Dear 2020 - so long, and thanks for all the pish!

Sub 2000s: Dun Coillich

Date walked: 30/12/2020

Time taken: 1.8 hours

Distance: 4.2km

Ascent: 260m

I should have known that 2020, that b*^"ard year, would have one more dirty trick up its sleeve before it was done with me. After all it has served up over the last 12 months, the idea that plans for my final hill outing of the year would go smoothly was clearly fanciful thinking. Much more fitting that on this penultimate day of this God forsaken and bedevilled year, my plans should gang agley.

My last proper hill day had been in mid-September on Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean and in effect, any hill walking I have done this year that has been worthy of writing home about has been squeezed into that 3 month window between the Original Lock Down of the spring and the new fangled Tier System of the autumn and winter. But at least the prospect of a four day "window" from 23-27 December would give me the chance to fill my boots, metaphorically but more so literally, and head out on the 27th to turn some red balloons blue and give a two fingered salute to 2020 as it prepared to draw its final breaths. Then that "window" became a 24 hour peep hole on Christmas Day itself and even I am not crazy, desperate or suicidal enough to suggest that a visit to Arrochar to take in the sights of Cnoc Coinnich and The Brack would be a better idea than staying at home to eat turkey and watch High School Musical II.

Once I had fully processed this latest 2020 horror show news, I got to thinking about what my current Tier 4 options were, given that my movements were restricted to the Perth and Kinross council area. Then it struck me that now might be the ideal time to revisit some of those Perthshire Munros from the "early days", done mostly circa 2008/2009 when I wasn't yet fully in the habit of logging blue balloons on here and posting TRs with photos. Hills like Meall nan Tarmachan, Meall Corranaich and Meall a'Choire Leith across the other side of the dam, the Glen Lyon Horseshoe from Invervar, and Meall Buidhe and Stuchd an Lochain tucked away either side of Loch an Diamh in the far recesses of Glen Lyon.

Mrs D was on holiday right throughout the Christmas and New Year period, something that would have been unheard of in pre-COVID times, the company having clearly though "F**k it, let's just close early for the year before anything else bad happens, and not reopen until 2021 when hopefully things cannot be as bad". So there were no issues with child care - I had the green light. The forecast for Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th both looked good but my good buddy Bruce from Methven had suggested we take the kids up Birnam Hill on the Tuesday, so I bagged the Wednesday for a visit to Glen Lyon. I opted for Stuchd an Lochain as it had probably been the most miserable of all of the above mentioned outings, although Tarmachan ran it very close. I was also thinking of taking Luna with me too for her first proper hill day so figured this would be a reasonable introduction to the Munros.

As it transpired, I decided to leave Luna at home and leave her proper hill initiation for another day. She is 14 months and can run all day for Scotland but Mrs D wasn't sure about me taking her up to Munro height in potentially very deep snow just yet, so in the interests of keeping the peace I agreed to leave her at home.

I made a leisurely start from Perth and tootled my way up through the 40mph roadworks on the stretch of A9 up to Dunkeld, then off at Ballinluig for the drive to Aberfeldy and then across the bridge to Weem, along to Fortingall and then onto the long, tortuous Glen Lyon road. Road conditions were good despite the recent snow, one or two sections of the Glen Lyon road being a bit white and lacking in traction, but otherwise I arrived quite easily at the point where the road up to the Giorra Dam branches off the main glen road. This road was fine until the estate house a hundred yards or so up the road at which point I entered an entirely different world and one which my car had serious issues with. I had enough speed up to keep me going until the first bend but the minute I took the foot off the gas to negotiate the bend, I lost all traction and it became clear this would only end badly if I tried to carry on. There might once have been a time when I would have gone for it, but bitter experience has taught me that discretion is the better part of valour in these circumstances, even for a stubborn old mule like me. I had no desire to end the year with my motor in a ditch in a remote location such as this and me having to Hitchhike my way out of here and back to my own Galaxy. Even more so in the current circumstances where a call out for assistance, even if I was technically within the letter of the law, might not have gone down too well in certain quarters. And Mrs D would certainly have taken a dim view of it and I was in enough hot water as it was having emptied a glass of Australian Malbec over the living room carpet just a couple of days ago!

So I gingerly reversed back down to the drive of the estate house, reversed into it, and beat a retreat back down to the "main" road. I could have parked up at the wide bend by the bridge and walked up to the dam from there but that would have added a fair bit of time on either end of the route and I was already later than planned due to excessive breakfast faff and the A9 roadworks. I had also realised that I had forgotten to pack a head torch, so probably not a good idea to be getting into these sorts of shenanigans, so I decided to make like a tree and leave. It was still 2020 after all!

