Beinn Bhuidhe Trespass

16 04 2012

Thu 22 Mar 2012

Beinn Bhuidhe, Argyllshire, is a Munro normally climbed from the south via Glen Fyne – a long approach for which it is best to have a bike with you. The normal route is a bit awkward though and has a ‘bad step’ on the side of a ravine on the approach… the last section of the approach didn’t appeal to me either on the standard route as it was steep and craggy ground. So, pretty much from the start, I decided the non-standard, but straight-forward, route via Glen Shira was the one for me.

I read up on various people’s accounts of doing the walk from that side and there was a really good write-up on Steve Fallon’s website which was very helpful – he did mention though, that the road up the glen was private and said ‘no access’ – to vehicles anyway. As it is a long glen with around 5 miles to the start of the hill route, walking all the way up the glen and adding 10 miles to my walk was out of the question and, on this trip to Scotland, I didn’t have my fold-up bike with me so a trespass it was going to have to be!

I was feeling pretty negative the evening before when I went to recce the route in my car. The reason for this was that I’d driven all the way to Inverary from Callander to get accommodation for the night before and things really didn’t work out. The road to Inverary from Callander is very long and circuitous… Inverary is just about due west of Callander but there are many things in the way, not least Loch Lomond. There is a southern route but it looked messy and ran just above Glasgow so I didn’t fancy tackling that as I’m not into urban driving. The northern route goes a long way north before eventually turning west and then having to head back south to get to your destination.

When I got to Inverary, around tea-time, I first of all tried the Youth Hostel. Despite it now being past the first day of spring, the hostel was still shut for the season and doing ‘Rent-a-hostel’ only – a scheme only for large groups. I was pretty miffed but went door-knocking on all the B&Bs, guest houses and pubs I could find. The prices being quoted were ridiculous! Apart from one lady asking £45 per night, which I find on the very high side for a B&B, the rest were completely ludicrous. The house a couple of doors away from the first lady was asking £97 per night!! The pub was asking around £110 but eventually said they had a room for £50. A lot of the likely budget-end B&Bs, despite not having ‘no vacancy’ signs outside, decided they weren’t yet open for the year either 😦

In the end I drove off in quite a huff and, on the way back east, decided to have a tootle up Glen Shira to check it out for another time when the Youth Hostel might decide to open to lone travellers. First of all, there is no road sign for the glen – I suppose if they don’t want people to drive up it, that’s possibly fair enough but I found it quite surprising as there are various power generation schemes up there and you’d think they’d want contractors and so on to be able to find the place. As I was already huffy, this irritated me further.

I drove quite a way past the entrance before I could find somewhere to turn on the busy main road but then drove back down and guessed (correctly) that the entrance I’d passed must be the glen road. Less than 100 yards down the road I saw two offputting things (I’m sure they’re designed to discourage folk) – the first was ‘no entry’ signs at the initial cattlegrid with a sign saying ‘no unauthorised vehicles’. The second was a sign straight after that saying ‘High velocity rifles in use’ 😮 I glanced to my left and right when I saw this second sign – no doubt looking to see if anyone was aiming at me, and happened to notice some of those ‘cut-out deer’ targets on the right-hand side of the road so assumed it was just a target practice range. As the left-hand side of the road was a loch, I assumed anyone shooting would be to my right and not shooting across the road – phew! It was also getting dark so I assumed they’d be having their tea by now – a fact which encouraged me to continue down the road.

Although I don’t really see how a glen road which serves several farms and other abodes can be truly ‘private’, I have to admit to being very nervous about meeting someone and getting turned back. Almost the first corner I went round, I met an oncoming vehicle. As this was a single-track road, this meant a potential confrontation in the passing place but I determined not to stop or wind down my window but just to look straight ahead and drive past looking like I had the right to be driving down there. After all, they couldn’t know whether I was visiting someone at one of the other houses to theirs could they?

