Munros: Beinn Dearg (Blair Atholl)
Date walked: 10/02/2013
Time taken: 25 hours
Drive to Brussels airport, fly to Edinburgh, pick up hire car, head up to Old Bridge of Tilt via McDonalds in Dunfermline and Tiso's in Perth
I've done a fair few days in the hills over the years, slept in a snow hole once and bivvied a couple of times, but never stayed in a bothy before, so with a free weekend in February looming I had scoured these pages for ideas and decided upon Beinn Dearg and the Allt Scheicheachan bothy. The weather forecast had deteriorated steadily over the week and I was expecting low cloud and snow showers, but when you live so far from the hills it's not as easy to postpone a trip so with a new Mountain Equipment 4-season sleeping bag and 12.5kg of peat briquettes to keep me warm I hoisted a very heavy pack onto my back and set off.
3pm Depart Old Bridge of Tilt
Thanks to all the trip reports and photos on this site I was aware of the navigation risks and followed the correct route through the forest and up onto the open hillside, passing a few dog walkers - the last people I was to see for over 24 hours. After 45 minutes or so I reached the Lady March Cairn, by now my shoulders were starting to ache and I had the feeling this walk in was going to take longer than planned.
With only a herd of deer on the other side of the glen for company, I continued along the path, steadily gaining some height and crossing the Allt an t-Seaphail.
I recognised this view up the path from other reports on this site!
I trudged on up the path, which by now was covered in deepening snow with a thin crust on it, really energy-sapping. The next section seemed to go on for ever, each step harder than the last as the snow deepened and the pack seemed to grow heavier. I just kept my head down, maintained a steady rhythm and slowly made progress up to the bealach at the head of the pass. I reached the bothy just before 6pm after almost three hours of walking, exhausted but elated at making it with such a load through the snow. Don't think I've been much happier to see a tiny cottage before!
I was glad of my stack of peat briquettes, they started pretty easily, gave out good heat and a very aromatic herbal smokey smell! After some grub it was time to get some sleep, I left a candle burning in the window in case anyone else was foolish enough to be out on the hills but no one showed up. A quiet night.
Sunday 10th February
The next morning the wind was getting up, the cloud base was low and fresh snow had fallen, so I had some breakfast and packed up my gear before setting off up the glen at 8am. The snow was deep and it took a lot of energy making my way up the path beside the Allt Scheicheachan.
I saw several mountain hares, inquisitively taking a look at me and then scarpering off up the hill - amazingly quick! Icicles clung to the banks of the gully to the side of the stream, I saw some great shapes in the wind-sculpted snow laying over the burn - this one looked like a mermaid's ball-gown to me.
The path started to lead up away from the stream, the beginning of the zig-zag stalker's path.
After a couple of zags it was impossible to see where the path was, the snow was so deep all over the hill, so I decided to follow the principle of 'the most direct route is the quickest for the fit Munroist' and headed straight up into the mist. All good apart from the 'fit' part!
Once up onto the shoulder of the hill I was into a wind-driven whiteout, the sky merging with the deep covering of snow. Not having any GPS I worked with my compass, taking bearings every 50m or so, navigating from partly-covered rock to sprig of heather poking out of the snow. I was really satisfied to make it to the cairn on the way to the summit - recognised it from earlier reports! - and pushed onwards and upwards to the summit cairn and trig point, barely visible through a thick carapace of ice. The wind was very strong at this stage, so only a couple of dodgy photos as I was crouched inside the cairn.
After a quick bar of Fruit & Nut I headed straight down, reversing my compass reading as I cut into the teeth of a vicious south-easterly. My tracks were virtually invisible, only a few minutes after I'd made them on the way up, and it was a great to slip below the clag and see the route back to the bothy below me. I headed straight down for the bothy, which was fine through the deep snow until I came to the bank of the gully holding the Allt Scheicheachan, where I slipped through a cornice which had invisibly blended into the snow bank below and had a painful twist of my knee. I picked myself up and limped back down to the bothy, a welcome refuge for some lunch.
Then it was just a long and pretty painful walk back out to the car park, at least my pack was lighter since I left all of the remaining peat in the bothy, as well as half a canister of Primus gas - I would have left my extra food but that would have encouraged the mice!
It took me about 2.5 hours to make it back to the car, tired, with a very sore knee but glowing inwardly at having survived the trip and enjoyed one of the best experiences I've had on a solo walk. Some have said that Beinn Dearg is a boring hill, I would say that it depends on the weather the mountain decides to give you, in my case it was definitely character-building.
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- Location: Breda, The Netherlands
- Activity: Mountain Walker
- Mountain: Carn Mor Dearg
- Place: Durisdeer
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- Distance: 29 km
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