As I drove back along the glen, I mulled over my options. I thought about about pulling in to the parking area at Innerwick and doing the Corbett Beinn Dearg in what would have been polar opposite conditions to my last time up there back in the summer of 2013, but I drove on past the entrance to the parking spot in which a family seemed to be having a BBQ out of the back of a car! I similarly considered parking up at Invervar and doing one of the four Munros in the horseshoe to the north, but I figured it best to leave them for another time when I would have enough daylight with me to nail all four. Let's see how 2021 goes shall we? Who knows for just how long my hill days will be confined to the Perth and Chaos cooncil area!

And so it was that I closed this hellish year on Dun Coillich, a wonderfully nondescript Sub2K at the junction of the B846 and the Schiehallion Road. The weather was still looking more glass half full than half empty and if I had no great hopes for the hill itself, I was certainly hopeful that I might get some tasty views of a snowy Schiehallion.

I parked up at the rough roadside parking area on the left just before the junction, where another 3 vehicles were already parked, presumably for the Foss Mine Corbetts across the road, quickly changed footwear and threw a few essentials into a little day pack, and headed back down the tarmac towards White Bridge and the cottage in the little patch of trees.

Dun Coillich from the parking area

The only piece of black stuff on this walk today

Welcome to Dun Coillich - Adiós to 2020!

I decided to head to the right to pick up the edge of the forestry and follow that round to almost behind the hill as I reckoned that would give a less steep gradient of ascent and more views of Schiehallion. There was evidence initially of a path of sorts beneath the snow but as I came alongside the line of pylons, it seemed to vanish into a sea of knee deep heather covered in a thick layer of powder snow.

South beyond the eastern slopes of Dun Coillich towards the Appin of Dull and Aberrfeldy

East to a sun soaked Meall Tairneachan from the edge of the forestry

It was hard going up the slope alongside the forestry. The terrain was about as flat and even as Passchendaele in 1917 and matters were not improved by the occasional stray stone from the dyke, old fencepost or even length of fence wire lurking beneath the snow.

Shades of Passchendaele, circa 1917

Gotta love a good winter sky scene



Eventually the toil was rewarded with views of Schiehallion looking resplendent in her winter attire. I wondered whether restrictions limiting me to PKC would be in place so long that I exhausted all other options and eventually resorted to yet another ascent of the Fairy Hill!

First sighting of the Fairy Hill of the Caledonians

I initially thought I was looking at a herd of deer - should've gone to Specsavers. Or just taken a drive to Barnard Castle!

Ominous activity in the heavens

Zoom 1

Zoom 2

It was another tough pull up the northern slopes, the awkward terrain and almost four months since my last serious hill day both taking their toll. The Christmas excesses, even in this year of the Frugal Christmas, might also have been a factor! On several occasions my body from the waist up carried on moving forwards while from the waist down it remained firmly lodged in some kind of sink hole, with the inevitable consequences.

Looking west beyond Schiehallion towards the north side of the Glen Lyon hills

Lochs Tummel and Kinardochy from the slog up to the western top of Dun Coillich

More atmospheric winter skies

East to the summit of Dun Coillich from the almost identically high western top

Interesting U-shaped feature looking down towards Kenmore and the Appin of Dull

Dun Coillich summit looking to little Loch Kinardochy and big Loch Tummel

From the summit I took a more or less direct descent line towards the car, bearing slightly off to the left to avoid the steepest of the ground but not necessarily the deepest of the heather! Again I took a few headers into the rough stuff. I lost count of exactly how many times I went down like a sack of Maris Piper. It was somewhere above 5 and below 50 but exactly which number in between I could not possibly say. Eventually my line of descent intersected a path that I may or may not have missed earlier on and soon brought me to a couple of old gates and the crossing of a burn before depositing me back at the main gate back out onto the road.

Communities Land Trust sign

From almost back at the roadside

Still mostly blue over Meall Tairneachan

A last look back at Dun Coillich

So that was Dun Coillich. A nice wee bimble if you're a PKC resident in Tier 4 lockdown and you like spending a bit of time on your hands and knees with white powder filling your nostrils, otherwise possibly best driven past. That was the best my two weeks Christmas holidays could conjure up. That was 2020. At least my total number of trip reports logged for the year has scraped into double figures but that includes two fairly low key wanders south of the border in October and a repeat of a local Perthshire Sub2K back in March on the brink of bedlam. So pretty lean pickings it has to be said. I shall not mourn the passing of 2020 from a hill walking perspective (nor for the fact that it took several people who defined my youth in terms of the worlds of music and sport) and even although 2021 has began in pretty grim circumstances, I still hold out hope that as D:Ream once famously sang, things can only get better.

Here's hoping everyone has a safe, happy and successful 2021.

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Graeme D

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Location: Perth
Occupation: Teacher
Pub: Moulin Inn
Mountain: Too tough to answer
Gear: Paramo gilet/Scarpa boots
Member: MCofS
Ideal day out: No such thing as a bad day out on or amongst the hills - only degrees of goodness.
Ambition: 2b sent home on full pay!

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Grahams: 65
Donalds: 22
Wainwrights: 27
Hewitts: 36
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