Kilmartin-Furnace Wildcamp via 3 Marilyns

Sub 2000s: Beinn Bhan (Kilmartin), Beinn Dubh Airigh, Beinn Ghlas (Loch Fyne)

Date walked: 17/08/2020

Time taken: 10.25 hours

Distance: 27.6km

Ascent: 1498m

- 17/08/2020 - 18/08/2020
- 10.25hrs (11.5hrs incl. day 2)
- 27.6km (32.3km incl. day 2)
- 1498m (1550m incl. day 2)

I'd had this walk in mind for a few months as an easy 2-day bothy trip to do with friends, however with the MBA strongly suggesting against staying the night at any of their properties, my friends being on holiday elsewhere, the fact that I found myself at our caravan nearby and (by far most importantly) the fellow Greenockian/Gourockian weasels Al and Alison very soon approaching this territory to snatch up a hill without a TR, I ended up soloing it. Just as well too as the terrain was some of the worst I've experienced, the weather wasn't much to write home about and the bagging was of a dogged nature! I had done the stunning Ben Lawers 7 with a jaw-dropping heavy inversion all day just two days prior, and my hilariously-patterned sunburn was't exactly helping me out either. I set my alarm for 05:30, tidied the caravan up and was off to Kilmartin, parking up by 07:45.

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I was taking a different route up Beinn Bhàn than either malky_c or the weasels, despite my route seeming like the most straightforward way (although possibly marginally longer). I joined a quarry/farm track almost immediately and could see where I was headed.

The majority of the ascent from the track:
1 - Beinn Bhan ascent from track.jpg

With a 15kg-ish rucksack on I was sweating profusely pretty immediately. I passed a modernised barn called Ballibrad which looked quite inviting. After a bend in the track the real ascent started - I curved left as it flattened out to begin climbing up a couple of grassy gullies onto some heath. An unnamed hill to the left looked equally, if not more, tempting. The views were the best they got all day and I could spot a variety of islands.

Inversion on Mull:
2 - Mull inversion.jpg

I passed a herd of red deer numbering about 30 who were enclosed by the fence. As a result, as I jumped the fence it became quite boggy. The top was now in sight (although the trig is invisible until right at the top).

Hind and young silhouette:
3 - hind silhouette.jpg

It was a short pull to the summit - I'd made it to the top in just under an hour. I was ecstatic to get rehydrated and take in the views. All three Paps of Jura were visible too which is a rarity!

Trig with Cruachan horseshoe (which we climbed a few weeks ago) in the background:
4 - trig with cruachan horseshow in background.jpg

Creag a'Chapuill:
5 - creag a chapuill.jpg

Big unidentified Munros to the east:
6 - big munros to the east.jpg

7 - scarba.jpg

Beinn Talaidh (I think?):
8 - beinn talaidh i think.jpg

After a 15 min break I carefully dropped down the crags to the east and made my way to the farm track which I could just spot with some cows on it. I hoped they didn't cause any trouble. Once I got to them they ran ahead rather than across (as is usual for farm animals); eventually they got the hint but not before I had to scale a fence to the other side first.

Beinn Bhan from far side:
9 - beinn bhan from far side.jpg

Cows descending:
10 - cows descent.jpg

There was then some sheep and a second, relaxed herd to get passed who weren't fussed. Now began my winter of disillusionment. I cut across to the road (which would have led to Barmolloch), having been certain that there was a road/track which led from near that farm to Glasvaar, where I was headed. I passed by the bull in his field then in between all his wives and children while he watched on in jealousy, but fortunately to no calamity. I cut into the flat ground beside the Clachandubh Burn, pretty certain there'd be a track. The sheep weren't grazing where I was, the reason to which immediately became apparent when the reeds became taller than me and the marsh became well deeper than my boots. To make matters worse there was no track, and certainly no bridge across. With my feet already soaked I though "what bad can a foot of water do?" so stepped my way across the burn to the other side, where there also wasn't a track.

Beinn Bhàn from the marsh:
11 - beinn bhan from marsh.jpg

I trudged my way across to Glasvaar, the occupants of which gave me a smile as I passed them by in their pickup. I joined their track to immediately disregard it, crossed an old stile over a burn, climbed up a sheepfield and recrossed the same burn by signs for a cairn. The track on my old map was nearly gone but still visible. I put the camera in the bag and began the climb up to the flatter section SW of A' Cruach. Sweaty, but nothing too strenuous. After maybe 30 minutes I could see the expanse of the next couple of hours beyond. It was at least now flat so I could make good progress (?)

