I'm probably not the only hillwalker fed up with constant rain and wind!
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Re: Solitude in Glen Loth - Beinn Dhurain and Ben Uarie

Postby gld73 » Mon Mar 09, 2020 10:05 pm

Col-bheinn also has a plane crash site. It's not so much of a bagging summit (Carn Garbh, a sub2000, is its parent summit), but looks like it could be a nice walk. Seems that area is nicer for hill walks than it's been for flying planes :shock:
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Re: Solitude in Glen Loth - Beinn Dhurain and Ben Uarie

Postby naefearjustbeer » Wed Mar 11, 2020 2:52 am

Glen Loth is one of my favourite places, So quiet and peaceful and only a short distance from the busy boring A9. Its part of my work commute back and fore to the north coast. If you had ventured down the other side you would probably of seen hundreds of deer by the side of the road.
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