Buffeted on Bhrotain and a lesson learnt.

Munros: Beinn Bhrotain

Date walked: 03/05/2018

With a couple of days off from work, I wanted to spend a day in the hills. The only full day I had free was Thursday and even though the weather forecast wasn't that good I decided to tackle Beinn Bhrotain and then onto Monadh Mor. I did my usual preperation, supplies, clothing, equipment etc. My plan was to tackle this giant from the Linn O' Dee. The walk to the White Bridge would be a good warm up and stretch of the legs.
It took about an hour to walk to the bridge and a further 25 mins to get to the point where I would start my ascent. From this moment onwards Beinn Bhrotain was a boggy slog or should I say a soggy bog. Either would be a fitting description. I slipped and slid my way upwards, trying to find the best route across the sludge to reach Carn Fiaclach Beag. I had hoped that from here, the going would get better, but no. Crossing the bealach to Carn Fiaclach was no better and again the bealach to the start of Carn Cloich-mhuilinn was the same. It wasn't until I was near the summit of Carn Cloich-mhuilinn that the boggy ground vanished to be replaced with the familiar red boulders of the cairngorms.

White Bridge. A welcome sight.

The view looking to Carn Fiaclach.

The cloud was low by the time I reached Carn Fiaclach. The view I had hoped for while walking up these giants had all but gone. I had hoped the weather forecast would get it wrong for a change. The boggy ground was starting to tire me. I had lost my footing many times, falling over was starting to become an art form and my feet had sunk into the bog more times than I can remember, thank god for gaiters.

I was glad to finally cross the bealach and ascend up the slopes of Carn Cloich-mhuilinn, the boulder fields a welcome sight. By the time I reached the summit, visibility was down to below 15m. The wind had also increased significantly, finding somewhere out of the wind to take on some fuel was proving difficult. Crouching low behind some rocks, I checked the time, 11am. I was on target to reach the summit of Beinn Bhrotain by noon and hopefully Monadh Mor by 1pm.

Visibility now getting worse.

I pushed onward descending down Carn Cloich-mhuilinn and picked up the path that led me to start ascending Beinn Bhrotain. Visibility was now incredibly difficult, rain had also joined the party. I had crossed a couple of snow patches, and continued upwards. Through the cloud a cairn appeared and I headed for that. I had hoped that this was the cairn I was looking for that would point me in the direction of the summit cairn. Sure enough, the silhouette of the summit cairn was just visible beyond and through the cloud. The weather had deteriorated to a point that was becoming for me, unbearable. I took the obligatory summit selfie and made the decision to cancel going to Monadh Mor. The mountains weren't going anywhere and safety is more important for me than ticking off another Munro. I removed my map and compass so that I could get a bearing.

Not much of a selfie but you can see how bad the visibility was.

And this is where it went slightly wrong...

Looking at my compass I quickly realised something was wrong. The magnetic needle wasn't moving. I made sure nothing I had was interfering with the compass by leaving anything I could in my rucksack and moving away from the cairn. Nothing. I moved to a different location and checked the compass. Nothing. I checked the compass, moved around, nothing. It didn't matter what I did, the needle didn't move. Now this posed a bit of a problem as I wasn't able to get a bearing to ensure I was on the correct route to head back down. I remembered certain markers I noticed on the way up and I would use these to guide me back down. I passed the first marker which was the cairn, making sure it was on my right and from here I would head in an south easterly direction. However, with little visibility I had gotten disoriented and instead headed in a south westerly direction. I headed furthur down the boulder fields and started to wonder why I hadn't reached the bealach and path to guide me back to Carn Cloich-mhuilinn. I now knew I had walked in the wrong direction. I could see nothing ahead to guide me only the slope behind. It quickly became apparent how far I descended as eventually through the cloud I could make out a stream below. I had figured it was Allt Dhaidh Mor. I stopped descending and tried to head back up by traversing along the slope. It became increasingly steep and I had to cross another stream although it was difficult to tell as the area was incredibly boggy. At this point I had to stop. I was starting to cross boulders. I couldn't decide what was the best option. Continue going down and head to what appeared to be a raised point ahead or try and go back up. I decided to head down. If I got further below the cloud then hopefully I could make out landscape features which would give me a better idea of where I was. This proved difficult. Crossing this boulder field on such a steep slope was dangerous. I'm surprised I didn't do myself an injury. Before long I reached the point I was heading to. From here I could make out more features and could confidently predict where I was. I was standing on a bouldery knoll at the south western edge of Car Cloich-mhuilinn. From here I could make out Carn Fiaclach and every now and again the peak of Sgor Mor peeped through the clouds. Off track and the prospect of a boggy slog back to where this walk started, I traversed round the foot of the hills and headed back where I came.

On reflection I am surprised at how easily I became disorientated in the low visibility. I don't own a GPS, I've never thought I needed one. I have always relied on map and compass and for the past 20 years of hillwalking, a map and compass is all I've ever needed. But I've never had a compass fail on me. So now I've had a change of heart. If I had a GPS I would have been able to pinpoint my location and manage to plot a course out of the cloud. As I write this I feel embarrassed for getting disorientated and also for not having a backup for my compass. But as the saying goes 'every day is a school day'. Next time I am on the hills I will be better prepared. I have already downloaded apps on my phone and I am looking at ordering a GPS. I now have a new compass and hopefully if I ever find myself in a similiar situation I will be able to manage my situation better.

Click to mark this as a great report. Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Comments: 5

Sunday sunshine on Cairn William

Attachment(s) Sub 2000s: Cairn William
Date walked: 08/04/2018
Views: 294

Ben Rinnes

Attachment(s) Corbetts: Ben Rinnes
Date walked: 11/03/2018
Comments: 1
Views: 585


User avatar
Activity: Mountain Walker

Munros: 42
Corbetts: 10
Sub 2000: 5

Filter reports



Trips: 3
Munros: 1
Corbetts: 1
Sub2000s: 1

Joined: May 08, 2016
Last visited: Sep 25, 2018
Total posts: 4 | Search posts