After not long, I came across the heavily meandering Allt Bealaich Ruaidh, filled with lilypads. I couldn't see where it started or ended so followed it round. It was almost impossibly 2.5m apart at every single point. I decided to just chuck the camera and rucksack across then jump over myself, but alas while (successfully) throwing the rucksack, I teetered in myself, wet to the waist. I was quite furious but even more stupidly came out the same way I fell in! This then meant I had to try and jump it, which also didn't work and got me just as wet.

12 - impassible allt bealaich ruaidh.jpg

I was lucky that after this, the sun came out a bit and I dried up a little, and the terrain got much more craggy and pleasant with some striking features. I could now see the Bealach Gaoithe track which led through the heart of the whole area - only about a half hour away.

Nicer scenery now:
13 - nice waterfall.jpg

After another brief boggy section, I reached the track at its steepest point and stopped for another tea. A midge swarm found me immediately and I had to walk in circles for 5 minutes. I curved round the top and could see the scenic boathouse down the track. It felt great to be walking on stone again and I made good progress over to it in around 20 minutes, passing over a bridge too.

Loch Gainmheach Boathouse:
14 - loch gainmheach boathouse.jpg

After this it was a short but steep climb to the very top of the track, where the clouds began to turn a bit darker, but still no rain. It also got windier as the track's name suggests. I cut off the east side of Loch a'Bhealaich, eager to get across to the second marilyn within a couple of hours. The terrain here was unbelievable: bumps, crags and lochans at every angle!

Sidh Mòr and bumps from track:
15 - sidh mor from bealach gaoithe.jpg

It was a bit of a trudge through the mossy heather but nothing too infuriating yet. I was soon at Cam Loch overlooking what I thought was Beinn Dubh Àirigh - oh how wrong I was! I took a balloon I'd found at the base of a burn and put it in my pocket - you get these things all over and they are a massive eyesore.

Hope whatever it was went well Poppy:
16 - good luck poppy.jpg

BDA(?) from Cam Loch:
17 - cruach mhic fionnlaidh from cam loch.jpg

I ascended a little crag SE of an unnamed lochan SE of Dubh Loch, overlooking the hill, to get some photos of it. The cairn looked odd as I could have sworn it was trig-shaped in the photo I'd seen. I dumped my bag and camera in a brilliant boulder on the other side of the crag to keep them dry. The rain had now come on so I donned the rain jacket and was off to bag the hill. "How funny would it be if this wasn't the right hill?" I joked to myself. 5 minutes later saw me at the top. Oh no. The cairn was nothing like the photo. I looked NE. I could see the trig point on a hill that looked infinitesimally higher than the one I was on. I didn't know what hill I was on but knew I was going to have to climb the other one - it was over a kilometre away so I began my jog over to it, very annoyed!

Beinn Dubh Àirigh from half way there:
18 - beinn dubh airigh and loch nan losgann.jpg

In reality it took around 20 minutes to get there, skirting round another crag and Loch nan Losgann. There was a shrew living in the trig point. I took a few photos and was off, now impatient but very glad to have bagged a quite rare (and cursed) marilyn.

Summit trig with (at the time) unnamed hill in the middle:
19 - beinn dubh airigh trig looking back to other hill.jpg

I was a bit slower on the way back, skirting the opposite side of the crag, the unnamed hill and back to the boulder. The whole ordeal had taken about an hour so I was now on time, rather than naively ahead of time. I hid under the boulder from the now heavy rain for a smoke, a much-needed bag of crisps and to find out that my hill nemesis was Cruach Mhic Fhionnlaidh - a whole 1m lower! A nearly 3.5km ordeal for 1m!

Beinn Ghlas looking awfully far away:
20 - beinn ghlas looking very far away.jpg

My only thought now was reaching Carron bothy to mark as a checkpoint of the walk, to dry up a bit and prepare for the third and last hill of the day. The map made the expanse ahead look extremely flat but it was actually quite undulating. I made exceptional progress across it as the terrain was sodden but sturdy, making sure to avoid the larger bump of A' Cruach. I found myself at the steep descent into the glen in only about 30 minutes. Unfortunately the terrain became unspeakably awful here as willow had began to take hold and allowed shelter for massive tussocks and waist-high grass to form. The endless marching caused my legs to mildly cramp up, which occasionally happens when they get extended too far/often. It cleared up in 20 minutes or so. There was oddly no path to Carron on my side of the burn so aimed to reach the stone bridge after crossing the Abhainn Bhuidhe. After that I darted along the track into the bothy, which I was half-expecting to be locked. Turns out it was never closed and people have been stopping by as usual! I ate some lunch, wrote my journey in the book and was off in half an hour - it was great to visit a new bothy (a well-kept one at that!)

