Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Tyndrum Handful

Walk Summary
Early morning looking north along a quiet A82 towards
the Munros Stob Ghabar and Choire Odhair
Better known as the Auch 5, I have named this walk "The Tyndrum Handful" from the phrase "...a unique Corbett 'hand'" used in the Scottish Mountaineering Council's (SMC) book - The Corbetts and Other Scottish Hills.

It had not occurred to me that Corbetts, by their very nature, over 2500' and 500' prominence tend to be well separated. It then occurred to me that the 500' prominence makes them Marilyns and my thoughts in the past that any walk with 2 or more Marilyns was a tough walk made me think that this would be a good physical test and well a bit of a handful.

I planned the route based on the SMC suggestion on page 66 and
Beinn Odhar, the days planned first Corbett
from A82 near Auch
considered initially to walk it clockwise for no better reason other than I always seem to do my walks anti-clockwise. Not sure why maybe something to do with my counter-intuitive personality, but this time I chose anti-clockwise because that was the way they do it in the book. By the end of the walk there were a number of reasons, which I will go in to below why anti-clockwise is best.

Walk Description
Beinn Odhar
Walk start point from layby near 315m spot height
on the A82, looking north towards Beinn Dorain
Parking in the layby near the 315m spot height on the A82, more or less where it runs next to the West Highland Rail Line, crossing under the rail line via a cattle creep I was soon heading south along the West Highland Way and the base of Beinn Odhar with the steep sides towering above me. The first decision to make is how soon do you cut off left and head up hill. I decided to stay on the West
Heading south along the West Highland Way
towards Tyndrum
Highland Way as far as I could hoping to find a well worn path up the southern tongue. From the map you can see I went a fair way 
and did not find anything obvious. Other than having a slightly lesser gradient to start you could really have cut off sooner.

Once on the ridge I had intended to head for the fence and follow it to the summit, but somehow managed to drift off to the right, probably because I was looking for the less steep route, but missed the fence altogether. Although I did find the remains of an electric fence it was not shown on the OS 1:25000 map and was further west resulting in me nearly passing the summit
Beinn Odhar summit cairn
on its southern flank hence having to take an immediate left turn straight up to the summit.

On this last part of the climb I did notice some excellent views to the south of the four Munros in the Ben Lui range (a future days walk) and resolved to photograph them from the summit. Unfortunately the first cloud of the day closed in blocking all views and with an associated drop in temperature, other than taking a few summit photos did not hang around any longer than necessary.

Beinn Chaorach
Lochan Choire Dhuib  reappears through the cloud
confirming correct bearing followed from summit
From the summit of Beinn Odhar I could just about make out the next peak of Beinn Chaorach, which was more or less in line with the final ascent route. The cloud closed in again and found myself walking on a bearing to Lochan Choire Dhuibe. As I descended the cloud cleared and as if by magic the Lochan was straight ahead as was Beinn Chaorach.

Even now it did not look too far away but using the lochan to adjust direction of travel it did not take too many steps before the scale of the task in hand became glaringly apparent. Ahead was in excess of a 300m drop to Allt Cumhang and the ascent the other side was nearly 400m and if possible even steeper than the descent. Note to self when planning - if there are a lot of contours expect a lot of ascent/descent!

Cylindrical trig point on Beinn Chaorach,
snow capped Ben More beyond
Decision time again. How far right should I go to avoid the straight up approach along the remains of the electric fence? I could go all the way to Caol Ghleann but that would have added to much distance in exchange for a slightly lesser gradient. So I did all of my traversing on the downward part of the walk heading for a spot where rate of ascent on the other side looked like it was less. Even so it was fairly steep, between 1:2 and 1:3 and no where near halfway up began to tire or at least run out of energy. so out came the protein balls, hot coffee and while I was there the first half of my lunch. Pork pie, hot cross bun loaded with cheese and home-made flapjack. It did the trick energy replenished I continued with a zig zag approach to rejoin the fence and before passing the summit on the right head south  on a gentle(ish) ascent to the summit and cylindrical trig point.

Cam Chreag
Wrecked generator for electric fences we have been
following on bealach near 638m spot height
The descent down Beinn Chaorach was a lot gentler than the one down Bein Odhar. It was also easy enough to navigate following the remains of the same? electric fence all the way to the bealach and wrecked generator for the fence near the 638m spot height.

The ascent was similarly easy to navigate again following the electric fence that has seen better days. It seemed to traverse west/left of the summit around a crag so I took the direct route to the right of the crag.

The 3 candidates for Cam Chreag summit;
cairn, rock or grass mound.
Ben Lui and Ben Oss range beyond
The summit cairn was not all that obvious, just a few flat stones perched on a rock. I am not even sure it is on the high point with a rock a few metres north and a grassy hillock east possibly being slightly higher. Anyway as part of my fastidious nature, I thought I was being insulted when somebody called me that recently, went and touched all three points and photographed the lot together.

Definitely the easiest of the three peaks so far but don't get complacent the next summit in my opinion is probably harder than Beinn Chaorach partly because fatigue is starting to kick in but also because it is the longest walk between summits of the whole walk and whilst the descent is not as steep the ascent up Beinn nam Fuaran needs carefully planning as in places it is steeper than Beinn Chaorach.

