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Munros above Orchy

13-14 Febraury 2016
A wintery weekend on the Munros above Bridge of Orchy and Achallater. John Walker was leading.

Bridge of Orchy Munros, photo 1 We met at the car park adjacent to the Bridge of Orchy hotel on Saturday morning, and after some organisation and fitting of crampons, Tom, Judith, Pascal, Jackie, Steve and I set off Eastwards towards the bealach that leads to both Beinn an Dothaid and Beinn Dorain. We were not alone on these popular hills, and along with various other groups, (including two skiers), we dodged the boggy sections on frozen ground where possible.

Once we got to the steepening however, everyone else apart from the skiers decided they had had enough of the swirling spindrift, which was being blown around in every possible direction by the stiff wind. Undeterred, we made our way upwards, kicking steps in the harder neve, and wading in the deeper drifts. The more vertically challenged of us were actually waist deep on one occasion!

Bridge of Orchy Munros, photo 2 Once at the bealach, it was on with goggles to keep the stinging spindrift from our eyes, and onwards north-westwards. It was quite a strong wind for those not accustomed to Scottish winter conditions, but it was not enough to blow us over, so on we went, bouyed by the fleeting views over Loch Lyon between the swirling cloud.

The summit was a wild old place, and we didn't linger too long once the photos were taken. Once we dropped back onto the lower slopes, the wind was on our backs, and the effort level was much less, so we enjoyed the photo opportunities as we descended. We saw one party on the ridge on the way up to Beinn Dorain, but we could see how slowly they were progressing, and knew that we would have to be satisfied with one summit today. Consequently it was down the valley in ever-improving late afternoon conditions, and on to the hotel for a celebratory drink.

Bridge of Orchy Munros, photo 3 Sunday had much lighter winds forecast, but with more cloud, and that is how it turned out. Our route was to ascend Beinn a'Chreachain via the NE ridge, and then back over Beinn Achaladair before dropping directly west to the Allt Coire Achaladair. We knew it would be a challenging day if the snow was soft in the coire on the way up to Beinn a'Chreacahin, and were very pleased to find the bog frozen and good quality neve that allowed cramponing once we got over 600m. The ridge had some impressive cornices, and we felt quite adventurous as we gained height. There were some old footprints raised due to the snow being blown from around them, and the guys had not seen those before, so out came the cameras. The summit was in cloud, so again, we didn't wait about, and headed WNW on the compass, before getting sufficient visibility to relax again.

After a quick break on a leeward slope, it was the final steep ascent onto Beinn Achaladair. I went first, kicking some good steps for the team to follow, and was very warm and panting as we got to the easier ground. Here Victoria wanted a picture of Pascal, as he had found a ram's head, and had it on the outside of his rucksack. She felt she had been under its eerie gaze for so many hours, it should be recorded!

Bridge of Orchy Munros, photo 4 Some more compass work took us from the lower summit to the insignificant lump that is the true summit, and onwards to the best point to leave the ridge. We didn't want to take the long route to the bealach, and dropped straight off the side, making use of the snow to ease the knees. The crampons finally came off around 600m, and it was then just a case of pick your way down. Again, the frozen bog proved a real advantage, and we were down to cars by 17:20. The views on the descent were splendid, particularly over Ben Cruachan, and the final pink hue thrown onto the flanks of Achaladair was spectacular. A fine winter's day out!

More photos are up on Flickr !

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