Earlier in the year I had set myself a rather challenging target of climbing 40 unique Munros before I turned 40 myself. However a couple of jaunts up to Glenshee saw my tally climb significantly quicker than imagined. I was now in the enviable position of having climbed number 48 a couple of weeks before I would be reaching the milestone birthday and now wanted to make it 50 before i turned 40. However, I was about to fly out to Spain for the family fortnight. I’d be returning to a week of backshifts which would have left me one single opportunity, on my day off on the Thursday before my birthday to meet my target whatever the weather. Not wishing to sit atop my 50th summit surrounded by the inevitable downpour and clag I rather reluctantly (at first) agreed to accompany Wullie on his day off on Friday. I say reluctantly as I was in the middle of a week’s nightshift and this would mean foregoing sleep for about 40 hours !! The excellent MWIS forecast and the prospect of 50 before 40 realistically meant backing out was never really going to be an option. I wanted an iconic hill for my 50th and we quickly settled on Beinn Dorain as having the grandeur befitting the occasion.
So there I was on Friday morning, nightshift completed. I had a quick shower and change before being picked up at 07.30 and swiftly on our way along the A82 towards the Bridge of Orchy hotel. I should point out at this juncture that today saw us joined by a new Munro bagger who would be taking on his first Munros. Unlike me he had had a good sleep in the car on the way through and would surely be at a significant advantage having 4 legs to propel him up the slopes….I give you Mylo the mountain dug, Wullie’s daughter’s 14 month Sharpei.
We reached the car park by the Bridge of Orchy hotel and soon had the boots on. Sunscreen laggered on and Smidge applied we were on our way by 09.15. The route initially has you taking the short walk up the road towards the train station where you utilise the underpass before passing through a metal gate and beginning the straight walk up the boulder strewn path into the grassy bowl of Coire an Dothaidh. You do lose some sections of the path to areas of bog but it’s nothing too terrible. Initially Mylo was as hesitant about treading in the muck as a virgin walker sporting a brand new pair of Scarpa Mantas, bloody city mutt !……however this would soon change !! The coire is flanked on both sides by impressive crags and an equally impressive Waterfall on the North side. After an hour the three of us had successfully reached the bealach.
The route is a T-shape so from here it makes little difference what Munro you tackle first. I had already decided that Dorain was to be the 50th so we headed left up the ascent path towards Beinn an Dothaidh. The weather at this point was not as expected, it was actually very cool and although there were patches of blue sky the predominant feature of the skies around us was foreboding dark clouds that were just about covering the majority of the summits around us. The path seemed to disappear into more bog and it may have been a better option to head further up onto the ridge rather than make a direct ascent to the summit. However, on the ascent Mylo having seen his first sheep decided he would like a closer look and nearly took Wullie of his feet as he strained at his lead, much to my amusement. As the direct route was clearly free of the mountain’s woolly inhabitants we felt it was the more sensible route to take. It was very wet and required careful boot placement as due to the great weather forecast we were in shorts and the gaiters were back in the motor. Bog successfully negotiated we reached the summit in just under 2 hours and Wullie was spared the idignity of posing for a summit photo with one arm stretched significantly longer than the other !!
The sun was shining as we arrived at the summit but the cloud was beginning to close in around us very quickly. It was a race to get a few shots taken before the excellent views over Rannoch moor disappeared. Unfortunately I failed ! With the sun gone and the wind picking up it it was too cold to hang about the summit long. This coupled with Mylo being as unwilling to sit still as a baby in a Boot’s photo shoot saw us quickly heading back through the bog towards the bealach above the corrie. Typically 10 minutes into the descent out came the sun again and we looked longingly back up the slope to the sun drenched summit. Unfortunately the dark cloud hanging around Dorain’s summit did not seem to be moving on the wind as quickly as those on either side of the hill. Back at the bealach the views beneath the cloud were good back down the corrie to the hotel and over to the Loch Lyon in the East.