I passed Elrigbeag, the place where there should have been a locked gate, without noticing as all the gates in the glen were open. After a junction where forestry operations were taking place (during the day), the road proceeded to head steeply uphill and there were now signs about a windfarm. I thought that meant a windfarm was under construction and the thought of meeting huge lorries with wind turbines on them during the day, while trespassing on a narrow road in my little car, really started to put me off. Anyway, as it was evening, I continued to explore up the glen in my car.

I eventually reached the bridge over the Brannie Burn which was where I would start the actual walking from and had a quick look at the hill. It was forested nearly all the way up to the top of the extremely steep and high flank I could see and, despite the fact there was supposed to be a fire-break all the way to the ridge, I became very daunted and started to rule this approach out.


Beinn Bhuidhe Start from Brannie Burn Bridge (taken next day)

Anyway, to cut a long story short (at last, I hear you say, we might get to the hill now!), the next day, after having driven over to Arrochar for a pleasant (and cheaper) night’s stay and an absolutely superb meal in The Village Inn, I awoke to a great weather forecast and in a much better frame of mind. I persuaded myself I really needed to drive all the way back to Inverary, trespass up the glen in the daytime (mid-week as well!) and give it a go. I noticed anyway, as I drove over the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ pass, that the windfarm was already built and operational so that was one worry less.

I drove up the glen, by now in glorious sunshine, still met quite a few vehicles but no-one turned me back, and was gladdened to see another little VW parked up at the bridge over the Brannie Burn – obviously another trespassing walker.

The forest had been clear-felled towards the fire-break I needed to find – some people reading this might think that’s a good thing but it isn’t for two reasons. One is that it makes it very hard to see where the fire-break was, the other is that the ‘brash’ gets all over the fire-break when you find it so you’re stepping over stuff all the time. The fire-break (if indeed I had found it) was much sooner than I thought. It was very steep and quite boggy but I made good progress up towards the ridge – I quite like climbing up steeply as you gain height so quickly.

Pretty soon I was on the gradually rising ridge… this ridge runs for over 3 miles before it finally reaches the main event, passing over the subsidiary peak of Stac a’ Chuirn so I knew I had a long plod.


Half-way along the ridge to Stac a’ Chuirn


Looking Back Down Ridge (excuse the film fault!)

The views to the north were excellent though, primarily to the Ben Cruachan massif and the back of Ben Lui (which is nothing like as pretty as the front) and the sunshine was pleasant – in fact it was getting quite warm. I met the other VW guy coming back along the ridge – already! I asked him how long to the summit but, strangely, he’d only been to do Stac a’ Chuirn and not the Munro. He’d come up from the borders as well…


Ben Cruachan Range


View Down Back of Ridge to Reservoirs

Stac a’ Chuirn was a very pleasant peak and it was from here I got my first view of Beinn Bhuidhe. It didn’t look as far away as I thought it would and looked easy enough from this side so I was encouraged on.


Beinn Bhuidhe (Yellow Hill) from Stac a’ Chuirn Summit

There was by now a bit of a cold wind blowing across the ridge but, as I dropped down to the bealach before the start of the climb up the Munro, much of the time I was sheltered from it. There were a few small patches of snow left-over from winter on this section but it was all soft stuff and in any case, easily avoidable if you wanted.

As this ridge doesn’t really get much use, there had been sketchy paths along it but nothing continuous really. The ridge is defined enough not to require much navigational skill in a mist though, especially on its south side. The climb up to the summit of the Munro was very steep in places but grassy all the way. I puffed my way up to the top.

As I reached the summit, my opinion of the Munro being a dull, quite boring plod up a never-ending ridge, suddenly changed… A superb view burst on me from the small and neat summit. I could see the ridge I would have come up on the normal route – this extended to another peak, Ceann Garbh – the whole thing was very scenic.

I could see into Glen Fyne… Behind this Ben More and Stobinian had a veil of cloud running across them just below the summits with their pointy tops sticking out. They looked great to the eye but were a little too far away for my camera so no pictures of that I’m afraid. To the south the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond glowed in the bright sunshine looking glorious. To the west was a long view down Loch Fyne – a bit hazy in that direction though.


