Friday, 30 January 2015

Beinn Bhreac-liath & Beinn Udlaidh

Planned Route to walk on 30 January 2015
This route was not planned as part of pre-trip planning because I had not intended to stop off in Tyndrum. However having attempted 4 of the 5 walks planned for the Moffat area and in need of a couple of days rest, thought it would be better to move further north closer to next weeks destination in Kinlochewe on Sunday.
I had also visited all 3 Corbetts in the Moffat area and wanted to increase the Corbett count in the one remaining walk I intended to walk before continuing north to Kinlochewe.
Having stayed at Tyndrum before at By The Way, Tyndrum I decided to stop off here and catch up with some blogging. Beinn Bhreac-liath & Beinn Udlaidh are two Corbetts both within walking distance of the campsite giving me the opportunity to increase my overall Corbett count to 11.
Here is the plan. Walk summary, route and description is included further on this page below the planning notes.
Planned route to walk 0n 30 January 2015
Above route includes 2 Corbetts and 1 Graham Top of a Corbett.
At 10.7 miles and 1100m of ascent it is about as much as I would want.
Basically it is not a do all at all costs plan but to get out in the snow and be back at By The Way, Tyndrum within daylight hours.
The route is to go for the first summit Beinn Bheag,which happens to be the Graham Top and if conditions are favourable (weather, snow/ice my energy) continue on to the first Corbett - Beinn Bhreac-liath. Having reached Beinn Bhreac-liath I will have a good feel for the snow conditions and will be able to decide if I have time or inclination to go on to the 3rd and final peak of the day Beinn Udlaidh then returning home via the 587 spot height above Coire Sheileach following fence back to Beinn Bheag and returning to the A82 along the ascent route to Beinn Bheag.

However, as is often the case I have woken up on the morning of the walk (6am ready for 8am start, daybreak this far north) fully refreshed after my 2 days rest ,with a clear head and probably my clearest thoughts regarding the purpose of the initial part of this trip. 
It would be a perfectly achievable plan if the days were a bit longer in better weather. Or I had more experience in dealing with severe and unpredictable winter conditions. However, although the MWIS forecast is predicting a 60% chance of cloud clear Munros (the plan is at the lower Corbett levels) there will also be considerable buffeting and wind chill across the hills. So like 3 of the 4 routes walked so far this trip; most likely will return back without visiting all or even any of the planned peaks.
While I want to visit as many peaks as I can while I am near them, the objective of this trip was and remains to prepare myself physically and mentally for next weeks course. So the objective of this walk is not to visit all three peaks but to get out in the hills and experience some of the excellent conditions in a relatively benign environment after the previous days snow. The overriding objective is to be back at By The Way within daylight hours. Any of the 3 peaks bagged will be considered a bonus.

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 30 January 2015
Walkers - Steve Smith

Accommodation - By The Way, Tyndrum

Start Point - By The Way, Tyndrum
 (GR - NN 32841 30145)
Start Time - 08:25
Finish Point - By The Way, Tyndrum
 (GR - NN 32841 30145)
Finish Time - 13:40
Duration - 5hrs 15mins
Average pace - 1.61mph
Distance Walked - 8.45miles
Height Ascended - 727.38metres

Other walks on this trip

23rd Hart Fell
24th White Coomb
26th Broad Law

27th Capel Fell
30th Beinn Bhreac-liath & Beinn Udlaidh
03rd Beinn Alligin round
04th Fuar Tholl

06th Beinn Eighe-Spidean Coire nan Clach
07th Forcan Ridge and The Saddle
09th - 14th Various Marilyns on the way south

Peaks visited
Munro (282)

Murdo (443)

Corbett (221)

Beinn Bhreac-liath (10)
Graham (224)

Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))

Beinn Bhreac-liath (40S - 121E,W&S)
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)

Beinn Bhreac-liath (51S - 185E,W&S)
Donald Dewey (248)

S: Scotland. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

GPX can be downloaded from
Walk Description
Beinn Bheag

A particularly early start for me and setting off with some trepidation based on the MWIS forecast for the day. The calm clear conditions where at odds with the "atrocious" conditions forecast for the West Highlands but these were not expected in the south of the area until later in the day.
Setting off along the West Highland Way from By The Way Tyndrum and Tyndrum Lower rail station through virgin snow admiring the scenery it was not until I was well past the cemetery approaching Beinn Odhar that I realised I had gone too far.  Cutting left to the A82 and walking back towards Tyndrum I soon found the gateway and forest track up Beinn Bheag through the newly harvested forest plantation. This was only on the lower slopes as the track disappeared on a steep incline through snow covered fir trees to the plantation boundary at the 450m contour.
The plan was then to follow the fence line to the left turning right and following the fence all the way to the summit. However the ground looked pretty rough so I opted to head straight up hill cutting off the corner. Pretty tough going but as I cleared the first ridge the fence appeared on the left which would lead all the way to the first summit of the day, Beinn Bheag.
Beinn Bhreac-liath
So far so good. Having woken up not expecting to reach any summits I had already bagged the first peak of the day and could also see both Corbetts ahead. The sun was still shining but I could also see dark grey snow clouds building to the west. Walking through calf deep snow from the plantation had also taken its toll so at this point I decided to just visit the closest Corbett, Beinn Bhreac-liath, leaving Beinn Udlaidh for another trip. The objective of this early part of the trip was to prepare me for the winter mountaineering course next week in Torridon not exhaust me physically.
Following the fence west the winter sun sitting low in the sky soon took me in to shade and more solid snow. Not only that the gradient of the descent increased requiring me to get out my band new ice axe for the very first time side slashing steps for me to kick into and descend safely.
From the bealach I had intended to head north and skirt around the scree on the southern nose of Beinn Bhreac-liath, but the deep snow had covered the scree and levelled out any steep ground so was able to head straight for the summit plateau. Another bonus was that I had seen an alternative descent route towards the A82 down Coire Chailein, this would avoid having to reascend Beinn Bheag.
The views were indescribable made better by the fact that I had ascended most of the hills to the east and including Beinn Dorain and Beinn Odhar. To the south was the Beinn Oss/Lui range ascended last October and further to the south was Ben More Cruach Ardrain and many more.
Looking west was Beinn Udlaidh gradually succumbing to the shroud of snow cloud embracing its summit. The thought did cross my mind that maybe if I had gone there first I would have managed both summits, but like I said I want to save myself for next week.
All that remained now was the descent to the A82 which again was great fun heal stepping through knee deep snow, a descent route which again I suspect was more direct because of the snow.
By the time I reached the A82 I was well satisfied with myself. Apart from finding a better descent route the walk had gone exactly to plan. Well in all honesty I had so many planned variations to the plan and exit route that I think I had covered most eventualities.
That was the fifth walk of this trip and feel i am prepared as I can be for next weeks exertions and challenges winter mountaineering in Torridon.
Even more satisfying was walking back to Tyndrum along the West Highland Way in a heavy snow storm. Decisions  taken during the day had placed me at this point at this time rather than half way up/down a mountain with 3 or 4 hours to get home.

More Photographs
Meggatt Reservoir from Wylies Hill summit
Click on photograph to view slide-show

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