Beinn nam Fuaran
Path tends down to right
should really have stayed higher and descended
northern shoulder to Abhainn Ghlas as planned
The descent from Cam Chreag is along the north ridge towards Sròn Phrine. I ended up going over it's nose (sròn) with a view to crossing Allt Mhic Bhaidein near Abhainn Ghlas and approaching Beinn nam Fuaran closer to the ridge from Loch Lyon. The peat hags and groughs that came in to view disabused me of that idea and in retrospect would have been better to stay on the high part of the ridge slightly more to the west all the way to Abhainn Ghlas.

Abhainn Ghlas was easy enough to cross with care though I suspect it may be a different story if there had been more rain or ice melt. After crossing and making a little headway on the ascent I felt it was time for more nourishment so a repeat order of lunch no1 was in order plus a chocolate protein bar. before attempting the main ascent. I tried to pick out the easiest route optimising gradient against distance. Not sure how successful I was because I had to stop for lots of rests and was really feeling extremely tired especially with one more peak to complete.

Beinn nam Fuaran with Beinn Dorain beyond
I did have three exit routes available but they were all against the first three peaks. Once you have committed to peak No4, this peak - Beinn nam Fuaran, the only sensible way home is over peak No5.

Eventually I did reach the cairn just beyond a boundary fence and was rewarded with fabulous all round views including Loch Lyon, the twin peaks of Beinn Dorain looking slightly different from this angle than the conical peak we are all familiar with from the A82, the unusually shaped Munro top Beinn Mhanach - Beinn a'Chuirn and finally, more relevantly the next and final peak Beinn a' Chaisteil.

Beinn a' Chaisteil
Following fence leads to a very steep descent,
think maybe less steep by skirting
further round to the right and the north
Descending the ridge down Cam Chreag the ascent up Beinn a' Chaisteil looked very gentle, but first there was the descent down Beinn nam Fuaran to consider. I am not sure the actual route I took was the best. I had planned to avoid the steepest part of the descent by skirting round to the north, but was influence mainly by the fence on the left and although I did attempt a descent further to the right it was not anywhere near far enough resulting in me being drawn back towards the fence. The bottom line being that I reckon the gradient was close to1:2 requiring a technical approach to the descent using the 5 in contact method. Hands, feet and backside. Great care was needed as it would have been very difficult to arrest a slide, but care was the order of the day and although it seemed a lot more I reckon I was in this position for only about 200m of flat length until the fence turned south and I could benefit from taking a diagonal line across the contours. The Mam Lorn peat hags shrouded the entire bealch and made for a really soggy, but not boggy crossing for a fair way up the other side. The gradient was not too bad only made worse by the fact I was physically worn out, as opposed to the incorrectly used term of exhausted. Steady progress staying on the left side fence and after numerous breaks including another snack for energy the fence came to an end and more or less immediately the cairn appeared just beyond.

Under the West Highland Rail line viaduct over Allt Coralan
That was it, all 5 Corbetts completed in one day, now all that had to be done was walk 4½ miles back to the van. Under the Coralan Viaduct and along a short part of the West Highland Way. A fair way but in retrospect would sooner be doing 4½ miles down hill without any more peaks to climb. 4½ miles from the end in a clockwise direction would have meant 2 more peaks to climb including the big descent/ascent between Beinn Chaorach and Beinn Odhar.

Anyway pleased there were not six Corbetts, five was quite enough and with 15 miles in 12 hours counts as probably one of my toughest walks in a single day. Maybe Day12 of the Pennine Way, 22 miles from Middleton to Dufton takes that prize, but at the moment (the day after this walk) my bones are telling me otherwise. 

Brilliant walk though can highly recommend it. (Anti-clockwise)

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 08 May 2014
Walkers - Steve Smith
Accommodation - By The Way Campsite and Hostel, Tyndrum
Start Point - Lay-by near 315m spot height on A82 (NN 32839 33126)
Start Time - 08:17
Finish Point - Lay-by near 315m spot height on A82 (NN 32839 33126)
Finish Time - 20:17
Duration - 12hrs 00mins
Average pace - 1.29mph
Distance Walked - 15.43miles
Height Ascended - 2123.12metres

Other walks on this trip
08th The Tyndrum Handful
11th Cuillin Ridge Day01 - Sgùrr nan Eag, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr & Sgùrr Alasdair
12th Cuillin Ridge Day02 - Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic

13th Cuillin Ridge Day03 - Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh
Cuillin Ridge Day04 - Sgùrr nan Gillean & Bruach na Frithe

18th Comb Moss

Peaks visited
Munro (282)
Murdo (443)
Corbett (221)
Beinn Odhar (2)
Beinn Chaorach (3)
Cam Chreag (4)
Beinn nam Fuaran (5)
Beinn a' Chaisteil (6)
Graham (224)
Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))
Beinn Odhar (13S - 84E,W&S)
Beinn Chaorach (14S - 85E,W&S)
Cam Chreag (15S - 86E,W&S)
Beinn nam Fuaran (16S - 87E,W&S)
Beinn a' Chaisteil (17S - 88E,W&S)
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)
Beinn Odhar (16S - 137E,W&S)
Beinn Chaorach (17S - 138E,W&S))
Cam Chreag (18S - 139E,W&S))
Beinn nam Fuaran (19S - 140E,W&S))
Beinn a' Chaisteil (20S - 141E,W&S))
S: Scotland. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

GPS tracklog of actual walk

More Photographs
Cylindrical trig point on Beinn Chaorach, snow capped Ben More beyond


  1. Looks totally stunning Steve :) A fine write up, too.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Kind of went off the internet radar on Skye. Now working on 4 day write ups bringing back great memories of scrambling and climbing, something I thought I would never do.
      Who Knows I may find myself in a cave one day!!!!!!!!!!!