Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
11th & 12th December 2010
A Saturday stroll up Beinn Odhar from Tyndrum followed by a Sunday trek over Beinn a' Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich.
We had loaded snow shoes along with our other winter gear but it was to be a disappointing weekend as far as finding some snow was concerned, but two days good weather was ample compensation. The west coast had obviously had much less snow than the east coast and the recent thaw had melted much of what had fallen. We had a couple of walks in mind for Saturday but a trip up Ben Lawers was cancelled after a brief inspection of the road leading uphill to the visitor centre. Still covered in patches of snow and ice it was slippy enough on the initial section to warn us off so we continued on toward Tyndrum. A parking area in town beside the route of the West Highland way would be our starting point for an afternoon sortie onto Beinn Odhar. The car park had a covering of sheet ice that saw us gingerly manoeuvring around the van while getting ready. Fortunately we would find much less ice to contend with on the hill although there was still a scattering on the tarmac road that led us out of town. Soon enough we reached a bridge that took us over the railway line to the foot of our hill.
Heading toward a small plantation we dropped slightly to ford Crom Allt before following the treeline steeply up hill. At the corner of the wood we started an ascending traverse into Coire Thoin under a band of crags to eventually gain the col that lies between Beinn Odhar and Meall Buidhe.
Nearing the top of Beinn Odhar
After skirting around a small frozen lochan we ascended the final 200 meters onto the top to be greeted by a cold wind and some fellow walkers. There were fine hazy views of Beinn Dorain whose conical form greets motorists heading north out of Tyndrum on their way across Rannoch Moor toward Glencoe.
Beinn Dorain & Beinn Chaistiel
After lunch we dropped steeply south west negotiating a small boulder field as a group of 5 Ptarmigan erupted from their rocky cover.
The ground leveled as we passed another small lochan whose icy surface glittered in the late afternoon sunshine.
It was now a steady descent over long grasses but we were soon back down on the West Highland way.
Our attention was caught by a guy standing in the stream with what looked like gold panning equipment.
A second guy dressed in a wet suit and equipped with a snorkel was splashing about while lying head down in the cold water excavating the river bed.
Nathalie later reported that a work colleage is part of the gold club and explained that he gets involved in similar activities.
The gold club website describes this past time as gold sniping:
Sniping for gold is the method of using a dry suit or wetsuit, snorkel and mask to look for gold in cracks in exposed bedrock on the river bed. It is not gold panning. The only equipment used in gold sniping is basically just a geologist's hammer, small chisel, patio weeder for scraping cracks, and snuffer bottle.
So there it is; there is gold in them there hills after all!
Back in Tyndrum our first job was to find a bed for the night fortunately when enquiring at the Green Welly Shop the owners of ...B&B were in doing a bit of shopping. Meeting them back at the B&B we were delighted to find they had two free rooms and as a bonus were happy to take Enzo as well, saving him from a night in the van. After a cup of tea from our congenial hosts we showered before popping down the pub... for a pint and some haggis 'neeps and tatties. Limited daylight hours had us request breakfast early before we headed further west toward Ben Cruchan and our hills for the day, Beinn a' Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich.
Parking near Castles Farm we headed up the track that rises steadily up the glen. At a gate we meet the farmer attending his Highland Cows. We enquired whether they would be OK while we passed with the dog, he said it would be fine "but try not to get too close". This was easier said than done giving the number of cows about and the fact that many remained impassive on the track as we made our passage. I saw this as an opportunity to take a couple of photos but Nathalie "suggested" that we shouldn't dally; Point taken... we hurried on uphill.
Last time I climbed Beinn a' Chochuill I took a route up the southeast shoulder but Nat fancied making a bit more of a circuit, a theme that would continue to develop later! Following the track we traversed the hillside heading for the bealach that links the hill with Ben Cruachan.
Beinn a' Chochuill
Nathalie Climbing Beinn a' Chochuill, overlooked by Ben Cruachan
The steep grassy slopes were interspersed with some rocky outcrops but after a steady ascent we emerged on the high ridgeline near the summit. There were grand views of Ben Cruachan to the south and wider views to Glen Etive and beyond to the north.
Enzo checking how far down
From here a fine ridge extends south for around a km before dropping gently to a col below Beinn Eunaich.
Beinn Eunaich from Beinn a' Chochuill
Me and Beinn Eunaich
A steady climb steepens near the top were the terrain becomes a little more rocky as the narrow summit area is reached.
Beinn a' Chochuill from Beinn Eunaich
It was now time for a spot of lunch and Nathalie to suggest another possible extension of the circuit! This was all fine by me but would mean that we would probably run out of daylight but should be safely down in the glen by then. Dropping reasonably steeply down the north east ridge we were soon at another col before another rise took onto top 880m. Working further along over a couple of knolls we made the top of the Meall Copagach before descending east to the bealach in Lairig Dhoireann.
Keeping near the banks of Allt Dhoirrean we eventually picked up the muddy path marked on the map. It was by now getting dark so we put our head torches to use and managed to keep track of the path as it worked its way down the grassy hillside over a number of side burns. After locating a small plantation and then a gate we arrived at the vehicle track that runs up Glen Strae. There was now enough moon light reflecting of the road surface to allow us to switch off our headlamps. We were now faced with about another 3km walking back to Castles farm or so we thought; As we approached the turning for Duiletter we could see the headlights of a vehicle leaving the farm. A little surprised it turned and headed toward us instead of heading out of the glen. We put our lamps back on to make sure we could be seen as the landrover approached. The farmer pulled up and got out, obviously wanting to speak with us. As it turned out he had spotted our lights as we worked down the hill and then lost them after a while, a little concerned he was just out to check that we were ok, which was very thoughtful of him. As a bonus he also offered us a lift back to the van and so with the thought of our long drive home ahead we accepted to save some time. There was no way we were going to get Enzo into the small straw filled boot so it would have to be into the cab. I think the sight of the farmerís son and daughter in the back spurred him on as he leapt into the front then over the back with ease despite the vehicles high sides. Back at the van we thanked the farmer again for his concern and kind offer of a lift; it was nice to know that someone was looking out for us. All that was required now was to make the long journey home after what was a slightly extended but enjoyable walk.
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