Beinn Mhanach. Walking on water....ish

Route: Beinn Mhanach

Munros: Beinn Mhanach

Date walked: 03/10/2018

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 21km

Ascent: 819m

The weather forecast was looking anything but great for my mate Wullie and I's day off on Friday. Windy and heavy rain showers, possibly falling as sleet on the high tops. Wonderful. However, I hadn't managed to get out on a decent hill at all during my 2 weeks off. I had to take a chance. After much deliberation we settled on Beinn Mhanach, one of the Southern Highlands remoter Munros. If I was going to get cold and wet I may as well take on a hill that requires fording a river 14 times in total.....and in any weather conditions would probably see me end up wet given my ineptitude at crossing anything grander than a dub !
Leaving Perth at 06:30 we arrived at the small 'layby' on the verge of the A82 between Tyndrum & Bridge of Orchy at 07:50 (the parking spot is just before the signed turn off for the Auch Estate and holiday cottages), and were suited, booted, partially waterproofed and on our way for 08:00.
We started off down the private road on the 5 mile hike up the Auch glen just to get to the bottom of today's target hill. With hindsight a bike would've be a great idea.....oh, and a pair of wellies, but it is a lovely walk on an excellent track, even if it does have a tendency to disappear under a body of water every so often. The weather to the West was not at all encouraging. Low, black, foreboding clouds, shrouding the top of half of Beinn Dorain immediately to our left. However, over to the East things were much more positive, with the low, early morning sun trying hard to break through the clouds. Continuing on down the track we soon reached the crossroads where the route cuts across the much more trodden path which forms part of the West Highland Way.

The sun struggling through behind the Corbett of Beinn Odhar

The West Highland Way heading West over the bridge

In what seemed like no time we reached the first ford of the day. I may have mentioned this once or twice in previous reports, but for anybody new to these ramblings, I absolutely f*%#ing detest crossing rivers ! It doesn't matter if they are shallow, narrow or even Joan ! They all fill me with an irrational fear whenever I have the misfortune to have to make my way over one.
To be fair the first of the day was only a few inches deep and ran over a section of concrete 'sleepers' which alleviated the added complication of any rock hopping. I was feeling confident I could negotiate the stream coming down from Glen Coralan without too much risk to life or limb. That was of course until Wullie's dog Indie, waded nonchalantly into the water. She, like me, must have underestimated the strength of the flow and was immediately flipped 'arse over tit', and washed over the small fall. I didn't laugh. Not because it wasn't funny, but for fear of inducing some form of malevolent karma which would seem me drown further up the glen !

Ford number 1, I know it looks benign enough !

Despite Indie's 'failing' I managed to get across on just the paltry 2 legs with little trouble. I guess one advantage of size 12 feet is that you can raise yourself a fair way off the ground when you take to your tippy-toes ! With the first ford out of the way we were soon heading down towards the viaduct and the 'entrance' into the Auch Glen. The viaduct undoubtedly lacks the granduer and prestige of it's big brother up in Glenfinnan but it's still a pretty fine example of British engineering. Given the Hogwarts express was unlikely to turn up here anytime soon, I grudgingly accepted that there was going to be no wave of a magic wand to miraculously transport me over the remaining crossings to the foot of the hill. I did try.
"Bastardineous Waterum Leviosa". Nothing.
"Riverum leveleous Descendo" Diddly squat.
Water spirits "Getyerseltofuckius Showerum o Bampoterosas". Boom. The heavens opened, oops !!

That'll be the Viaduct then

The days first, and very brief, shower passed through fairly quickly, giving an indication that it could be rather breezy on the tops despite there hardly being a breath of wind, down here in the glen. All the way down the glen ahead of us our target hill was still managing to stay clear of the low clouds that were covering the summits of almost every other hill around us, it was like some form of inverted desert mirage ! Just another 6 fords to go and we would be ready to begin our ascent, no doubt just in time for the clouds to envelop the top.
The next crossing was slightly more problematic, more so because of the width rather than the depth of the water. There were just enough submerged boulders that meant you could pick a route across with the tops of your boots just about staying above the water. Again, I managed to manoeuver my way across successfully, albeit with the speed and dexterity of a sloth playing hopscotch !!

If this was in spate, forget it !

Despite the picture below, Ford number 3 required much more 'Focus' (see what I did there !! Stand by, there's more, there's more....my apologies in advance !!) The river was a good few inches deeper and the Capri...cious nature of the flow meant that the far side of the river was devoid of any large boulders to aid the crossing. After Transit..ing a hundred yards or so upstream I managed to find a spot that looked like it would be possible to get over and avoid any Ka..tastrophe in the process. Turned out it was not any better, it was fairly straight forward to find boulders that were only just submerged to get me to the middle of the river, but again there was nothing to stand on for the last few feet of the crossing. Fortunately for me I have ridiculously long legs and I was able to make the final leap to the other side. My feet had remained dry and I genuinely felt like celebrating, however, as Jimmy Cliff will tell you, I still had 'Many Rivers to Cross'. The Fiesta would have to wait.
Rather unexpectedly we managed to complete the rest of the crossings without any major dramas befalling us...or the dog. Happy days.

