Meall Odhar - 656m
Beinn Chuirn - 880m

Wednesday 8th July 2009

Weather/Conditions: Overcast day with sunshine and passing showers. Not the most photogenic of afternoons, but things cleared up towards the evening. The sunset was rather nice.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 7.9km / 900m / 3h 25m
Accompanying: Alone

Following my June hillwalking exploits, I'd taken a week or so away from the mountains. It didn't take long for the desire to be on the hills to kick in (it never does) so when I checked the weather on the 7th July, it seemed that conditions were to improve over the subsequent days. As things turned out, I got myself onto the hills the following day in good time to catch the good weather. High on my 'to-do' list was Ben Lui in clear weather, and equally high was to do the four Tyndrum Munros in one push. Additionally, I wished to climb Beinn Chuirn and Meall Odhar, which lie on the opposite side of the valley to Ben Lui. All these to-do's would fit into a two day camping trip and I was delighted that by the end of the trip, I'd achieved every goal that I set out to do.

Meall Odhar

In the afternoon of the 8th, Steve and I left Glasgow and arrived at Dalrigh with plenty of daylight left. It was a win-win situation for us: Steve enjoys driving, I like lifts to the hills and Steve owes me some (that's another story). I began walking from Dalrigh, not very sure where to go. The map wasn't much help to me, and I followed different tracks in the right direction until it all made sense. The signs pointing to 'Ben Lui NNR', of course, got me in the right direction. Beyond the buildings of Dalrigh, I picked up the correct track and was heading towards Cononish.

Of particular interest were the hillocks to the south side of the river. These are terminal moraines, which once lay at the end of a glacier that flowed out from the mountains. They are now grass covered of course and I wouldn't have spotted them had I not happened to read about them beforehand. It brought home that not too long ago, glaciers were very much present in the Scottish mountains. It's something that's easily forgotten, and such reminders are always welcome.

On the walk in, I was having a bit of wilderness experience, feeling a sense of walking into the middle of big mountains and wide open spaces. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the windswept pines beneath Fiarach. This feeling doesn't usually happen, but my best guess is that the the camping aspect may have brought it on. My great illusion was shattered soon after, when Cononish and the gold mines came into view. To make it clear now, I don't have much opposition to development in mountainous regions but they weren't the most beautiful of buildings. Mr. McNeish would say 'scarred' himself, but I don't necessarily agree with the slant.

Anyway, my first stop was Meall Odhar. To climb it, I'd need to find a break in the commercial forestry and then strike up the slopes to the summit. It seemed easy enough to me, although I was reminded that I still had some distance to go. In addition, I had camping gear on my back and this would certainly make the ascent more difficult. Once I'd gone far enough along the approach track, I cut up a field then found my break in the trees. It led me onto open slopes where it should be a short ascent to the summit. From this vantage point, views extended out to the east, but less so to the south where I could only see as far as the mountains across the valley. Meall Odhar isn't the tallest of hills.

I was reminded of it's modest height once more when I arrived at it's summit. Views were very much cut off by the surrounding mountains, so there were no great vistas for now. It's a pleasant hill with good views nonetheless. I arrived by it's summit cairn, took a panorama then realised it was beginning to rain. This presented a problem. Because I'd organised my camping trips so far in dry weather, I needn't ever worry about wet sleeping bags or tents. Now my camping gear was getting wet, and I realised that keeping it all dry was something that I'd never considered. I stayed on top of Meall Odhar, attempting to shelter my gear from the rain using waterproofs that I should have been wearing. When the showers passed and I was satisfied that everything hadn't been drenched, I moved on to my last mountain of the day: Beinn Chuirn.

Beinn Chuirn

Beinn Chuirn is a fair amount larger than Meall Odhar and much more of a mountain, too - boasting a deceptively small eastern corrie and a great vertical gash above Cononish, which through it pours a waterfall on wetter days. The east corrie is impressive, especially when viewed from below and this was to be my route of ascent. From Meall Odhar, I walked down through young forestry to the Odhar-Chuirn bealach and headed back to the opposite slopes. A deer-fence also had to be crossed at the bealach, but this was unproblematic.

Beinn Chuirn's east corrie was steep and cliff-girt, so I couldn't take any route up. It's north rim provided a means of ascent, and as I sweated and slogged my way up, showers began to pass through again. I'd improvised means of keeping my gear waterproof, so that wasn't such a worry. The cool drizzle was pleasant to stand beneath, and because I'd sweated my way up to this point the cool water was welcomed.

Final slogging brought me to the summit of Beinn Chuirn. It was getting late in the day so I wanted to think about setting up camp. My Plan A was to camp on the summit of Beinn Chuirn but it now seemed to me to be much too windy and much too cold. But the summit region is fairly extensive and quite flat, and the leeside of the hill was sheltered from the wind. Because the wind came from the north, I now had my ideal spot because I could camp on the south (calm) side of the summit and on top, have a top-notch view of Ben Lui from my tent door.

Camping at 870m, Beinn Chuirn

My spot seemed just about ideal. I set up the tent and got all my things inside, ready for a scenic night at nearly 900m. It was still light and the sun was only beginning to dip towards the horizon. I needed some way to occupy the time, so I turned to building a windbreaker. When I'd arrived at the summit, the cairn was a jumble of rocks and fence posts. When I left the next morning, it was a minor work of art.

Later in the evening, the mountains glowed with oranges that eventually turned to reds. The camera was essential, and I snapped photos all evening. I spent many hours occupying myself, although it never seemed like long. There was always so much to do, and so much to observe. I never once had a boring moment as I watched the sunset.

Once the colours of the evening sky diminished, it came time for me to get some sleep. My plan for the next day was to climb the four Tyndrum Munros, so I wanted to get some amount of rest. I rolled off to sleep at around 12.30am, and slept until 3.50am. Camping high presents it's own difficulties, so when I awoke, I couldn't get back to sleep. Every item of clothing I'd brought was on, I was in my sleeping bag, but feeling none the warmer for it. Without warmth, I got up and packed up ready for another day of walking.

Images - Sunset from Beinn Chuirn

360° Panoramas

Meall Odhar

Beinn Chuirn

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 3.20pm Dalrigh
(0.45) 4.05pm Foot of Meall Odhar
(1.30) 4.50pm Meall Odhar
(2.00) 5.20pm Meall Odhar (left)
(2.25) 5.45pm Odhar-Chuirn bealach
(3.25) 6.45pm Beinn Chuirn (summit camp)
Written: 2009-07-14, 2009-07-27