After a quick breather and a bowl of water for Mylo we were soon heading up the much more defined path towards Beinn Dorain. There was a huge grey cloud sitting above the summit which infuriatingly would drift away for a minute or 2 before moving back and blocking out the sun again. I’d never seen a cloud do this before, the clouds on either side of the summit were being blown quite quickly through but this bad boy was not for shifting ! As we progressed up the ridge in an attempt to avoid more sheep higher up the slopes we inadvertently took the path around the West side of the hill rather than the more direct ascent to the Carn Sasunnaich, which apparently translates as the ‘Englishman’s cairn’, I assume as a cheeky wee dig at our Southern cousin’s inability to make it to the real summit ! This cairn although quite impressive does not mark the summit of Beinn Dorain which is further South along the ridge.
We traversed along our path being greeted with great views above the West Highland way and A82 below. Over to the hills in the West where Ben Cruachan looked fantastic, still hanging on to patches of snow on its higher slopes. After a few hundred metres I checked the GPS to find that we were actually a lot lower on the hill than we should be according to the GPX route I’d uploaded. Not realising at this point that the path we were on would eventually work its way around below the summit before climbing back up to the top. This saw us scrambling up over some large boulders to regain the higher direct path. I’m sure at this point the dog was thinking “where the hell are these pair of wallopers taking me now” !! Once on the path again we were soon at the summit and number 50 was in the bag (73 for Wullie and 2 for Mylo, which incidentally is 1 more than my Mrs has managed in the fancy new boots I bought her about 3 years ago !)
It was now just after 1pm and time for lunch. There was very little wind and in the times when the cloud drifted away from the sun it was extremely pleasant. A few summit pics were quickly taken in-between mouthfuls so not to miss the brief opportunities during the sunny intervals. The cloud level in general had now risen above summit level and we were treated to fantastic views SE over to Ben More and Stob Binnien, Ben Cruachan in the West and Glencoe and Nevis to the North. As we had lunch 3 walkers appeared from the path we had ‘abandoned’ and as they quickly headed straight by us I heard one remark “that’s it up there” as he pointed to Carn Sasunnaich ! With the benefit of reading the Walkhighlands route guide on my return I can only assume that they believed the summit was actually Carn Sasunnaich and that they were erroneously heading along the ridge to the real summit, not that it really matters as they had reached the summit in any case, however briefly ! We passed them enjoying their lunch at Carn Sasunnaich as we continued our descent but didn’t want to burst anyone’s bubble so we just gave a nod and carried on our way, no doubt leaving them wondering why we hadn’t stopped at their summit !!
With each hour that passed the MWIS forecast of sun and clear skies was becoming more of a reality the only caveat being that bloody great black cloud that refused to leave the summit of Dorain. As we descended back into Coire an Dothaidh it had become really warm and sticky making the return to the car park far more strenuous than I’d envisaged. While we heartily guzzled from our water bottles Mylo appeared to decide that the best course of action was to act all ‘hippo’ and wallow in as much boggy mud as he could find. We arrived back at the sweltering car park in just over 5 hours which was pretty good going. As I pulled off the boots and sat down in the car the lack of sleep began to catch up with me. I looked over to Mylo lying prostrate in the boot of the car and I think it was pretty safe to say that we were both ‘Dog tired’….and quite chuffed with the days achievements.
My Walk Reports
Ben Lomond (no walk report)
Stob na Broige
Bidean Nam Bian
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain
Cairn of Claise
Carn An Tuirc
Carn Liath (Beinn a'Ghlo)
Carn nan Gabhar
Stob Coire Raineach
Stob Coire Sgreamhach
Meall nan Tarmachan (no walk report)
Meall Chuaich (no walk report)
Geal Charn (no walk report)
(no walk report)
(no walk report)
Beinn Udlamain (no walk report)
Meall Garbh (Carn Marig)
Geal Charn (Monadhliath)
(no walk report)
Meall Corranaich (no walk report)
Meall a'Choire Leith (no walk report)
Beinn an Dothaidh
Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond)
Carn Mor Dearg
A'Bhuidheanach Bheag (no report)
Stuchd an Lochain
Glas Bheinn Mhor
Stob Coire Sgriodain
Stob Coire Easain
Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin
Stob a'Choire Odhair