Beinn Mhanach under the brighter skies

I know, it looks easy......it wasn't !

This one was not too bad

Easy-Peasy !!

Last one....praise the Lord !

Just as we reached the bottom of the hill our luck ran out. The big black clouds that had been stalking us from the West finally caught up with us. It appeared as though the weather gods had been personally insulted that we had made it this far and were still dry, cue the torrential rain and a howling squal. As I scrambled frenetically to adorn my full goretex ensemble, I shouted to Wullie, who had made it further up the path, that the last time I had been in such a panic to get a pair of breeks on so quickly had been in his bedroom when he had come home unexpectedly early from his shift. Luckily in the wind he didn't hear me....our secret is safe Mrs R lol
What followed was a relentless slog up the calf-high grassy and featureless slope. The ground under foot was better than expected but the soaking wet grass was bloody slippy. The rain, driven on by a fierce squall was equally unrelenting, which resulted in the ascent being about as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist.

The soggy, miserable sight before me.....and the wet, slog ahead !

I thought that was just a dirty spec on my screen, but no, he is actually pointing at the summit cairn !

It took just shy of 3 hours to reach the summit cairn (953m). Fortunately the weather had improved as we crossed the final few hundred metres to the top. The rain had stopped but the wind was still howling. With no shelter on the large summit plateau it was a case of quickly taking in the views, rattling off a few pics and getting the hell out of there 'tout suite' ! It was now I began to realise that my feet felt like they were a bit wet, no surprise really given the amount of water they had been subjected to in one form or another. I'd often wondered why a river crossing was named a 'Ford', now I know they are named after 'Betty'....it was gonna take about 4 weeks in a specialist facilty for my boots to 'dry out' !!

East over Loch Lyon to the Glen Lyon Munros

Looking North to the munro, Beinn a'Chreachain

Summit pano

Summit plonker ! On the off chance the weather didn't give away which country we were in !!

The descent from the summit back down to the floor of the glen is pretty quick. In fact it is exceptionally quick if you descend at the speed Wullie does. I don't think I've mentioned this before in previous blogs, but honestly, I think he must be anatomically built on the angle, either that or he has knees made of rubber. You'd think with my big, lanky strides I could match anybody but once again I was left trailing in his wake. In less than 30 minutes we, well he, was back on level ground. The view back down the Auch Glen on the descent was pretty impressive, however, such was the speed I was having to maintain off the mountain, it was like trying to study the foreground through the window of a speeding train !
We stopped for a coffee and a bite to eat by the bridge at the foot of the hill. I had barely managed to get the top back on the flask when the heavens opened again. In the end I had to accept that in these conditions I wasn't going to be able to finish my cuppa.....not because I'm some kind of 'sugar lump', it was just that the rain was filling the cup faster than I could drink the bloody contents !

Auch Glen in all its glory

All that remained was to tramp back down the glen, repeating in reverse the 7 fords of the outward route. To be honest, my feet and waterproofs were now so sodden the desire to find the driest way across had somewhat diminished and saw us recklessly charge straight through the shallower crossings. There was only really one significant obstacle that was going to be more problematic to negotiate on the return. One of the fords was on a part of the river where the last 4 or 5 feet of the Eastern side of the water was much deeper and flowing much more quickly. The result of which was that any 'stepping stones' had effectively been washed away. On the way up the glen this was no problem as we were able to make the leap from the last slightly submerged boulder to the safety of the bank. Leaping, the not inconsiderable distance, from the bank to a submerged rock was an altogether different proposition, with an exceptionally high probability of ending up with ankle(s) broken and a partial drowning. We decided that we would have to use any boulders lying around on this side of the river to construct some kind of 'bridge' to the bigger, secure boulders, mid-stream. What followed was the usual level of ineptitude you'd expect from us, and would've seen Brunel turning in his grave. With the amount of rocks we ended up chucking in the water we could probably have extended the Netherlands by another 20%. However, with the world's most unstable 'causeway' eventually 'constructed' we were across and back on our way to the car, arriving back at the layby in exactly 5.5 hours.
A very damp number 97 was in the bag and thoughts were now turning to hitting the big 100, would I manage it on the next outing ?

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Location: Perth
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Interests: Hill walking and pike fishing. http://walknaepace.weebly.com/blog
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