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Beinn Dubhchraig – A Sunrise Worth the Winter Camp

Munros: Beinn Dubhchraig

Date walked: 16/01/2019

Time taken: 18 hours

Distance: 19.1km

Ascent: 1097m

Beinn Dubhchraig – A Sunrise Worth the Winter Camp

After my rather unenjoyable outing in Loch Mullardoch I was understandably anxious to get out into the hills for a positive experience as soon as possible. I hadn’t told many people about Loch Mullardoch by the time of this outing, or at least not to the full extent. In fact, I hadn’t told many people until getting around to writing the Walk Report – Lessons Learnt – A Night to Forget.

Positive it was!
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It was now the 16th January, less than two weeks from Mullardoch and thankfully the Scottish winter appeared to be kicking in nicely, finally! Annoyingly as I sit writing this on the 19th February all, or most of the accumulated snow appears to be lost. :(

With a bit of discussion, I agreed I would meet Andrew and do the Ben Lui 4. We had many considerations about the route but eventually decided, as Andrew was already down Glasgow way and I was in Aberdeen a car-to-car route would work well. The plan was to start from the A82 just south of Tyndrum, avoid the boggy route and stick to the land rover track before camping, going up Beinn Dubhchraig the following morning, onto Ben Oss, followed by Ben Lui then Beinn a’ Chleibh before heading down to the second car just over the other side of the River Lochy.

We picked this route for a number of reasons. The river crossing would be last, just before a car and some warm socks so we could wade through in boots if worst came to the worst, and we decided to take a longer start to avoid getting boots wet in the bog so early on.

I left my car at the end and we set off from Andrew’s car at about 6pm under the lights of our headtorches. We made good progress but weren’t really in too much of a rush. I ran Andrew through the step-by-step events of Loch Mullardoch and requested this would go exactly to plan. Our plan always avoided the well described bog at Coille Coire Chuilc by stayed on the land rover track through Gleann Auchreoch and intended on pitching the tent when the track ran out and technically re-joined the Walkhighlands recommended route.

After two hours of walking in the dark just before pitching the tent:

“WE HAVE SCREWED UP MASSIVELY!!!”
(later clarified by Andrew that I had technically screwed up massively).

Just before getting ready to pitch the tent I realised I had left my car keys in Andrew’s car… This threw the whole trip into question, doubt crept in if this was some kind of mystical sign that 2019 was not meant to be my year for success on the hills – in reality it was just a case of me being a bit of a forgetful plonker! Also I would like to point out that when we left the car I did mention on two separate occasions that I had my axe, crampons, tent, sleeping bag, etc, etc, and my car keys were safely in the glovebox…

We pitched the tent in the snow and agreed that we would just go for the 4 and manage to hitchhike back to Andrew’s car and collect my keys. This would just mean we could have a cold river crossing and no guarantee of dry socks straight away.

It was a horrendously cold night, easily well below freezing, Andrew’s fancy watch was reading -2 inside the tent. I woke at about 3am and struggled to get back to sleep until our early alarm, later finding out Andrew also suffered a similar fate.

The morning
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We set off by 07:15 and the going was really difficult given the snow was very unconsolidated, nearly shin deep, knee deep in places, and completely untrodden. Still possibly feeling the effects from the Christmas period over indulgence in food and booze I felt knackered by the time we reached the 750m but had the strong desire to get to the summit for the sunrise. I chased the perfect weather in Loch Mullardoch and missed out massively, I was due a drop of good luck…

Once we reached the summit it was just before sunrise so we ducked behind shelter on the southwest side of Beinn Dubhchraig and enjoyed the sensational views towards Ben Oss and Ben Lui – the colours were changing minute by minute and the lighting was, in my opinion, perfect.

Normally I think we edge of the side of making walks more difficult than easier but we both agreed pretty swiftly than Ben Lui and Beinn a’Chleibh were out of the question. We did have a short discussion if we could even be bothered with Ben Oss. Both technically “baggers” this would normally be an easy decision, but we just didn’t fancy it. I think if I had been on my own, I would have included Ben Oss, but I didn’t have a particularly strong preference either way to be honest. For me I wanted to play this outing as safe as possible and given the car key, the poor night’s sleep and the exhausting start to the day the safest option was to retrace our steps back to Andrew’s car. To make our decision even easier both our headtorches had ran out of juice so we knew we needed to be off the hills well before dark!

It was easily below freezing and felt well below -15 in the wind. The next group of photos were taken between 09:20 and 10:20. We knew we now had absolutely no reason to rush so sat and enjoyed one of the most amazing sunrises I have ever had the pleasure of watching, even in the brutal cold.

Andrew approaching the summit
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Loch Lomond just before sunrise
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Ben Oss & Ben Lui
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Sunrise
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Our final view
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By 10:20 we were both at the limits of how much longer we could spend stationary in the cold and needed to get moving as soon as possible. We were retracing our steps and as always when you know you don’t need to make good progress you spend an extortionate amount of time messing about.

Looking back towards the A82 which seemed a long way away
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Once we reached the forest at Gleann Auchreoch we decided instead of going the boggy route, or the land rover track we would go straight through the trees to add to the adventure and “make for a more interesting walk report”…

It did start off with a clear(ish) route
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Didn’t end that way
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We spent a good 30-45 minutes bashing and zig-zagging our way through the trees which was immensely peaceful and sheltered from the wind. A bonus was the ground was still frozen so the clearly boggy ground was just about passable without incident.

Eventually we did intersect with the path from the previous night and all that remained was to complete a very long walk back to the car. Maybe it is knowing that you are in relatively safety your brain decides to be more tired than it ought to be, but it was a long struggle back to the car and I demolished all my remaining food.

The views did help
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For me this outing was a major success even with only reaching one of the four planned summits; a safe (albeit cold and unpeaceful) night out in the hills and easily my favourite sunrise*

*That’s a big claim given the recent sunrise in Torridon – Torridon High Bivvi - Reality Exceeding Expectations. However, I think the lighting and the winter conditions from the summit of Beinn Dubhchraig may have been slightly better in my opinion.

I discussed a similar train of thought when I did the Ring of Steall that the big epic, super long exhausting days are in their own merit amazing, but… sometimes it is better to go slow, get to less summits and spend more time soaking in the views and taking a million and one photos and going the totally wrong route through a forest for fun (okay maybe I never mentioned the last point when I did the Ring of Steall, but I can add it in now)! I think this outing was the perfect example of enjoying the slower and shorter side of being out in the hills.

I started 2019 with two outings aiming to get to 8 summits and only managed 3, but had two very, very different experiences – I know which I preferred even if it may not make for an as interesting report.

Lesson learnt – DON’T FORGET THE CAR KEYS!

Thanks for reading, and again massive thanks to everyone for their comments from the previous outing. Cheers!

Andy


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Comments: 3



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Location: Aberdeen
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