21 - carron.jpg

After my break I was less phased about my final ascent, but it took 10-15 minutes to warm up again as I was now fully soaked through. I again made good progress, taking the easiest route and avoiding the Sìthean crags through otherwise featureless moorland. It was around an hour before the descent began, where I spotted some guys working on installing new pylons.

Beinn Ghlas still possessing some difficulties:
22 - beinn ghlas from closer with pylon.jpg

It was a bit of a hassle to descend so far down, passing by Gallanach and it's owner, who must have thought I was mad. The terrain wasn't ideal here either, particularly on the initial climb. I filled up my flask to use for boiling water for dinner and got started. Miraculously I wasn't in too much pain and wasn't too cold; perhaps not stopping for too long combined with the brutal Lawers 7 day had given me some mental and physical callus! It was a little under an hour to the top, having broken the ascent into sections, and arriving almost exactly at the trig point, only spotting it by accident.

Beinn Ghlas trig:
23 - beinn ghlas trig.jpg

Giving no notice to the final hill, I was much more dreading the thought of setting the tent up a little further down, albeit with the rain having now stopped. I found an excellent little flat section and just got to it as fast as I could, finding myself dry and warm within 15 minutes. I didn't leave the tent for the rest of the day despite it only being 18:00ish.

Tent with Furnace, tomorrow's destination, beyond:
24 - tent with furnace in the background.jpg

Just as I was finishing the setup, my phone began to suffer the effects of water damage and began turning itself off and on endlessly. Some blowing and shaking resolved it partially but I was quite worried as it was draining the battery and I needed it to wake me up at 05:00 to get ready to get the buses back to Kilmartin. I managed to totally solve the problem by holding it to my stove as I boiled some water before dinner. Even I am taken aback by my unintended genius now and again! I was trying for some sleep by 21:30.


My phone went off as expected and I reluctantly, having got practically no sleep, got myself ready to leave. Putting on my cold, wet boots was a nightmarish sensation but it passed eventually. The terrain back to the road was shockingly bad and the bracken had untied my laces almost immediately. I managed to spot a forestry track after an area of clearfell and diverted myself onto it purely in a bid to escape the slippery grass. My luck paid off and it led me through to the back of a road at Drimliath, spotting a red deer on the way there. I'd got to the road in half an hour and after a pleasant stroll into Furnace, had only expended an hour's time. I was even tempted a little by Dun Leàcainn. Instead I opted for a tea and bacon roll at the village shop and spent 2 hours waiting on the bus. A 05:00 start probably not necessary after all. After joining the bus with the schoolchildren on their way to Lochgilphead High, I got off again and waited another 1.25hrs on the bus to Kilmartin in the sunshine, where I could finally change into dry clothes and make my way back to Greenock.

In retrospect, I'm very glad I didn't drag my pals along on this one as I fear we'd probably have never spoken again! What I do know is that this is the last time I deliberately try and get the first TR for a WH hill - I think 4 is more than enough!

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Comments: 4

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Distance: 16km
Ascent: 914m
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Attachment(s) Sub 2000s: Sgorach Mor
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User avatar
Location: Kelty
Activity: Mountain Walker

Munros: 81
Tops: 56
Corbetts: 17
Fionas: 24
Donalds: 89+52
Wainwrights: 16
Hewitts: 13
Sub 2000: 81
Islands: 11

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Distance: 43.6 km
Ascent: 2412m
Sub2000s: 4


Trips: 8
Distance: 227.75 km
Ascent: 13111m
Corbetts: 2
Fionas: 3
Donalds: 26
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 10
Wainwrights 15


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Distance: 285.9 km
Ascent: 16244m
Corbetts: 6
Fionas: 10
Donalds: 28
Sub2000s: 4


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Distance: 238.5 km
Ascent: 14849m
Corbetts: 3
Fionas: 6
Donalds: 23
Sub2000s: 16


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Distance: 100.3 km
Ascent: 3546m
Fionas: 3
Donalds: 12
Sub2000s: 5


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Distance: 38 km
Ascent: 569m
Sub2000s: 1

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