Hills: Beinn Bhreac
When: Monday 12 October 2015
Why? 100th Munro 😀
Who: cast of thousands. Well ok self, Stuart, Brian (Stuart’s dad) Liam (our mate and now Stuart’s brother-in-law) the Park family dog, and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Not as good as forecast: sunshine and ‘showers’ i.e. rain
Bog factor: pretty awful for the hill part of the walk
Path factor: great until the hill part
Mid walk drink: Singleton malt whisky
Post walk drink: Cairngorm Brewery Trade Winds, Shiraz and champagne (no not all in the same glass!)
I guess I had better explain the title of the report! In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the place that those killed in battle go after death for an afterlife of drinking, fighting and generally having fun (rather in contrast to the Blackadder view of heaven, which involves ‘singing, talking to God and watering pot plants’). However, the Valhalla Collection is also the name of a series of 4 limited edition whiskies released by the Highland Park Distillery all of which are named after Norse gods. We had bought a bottle of the first of these, ‘Thor’ a couple of years ago for the express purpose of saving it to celebrate our 100th Munro. It’s now selling for anything up to £750 a bottle, but we have hung onto it regardless, after all 100 Munros seems a good excuse to have some rather nice whisky!
Getting to 100 was a pretty big deal for us for various reasons. Firstly having started out on all this with no expectation of being able to do one Munro, never mind 100 of the things, having taken up hill walking 4 years after a serious back injury which landed me with 6 months off work, physiotherapy and 3 months in a back brace. Secondly because I think it is unlikely we will ever actually complete the Munros. And finally because we live in London and getting to the hills is both time consuming and expensive (part of the reason we have got side tracked by Wainwrights is because it is easier for us to get to the Lake District, and easier to pick hills for iffy weather, given we don’t like walking in poor conditions). Our first Munro was Beinn Ime, in glorious weather, and our 50th was Ben Nevis, in awful weather.
So why Beinn Bhreac? We’ve been picking off some of the Southern Cairngorms recently and hadn’t done it yet, and the occasion of a family holiday in Carrbridge meant that Brian – who had done our first Munro with us and also our 4th (Ben Lomond) could come with us, along with the family dog and our friend Liam (who having started out as our walking buddy is now our brother-in-law as he and Stuart’s sister got married at the end of August). We’ve done most of the hills in the Northern Cairngorms so decided to head to Linn of Dee and pick this one off, having figured it looked straightforward and had a path the whole way – or so the trip reports said. Path? Well yes in parts but more of a stream at times!
We had already decided we weren’t going to push ourselves to do Beinn a’Chaorainn so there was no need for a mega early start. We left Carrbridge at 8.45 and were geared up and ready for the off at Linn of Dee just after 10.30. For once no midges! In August when we did Munro no.99 (Carn a’Mhaim) the place was hoaching with midges and if anything it had been even worse a year earlier when we did our first ever wild camp. Any potential minor disasters (Liam forgot his gloves and Brian forgot his hat and rucksack) were averted as we had plenty of spare kit. I was determined nothing was going to go wrong this time!
I had – inevitably – forgotten about the weather. The forecast had originally said early showers would clear up and all cloud clear around late morning; the revised forecast had said that there wouldn’t be any rain and it would be a really nice day. Of course about 20 minutes into the walk it started raining, the waterproofs went on and didn’t come off until we got back to Derry Lodge on the walk out. The flipside was a lovely rainbow over Carn a’Mhaim as we walked in.
We made good time to Derry Lodge with the dog (which has an unpronounceable Gaelic name I’m not even going to attempt to spell) doing twice as much mileage as anyone else fetching various sticks. At Derry Lodge, we took a right turn along the excellent path through Glen Derry.
This is a fantastic path which gains height so gradually as to be almost imperceptible; there are a couple of areas where the storm damage of last year is still evident as streams have washed out the path, but both were easy to cross with minimal faff. The rain came and went and we reached the branch off path up Beinn Bhreac again in relatively good time.
I have no pictures of the next part of the walk as the path quickly degenerated into a soupy mess which was probably boggier than the surrounding bog! It was a definite case of vertical bog, or at least it felt like it – I always hate walking uphill through bog as it just seems to take twice as much effort as it should. The previous night I’d woken to torrential rain and the whole hillside was awash.
The path flattened out as it rounded a broad shoulder which – although still boggy – provided a bit of welcome relief. It does get better for a bit after passing a strange dried up lochan, then gets soggy again (albeit not as soggy) as it climbs up towards the top. The path died out shortly after a marker cairn but we headed up just right of the dip between the west top, and the east top which is the actual summit. The wind by this point was pretty fierce but the rain had stopped and even though some of the higher summits were clagged in the views were pretty good. Stuart and I walked up to the cairn together, then took a few summit views while waiting for the others to catch up.. at which point cue a lot of fairly chaotic summit pictures not least because the dog just wouldn’t stay still or look at the camera!
We had brought a hip flask with us to celebrate – no not the Thor (that will have to wait till we get home) but some ‘Singleton’ to mark the single ton (haha). However, it was too windy at the top to want to stay there for long so we decided we would leave it till we got back to Glen Derry. Brian charged off at a rate of knots with us following; fortunately the boggy path was not as steep as it had felt on ascent and was just unpleasant rather than actually treacherous, although Brian had been tripped up by the dog on the way down and landed in a patch of bog. Thankfully no damage done other than muddy trousers and we all had those anyway after the walk up!
We popped out back at the marker cairn and opened the whisky – for once I wasn’t driving as Liam had brought his car. It certainly tasted good – slainte!
The return through Glen Derry and then back along the track to Linn of Dee was uneventful and the rain had finally cleared up leaving a lovely autumnal late afternoon.
We stopped for lunch at Derry Lodge and then headed back to the car in the afternoon sunshine. It only remained for us to drive back over the Lecht to Carrbridge and the inevitable post walk drinks, Shiraz and Cairngorm Brewery beer followed by some champagne which Stuart’s mum had bought for us.
Verdict: Good summit views, great paths for 2/3 of the walk, shame about the bog but it got the ton up for us so was a good day. It won’t make the list of our finest walks – our top walk is still the day we did Buachaille Etive Mor, with Liam on a glorious July day – but it was a milestone, and therefore a bit special. Now I just need all my wet kit to dry out!