When: Sunday 28 May
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Strong sunshine with a bit of a breeze
Hangover factor: Surprisingly low
Bog factor: Zero on the approach track but pathless vertical bogfest on the hill itself.
Uses of the ar*e crampon: None, though certainly considered it on the really steep bits on the descent
Pre walk drink: Jarl Scottish ale (though not much of it)
Post walk drink: Same, followed by Pinot Grigio (too warm for Malbec)
Post walk watering hole: The Coach House, Killin (pre walk one as well)
Those of you that read my blog on a regular basis will know that I hate bog. In fact I hate it with a passion. The only decent sort of bog is when it has either dried out or frozen – in which cases it can make for a reasonably congenial walking surface. Although inevitably with the frozen sort I manage to find the bit that isn’t frozen with the result being one foot goes into freezing murky gunk.
The worst sort of bog is what I refer to as vertical bog. It is obviously not actually vertical but when trying to slog up a steep, soggy, squishy slope it certainly feels like it. Going uphill it seems to sap your strength massively; going downhill care has to be taken not to slip and end up with a wet and muddy rear end, although going downhill through bog doesn’t sap your energy in quite the same way as going up. There are certain hills which after doing them I refer to as ‘Bogatory’ which is that particular kind of hill walking purgatory where you think the bog is never going to end and wonder if you are ever going to reach the top, or (in descent) ever get out of it and end up being sucked down into some tar pit of doom, to be discovered millennia later by some archaeologist who will wonder what Scarpas are and why all hill walking gear for women seems to be pink. I also think that given I now do most of my walking in the Lake District rather than Scotland I have got a bit spoilt and forgotten what a proper Scottish bog is like. Well I certainly got a reminder on this walk!
The occasion was the end of May Bank Holiday and we had booked a couple of days in the as always excellent Coach House hotel in Killin. We were staying in a hotel in Glasgow on the Friday night after getting the train up from Euston and then picking up a hire car in the morning. The journey up was not quite as horrendous as some of the recent ones had been and we got to Glasgow shortly after 10 then wandered out to grab a couple of drinks. Although not hung over I overslept the following morning and had to ring the hire car company to say I was going to be late. I was also knackered and once we got to the hire car place found out it would be another hour before I could actually get the car as there had been a lot of unexpected demand. By the time we left Glasgow it was nearly 1pm and the weather was iffy so we pottered up the A82 in a leisurely fashion with a few stops for retail therapy, arriving at the Coach House late afternoon. The forecast for the Sunday was good so although a few libations were had in the bar we were pretty restrained.
For once the forecast was right and we woke to glorious sunshine. Did we have sunscreen? Inevitably no so I popped to the Co Op to get some. On paper everything should therefore have been in place for a great day on the hill. However neither of us was feeling that great which was clearly not related to drink given we hadn’t had much and being honest with ourselves neither of us felt up to doing a Munro. We have now got to the stage we have done most of the easy ones and whilst we could probably have done one with a decent path and a less than sea level start we have long ago done all the ones in the area that meet that description and are left with ones that have at least 900m of ascent and for the most part a ton of bog. My back has been worse than usual recently which is another factor.
Eventually we decided that I would drop Stuart off, he would do a stretch of the West Highland Way and I would meet him in Tyndrum. I would go and do the Graham, Fiarach near Tyndrum which is meant to be a nice short walk with excellent views and about 500m of ascent in total which I felt I could comfortably manage despite my back. Having dropped Stuart off I grabbed the last available space in a very busy Dalrigh car park and was geared up and off about 11.15 having inexplicably forgotten to put on sun screen – something I would definitely regret later.
The initial part of the walk in is on a fantastic track which rises up at a gentle angle and goes through some nice old trees; there are also some nice waterfalls in the stream that the track runs alongside. After about a mile a path branches off which heads for the notoriously boggy Beinn Dubchraig. There have been access issues for this one due to the bridge coming down but a new bridge is clearly in the course of construction which is useful to know.
This first part of the walk was a doddle and I hit the point at which I needed to break off for the hill at 12 having made very good time. You branch off to the left at a locked gate and basically follow the fence line all the way to the summit. What could possibly go wrong? There was even a path… for about the first 50m of ascent after which it peters out. And then I was in to the bog.
This was a bog and a half. A serious bog. A vertical bog. In fact Bogatory! I had heard that this hill was boggy but Scotland had had an extended dry spell. Goodness knows what it would have been like after a wet spell. I plodded upwards, veering away from the fence line at a couple of points to avoid some really steep ground. I was making heavy weather of it and every step seemed to take twice as much effort as it should. The consolation was that the views were opening out all round and were fantastic. However the photo stops were fairly limited as I was worried if I stopped too much I would lose momentum.
Eventually, the gradient eases off somewhat and there is some ground which contains a rather nice lochan and which looks more or less flat on the map. It isn’t as there is a bit of dodging around required to avoid peat hags and areas of particularly soggy ground. However the summit was by now in sight so I plodded on, eventually making the top about 2 hours after leaving the car.
The summit itself is interesting – a narrow ridge of rock in the middle of all that bog, with a tiny cairn and stunning views all round which made me forget the bog… for a bit. Stayed there for about 15 minutes taking photos as the views were just as good as promised, well apart from the inevitable summit selfie anyway.. and then I got a text from Stuart who was nearly at our pick up point. Time to get going!
I am not quick in descent and although I wanted to push the pace this was also not terrain on which I could just stride out. I pretty much reversed my outward route and whilst I had no real difficulties I definitely had to take care on some of the steep bits as the ground was slippery as well as steep. It took me just under an hour to get back to the track at which point I put the hammer down and was back at the car just before 3pm, a bit longer than I had hoped to take on a relatively short walk. Fortunately I’d been able to text Stuart and let him know I was running a bit late and picked him up at Paddy’s in Tyndrum shortly after. Husband retrieved, we drove back to Killin for some post walk drinks in the sunshine. And for me to realise later I had sunburn! I’m not sure whether to blame this on the hill, the beer garden we had a drink in or a combo of the two but I was definitely a tad sore the following day.
All in all not a classic walk due to the terrain but a decent option for a short day and the views were great. I was definitely looking forward to a nice Lake District path for my next walk though!