Hills: Beinn an Dothaidh
Who: Self & Stuart
When: Saturday 25 April 2015
Unfortunately present: Bog: snow shower: bad case of path erosion: swear words (as a result) bruises (ditto)
Unexpectedly present: Glorious sunshine!
Post walk watering hole: Bridge of Orchy Hotel
Post walk drink: To start with, coke and Bridge of Orchy ale, followed by Malbec
Mishaps: read on…
Yes, I know what the first reaction will be on reading the list of hills done on this walk. What happened to Beinn Dorain? It usually takes about an hour and a half or so to walk between these hills, after all… But not in this case. In this case it took us slightly less than six years. This is not because our walking pace has finally reduced to glacial speed.. but rather because we had done Beinn Dorain way back in May 2009, on a marginal day, and had also been trying to do it by public transport. We were running tight for time to add on Dothaidh as well, and decided that discretion was probably the better part of valour given that the implications for us of missing the train (missing work, not to mention cost of replacement tickets) are quite high!
We’d meant to go back for Dothaidh rather earlier than this but for various reasons it hadn’t happened. It was kind of being kept for a day when we needed a shortish walk which could be done in a morning – or more likely given that we aren’t the earliest risers, an afternoon. It also had the advantage of being something of a known quantity which given the long lay off from being on the Munros – the last ones being the end of August – would be rather welcome.
Inevitably there is a foul-up of some sort to contend with, or rather in this case a near miss. This time we were booked onto the last Easyjet flight out of Gatwick which is easy enough for us to get to on the train from work. Of course this was cue for the Gatwick Express to go into meltdown. One train got cancelled… then two.. then three. Time was slipping away. The fourth train wasn’t cancelled and should still have been okay.. except it got stopped at East Croydon. The end result was an Usain Bolt type sprint across the airport resulting in us just making the flight. We were at Stuart’s parents and passed out in their spare room by midnight but it was clear that although the forecast – which a couple of days ago had been crap – was actually now pretty good, an early start would not be an option.
8am saw us getting up, faffing about sorting out the gear and eating an excellent cooked breakfast courtesy of Stuart’s mum before getting going at around 10.30. We had narrowed down our choices to Ben Vorlich at Arrochar, Ben Challum or Dothaidh. For whatever reason when we got to Inveruglas we had gone off the idea of Vorlich and also got stuck in traffic at the Ardlui roadworks. Dothaidh was a shorter walk than Challum, and at least we knew the path was only boggy in parts, plus parking was less likely to be an issue – so we decided to press on to Bridge of Orchy. We were finally ready for the off shortly before one, in sunshine but also in wind, though it wasn’t too bad.
I’d remembered there was a clear path all the way to the corrie and this was true. It was – for the most part – less boggy than I remembered and the views were great as we ascended into the corrie.
We hit a few pretty boggy parts but there were no difficulties until we got to the bit where the angle steepens and the path goes up past a crag into the upper corrie. This was loose and slidy, but okay in ascent, although it seemed in more of a state than I remembered. We also met a few people coming down who told us it was really windy up high, but we were quite sheltered in the corrie, and hadn’t needed to put on any real insulation – fleeces had been plenty. However the higher we got the more it looked as though there was still snow around, which was a bit of a concern as we had packed the microspikes but left the crampons and ice axes in the car.
Once at the big cairn at the top of the corrie, the paths branch off – one south in the direction of Dorain, and another which cuts across into the shallow bowl of the corrie leading up to Dothaidh. This was – slightly to my surprise – pretty good, at least until it disappeared under big snow patches in the bowl of the corrie. The snow, thankfully, was soft and it was just a case of plodding across the patches with glorious views of Dorain and the southern Munros opening out all around.
We finally hit the summit at around 3.30. Not quick but never mind. I think the first hill of the year is always harder work than it should be – in part because it usually involves snow but also because it is a case of psychologically getting it out of the way. I guess that also – with the exception of the Welsh 3000ers and the larger Lakes hills – nothing outside of Scotland but in the UK really comes close to the challenge of the Munros. Anyway, the views were absolutely glorious, and quite moody as snow showers blew in and out. The air was very clear, although the promised wind- which had been negligible – was very much in evidence.
After taking loads of photos and drinking in the views, it was getting cold and my hands in particular were freezing. We headed back down, taking a slightly different route over the snow patches and back down towards the corrie and towards the eroded mess that the path becomes. Cue much cursing as we slipped and slid our way down towards the lower corrie – we both agreed afterwards that the path , for whatever reason, had been much worse than when we did Dorain.
Maybe there has been a lot of erosion in that time, or path damage under snow, I don’t know.. anyway we both failed to stay vertical for the entire descent. I made heavy weather of it in particular as one of my knees became really painful about half way down, and by the time I got back to the train station I had pretty much slowed to a crawl. Never mind, the bar at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel had its own ale on tap, and coke for me due to being the designated driver, arrgh! The view was at least good, a post walk drink with a view 🙂
We hadn’t booked accommodation, and by the time we were off the hill and had had a drink it was gone 6.30 so we decided to head back to Stuart’s parents which after all was only a couple of hours, rather than try and find somewhere on spec. This did of course mean that it was nearly 9 before I could get a post walk drink of Malbec. Fortunately, Stuart’s mum had a large wine glass!
Overall an excellent day on the hills. Of course, there was a sting in the tail in the form of a badly delayed flight on Sunday night… but it was worth it!!