Back Along the Approach Ridge

A further good point in the summit’s favour is that is had a little depression just below the cairn and it was just in the right direction to give me full sun but none of the cold wind so I settled down for quite a long and restful break, munching on the delicious shortbread biscuits from my night before’s accommodation and drinking coffee and views. I could have stayed there all day but for the fact that unfortunately I had to drive home to England the same day.

Steve Fallon suggests another route back to make a proper ‘round’ but I decided just to descend the same way, partly for simplicity and also to keep the views as long as possible by staying high.

The descent back along the ridge was very quick and pleasant and I was soon plunging back down the steep side to the firebreak and my now lonely car. As I dropped out of the wind I realised how hot the day had become – it was a scorcher!

By the time I reached the car it was still only 1430. My only worry driving back down the glen was whether they’d locked the gate at Elrigbeag in spite at all the trespassing cars! I’d had a good look at it in the morning though and the padlock and chain looked very rusty so I’m pretty sure no-one bothers to lock it any more.

Thanks to Steve Fallon for his route information (I’m sure he’ll never read this) – anyone wanting to read it, it’s on:
Steve Fallon’s Route

Stats: 8 miles, 2520 feet of ascent, 4 hours (just less actually).

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8 responses

19 04 2012
bob

Looks like you got a smashing day Carol.I,ve been up this hill a few times and always enjoy it.There is a deep cleft halfway along the access glen called Eagle,s Fall which has a faint path up it.Only climbed this once but it was good and very steep.Heart of darkness is a cracking seldom done but excellent severe rock climb on nearby Binnein An Fhidhleir if you take up rock climbing after Skye and the Munro,s. Just a thought:)

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20 04 2012
mountaincoward

Ha ha! I told my friend Mark, on that little belay ledge on the Langdale Climb, that I’m definitely not going to be taking outdoor climbing up as a hobby! I’m still enjoying the indoor stuff though 🙂

But it was a great day – superb weather. Not like my trip last weekend!
Carol.

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17 04 2012
chrissiedixie

Your approach looked like my kind of route actually. Super views.
I’ve long been absolutely astounded by the price of an average B&B. We were fortunate enough to get a campervan about 18 months ago which has changed everything for us. I know you can’t ignore the initial price of them, but weekends/nights away are now possible for virtually nothing – especially as we wild camp with it whenever possible. 🙂

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18 04 2012
mountaincoward

I think this is definitely the best approach for views as you are on such a long and easy ridge so get ample opportunity to gaze at views in all directions. Definitely one to do on a nice day.

I’d love a camping van – my parents always had one and, until my 30s, we were always going off in them and wild camping. I have thought about having a van conversion done on a normal van but it would have to be a light van as I think the cost of driving a transit-sized van (or larger) must be prohibitive? I won’t consider diesel either as I think it’s a big health timebomb so the fact that it’s more economical won’t persuade me.

I do think a camping van is the best way to do the Munros though,
Carol.

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17 04 2012
Paul Shorrock

Good post Carol.

I think a ‘bold’ approach often wins the day, though like you I feel uneasy about driving past ‘sod off’ signs 🙂

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18 04 2012
mountaincoward

… especially ones where they are insinuating they’re pointing high-velocity rifles at you too! LOL

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17 04 2012
fedupofuserids

Looks like your perseverance paid off 🙂 both with hunting for accommodation & braving the unwelcoming Glen.

Looks a fine hill with some outstanding views on a clear day.

I sometimes wonder who decides when a hill is ‘boring’ – I usually find them better then the popular hills; certainly more peaceful 🙂 but I suppose its a matter of opinion. I dislike Blencathra (far too busy for my liking) and prefer Great Calva (which has fine views of Blencathra!), many others would disagree 😛

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18 04 2012
mountaincoward

When it comes to Munros, to me boring is good! At least it means no drama for my mountain cowardice! 😉
Carol.

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